The four travellers and their guide had been trekking through the wilderness for two days and were nearing the southeastern border of Tanenbaum Region. There were no clear roads in this area, as travel between the tow nations had been non-existent for many years and prior to that, it had occurred chiefly along the coast. There were a few small paths, mostly formed by animals, but these were often too faint to be of much use, especially to travellers on horseback. Still, since the travellers avoided entering into wooded regions, they made good time, and would be crossing into Pesce territory either tomorrow afternoon or the following morning, if all went well.

They had been travelling along the eastern bank of the Levis River for most of their journey, but would have to diverge in order to avoid what Sven called 'The Geat Marsh of Doom and Destruction'. He believed he could navigate it on foot, but didn't feel safe doing so with their horses, so the group had opted to circle around it to the south. Though this would take them fairly close to the border, there was little risk of detection, thanks to a small range of hills running just north of the border.

'This would be faster if there was an ancient subway running between the coast and somewhere near where we're headed,' said Snook in his usual craziness.

'Indeed it would,' said Melville, totally clueless as to what a subway was.

'Plus, they're delicious and nutritious,' continued Snook.

'Mmm hmm,' agreed Melville absently.

'You think I'm just being crazy again, don't you? You're just agreeing out of habit, not because you think what I'm saying makes sense.'

'Absolutely. I mean, no, no, not at all.'

Snook scowled and urged his horse ahead of the group. His horse promptly sank up to its knees in mud. 'As, we have reached the edge of the swamp. We should turn south now,' their guide informed them.

'My horse is stuck. The subway never has this problem.'

After they had helped George out of the mud, the group turned southward and continued their journey.

As they travelled, they passed fields and hills and forests and ponds and streams and valleys and a gazebo.

'Hey, look! A gazebo!' said Sven. 'I've never seen that before.'

'Perhaps we should check it out,' said Hilfa.

'Or,' said Fin, 'we could continue on our mission. You know, the thing we were hired to do. The whole reason we're out here. The thing that doesn't involve gazebos.'

'Yes, I suppose the medical supplies are probably in urgent need by now. We should make haste,' said Sven.

'Oh, no one will die before we arrive,' said Hilfa. 'We have time to explore a tiny gazebo. There's nothing to it. And it's so weird that it's out here. I mean, /why/? Who put it here?'

'It wasn't me!' said Snook.

'Gosh, and you were our prime suspect,' Fin replied wryly.

'Really? No, you're being ironical, aren't you? That's mean.'

'Shut up.'

They went over to the gazebo and examined it carefully. It had a an arrow sticking out of the side and looked as if it had just eaten a clueless Paladin. 'Fascinating,' said Sven, clearly fascinated. 'It looks almost as if it was shot at and then ate its fleeing attacker. Most unusual for an inanimate object such as this.'

'It's a gazebo,' said Melville.

'Should we pull out the arrow?' asked Hilfa. 'It could be useful.'

'No, we don't want to awaken this fell beast. It may still be hungry. I think we should quietly move along.'

'It's a gazebo,' said Melville.

'I hear purple gazebos are the worst!' said Snook. 'They're like pirates that eat you.'

'It's a gazebo,' said Melville.

'Melville used to be a pirate, and he's entirely harmless. Still, this creature could prove more than our match, so I agree with Sven. We should go before it comes to life and kills us all.'

'It's a gazebo,' said Melville.

'Melville has a point,' commented Fin. 'It is a gazebo. It probably can't outrun us so long as we're on horseback.'

'That wasn't what I mean,' said Melville. 'It's a /gazebo/.'

'I think he's one of those naive northerners who think gazebos don't come to life and eat people,' said Sven.

'He has proven quite naive in the past,' said Fin.

'I'm not naive,' said Melville. '_It's_ _a_ _gazebo_.'

Suddenly the gazebo opened its eyes and looked straight at them.

'Run!' shouted Melville. 'It's a gazebo!' But it was too late. Their horses reared up at the sight of this ferocious beast, and each rider fell to the ground. The gazebo promptly ate up the five newly-dismounted horses.

The ex-riders stood, brushed themselves off, and ran off together. 'That was close!' said Hilfa.

'No more gazebo exploration,' said Fin.

'Agreed!' the others all said together.

They continued along around the swamp for a bit and then Sven stopped abruptly. 'Say, now that we're without horses, we can go straight through the swamp. It will be shorter. Faster.'

'Oh, good. We need to do all we can to reduce our travel time now that we've lost all our supplies,' said Melville.

'You lost your supplies? I managed to save mine,' said Fin.

'Me too,' said Sven, Hilfa, and Snook together.

'Oh. Well. That's good then. I would have as well, only, I was too busy making sure you all got away safely.'

'Yes. Absolutely,' said Fin.

'You're a complete failure,' said Snook.

'You're a freakazoid,' shot back Melville.


Sergeant Morris Dallywonk and his team had made it across the border and were now following the Levis River westward.

'We must be cautious!' cautioned the Sergeant. 'Enemy spies could be anywhere.'

'If they could be anywhere, why be extra cautious /here/?' asked Dudders.

'I mean, they could be anywhere around here. They could be anywhere, but they're even more likely now that we're in enemy territory.'

'Why, are they spying on themselves?'

'No, they could be ordinary Tanenbaumians just going about their savage business. The point is, now that we've crossed the border, anyone we meet will most likely be our enemy, whereas before we crossed the border, they were likely our friends.'

'They changed allegiance when we crossed the border?'


'That's strange of them. I crossed the border and I didn't change allegience. Did you?'

'Let's just stop talking, all right?'

They continued along their way, but in time, the ground began to get muddy. 'Perhaps we should go southward. There seems to be a swamp brewing along the river.'

'Agreed,' said the Sergeant.

'How far south will we go, oh noble leader?' asked Breck.

'I'm not sure. And don't call me noble leader. Remember: we want to blend in as much as possible. We'll never smell as bad as Tanenbaums, but we should try to be rude like they are.'

'Rude is not my forte.'

'Just avoid addressing anybody formally. Skip the titles.'

'How uncivilised. I'll try, but we must not become as uncouth as the Tanenbaums, no matter where we may be.'

'Indeed not. But we should do what we can to blend in.'

'Should I roll around in the swamp for a bit?' asked Dudders.

'No, that's okay,' said the Sergeant. 'I think that's out of character even for the heathens.'

After going a few more miles south, Sergeant Dallywonk decided the ground to the west looked firm enough for them to resume their original heading. In under an hour, however, they found themselves surrounded by swamp to both the south and the north, and muddy spots were appearing regularly along their path.

'We may not have gone far enough southward. It's possible we'll hit a swampy dead-end and have to turn back,' said Filcher.

'Only if absolutely necessary. I suspect we can pick our way through if we're careful. A little mud will cover up our lack of Tanenbaumian stench, anyway. It will be good for our disguise.' Morris Dallywonk hated backtracking, even if it would save time and laundry bills in the long run.

They carefully plodded their way through the increasingly swampy swamp, often finding themselves up to their knees in mud or muddy water.

'You know,' said Filcher, 'if we don't get out of here by nightfall, the insects will come out. Insects like standing water like in a swamp.'

Breck stopped short. 'What do you mean "the insects will come out"? We're already surrounded by insects. You mean there will be /more/? Is that even possible?'

'Oh, certainly. Best keep moving,' Filcher replied cheerfully.

As they continued their trek through the muddy swamp, Filcher pondered out loud, 'I wonder if Tanenbaums eat swamp fish too. You only ever hear about them brutally slaughtering and devouring fish from the sea, and possibly the river, but no one ever mentions swamp fish.'

'Seems like they'd be awfully muddy for eating,' said Dudders, 'but I guess muddy would be better than fishy, when it came to eating. Personally, I'd rather eat pure mud.'

'Oh, absolutely,' said Filcher, 'but if the Tanenbaums think sea fish are edible, why not swamp fish? It actually seems less heathenistic to eat swamp fish.'

'True, but the Tanenbaums don't seem to mind being heathens,' said Breck.

'Indeed. I'm glad we're at war with them. If we win--I mean, /when/ we win--we can put a stop to their evil ways.'

'Sadly,' said Sergeant Dallywonk, 'I don't think our leaders intend to invade and conquer Tanenbaum Region. We simply wish to stop their invasion of our territory.'

'But think what we could do if we took over the entire coastline! We could end their savagery once and for all. Well, not altogether, but we could prevent them from eating fish, which is the biggest issue. Eventually we could perhaps convert them into a fully civilised people.'

'First we must reach their encampment and blow it up. Only once our border is protected and their army defeated will we even have the option of conquering their land. And we must remember that they have a lot of experience in killing. They're not kind, peaceful folks like us.'