The Mistress of Truant Stargazers had apparently said all she intended to say, and marked the event by finishing her mug of tea. Kevin Galwynn opened his eyes fully from their half-closure, and considered her report for a moment. However, he was not satisfied. “Your stargazers all ran away,” he said, “but you are the stargazer supreme, Lady Barbara. You have my greatest admiration for your steadfastness, but why did you not take the opportunity to escape as well?”

Barbara De Lune and Kevin Galwynn had known, liked, and respected each other for many years. But the Mistress of Stargazers knew the purview of the Master of Enlightenment was to ask even uncomfortable questions in pursuit of the truth. So, taking no offense at his question, she poured herself the last of the tea from Sky, and said, “First, my clever boy, I think you already suspect the answer. Like you, I am one of a blessed few; I am a Master; I am the Mistress of Stargazers; and like all Masters, it is my duty to serve the King and help him avert impending doom, not run away and think only of saving myself.”

“I see,” Kevin interjected.

“Second,” she added, after taking a sip of tea, “my stargazers were hysterical and could not think clearly. Otherwise, they would have realized that if the entire world is coming to an end, then where in this same world can they hope to find sanctuary?”

“I see,” Kevin commented.

“And third, after I realized how dire was our situation I dusted off my skills,” she said, with a dramatic flourish of her hands, “and cast your horoscope.”

“I fail to see,” Kevin said, puzzled. “In a situation as dire as you say, why did you bother to cast my horoscope?

Lady Barbara tucked the last poppyseed biscuit in her mouth, then mumbled, “I did it because the situation is so dire. The stars are declaring the world is going to end! But we can challenge our fate. If we are to save ourselves—assuming we can be saved—who has the best chance of discovering a way out? Who is smart enough, and resolute enough, and clever enough,” she said, with a rascally smile, “to find a solution when even the stars themselves condemn us?” Mistress De Lune leaned forward with a satisfied grin on her face that was due either to her savoring the answer to her own question, or savoring the last morsel of the very best poppyseed cookies in the kingdom. “Why, of course, the answer is you, my clever boy. Since that was obvious, I cast your horoscope to foresee your chances of success.”

Kevin had a sinking feeling that fate was inexorably pushing him in a direction he did not want to go. Resignedly, he asked, “And what did you see?”

The Mistress of Stargazers started to reply, but upon a moment of reflection, paused to clear her throat. Then she adjusted her posture on the tapestry fabric of her big, comfortable chair. And then she began fidgeting with the chain suspending her gazing crystal. However, a Master of Enlightenment practices the fine art of patience until it becomes second nature. Galwynn said nothing, but instead, gazed at the Mistress of Stargazers with an unwavering eye. 

Knowing when to concede defeat, Lady Barbara shrugged and reluctantly said, “Well,…considering that we are already doomed…so nothing you do can make the situation worse.—And bearing in mind you are very clever.—Then…in that case…all things considered,…I think your chances of success are, well,…well,…—They could be worse.”

Kevin smiled bravely. “Thank you for your help, my lady,” said Kevin. Then he placed his hand over his heart, and added with a depth of meaning and sincerity that only a Master of Enlightenment can confer, “I have been…enlightened.” 

At that moment, there was a familiar, respectful rap at the door, and the old clerk announced the arrival of the Masters that Lady Barbara had invited to her study. The other Masters filed in one by one, displaying either grogginess or grumpiness depending on how much sleep they had gotten before a pageboy came knocking on their door at near the break of dawn.

As the other Masters came in, the Master of Enlightenment stood to go out. “Master Galwynn,” Prime Master Glenbury called out, as he slumped into a chair and rubbed the sleep from his eyes, “Mistress De Lune sent us all missives saying she has something urgent to tell us. She and her stargazers made an observation at your behest, did they not? Aren’t you staying to hear the outcome?” But as Glenbury cleared the cobwebs from his brain, he retracted his question and ventured instead, “Or do you already know?”

“The Mistress of Stargazers has something truly amazing to tell you, Prime Master. Attend her well,” Kevin said. “However, I am afraid I cannot tarry. I have an urgent task to perform. 

“It is time for me to request an audience with the King.”

A fortnight ago, Kevin Galwynn had been commanded to begin his investigation. 

A sennight ago, with his investigation completed, Kevin Galwynn apprised the King of the imminent doom the stars proclaimed would befall both Land and Sky. In response, the King commanded his ambassadors and magicians to contact their opposite numbers in Sky, meet and share what the Master of Enlightenment had learned, and then plan how they could work together to possibly save their worlds. 

Meanwhile, the King informed his advisors, ministers of state, and cardinals of the impending doom, so that together they could help plan how to prepare the people of his kingdom to meet their fate if the best efforts of Land and Sky could not stave off disaster.

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