Having uncovered the Zom's perfidy and sensing their mounting turmoil, Spanakopitus determined to pay them a visit--but definitely not unaccompanied or unarmed. He who will sneak in to steal and then lie to your face is capable of any malefation, he reasoned, so it is best to show yourself well-fortified for all contingencies.

Therefore, he invited the TrailMaster to come with him to the land of the Zom--well armed, of course, and accompanied by Polaris One. It was a strategic show of force, for Spanakopitus had a plan, a plan that would only heighten the Zoms' turmoil.

So, fortified with supplies for several days, they alerted Spanakopitae that they would be gone for a while, and they headed straight to the abundant spring with its overflowing water tank, where Spanakopitus showed the TrailMaster the hidden valve. Giving a slow, knowing wink, he turned the valve on full force.

And then they headed for open country. Riding horseback and with the two Polarises cavorting alongside, feeling the brisk breeze of autumn and hearing the call of the red-tailed hawk overhead, it felt like old times to the seasoned pair. Not a word was spoken--or needed--during those brief, glorious days of comradeship. It is good for a man to be in the company of other men, from time to time.

Finally they ambled across the watershed, down the long hill, and along the tight little valley of the Zom. The water, as they had predicted, had arrived ahead of them.

In a fitting irony they were greeted by the same delegation that had installed the secret water line. "Hello. Hello. Nice to see you," and much officious pumping of hands. Twenty eyes took note of the two rifles. "Out for a hunt, are you? You certainly seem prepared."

"Oh, yes," said Spanakopitus. "You never know when you'll stumble across a whizzenhut."

"And we see you're also carrying shotguns. Fully loaded, are they?"

"Oh yes, oh yes," said the TrailMaster. "Never can tell when a flock of slingflidgits will fly over."

"And the brace of pistols each?"

"Vermin. They're everywhere. Might have to dispatch them if they become too annoying."

And so after some small talk and a teeny-tiny tumbler of the Zom's remaining brandy (a new batch must season in the oak a while), Spanakopitus and the TrailMaster took their leave.

As they were departing, Spanakopitus turned in his saddle and called back to the ZomMaster. "By the way, how's your water situation?"

"Splendid. Just fine," ZomMaster called back. "Didn't look too good there for a while, but we're doing quite well now. Thanks for asking." And he waved the pair on their way.

Together Spanakopitus and TrailMaster headed back toward the castle, stopping only once--at the high spring with the 1,200-gallon water tank, where they plugged the tank, dug up the buried water line, cut the white plastic pipe, and crushed the end, leaving it exposed for all to see.

30: Biter Bit