place he had not yet explored

he had forgotten it all again and was hatching more crazy plans. Matthias was constantly amazed at the mode of life in the Sparra court. The sparrows showed no kindness or civility to one another, often fighting savagely among themselves on the slightest pretext. Warriors, and even fledglings, joined in. The injuries they inflicted upon each other were appalling.

Sparra folk knew nothing of the firemaker’s art. By day the court was illuminated by sunlight that streamed in through the cracked and broken slates and slanted up through the eaves. All food was eaten uncooked, worms and small insects providing the main diet. The Sparra did not discriminate between different species of insects. All came under the genera] heading of “worm.” Thus a sparrow might make a meal of a butterfly or a grasshopper and refer to it as “wormfeed.” “Worm” was also used to denote an enemy or a coward or anything alien to the Sparra. Fresh flowers and tender shoots of vegetation were used to supplement the worm diet, also berries and whatever fruit a Sparra could carry in flight. Matthias was grateful for this. He abhorred the idea of eating live worms or dead insects.

There was no strict routine of chores ever carried out. Apart from parents feeding fledglings, everything was left undone until tomorrow, which meant it never was done. The evidence of this lay all about the court; dirt, dust, filth and general chaos prevailed.

Matthias gradually found that once he could keep pace with the speedy delivery of Sparra language it was relatively simple. Some of the Sparra chattered with such rapidity that Matthias was sure they could not understand themselves.

Matthias was not sure whether Warbeak knew of his mission to bring back Martin’s sword; certainly Dunwing did not. The young mouse had had a good look round most of the Court, but the sword was not to be seen. Matthias reasoned , that it must be in the one : the private chamber of the King. He thought long and hard about how he might obtain access to the royal apartment. He did not want to cause trouble for his friends, nor did he want tbem to suspect what he had come for. And supposing he did regain the sword, the next problem would be how

to take it safely back down to the floor of the Abbey and his

own kind.

Matthias figured that he had been in his new surroundings 1 for a night and a day. Towards the evening of that day, he 1 was sitting outside the nest, repairing his torn haversack and taking stock of his personal effects. Each time a sparrow passed by he would grin vacantly and strike up his song. No one bothered to take much heed of him.

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