“Who are they?” asked a small cadet named Kaspar. 

     “The big one, with the light brown fur, that’s Captain Meir,” Taubnessel replied. “He’s the highest-ranking guard after Rot Hüne and Commander Kohl. He’s fourth-in-command.” 

     Taubnessel enjoyed showing off his knowledge of the kingdom’s hierarchy, and he went on even when his cadets were on the brink of certain death. “I am myself, as the mouse in charge of the regular Palace Guard, in effect, fifth-in-command, reporting directly to the Captain. Now, the Captain also has authority over the Thistle Guard—though, for some reason, Field Marshal Osterglocke reports directly to Commander Kohl instead of to Captain Meir. Really, he should report to Meir. The Captain is highly competent. He also has a reputation for being fair and dedicated, always thinking of what’s best for the common mice in the kingdom—” 

     “But what’s the Captain doing here?” interrupted Sommer. 

     “I don’t know,” replied Taubnessel. “But we’re about to find out.”