We had to poke Alaric with fondue spears to get him to speak about his mother. Alaric had been an only child, raised in a cave full of owls. Alaric’s mother had cared for only the owls, and not a fig for Alaric. “There there, Too-Too, and how is my Mr. Friskers today?” Young Alaric had no toys to play with except a clock. He’d move the hands and pretend it was six o’clock, move them again and pretend it was half-past nine. When Alaric was fourteen, Mother had presented him with a scale model of Versailles. Years later, Alaric saw the real Versailles and wept acidly at the sight of gilded columns that were not crusted with owl scat.