ABOUT THIS STORY: [This message has been edited by Lancer (edited 12-01-2001 @ 12:30 PM).]
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ABOUT THIS STORY:
[This message has been edited by Lancer (edited 12-01-2001 @ 12:30 PM).]
Mama said goodbye to the last member of her first family of pups. It was sad but necessary... There was another brood of pups soon to arrive and there must be room for them to grow. It is the way with mice, she told him. Now it was time for Crispin to find his own way in the world of the Tigwood Forest.
He looked back on the entrance to his former home one last time only to see Mama wave once and then scurry back into its depths. Crispin thought, "Gee, just one wave? That's all? I guess that is the way of the mouse like Mama said."
Mama saw her last pup begin his journey to full mousehood. She waved once and hurried to a dark place inside the home in which she raised him. She didn't want him to see her tears...
[This message has been edited by Lancer (edited 12-03-2001 @ 03:31 PM).]
"Out of the way, pup!" bellowed the knight. "I have business to attend to and you are impeding my hare!"
"I beg your pardon, Sir Knight," said Crispin. "I did not know you were on this side of the curve in the path. I do not mean to hinder your hare."
"Who are you, pup?" said the green knight.
"Crispin, Sir Knight. My name is Crispin. I am new from the nest and am seeking my way in the forest."
"And I am seeking my squire," said the knight. A thought occurred to the knight and he looked expectantly at Crispin as he asked, "Have you seen my squire?"
"I do not know who your squire is, Sir Knight. I have not seen any one looking like a squire pass by me."
The knight's face fell with disappointment. "Oh."
"What does your squire look like?" asked Crispin.
"Well, uh... Brownish, small feet, uh... Well, a lot like you as a matter of fact! My squire is also a mouse. Ohhhh! I do miss my squire! There are times when I just can't seem to do anything right without my squire." The knight looked forelornly to the left and right looking as if despairing that his squire would ever reappear yet hoping with falling hope that the squire might.
"I can be your squire... Well, at least until you find your real squire."
"You? Ha! You don't know anything about squiring!"
"I can learn. And besides, it takes a mouse to find a mouse, don't you think?"
"A point, young pup. I grant you that point." The knight considered. "Only until my real squire is found, is it agreed?"
"Yes, it is agreed, Sir Knight."
"Fine. You may refer to me by name, Squire Crispin. I am Sir Scurry, Knight of Elm's Grove, and I am on a quest."
"Your quest is, Sir Scurry?"
"To find my lost squire and to unseat Sir Bushtail as jousting champion at the Tigwood Tournament. Now jump aboard the hare, pup, for we are off!"
With barely enough time to scramble aboard the grey furred hare, Crispin found a perch on the animal's back behind Sir Scurry as the knight prodded the hare foreward and around the bend in the path.
[This message has been edited by Lancer (edited 12-03-2001 @ 03:58 PM).]
"Tibbles! 'sblood, boy, where are you?"
"I'm here, Sir, I'm here."
The small mole, his blue coat setting of his black skin came running up carrying a small basin and a pair of scissors.
"Pshaw. About time you showed up. I need you to trip my whiskers and put on my armour."
Sir Bushtail pointed at his blue laquered armour looking impressive on it's stand. The helmet moudled as a snarling fox' head. A largish sword hang next to it, as was Sir Bushtails shield of blue with three golden acorns.
Tibbles carefully trimmed the squirrels whiskers then helped him in his armour.
"You look fearsome, my lord."
He really admired Sir Bushtail, although the knight worked him very hard.
"Hmpf, of course I look fearsome, I'm the Best Knight in Tifwood Forest.
Come along know and carry my shield.
I need to see the Queen."
His similarly colored helmet dangled from a loop in his saddle. Though bouncing loosely against the saddle's side as the hare progressed on the path, the helmet's plume seemed to Crispin to be shaped like the spreading branches of the elm tree, the namesake of the particular Grove Sir Scurry championed.
Crispin did not know the nature of Scurry's quarrel with this other knight named Bushtail. He did not know if it was simply a matter of competition or of animosity for something ill done in a time now past. Mostly, Crispin was curious about this other mouse that Scurry called his squire and why this mouse was no longer at his side.
"Sir Scurry?" said Crispin.
"How did Squire Mouse come to be lost?"
"My Squire, the bravest in all of the land, attempted to distract a wolf to enable my escape. It was a brilliant tactical maneuver, battlefield perfect, that Squire Mouse executed. I escaped with ease, but my Squire never returned to me."
"Did... uh... Did the wolf capture your squire, perhaps?"
"NO! Didn't you hear me pup?! I said it was a brilliant maneuver. One that you survive so that you can tell your grandchildren!" Sir Scurry looked over his shoulder. "Besides, pup, I found the wolf later, mortally injured. Fell over an embankment or something like that. He couldn't have 'captured' my squire as you say."
"Why not, Sir Scurry?" asked Crispin.
"Because when I found him all crippled up and ready to pass on to the world where dead wolves go, he up and cursed me and my squire, lamenting he had not caught and eaten us both. That's when I realized that Squire Mouse was indeed
alive and must be somewhere to be found... I just don't know where."
"We'll find your squire, Sir," said Crispin.
"I hope so," replied Sir Scurry. "And soon, too."
Inside Bushtail saw Lord Black, the crow that was the Queen's councillor. Lord Black nodded at the knight and whacked the sleeping doremouse, Chamberlain Martin over he head with his wing.
"Wake up and work, you sleeper!" Lord Black croaked.
Martin shook himself awake, rearranged his fat belly oevr his belt and tapped his staff of office on the ground, three times.
"My Queen, Lords, Ladies!
Sir Bushtail has arrived."
Sir Bushtail strode forward to where Queen Rosemund was sitting, her minstrel Alan a Vole at her feet, surrounded by the Lords and Ladies of the Court.
He swept a grandiose bow, almost spoiling it by loosing his balance, but he recovered magnificently.
"Aruhm, your Majesty looks most lovely."
"Thank you, Sir Bushtail, you are most gracious.
I need to talk to you about that cad, Sir Grinning the Cat."
The Mouse maid tried to reach for her head which hurt something terrible. "ohhhhh where am I" Her paws were tied and hurt too. Looking around she saw that she part of a line of tied critters. Wiggle as she might the ropes just tightened. "ohhh dear what is going on here" she muttered to herself. The rabbit who was close to her "mouse maid we have been captured by a troop of wolves"
"By the way I'm Rory what is your name mouse maid"
"My name is ohhhhhh I don't know my name"
"Must be that terrible knot on your head that causing that"
"Oh dear I wonder how that happened"
"What a wail, quail," said mouse. "No one here is any better off than you. I think we should all think of a way to get free and away from here.
"Oh woe... Oh woe... It's too late I say. Too late indeed," said the quail sorrowfully.
Mouse was not to be discouraged. "What's your name?"
"Well, Kia, it's not too late until we are eaten by the wolves."
"Oh woe... Oh woe... But we surely will, mouse *sniff*. What is your name, mouse?" asked Kia.
"Mouse will do," said mouse. "Now, let's get ourselves away from here." Mouse set about to nibbling at the thin cords that bound her. Stupid wolves, she thought. Clever hunters, foolish gaolers. It only took a few minutes of work to nibble through her bindings and mouse was free.
She next went to work on the rabbit's bindings. When the rabbit was freed, he made as if to bound away, but mouse aimed a well placed bite on the rabbits elongated paw. "No you don't, rabbit. There are others here who need to be freed before you go bounding off."
"I didn't mean to... I mean, I just... Well, I'm a rabbit. What did you expect?" The rabbit rubbed its nibbled paw.
"Right, rabbit... The others?"
"Yes, mouse. Of course." And the rabbit nibbled through the thicker cords while mouse nibbled as quickly as she could through the thinner cords. The last of the remaining creatures was freed just as the howls of the wolves carried to them riding on the breeze.
"Run everyone," squeeked mouse. "It's time to go!" The rabbit was about to bound away when it suddenly stopped and looked at mouse. "Would you like a ride away from this place?"
"Yes, thank you," said mouse. "Room for me?" asked Kia. "I run fast, but I cannot fly. That's how the wolves caught me."
"Yes, Kia," said the rabbit. "There is room for you too."
Kia and mouse on board, the rabbit quickly bounded into the brush and away from the den of the wolfpack.
A trembling Tibbles followed.
"Yes, Sir Scurry," replied Crispin, all ears and attention realizing his first lesson was beginning.
"You must fetch armor and store armor in precisely the right order. The first piece must connect to the second piece and to the third piece and so forth..."
"Which is the first piece, Sir Scurry?"
"Whichever piece I say is the first piece, of course."
"You mean it isn't always the same?"
"Correct! One day it is upper armor, the next day it is helmet only. The following day it might be something else. It is whatever I tell you is the beginning, that's where you start; but from there you must bring every piece in correct order."
"What is the correct order, Sir Scurry?"
"Tsk, tsk, tsk. You ask many questions, Crispin." Sir Scurry's expression changed and softened. You remind me of your predecessor, the one we seek. A lot of questions coming from that one, there was." His expression turned serious once more. "Here's one way to remember... Just sing this simple song:
The toe plate's connected to the... tin shoe...
The tin shoe's connected to the... calf plate...
The calf plate's connected to the... knee hinge...
That's so the leg can bend.
The knee hinge is connected to the... thigh plate...
The thigh plate's connected to the... saddle plate...
The saddle plate's connected to the... hip plate...
That's so the knight can twist.
The breastplate covers the... knight's chest...
The backplate covers the... knight's back...
The helmet covers the... knight's head...
That's so the knight will win!
The gauntlet's connected to the... arm plate...
The arm plate's connected to the... elbow hinge...
The hinge is connected to the... shoulder plate...
That's so the knight can lift a mace... or a sword or a lance or a bow or a club... and strike and strike and strike again... until the contest's won!"
Such a catchy little tune, thought Crispin. He spent hours humming the tune and saying the words to himself, so that without fail he would always remember the proper sequence for fetching and storing Sir Scurry's armor.
[This message has been edited by Lancer (edited 12-10-2001 @ 10:07 PM).]
"S...s...sir Busthtail?" Tibbles asked while he was currying his master's hare.
"Hrmpf, yes, Tibbles," said worthy replied around a mouth full of hazelnut.
"Are we going to die?"
"Nonsense, my boy.
We'll charge him and with my sword in hand, I'll snicker-snack, his tail and calloo, callay we'll return to the Queen with frabjous joy."
Tibbles looked unconvinced.
"B...b...but, he's killed many of the Queen's knights."
"Pshaw, bumblers, bumblers all of them.
Now stop your chatter and make sure you get the thistle down out of Thumper's ear."
The mousemaid tossed and turned in uneasy sleep full of dreams of knights and battles. Rory and Kia sat by the fire keeping watch and worrying about the mousemaid. "She seems to have such terrible dreams" mumbled Rory. "Just wish she could remember her name and where her home is located" mumbled Kia in return. They listened closely as howling of hunting wolves could be heard. "Think the wolves are pretty angry we got away" Rory said worriedly. "They don't seem to be giving up the hunt, the mousemaid must have been important to them" Kia said in a trembling voice.
"In the morning we'll have to move on and hope for the best" Rory said thoughtfully. "Rory why don't you get some sleep I'll wake you for your turn at watch" Kia said bravely.
The sun was barely up in sky when Rory shook the mousemaid awake. "Come on sleephead we have to get and get going the wolves sound closer this morning".
"mumble mumble yawn Rory why didn't you or Kia wake me to stand watch it's not fair to for me to sleep through my turn"
The friends put out the fire and grabbed a quick breakfest before climbing on Rory's back to ride away from the howling wolves
"Aiieee... So early. I wasn't ready," said Crispin to himself. He hurried to answer Sir Scurry's call. Sir Scurry didn't seem put out by his squire's late arrival.
"Ah! So there you are, Squire. Thought you faded into the night or something. Today is a plate day, Squire."
"A what, Sir Knight?"
"A plate day. I shall wear only my breast and backplate today." Then Sir Scurry went silent and looked at Crispin expectantly. Crispin stood still, confused. Then it occurred to him what plates the knight meant. He hurried off to bring the plates.
Back he came with the breastplate and backplate. But which one first. The tune re-entered his mind. Yes! Breastplate first and then backplate. He picked up the breastplate and fitted it to Sir Scurry. The squirrel grasped the plate with the palms of both hands and held it to his chest. Then Crispin arrived with the back plate. He fitted it to Sir Scurry's back, pulled the cords through the holes in the backplate and tied the breast and back plates together at the sides and on the knight's shoulder. Then he stepped back to see his handiwork.
"Well done, Crispin!" exclaimed Sir Scurry. "You are indeed a quick study! Now let's enjoy breakfast and set out on our travels again. We haven't a moment to lose... I distinctly think I heard the distant howl of wolves. Where howl the wolves, there's where we may find our mouse, I say. Well... don't just stand there, Squire. See to our meal!"
"Yes, Sir Scurry," answered Crispin and he set off to see what he could do about their breakfast.
Crispin worried the idea of what they would do when they caught up with the wolves and wondered if the same worries had yet occurred to the knight. Well, he would trust to the experienced judgement of Sir Scurry in this matter. It was the logical thing to do... On the other hand...
Shouting coming from a distant clearing interrupted his thoughts. Seems a battle of some sort was underway. Scurry guided his hare towards the sound of battle, looking quickly to verify the location of his own weaponry. It always paid to be sure, he told himself.
Just short of the clearing, behind some obscurring vegetation, Scurry halted his hare. "Hmmm, Squire, it appears to be a knight's battle. I see one knight being confronted by another... and... Why there are at least five assailants giving battle to one knight. Now that is not what I call chivalry at all! Justified or not, the lone knight must be supported if chivalry is to survive! Hand me my helmet, Squire, and my sword! We fight for right this day!"
Scurry received and placed his helmet on his head and grasped his sword in his right hand, leaving his left free to guide his hare. He ordered Crispin to dismount. On a silent command given through his knees, his hare leaped into the clearing and landed closely by the side of the sole defending knight.
Sir Bushtail was startled by the sudden appearance of the knight at his side, but quickly saw that the knight's attention was drawn to his own assailants and not himself. The newly arrived knight's sword flashed in the sunlight as it prepared to do battle against the five. The assailants regrouped to deal with this new threat. The pause was momentary. Their attack was resumed forthwith.
One of the rats was tumbled from his saddle and crashed to the ground, a bit of lance sicking out from his shoulder. Bushtail tossed aside the useless end of his lance and changed to his mace, which he used to permanently dent another of the rats' skull, while Scurry's sword thrust home dead-center through the third rat's shield. The other two rats quickly turned tail and ran of as fast as their hares could carry them.
Sir Bushtail gave chase for a moment then gave up, he turned his warhare and rode back into the clearing.
"Tibbles" he roared.
The young more ran to his lord and barely caught the helmet thrown towards him.
"Check that scoundrel, while I'll check the other."
Tibbles ran towards the fallen rat, that was still faintly moving, while Sir Bushtail rode to the knigt who'd offered him help.
"You, knave" he spoke.
"What in the name of all that is holy did you think you were doing? You ignorant cretin, you chased them away! I swear I had them surrounded until you showed up and spoiled it all.
What fool ever gave you your spurs? Speak up, lad!"
Scurry, who had started to lift his visor slammed it down again, and turned his hare. He was not even going to waste words on this upstuck, grey-nosed excuse for a knight.
"You! Come back and explain yourself!!" Bushtail shouted.
Scurry ignored him.
"Hmrph, bloody youngsters," Bushtail growled, "Think they know everything...
Tibbles! What's with that rat?"
"I... I think he's alive sir."
Bushtail rode towards his squire then dropped from the saddle. Tibbles had removed the rat's helmet and Bushtail could see he was badly hurt. The critter coughed blood and his one eye was closed shut.
"You! Knave! Who sent you!"
The rat coughed and spit out some more blood.
"You old fool, " he hissed.
My brothers and Sir Grinning will avenge me."
"And who might they be, rogue?"
"Lucien and Antoine du Fromage will avenge me."
The rat coughed once more and closed his eyes. His breathing stopped a few moments later.
Bushtail mounted once more.
"Tibbles! Find a peasant and send him to the Monastary of White Holly. Tell the the monks they should bury these wretches.
We go on!"
Crispin winced. The master was indeed very angry.
"Hrummpfff to that knight, I say, Squire Crispin. I shall not lift a lance to help him should he be engaged by an army of opponents! Come, let us leave this place. There is a monastery nearby that I believe will give us shelter for a donation or a little service rendered. It will be good to have a roof over our heads if only for a night or two."
Scurry motioned to Crispin to rejoin him at his place on Scurry's hare. This the young mouse did as quickly as he could scale the creature's sloped back.
Scurry gave the hare a nudge in the direction of the monastery and a short time later Crispin was in front of the monastery's thick wooden doors. He was ringing the cast iron bell that summoned the monks to the door. A small portal in the door opened and the face of a mouse appeared, a dormouse to be more precise.
"Greetings Brother," said Crispin. "I am the squire of Sir Scurry. We seek the hospitality of the monastery for no more than two nights. We have in mind an act of service or a contribution to your purpose, but require a suggestion of need. May we enter and consult with your Abbot?"
The dormouse heard the right combination he sought from those outside of the gate. He heard the request for shelter coupled with an implied offer of compensation. All was in order. He squeeked something Crispin failed to understand, and then the dormouse closed the portal. Momentarily, Crispin heard the gate latch slip out of its holder and the tall, thick wooden gates swung wide to permit Crispin, Scurry and the hare to enter.
They'd crossed a few hamlets belonging to the cat lord and all of the peasants, mice, voles and squirrels were terrified of his brutish strength and fould temper. They'd been too afraid to do more than offer a little water, they were even too afraid to wish them luck.
As the forest thinned out the saw they castle perching on the top of a low hill. Its limestone walls were dead grey and the walls were decorated with skull of mice and, Tibbles swallowed hard, the odd mole.
His master stopped just outside the castle and told him to ready his lances, as Sir Bushtail himself checked his armour. Once he was satisfied he mounted his warhare, slammed his visor shut and grabbed a lance from Tibbles' trembling fingers.
Moments later he was standing in front of the raised drawbridge and raised his visor.
Your time has come, so come out here and face death like a squirrel."
Several minutes passed an then the drawbridge came down rattling as it's chains were loosened. The porteculis was raised and two large rats came bounding out over the drawbridge, lances lowered and aimed at Sir Bushtail. A pair of squires followed.
"Cowards" the latter murmered and slammed down his visor, couched his lance and attacked. He caught one lance on his shield and slammed his own lance home over the attackers shield piercing he faceplate, causing the hapless rat to fall to the ground, twitch and lie still. The warhare bounded off in fright.
Bushtail turned parried his second attackers lance on his shield and rode back for a new lance. The two knights charged and both lances shattered on the shields that paried them. Another bout followed with the same effect.
On the third round, Bushtail, ducked, dropped his lance and slammed his mace into the back of his attacker. Antoine groaned, dropped his own lace and went for his sword. The two fought grimly, exchanging fierce blows. Bushtail received a light wound to the leg then managed to get in an overhand swing that bashed the rat's helmet (and head) to a bloody pulp.
Retrieving his lance, Bushtail rode up to the gate once more, as the two squires ran off to check their masters.
"Is that the best you got, you craven cat?"
A large shadow appeared as Sir Grinning stepped out onto the bridge. On foot, he was even taller than Sir Bushtail on hareback. In his hands he carried a tall, two-handed sword.
"Petty fool, " the cat grinned.
Bushtail couched his lance and charged. His charge was met by a swing of the huge sword which shattered his lance and nearly threw Sir Bushtail. The squirrel recovered and tried to get in close with his mace. He managed to get in a solid blow to the cat's knees, which hampered his enemies moves. Several more blows were exchanged until a fierce blow shattered Bushtail's shield. The squirrel knight dropped it's useless remains, but was clearly hurt.
Tibbles closed his eyes briefly and opened them just in time to see a two-handed blow send his master flying from his hare and crumble into a silent heap on the ground.
The young mole shrieked and started running towards his master. He kneeled down and felt more than saw Grinning loom over him.
The last he knew was a fierce pain, blinding him.
Tibbles woke, rain drops falling on his face. His head hurt. He lifted his hand and it came away bloody.
"Sir Bushtail..." he groaned.
As he scrabbled upright, dizzy and nauseous he realised he was alone. His master was gone, taken hostage by Sir Grinning.
"I must tell someone...I must find help..."
Tibbles felt around his head and found the bandage placed there to cover his wound and, in his opinion, to keep his pounding head from splitting asunder. The rabbit the mouse maiden called Rory and the quail whose name was Kia sat across from the fire frequently glancing at Tibbles as if expecting him to begin to talk to them at any moment.
The mouse maiden was going about the business of making the tea she promised since the water container's piercing whistle finally had beckoned the addition of finely chopped tea leaves. Now in a steaming cup, the brew found its way into Tibbles' hands, warming them from without. He sipped a little and felt it trickle down his throat, warming his insides everywhere it travelled. Despite the continuous pounding in his head, he let out a sigh of relief as the warmth found its way to his stomach and settled there pleasantly.
The mouse maiden sat down on a fallen branch and she too looked expectantly at Tibbles. Oh yes, the story... That's right. They expect him to tell them what happened and how he came to be in this condition. He took a few sips more and then placed the cup down on the ground next to his rear paw. "I suppose I should tell you what happened now..." began Tibbles as a way of introduction.
"That would be nice," Tibbles heard the mouse maiden respond. And so he began.
"Harrummpfff! They don't ask for much, do they Crispin?! Just two nights stay and in return I'm to engage a creature in mortal combat, a cat no less, named Grinning; and stop him from raiding their monastery."
"But Sir Scurry, they say Grinning is evil and takes their field mice and sometimes an errant monk mouse and spirits the poor mouse away never to be seen again." Crispin reached up and scratched an itch behind his left ear. "I wonder what Grinning does with his captives?"
"Tsk, tsk, Crispin. You naive youngster... Grinning is a cat. What do you think a cat does with a mouse?"
"Yes, that is exactly what I mean."
"Oh." A shiver raced up Crispin's spine. "I forgot." Then Crispin thought another thought. "But Sir Scurry, Grinning wouldn't do that to a squirrel, would he?"
"If he caught one... Yes."
"Oh." And a second shiver followed the first up the young squire's spine.
"But Grinning has to catch me first. Ah ha! That will be the day! Have no fear Squire Crispin. All isn't doom and gloom!" And as an afterthought the knight added. "But I sure regret that my vows force me to take this little adventure on. Oh well. What must be must be! Rest well this night, Squire. We have a cat to skewer on the morrow!"
Bushtail groaned and opened his eyes. Even with his eyes open the darkness didn't pass, because little light is to be found in an enclosed dungeon cell with no window open to the outside world. He moved his front paws and then his back paws. The sound of metal rubbing on stone filled the dank, moist air of the cell. He was shackled to iron rings in the wall, a length of chain for each shackle gave him the only room he had to move.
A laugh interrupted his thoughts and a light pierced the darkness illuminating the face of the being that held the oil lamp. The face laughed once more. It was Grinning.
[This message has been edited by Lancer (edited 01-23-2002 @ 12:00 PM).]
Tibbles took another sip of tea and cleared his throat.
"My name is Tibbles, and I have the honour to be squire to the Greatest Knight of Tigwood Forest"
"Who's that?" Kia asked.
"Why, Sir Bushtail"
"Oh him, " Rory said, "he's a bit of a stuckup twir isn't he?"
Tibbles nearly dropped his mug of tea. Why, they didn't seem to know Sir Bushtail was the Greatest Knight of Tigwood Forest, and they even seemed to dislike him. The young mole started to get up.
"Oh, shush you two, let the boy finish his story," mouse maid said and pulled Tibbles back down.
Tibbles continued to tell of his master's quest to rid the forest of Sir Grinning and how he was captured by that same loathsome cat. By the end of his tale he was close to tears.
"There, there, " mouse maid said as she patted his shoulder.
"Sleep now, we'll find help tomorrow."
One such droplet struck Crispin full on the head and drenched his smallish crown as would a waterfall. The mouse shook his head to shed the excess water and then pulled the hood of his coat over his head for protection.
Ting... Ting... Ting, ting... Droplets falling on Sir Scurry's armor ran swiftly down the smooth sections and sneaked here and there into the crevices between its plates and under its hinges. Now and then the knight reached down and removed the metal boots protecting his lower paws, first the left and then the right, and poured out their content of accumulated rainwater. His warhare bounded on, its fur resisting the attempted invasion by the condensation falling from above.
A squeaking noise caught the attention of Crispin's sensitive ears. Yes, there... under the bush... Hiding. Crispin tapped on Scurry's backplate. "Sir Knight! Under the bush, there. A mouse!"
"It looks like one from the monastery!"
"Oh, I see. We shall stop and investigate." Scurry halted the hare and awkwardly dismounted. As he and the squire approached the shivering mouse, Scurry could tell that Crispin's impression was indeed correct. "How came you to be here, Brother Mouse."
"Grinning the Cat captured me and brought me to his castle three days ago. I escaped from one of his stupid rats when he was distracted by their new prisoner."
"Yes, the Knight of the Tigwood Forest, Sir Bushtail."
Scurry looked over his shoulder at Crispin. "Tsk, tsk... That is not the most pleasant of news."
"Because he is a prisoner of Grinning?" responded Crispin expecting his observation to be in agreement.
"No... Because I intend to dismount Bushtail at the jousts and his being a prisoner of Grinning's inconveniences my plan, that's why. One cannot joust with a knight held in a dungeon cell, can one?"
Crispin's left eyebrow was raised in confusion. "I suppose not, Sir Scurry. So what are we going to do?"
"Free him of course; and then skewer Grinning as we set out to do. So Squire, let's give our newly free friend here a patch of cloth from our supplies to keep him warm as he travels to the monastery." Scurry saw alarm in the escaped mouse's dark eyes. "No, my dear monk mouse. Do not fear. The path is safe as we have just travelled it without incident. Stay under cover and move swiftly to the monastery. I'm sure they will be glad to have you back and will warm you with newly toasted seeds. We go on. There is Bushtail to free and Grinning to deal with."
Crispin gave the patch of wooly cloth to the monastery mouse and joined Scurry on the back of the warhare. It leaped at Scurry's command and resumed its hoping towards the castle of Sir Grinning.
The four of them huddled under the broad leaves of some aromatic bush selected during the night when the drizzling began. The mouse maid had not wanted to interrupt Tibbles during his story to ask too many questions so she saved them for this newly dawning day. "Tibbles?" she said, checking first to see if he was awake. "What was the name of the knight who helped Sir Bushtail against the rats?"
The formalities of a name exchange had been accomplished much earlier... frankly, as soon as Tibbles could speak coherently. "Help?! Who said my master required help?!"
Mouse winced. She had not intended criticism nor anything similar. "No one is saying your master required help. What I meant was, who was the knight with Bushtail." Mouse hoped the rephrasing would calm the mole down quickly enough.
"Humpf, help indeed!" said Tibbles. "This is all that I know. The other knight who interfered in my master's business wore the image of an elm on his shield and breastplate. This is all that my master said to me." That is all that he said that I should repeat in this mixed company, thought Tibbles.
Mouse's little heart gave a little leap instantaneously with the mention of the elm. Is it possible? Could Sir Scurry, her master, be in the area somewhere? "He was well when the battle ended, you say?" asked mouse for reassurance.
"Yes, he was well, so I think. The last we saw of them, the knight and his squire were on their way in the direction of the monastery."
Mouse's heart fell six castle steps. And his squire? Yes, that was what Tibbles said: 'And his squire'. Suddenly she lost all interest in asking any more questions. This didn't seem to bother Tibbles so they both fell silent simultaneously, with only the drip, drip, drip of the falling droplets making any noise at all.
[This message has been edited by Lancer (edited 01-23-2002 @ 04:11 PM).]
First of all because he'd been tricked (he would not say that hateful word defeated) by Sir Grinning.
Secondly because that same Grinning had shown up eating a haunch of hare, a haunch of his warhare to be exactly, and it had taken Bushtail years to train the stupid animal.
Last but not least he was annoyed because he could not reach the food and water which was set barely an inch out of his reach.
All in all it was most annoying.
The mouse maid looked at her companions, boisterous Rory, timid Kia and their new friend Tibbles. The youngster seemed completely taken by his master and did not want to hear a single word that made Sir Bushtail look bad. However, the only way to free him from that horrid cat was to get help. Sir Scurry was the closest knight, and she knew his worth, however, the news of him having taken a new squire had upset her more than she cared to admit. She pulled herself together and said:
"We'd better make for the monastary and see if they know where Sir Scurry went.
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I believe violence will only increase the cycle of violence. — The Dalai Lama
The mouse maid looked at her companions, boisterous Rory, timid Kia and their new friend Tibbles. The youngster seemed completely taken by his master and did not want to hear a single word that made Sir Bushtail look bad.
However, the only way to free him from that horrid cat was to get help. Sir Scurry was the closest knight, and she knew his worth, however, the news of him having taken a new squire had upset her more than she cared to admit.
She pulled herself together and said:
Soon enough, the quartet found itself in front of the monastery recently visited by Scurry and Crispin. The same dormouse who greeted Crispin greeted mouse as well. "The Abbot? You wish to see the Abbot? Hmmm... He is very busy right now..." Brother Dormouse did not hear the offering he expected. He would wait as long as necessary until he did.
The mouse maid stamped her paw. "This concerns Sir Scurry and Grinning. I think the Abbot will want to receive us. Please talk to him, unless you want it known that the next brother in your monastery disappeared because you didn't let us see the Abbot."
Brother Dormouse's whiskers twitched a little as he considered mouse's warning. It was not the 'offering' he expected. "Alright, I'll speak to the Abbot; but I remind you he is a busy mouse and his time is much consumed with matters of the monastery." Mouse simply stared and said nothing. The dormouse closed the portal door and disappeared within.
Some time later, the quartet heard the lock on the wooden entrance door unlatch and saw the door swing open. "The Abbot will see you now," said the dormouse. "I understand you will not be staying the night?"
"That's to be seen, Brother," said mouse. "Oh," said Brother Dormouse, as he thought about the irregularity of the whole situation. However, the brother's thoughts were of no concern to mouse as she guided her friends to the structure pointed to by the dormouse who told her that the Abbot would be found within.
The mouse maid hoped she could convince the Abbot and brothers of the monastery to join them and the mice of the field in their campaign to free Bushtail and end Grinning's evil. She knew she must convince the Abbot first and foremost.
Sir Scurry and Crispin continued their journey to Grinning's castle unaware of the activity all around them. Sir Scurry slowed the pace of their progress unbeknownst to Crispin, because the squirrel knight simply had no idea how, on his own, he could gain entrance to the castle. He hoped against hope that something would occur to him. Since it hadn't so far, it seemed that there was no point in arriving at the castle any sooner than necessary.
As firmly planted in the soil as Grinning's castle was, there were places known to the mice that permitted them to enter and exit the castle with ease. It was one of these exits that the escaped monastery mouse used to flee the rats.
At great risk, the bravest among the field mice now searched out these portals and other gaps in the fortifications and entered the castle of Sir Grinning. Their task was to spy out the fortifications and all within.
Cleese was among them. He was a young field mouse, barely out of the nest. His task was to spy out the dungeon with four comrades and learn if any creatures were being held there. It seems his burrow leader had been told a squirrel knight might be there. Cleese was selected to see if it were true.
The burrow leader hoped Cleese and his four comrades would be enough to get the job done. There would be casualties, he knew. He hoped at least one might return with the information they sought. The burrow leader steeled himself to the possibility that his own pup, Cleese, might be Grinning's feast that night. As he watched Cleese and the other four field mice scurry towards the castle, the burrow leader prepared himself for the worst.
Indeed, Grinning did feast well that night; and suspicioned without conclusion as to the reasons why.
[This message has been edited by Lancer (edited 01-29-2002 @ 04:20 PM).]
"The mice of the field and the hills are massing to put an end to Sir Grinning's raids," began mouse. "I... I mean we... request the assistance of the brothers of the abbey."
"Is there violence contemplated?"
"Possibly..." mouse saw the Abbot's brows knit once again. "But only if there is no other choice or Grinning's rats force it upon us. We want only for Grinning to cease his raids upon our brethren."
"As do we," agreed the Abbot. "I promise nothing, maiden, but that I will pray upon the issue and study the meaning of our vows. After that, I will decide with the brothers how we shall answer your request." Mouse nodded to signal she understood the Abbot's decision. "Now, mouse maid, is there anything else we must speak about? Vespers shall be upon us soon and I must prepare."
"One thing, please. My master is Sir Scurry. Do you know where he is about?"
"Ah yes, I do. He and his squire (mouse winced ever so slightly) have vowed to address the wrongs being done to the abbey by Sir Grinning. He rides in that direction even now. He has not been gone so very long that you cannot catch up with him... That is, if you leave promptly." Mouse sensed the desire in the Abbot to see them leave so that he could prepare for Vespers and for Council. She knew it was time to depart the monastery.
Brother Dormouse said nothing as he closed the gate behind them; but mouse heard another brother's voice telling Brother Dormouse the Abbot wanted to speak with him. There was a short dismayed squeak that sounded like it came from Brother Dormouse. In spite of her trying not to, mouse smiled a little to herself. She doubted that Brother Dormouse would be so much of a problem next time. In fact, in the days and months that followed, it would only be the lock on the gate that kept out petitioners, never again Brother Dormouse.
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