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).]
Cleese scampered out of the hollow. "Crispin, Clep! Where are you!" A voice answered, the voice of a lady mouse.
"They did not come back last night, Cleese."
"Did not come back?"
"No," said mouse. "They are still in the castle or captured or... worse."
"We must find them."
"The battle will begin soon. You have done your jobs."
"I cannot leave it at that, mouse! I must know if they are alive or not!" The mouse maid could tell it would be fruitless to try and prevent Cleese from entering the castle once more. "Don't go alone, then, Cleese. Your friends will help," she said.
"Okay, mouse. I'll ask them to help; but this isn't their responsibility."
"Responsibility for what, Cleese?" His two companions from the night's mission were beside him rubbing sleep from their dark little eyes. "What's the matter?"
"Crispin and Clep are not back. Something's wrong. Will you help me to find them?"
"Not back, huh?" The two friends looked at each other and reach silent agreement. "So where do we start to look, Cleese?"
"Grinning's castle, that's where!" said Cleese.
The mouse maid wished them 'good luck' and watched the three mice disappear into the brush in the direction of the castle. Then she began to look for Bushtail and Scurry and happened upon the two knights engaged in conversation that seemed neither friendly nor antagonistic, just business-like and correct.
Mice streamed into every bush, hollow or other hiding place around the castle they could find. Every opening in the castle walls saw cautious mice and other creatures slip in whenever the guard rats weren't looking. Soon, every hiding place around the interior of the castle was occupied by a stealthy small rodent. When the signal is given, there will be such a disturbance as has never been seen in the land, of this they were confident. Of the outcome of the disturbance, they were not so confident; but the die was cast. What will be, will be.
First he spoke to his fellow squires and managed to get Sir Greentooth to listen to his story. After several hours of questions, the knight brought the bedraggled squire to the Lord Marshal, Duke Scarlet.
A while later, Tibbles found himself repeating the story to Lord Black, who informed the Queen, Rosemund.
When her Most Royal Majesty heard of the faith of her favourite knight she was besides herself with worries. She convened the Council and they discussed the situation in the East until the crack of dawn. Tibbles, who had fallen asleep next to the fire, was roused and the Queen spoke.
"Squire Tibbles, our loyal subject, is hereby given the title of Junior Knight. He will lead our army towards the castle of Sir Grinning, there under the command of Duke Scarlet. When Sir Bushtail is freed and Sir Grinning lies dead we will give him a full knighthood and a small estate in Dimmerdelve."
Queen Rosamund kissed the young mole soundly on the cheeks.
"Rise Sir Tibbles!"
Tibbles, blushed, bowed, blushed some more and was dismissed.
Several hours later the army of Tigwood Forest set forth to lay siege to Sir Grinning's castle. A large company of squirel knights and young Tibbles led the way, followed by mole engineers, mice carrying pikes and vole troopers with crossbows.
By the time the mice had penetrated the depths of Grinning's castle, the army of Tigwood Forest appeared in the clearing before the castle. Troops were deployed and the engineers started working on their trebuchets and mangonels.
Tibbles, dressed in green and silver enameled plate looked on, trembling in anticipation, as Duke Scarlet shouted commands to the assorted troops.
One of the knighted rats found a small resevoir of courage and used its final cupfull to answer. "It appears to be mostly mice, My Liege."
"Mice? MICE? MICE?! How dare they. Why I shall see that they all become stew, I shall! Is the drawbridge raised?"
"Yes, Sir Grinning. We raised it at the first sign of their weapons. It appears they are assembling the mangonels and trebuchets from sections. We estimate they will be battle ready within hours."
"They were prepared in advance it seems."
"So it seems, Sir Grinning."
"Devious little knats... I wonder why our Chief of Spys didn't know about their plans. Remind me to invite him to dinner tonight." The rat hesitated, gulping in fear; but Grinning wasn't interested in his answer at that moment. He continued giving instructions. "Have the captains tell their rats to keep a sharp eye out for any trouble inside or around the castle."
The raised drawbridge continued to put stress on the knawed ropes. It would be awhile yet before the ropes gave way, but their failure was inevitable. If not now, then later, or maybe tomorrow; but Crispin and Clep had done their work well and the drawbridge would fall, provided no rats found their handywork too soon.
One of the elders among the mice advanced onto the open field between the castle and the assembled army. "Sir Grinning - You are hereby given notice that attacks upon the mice and peaceful residents of this region will cease. You are given this one opportunity to express regrets and to vow by your heritage and coat of arms not to pursue your past evils. How do you answer, Sir Grinning?"
Silence. Minutes passed with no answer.
"I say again, how do you answer, Sir Grinning?"
Silence. The Elder stood patiently in the field. The only sounds to be heard were the sounds of tools against the pieces of siege weaponry being assembled by the mice and others.
"One last chance, Sir Grinning. How... Do... You... Answer?"
Thwwuuump! From inside of the castle the sound of a device of some kind reverberated off the walls and emptied into the open field. A greyish object sailed over the wall and flew through the air, falling close to where the Elder stood. The Elder did not have to walk very far to see the message thus delivered. It was written clearly in the image of what lay on the ground before him. He recognized it immediately, for the person it belonged to was well known in his burrow.
It was the severed head of Clip... Grinning's answer had been delivered.
Bile rose in the Elder's stomach even as grief and anger warred with each other for attention in his troubled mind. He made a single comment heard by himself alone, for there was no need to respond directly or even address the mice. They knew what it meant as well.
"So be it," said the Elder.
[This message has been edited by Lancer (edited 03-13-2002 @ 04:04 PM).]
Sir Grinning turned fury on his face "WHAT GOES ON IN MY CASTLE" he screamed as the rats closest to him cringed away.
At just that moment the drawbridge ropes gave way with a groan. Dozens of tunnels broke through the ground of the inner keep, hundreds of moles,otters and mice charged through. A roar could be heard from the field in front of castle.
Large wicker shields were carried forward, to give cover to the vole crossbowmen, who quickly started unloading their quarrels at any rat they saw.
A vanguard of heavily armoured mice, carrying various polearms slowly apporached the gatehouse, while Duke Scarlet prepared the knights to rush the gates.
"Tibbles, " he spoke, "you lead the charge. Dispatch any rat you find and get Sir Bustail out of there. Once we have him we'll think of how to handle that blasted cat imself."
Tibbles, trembling, saluted and mounted his warhare.
"Crispin!" hissed Clep in an excited whisper.
"What?" answered Crispin.
"I know, I can see it too."
"What do you think's going on?"
"The attack, I hope." Crispin could think of nothing else going on that might make the rats hurry so. Moments later the gaoler entered the cell area.
"Well, nuisance and bother, it seems some of your friends want to become stew earlier than scheduled, mice. There's a small army of entrees out on the field wanting the Master to surrender to their wishes. HA! Fat chance of that. I'm here to check you out for battle fodder. Seems we need something to pad the mangonel. You two will do just fine, methinks." The joke seemed uproariously funny to the gaoler for he proceeded to laugh till his eyes teared over and his belly hurt. He never noticed the peculiarity of a rat shield moving with no apparent rat holding it. All Crispin saw were three pairs of mice feet conveying the shield towards the gaoler.
WANG! The shield elevated and came down squarely on the back of the gaoler. Stunned, he turned around to receive the full force of the shield on his muzzle. The gaoler bent over in reaction grabbing his muzzle just as the shield collided with the top of his head. Once... WANG! Again... WANG! Once more... WANG!
The gaoler lay on the stone floor senseless. The three mice cast the shield to the side. It was Cleese! A few twists of the gaoler's key and Clep and Crispin were both free of their cells.
"No time to waste, the attack is on. Follow me." Cleese motioned towards the direction they should go and the five mice hurried from the cell area.
Clep, Cleese, Crispin and their troops were rushing through the by-ways of the castle. "Cleese did the ropes break in time" whispered Crispin. "Sure did and the attack must be underway by now" whispered Cleese. "Come on troops we have some rat traps to set and maybe even a cat trap" whispered Cleese as they sped through the castle walls picking up more mice along the way.
"What is it, Crispin?" said Cleese in a tone bordering on exasperation. "We musn't tarry here."
"I know, Cleese, but look. The drawbridge Cleese muttered something under his breath that he preferred not be heard too widely. Then he said, "We have to lower the drawbridge for the attack to truly succeed. The mice in the castle can't be fighting alone. They will fail. Our elders said this repeatedly." "Then we'll have to make sure the drawbridge falls, won't we," volunteered Crispin. Cleese's brow furrowed. "Yes, we will. There is no one else." "No, Cleese. I will. It was my job and I will see it done," said Crispin matter-of-factly. Clep was about to say something, but Crispin cut him off. "No Clep, you've done enough. There's other work for you... But... Well... If... If I fail... Oh, you'll know what to do." Crispin immediately set off in the direction of an exit into the courtyard. Clep moved as if to follow, but Cleese put out a paw to restrain him. "Hold, Clep. Crispin is right. We have other work to do. We need to do our jobs so that we can help him if needed. Follow me, lads." Cleese set off in their original direction, now less one mouse. "Good luck, Crispin lad," he said to himself. "May the Source of All Seed guide you there and safely back to us again." [This message has been edited by Lancer (edited 03-14-2002 @ 08:57 PM).]
One word deserves another.
Cleese muttered something under his breath that he preferred not be heard too widely. Then he said, "We have to lower the drawbridge for the attack to truly succeed. The mice in the castle can't be fighting alone. They will fail. Our elders said this repeatedly."
"Then we'll have to make sure the drawbridge falls, won't we," volunteered Crispin.
Cleese's brow furrowed. "Yes, we will. There is no one else."
"No, Cleese. I will. It was my job and I will see it done," said Crispin matter-of-factly. Clep was about to say something, but Crispin cut him off. "No Clep, you've done enough. There's other work for you... But... Well... If... If I fail... Oh, you'll know what to do." Crispin immediately set off in the direction of an exit into the courtyard.
Clep moved as if to follow, but Cleese put out a paw to restrain him. "Hold, Clep. Crispin is right. We have other work to do. We need to do our jobs so that we can help him if needed. Follow me, lads." Cleese set off in their original direction, now less one mouse. "Good luck, Crispin lad," he said to himself. "May the Source of All Seed guide you there and safely back to us again."
[This message has been edited by Lancer (edited 03-14-2002 @ 08:57 PM).]
He paused momentarily at the base of the rope mechanism to catch his breath. THAAWUUMP! THAAWUUMP! Crispin listened to the strange noise, then it occurred to him what it was. The trebuchets were aiming their missles at the towers of the castle. Good! That'll keep Grinning's troops occupied while he climbed up and under the parapet above the drawbridge. They'll be too busy watching for the next boulder to worry about watching him.
Crispin grasped the rope and sank his nails into its fibres. He pulled himself up its length until he was at the point where his previous gnawing had nearly severed the rope. He sighed. This is an exceptionally strong rope, he thought. It should have separated by now. A credit to its weaver, but a long length of trouble to us mice. He put his elongated front teeth to work gnawing at it once more.
There, nearly done. It can't hold much longer, he thought. A shout caught his attention as he continued to gnaw at the rope. Grinning had emerged from the Keep and was directing the clean up of remaining invaders. The sharp eyes of the feline caught sight of Crispin gnawing on the ropes. The shout was the knight's call of alarm.
Sir Grinning waved to a band of crossbow rats and ordered them to launch their bolts at Crispin. "There, you fools! Don't you see him?! He's on the ropes, there! The drawbridge ropes, I say! Shoot him down! Now!"
The crossbow rats one-by-one finally caught sight of their target and began to launch their bolts at Crispin. At the same time, the final strands of the rope gave way. The drawbridge gave a shudder, then leaned to one side against the other gnawed rope. Crispin held on for dear life to the piece of rope hanging from the drawbridge as the lower piece fell to the ground. Crossbow bolts whistled by him, some so close the mouse could feel the breeze of their passing.
The second rope, nearly severed, could not support the full weight of the drawbridge. There was a sudden snap, a wooden groan and the drawbridge, free of all support began to descend to the ground. Another bolt whizzed by Crispin. And another. The next bolt struck home.
Crispin gave a high pitched squeek filled with pain, but he never let go of the rope. The drawbridge gained speed as it fell to the earth. Finally it reached ground. The sudden stoppage caused Crispin to crash into the drawbridge, knocking the breath from him, and making him let go of the rope. The mouse tumbled helplessly to the side of the drawbridge and onto the bank of the deep ditch the drawbridge spanned.
Crispin never heard the thunder of the hooves of the great charge led by Tibbles as the mole guided the knights and foot creatures of the Army of the Tigwood Forest against Sir Grinning. Instead, Crispin lay where he fell, a bush partially hiding him. The mouse was unconscious, breathing shallowly, and bleeding heavily from the place where the bolt had penetrated his body.
Tibbles reined in his hare, allowing to the two knights to close in. Who was that, he wonderded, then he recognised the squirrel knight that had helped Sir Bushtail in his earlier battle with the rats. What was his name again?
"Sir Scurry!" the young mole shouted, raising his visor, casually deflecting an incoming quarrel with his shield.
Scurry, raised his own visor, and called in reply
"Ah, Bushtail's young squire, how fare things?"
"We are bound to liberate my master from Sir Grinning, have you heard of his fate?"
At that moment the other knight raised his visor an grumbled:
"Pshaw, the brat doesn't even recognise his master.
What you doing in that armour, Tibbles?"
Tibbles dismounted quickly and ran towards Sir Bushtail.
"My Lord, you are safe!"
He bowed and offered Sir Bushtail his sword.
"Please sir, lead the charge?"
Bushtail looked at his squire, then at the assembled body of squirrels and nodded. He raised the sword and spurred his warhare on.
"For Heart of Tigwood and Queen Rosamund!"
The knights charged the castle across the fallen drawbridge.
Grinning's whiskers drooped noticeably when he saw the mounted onslaught enter the courtyard. He issued a single despondently moanful meow and retreated back into the Keep, only to be confronted by thirty massed mice led by Cleese.
"Grinning, you have two choices" said Cleese, teeth clenched, jaw muscles tense with anger. "Meet us, all thirty at once, or meet the knights in chivalrous combat."
"Thirty of you? I hardly call that fair," protested Sir Grinning.
"It's as fair as your sending dozens of rats into our burrows to steal and stew our nestmates, parents and elders. Protest all you'd like. You brought this on yourself a dozenfold."
Grinning studied the expressions among the mice gathered around him on nearly all sides. There was no mercy evident anywhere. His greater size and longer sword would be no match for this many. He expected most of the mice would die, but the battle would wear him down such that the final two or three mice still alive would finish him regardless of his best effort. The choice was fairly obvious.
"I choose the knights," said Grinning.
"So be it," said Cleese. "Clep, run and tell the elders and the knights. The battle is ended. Sir Grinning chooses individual combat to resolve the conflict." Cleese turned to Sir Grinning. "Tell what's left of your rats to stand down. And I warn you "I understand your meaning, mouse." "The name is Cleese, Grinning. The mouse who's head signaled your answer was named Clip. He was my nestmate. If it were up to me, I'd give you the attention you deserve right now, chivalry be cursed! So don't give me an excuse." "There will be no tricks," replied Grinning, even as his mind feverishly attempted to conceive a trick that might work, if not on the mice, then on whatever knight rode against him in combat. ____________________________________________________________ The otter staggered under the weight of the unconscious mouse he carried. Twice he nearly dropped Crispin, all the time worrying about whether he was helping or merely hurting the young mouse more. Finally, he found the person he sought. "Mouse!" he called out. "Mouse! Help me please, he's hurt and badly." "Who's hurt? Who is it?" The otter layed his burdon down on a mat of piled leaves. "It's the one called Crispin, the one who helped Cleese. Hurry, mouse. I think he's dying." [This message has been edited by Lancer (edited 03-15-2002 @ 04:01 PM).]
One word deserves another.
"I understand your meaning, mouse."
"The name is Cleese, Grinning. The mouse who's head signaled your answer was named Clip. He was my nestmate. If it were up to me, I'd give you the attention you deserve right now, chivalry be cursed! So don't give me an excuse."
"There will be no tricks," replied Grinning, even as his mind feverishly attempted to conceive a trick that might work, if not on the mice, then on whatever knight rode against him in combat.
The otter staggered under the weight of the unconscious mouse he carried. Twice he nearly dropped Crispin, all the time worrying about whether he was helping or merely hurting the young mouse more. Finally, he found the person he sought. "Mouse!" he called out. "Mouse! Help me please, he's hurt and badly."
"Who's hurt? Who is it?"
The otter layed his burdon down on a mat of piled leaves. "It's the one called Crispin, the one who helped Cleese. Hurry, mouse. I think he's dying."
[This message has been edited by Lancer (edited 03-15-2002 @ 04:01 PM).]
The monk returned to the camp and checked Crispin wound and pronounced it not life threatening since the bleeding was stopped.
[This message has been edited by mouse (edited 03-16-2002 @ 02:44 AM).]
The rabbit was nearby. Rory and Kia both knew something was on mouse's mind. It was Rory who spoke; Kia, as usual, being the more timid among the trio. "Okay, mouse, out with it. What's troubling you?"
"I have a strange feeling that all isn't well. I hear that we are victorious, but I cannot shake this... this feeling." The mouse maid looked up at Rory, who stood ten mouse paws taller than mouse herself. "Sir Grinning is too sly to be trusted. He will take advantage of the situation some way, you'll see. I feel that we must be there just in case."
Rory frowned. Kia began to wail. "Not there... Not there... Oh, mouse... Not there."
"Kia! The battle is over. Our wounded told me so. Sir Grinning has agreed to meet our squirrel knights to settle the dispute. The cat knight will be allowed to leave this land with his life if he wins. If he doesn't win, well... you know."
"But the rats, mouse..."
"They are gone, Kia. Grinning's rats are gone, everyone of them," the mouse maid said, reassuringly. I hope so, she thought, silently.
"Alright, mouse. I'll go with you then." Kia sniffed a little less as Rory hopped closer and closer to the battlefield and Sir Grinning's former castle.
Meanwhile, in the courtyard, preparations for the combat ensued. The first order of business was to name the combatants who would challenge Sir Grinning. There were many brave volunteers, but chivalry demanded that only a select few in number could be allowed to jointly oppose the much larger feline knight.
Sir Grinning sat on his bench awaiting the outcome. He was confident that his plan would work and that he would see all of his challengers fail in their attempts to achieve victory over his sword and himself.
[This message has been edited by Lancer (edited 03-16-2002 @ 11:52 AM).]
The feline knight felt challenged but not overly concerned. He knew the conditions of the combat: Defeat the squirrel knights in any combination of their choosing and he would be permitted to leave with his life. Yes, they were imposing figures as squirrels went, but he had fought such knights before. His presence, alive and healthy, is testimony to the outcome of all such challenges he entertained in the past. What's another three squirrels? Nonetheless, caution is always best, and preparation is paramount.
"I seek a boon," Sir Grinning called out at the end of the deliberations.
"You seek a boon? On what basis?" answered the eldest among the mice.
"Would you deny a knight who is about to engage in mortal combat the right of 'Chapel'?" Grinning, expressionless, sat on the bench awaiting the answer. The leaders of the mice talked among themselves. It was plain that there was disagreement, but finally a decision was reached.
"Sir Grinning, it is not proper to deny a knight the right of 'Chapel' though we see no reason why whomever it is you seek to speak to will listen. You will leave your weapon on the bench and will be escorted to the Chapel. You must return directly to this place and await the start of the combat. Mice will surround the chapel to ensure you do not leave by any alternate exit. I remind you that our army is still in the field before this castle."
"I assure you I will return," replied Sir Grinning.
According to custom, Sir Grinning was entitled to strict privacy in the Chapel. He watched the mice close the squeaky hinged door behind him. Its solid 'thuwaam!' reverberated throughout the small structure. Grinning was alone. He checked every nook and cranny of the small chapel just to be sure no mice were hiding there. Convinced, he spoke in a low whisper, but forcefully. "Slink!" No answer. "Slink! I know you're in here! Answer me!"
Something moved under the altar at the head of the chapel. A stone lifted and the nose of a rat was followed by two bloodshot rat eyes. "Slink! Get over here!"
"Yes, Sir Grinning," came the quavering answer. "How may I be of service, My Master?"
"You and the other rats down there... Get that look off your face, Slink. I "Uhh, of course. Yes, Master. I forgot." Sir Grinning's look became one of disgust. "Oh, nevermind. You and the others take the underground tunnel to the Keep. Wait behind the false walls. I will force the squirrel knights into the Keep under conditions of combat and you will dispatch them there. Is it understood?" "Yes, Master. Take the tunnel under the Chapel to the Keep. When the squirrel knights enter the Keep we are to terminate them." "Close enough, now get going." "Master?" said Slink. "What is it now, Slink?" "How shall we escape their army once we defeat the squirrels?" "You will return to the tunnel. Leave the rest to me. I'll get you out of there and into a new castle in no time... That is, if you do what I say." "Yes, Sir Grinning. We shall obey." Slink descended into the hole below the altar. Sir Grinning permitted additional time to pass to add to the impression he was deep in prayer. Then he opened the door of the Chapel and walked towards the bench under the watchful eye of dozens of mice, otters and moles. One rodent, however, did not like her particular vantage point. Leaving her friends Rory and Kia behind, she made her way towards the chapel and found a new vantage point between the Chapel and Keep. Here she could watch the contest and render aid to the squirrel knights when the battle ended. The mouse maid hoped with all of her heart that there would be no reason to call on her skills. In fact, she would not be there to see the battle begin. A series of odd scratching, shuffling noises just below her feet under the soil caught the attention of her keenly attuned little ears. Something is not right here, she surmised. So mouse followed the sounds to the Keep as the preliminaries to the contest began.
One word deserves another.
"Uhh, of course. Yes, Master. I forgot."
Sir Grinning's look became one of disgust. "Oh, nevermind. You and the others take the underground tunnel to the Keep. Wait behind the false walls. I will force the squirrel knights into the Keep under conditions of combat and you will dispatch them there. Is it understood?"
"Yes, Master. Take the tunnel under the Chapel to the Keep. When the squirrel knights enter the Keep we are to terminate them."
"Close enough, now get going."
"Master?" said Slink.
"What is it now, Slink?"
"How shall we escape their army once we defeat the squirrels?"
"You will return to the tunnel. Leave the rest to me. I'll get you out of there and into a new castle in no time... That is, if you do what I say."
"Yes, Sir Grinning. We shall obey." Slink descended into the hole below the altar. Sir Grinning permitted additional time to pass to add to the impression he was deep in prayer. Then he opened the door of the Chapel and walked towards the bench under the watchful eye of dozens of mice, otters and moles.
One rodent, however, did not like her particular vantage point. Leaving her friends Rory and Kia behind, she made her way towards the chapel and found a new vantage point between the Chapel and Keep. Here she could watch the contest and render aid to the squirrel knights when the battle ended. The mouse maid hoped with all of her heart that there would be no reason to call on her skills.
In fact, she would not be there to see the battle begin. A series of odd scratching, shuffling noises just below her feet under the soil caught the attention of her keenly attuned little ears. Something is not right here, she surmised. So mouse followed the sounds to the Keep as the preliminaries to the contest began.
The three squirrels looked at eachother. Young Chattering, fierce Scurry and grizzled Bushtail. The latter shrugged and followed the cat into the castle, muttering.
Once the reached the great hall the cat turned to his three adversary. He placed his greatsword next to fire place and Took a shield and arming sword from the mantle. The shield, a large kite-shaped contraption showed a disembodied grin, it's chipped paint revealed it's metal rim and leather covered wood.
"I choose...mortal combat!"
With those words he kicked at the table in front of him towards the three squirrels. Bushtail and Chattering were caught by its bulk and lost their balance as the great cat sprang towards them.
Only Scurry had managed to evade the table and his return attack prevented Grinning from pushing his advantage. He was however sorely pressed by his opponent's greater reach and fell back slowly under the relentless attack.
With a low sweep towards the cat's ankles Bushtail joined in the fight, while Chattering managed to slice of part of the shield's rim. The three of them managed to take the advantage and slightly wound the cat on his leg while the cat's shield got more and more batterred.
With a hiss and a yowl, Grinning threw his shield at Scurry, bowling the surprised squirrel over. The cat thrust his sword at Bushtail, who parried desperately and was forced backwards. However, his shield caught the cat's word and he managed to wrench it from it's owner's grip.
"He's mine!" Chattering shouted and sprang forward.
Grinning, with the lightning reflexes of his species, avoided the swordthrust, rolled and came up next to his great sword.
Bounding back to his feet, he grabbed the sword and swept it in a great arc, his considerable weight behind the swing. It's edge caught Chattering's shield and sheared it neatly in two, the burnished steel of Chattering's platemail proved no match for the sword and with a sickening crunch Grinning wrenched free his weapon from the ruin of the young knight's armour.
"No, he's not" Grinning smiled.
The smell of rat was almost overpowering in the chapel but strangely the smell of cat wasn't nearly as strong. "That's very strange the smell of rat shouldn't be stronger than cat since Sir Grinning was the last one in here" mouse was thinking hard. She started quartering the small chapel her nose wiggling as fast as a nose could wiggle.The closer she got to the alter the stronger the rat smell. She stubbed her toe on something "owwwww dang what was that" mouse mumbled as she hopped on one foot. Looking closer she a trapdoor not quite closed. "That stone is too heavy for me to lift by myself, the otters will help" mouse quickly ducked out of the chapel to get help. The otters opened the chapel door and quickly open the trapdoor. "Mum do you want us to go with you" the otters were very good in tunnels and there was a tunnel under that trap door.
[This message has been edited by mouse (edited 03-19-2002 @ 05:06 PM).]
"I'm sorry," said Chattering. Then he fell forward onto his face on the stone floor of the Great Hall. He never felt the impact for as he fell his spirit joined the spirits of his ancestors among the great birch trees of the Tigwood Forest.
Meanwhile, Grinning had slowly been moving backwards while observing Chattering's death. Now he had a clear view of most of the Great Hall, and his back was protected by one of the walls. More importantly, he had a clear view of the panelling behind his two remaining foes. He saw a candle sconce on one of the panels shake as if the panel were being moved by an unseen hand. Excellent! The rats are in place. Let the end game to this battle begin.
Bushtail and Scurry tore their eyes away from their dead ally and exchanged glances with each other mirroring knowledge of their plight and what they must do. Two squirrel knights against Grinning. The odds against them had lengthened with Grinning's stroke against Chattering. What shall they do now?
The agreement born of long experience was silent, swift and pointed. They would attack together and would win or lose together. They checked their grips on the weapons in their paws and prepared to re-engage their feline foe.
Grinning knew the squirrel knights' attack would be jointly executed. He wasn't sure if they would attack shoulder to shoulder or separate to attack from two sides at once. He also shifted his weapon in his own paw in preparation. Grinning glanced towards the panel behind the squirrels calculating in his devious mind what circumstance and moment would be the best for playing his planned trick on unsuspecting Bushtail and Scurry.
[This message has been edited by Lancer (edited 03-19-2002 @ 08:58 PM).]
Grinning smirked, this would be easy. So close together they'd make easier targets and be hindering each other. Stupid rodents.
His smirk faded as he noticed they ever so slowly drifted further apart. He had to turn his head to keep from having one of them in his blind spot.
Maybe they weren't as stupid after all. It wouldn't matter as his rat servants would be on them in moments. Grinning started weaving his great sword in and out, while the two squirrels darted in from either side, trying to hamstring him. This, he decided, was getting annoying.
His sword batted Scurry into a corner and as Grinning faced Bushtail, he raised his visor and shouted:
The panneling gave way as a torrent of bodies poured into the Great Hall. Bushtail looked back and realised his error almost at once as from the corner of his eye he saw Grinning move in for the kill. Desperately the squirrel knight tried to deflect the blow with his shield, but the unfamiliar armour he was wearing hindered his movements. The cat's sword hit the top of Bushtails shield and skipped upwards, but not enough to prevent it from crashing into the side of his helmet.
Bushtail's world turned red, then black as he sank into oblivion.
The cat turned to his final adversary and spit.
"Then there was one..."
Something wasn't right, though. Why weren't his rats already engaged with the third squirrel knight? He looked at the panneling and saw a battle raging. Rats fighting desperately against a couple of sleek otters, a few squirrel knight, a young mole in armour and a mouse cheering them on.
Something had gone very, very wrong...
Only his reflexes saved him as he rolled to prevent a blow from Scurry from killing him. He scrambled back to his feet and winced. The cat hadn't completely escaped hurt and his left leg was bleeding. Grinning spit again.
He needed to finish this and get out.
Sir Grinning was hissing and spitting as only a cat can when enraged but he stopped dead in tracks. He was just waiting for the twang of bow strings, figuring he could survive a few long bow bolts. Once they fired he could still escape, a noise above his head caught his attention. The rafters were crawling with crossbow men representing every tribe of rodents. He was well and truely trapped now. Before he died he'de take that blasted mousemaid out "maybe if she died it would allow him escape" Sir Grinning was thinking fast. Without warning he charged toward mouse, she danced aside and slipped a spear between his running feet. Sir Grinning hit the floor with a clang and slid to the wall. Bruised and shaken he sat on the floor shaking his head.
"Well done, Squire Mouse," said Bushtail to mouse. "Thank you, Sir Knight," answered mouse. "I shall see to Scurry. There is a battle to be won."
Scurry was much less hurt than he was embarrassed. He knew he had grazed Grinning, but the cursed feline moved so quickly that Scurry, following his sword swing, had lost his footing and had collided into the wall of the Great Hall. While his eyes refocussed on the melee in the Hall, mouse's appearance, and Grinning's misstep against mouse, Scurry was marshalling his strength and wondering at Bushtail's plight. The Knight of the Elm was truly relieved, for Bushtail's sake, when he saw Sir Bushtail haltingly take a place near mouse's side. Then he saw mouse hurry to his own side.
Gentle hands helped him to his feet. The realization of what had occurred flooded into Sir Scurry's mind. "Squire Mouse, Grinning has cheated. How could he be so crass as to abuse the rights of Chivalry and dishonor himself?"
"I suspect, Sir Knight, that he has done so regularly. Maybe its time to teach him his final lesson."
"The time indeed, Squire." Scurry collected his weapon and hurriedly joined Bushtail. At the same tme, Grinning was getting back on his own feet, though the leg wound made this far more difficult than he expected.
Bushtail's eyes looked unsteady to Scurry, but the Knight of the Elm had no doubt that the Knight of the Oak would be as strong as the tree he championed. "To the end, then...my friend," said Scurry. "Yes, to the end," replied Bushtail.
"Your end!" said Grinning as he lept to the attack once more.
Only a few minutes later a mouse brother came by to check on the squirrel knight. The brother leaned over examining the squirrel carefully. Then the brother's shoulders slumped as what the brother feared was confirmed as true.
Crispin turned his head to whisper to the mouse brother, "Will the knight be alright, Brother?"
The monk turned to Crispin and said in a quiet, calm voice. "Yes, Crispin, he will no longer feel any pain and shall rest in comfort from this moment forward." Then the brother turned and pulled the knight's blanket up and over his head, covering the knight's face.
"Oh," said Crispin. "I understand." The monk began to say a short prayer on the knight's behalf.
Meanwhile, in the Great Hall...
[This message has been edited by mouse (edited 03-25-2002 @ 10:47 PM).]
The two squirrels ignored the cat's fierce attacks and flitted to either side of the cat, working in tandem. The managed to keep Sir Grinning from using his biger weight and height, but failed to push their own advantage. The three knights fought on in silence, their audience silenced by teh vehemence of their combat. All three were now bleeding from small wounds.
Grinning knew he wasn't going to last much longer. He pulled himself together and launched a fierce attack against Bushtail. His first stroke split the squirrel's shield in twain, the follow up pierced the batter suit of plate just below the knight's shoulder. As the cat yanked his sword back Bushtail crumbled to the ground.
The crowded rodents watched with held breath.
"Two down, " he spit, "strike three you're out."
He turned on Scurry his sword weaving a web of iron, parrying every single stroke the beleaguered squirrel.
The grin on the cat's face widened as he say his adversary stumble, when his back came up against a bench. He was going to win, he was going to kill that stupid squirrel and their stupid chivalry would allow him to get away. He'd have his revenge.
The next stroke sent Scurry's sword flying.
"Dead." The cat spoke, "you are..."
His eyes widened suddenly as Bushtail's sword slid it's way up his spine. The old knight pushed his sword up with all his might.
"It takes more than a mangy cat to kill a real squirel knight, " Bushtail mumbled.
Then he fainted.
Mouse stepped out onto the top of the stairs outside the great hall and held up her paws "Sir Grinning is dead" a cheer went up round the courtyard. Sobbing and moans of fear could be heard from the rats "now they will kill us for being with that cat".
"Rats that lay down their arms will be spared, but they must leave this country" mouse announced. "Rats will be given a small amount of food and water, allowed to leave in small bands, but will be followed by archers and crossbow men " this announcement came from the elders. "Any rat that terries in this country will be killed immdeiately this is the command of the elders" thus spoke the chief among the elders.
All that could be heard in the courtyard now was the sounds of weapons being thrown down by the rats. Mice and otters were searching through all the byways in the castle where any rat might hide. Rats were flowing out of all their hiding places driven at sword point to the gatehouse. Each and every rat was searched all weapons seized.
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