Call to Arms
Stompy and Squibbette gazed blank-faced around them. Everything they had known was destroyed. The safe home they were born in was dark and violated. There was tape across the door, the broken windows, even the basement entrance. Bees buzzed madly about in search of their hive, which had been taken. Ants wandered aimlessly without a queen, which had been dug up. The place was wrecked. Dirt, gas, and glass everywhere. Here and there, the bodies of field mice or dead insects that had fought back. The gas smelled foul and poisonous, like rancid fruit juice that sat too long in the hot sun. The two mice were at a loss on how to proceed. They had never known defeat in their lives, much less one so harsh and complete.
They shuffled, aimless, through the wreckage and tried to save the animals they could. They looked for Fleeter, but of that mouse there was no sign. Others, however, were rising, groggy and weak. The animals they had thought dead seemed to be only severely stunned or knocked out by the gas. Some were indeed dead, trampled on or hurt beyond healing. For these there was no help. Stompy mercifully broke their necks with a sharp twist, and they carried the bodies one by one through a mouse sized hole in the basement doors and down into what had once been their lair. There in that empty place they buried the dead. The gas made them woozy and lightheaded. The other mice helped without a word spoken once they felt up to it. Many could only wobble and fall down. A small army had been run over by the cars.
"Stupid, careless humans!" cursed Stompy, before she realized she had broken the silence. Everyone was expecting a eulogy, and she gave them swearing instead. Well, so be it, she decided. She wasn't in a mood to apologize. "They care nothing for us," she continued. "Vengeance should be ours!"
Squibbette intervened. "May these mice have peace on their journeys to the bright land," she said solemnly. "They died in the first strike of a great battle facing us now. Us, with only one hundredth of our numbers, facing humans that know enough about us to come and take us by surprise in our home. Our hiding days are done. We need a plan."
The field mice chattered and the remaining few domestic mice (about twenty, out of hundreds that had lived in that home only hours before) stayed silent. Stompy and Squibbette were the only authorities.
Stompy sighed and dragged herself out of the basement and went upstairs.
"Are you all with us?" Squibbette asked the crowd.
No one answered.
"Oh, come on!" she exclaimed. "Don't forget what we did for you. We need you now."
But they were clearly terrified. Humans were the single worst enemy any of them could ever face. None of them could possibly have imagined the cataclysm that occurred on that day. They would not speak up. They would not step forward. Squibbette hung her head down and fought back tears. So many of her friends went into that van. Maybe Stompy was right.
The huge mouse returned in that low moment carrying a great sack that clanked and clinked. She dumped out the contents in front of Squibbette. Armor. Swords. Shields. Helmets. Leather, backpacks, and spears. All made for mice. Much of it were from toys used by humans. The shields were bottle caps. The armor had much improved over the years. Instead of being made from lobster hide only, it was now forged in a combination of snake, lobster and metal. The Kind Human had helped them become near invincible. With the training and the knowledge they possessed, they had believed it. Not many animals could stand against them when they massed in force. But the humans were always another story. It had been the race of man that Squibble and his master, the first of the Mouse Knights, had feared most.
"Lord Percival told us not to wear it anymore," began Squibbette, looking longingly at her gear as one might upon a solid meal after starving for months.
"Well, piss on that," replied Stompy, donning her armor. "The rules have all changed, eh, what! And good 'ol Perky would understand." she went right on arming herself to the teeth. The other mice watched in awe as the mighty Knight prepared. Stompy paused as she picked her helm off the ground to gaze at her friend. The meaning was clear. Are you in or out?
Squibbette sighed and began to get dressed.
"That was the mouse Squibble was looking for," Stompy said, sure of herself.
"The little white speedster?" asked Squibbette.
"Yep. Had to be. He acted like a field mouse. He had the accent."
"We don't know if Squibble reached him."
"We don't know way too much," said Stompy.
"You sound like you gots a plan."
"I always have a plan, my skinny partner," grinned Stompy. "But we're going to need firepower on a terrifying level. We have to go to the city."
"No!" shouted Squibbette, oblivious to the watching mice. "Not them! They're zealots!"
Stompy faced Squibbette, fully armored and armed, holding her helmet in her paws. She was an impressive sight to behold. "You know we can't do it without them. They'll help us."
"They'll kill everyone!" Squibbette argued.
Stompy grinned. An evil grin as ever a mouse did set upon their cute little face. "Exactly."
Squibbette frowned and attached her belt with its plastic cocktail sword. She finished dressing in silence, her brows still knitted in thought.
"Did you see the Shade?" Stompy said.
Squibble shuddered. "I'd like to pretend I didn't. In plain daylight, even. That was the first time I've ever seen it out in the open."
"It had that tall human's mind and soul," Stompy said. "It's become powerful. Remember what happened last time? We've lost our human. We need all the help we can get."
Squibbette couldn't argue. No one would have. Against such an enemy, most would have used anything at all. Even the drastic measures Stompy was suggesting.
"If you won't join us directly, then we will have to command you," Squibbette said firmly. The mice stayed still, waiting to be ordered to their deaths against men. They might have gone, if ordered to do so. Mice weren't cowards, and they respected the Knights too much to disobey. But the orders were different.
"Sound a call to arms," said Squibbette loudly. "Summon all the Knights, from here to the sea and the mountains. Tell them to come to the city - to the old Kingdom caves. I summon the Round Table. I summon them in the name of Spritely!" She drew her sword and sent every mouse running with the message.
When they were all gone a moment later, the two Knights remained in silence. They slowly made their way upstairs and collected from the mess what equipment they could.
"We aren't including them," Squibbette demanded.
"Oh yes, we are," Stompy said loudly, as if other mice had to hear.
"Coin." Squibbette said.
"No." Answered Stompy, packing millet into a bag.
Pause. After hesitation, "Arm wrestle."
"Not even that? You'll win."
Stompy cinched the sack up and put it in her backpack. "I've won already." She grinned.
"They'll turn it all worse," Squibbette pleaded.
"They'll give us an amazing edge," Stompy said, looking around the living room for any last items they might need. "Nobody can do what they do as well as they do it." She found one of the few ramps made of slim board still attached to its destination...the Kind Human's desk. She scurried up it as fast as her bulk would allow. Squibbette followed. The surface was as ruined as the rest of the house, but they found the phone easily enough. Stompy pushed it off the receiver and Squibbette dialed from memory the number.
"Rat and Mouse Club, " the voice answered.
In response, both Stompy and Squibbette squeaked as loud as they could. Three times.
"Emergency at the shelter house," the voice said, and quickly hung up.
They didn't bother to hang up their phone. They came down the ramp and waited outside in the cold. The other kind humans, the ones who had read The Mouse Knight story that started this whole mess, were on their way. And those humans would take the mice to Shiva and Thor.
The most feared Rat Knights of them all.