Fleeter and Perky
Fleeter had chased the caravan of cars until he could no longer run. Then, by smell, he chased them at a jog. Then at a walk. Then a crawl. Finally, he lay there in failure, refusing to admit that Kippy had been taken from him. Their future had looked so bright! He wept in frustration. He could not imagine what the humans were going to do to his poor brother but it couldn't be good. It never was. And it was all his fault. Because he was too darn slow! For the first time in his life, and the most important, he was too slow.
The journey from the tribe to the house had been long - most mice considered it to be monumental in length. Fleeter knew the distance to the city was a hundred times that - maybe thousands. No mouse had ever done it except the first Mouse Knight and his band. Even so, it had supposedly taken a giant chunk of their lifetime out of them. Months. Fleeter was afraid. Another new experience.
He stuffed his face with anything he could find, drank whatever he could lick off snow or plants, and slept in a small, unsafe ditch. He slept all day. By night, he was traveling again, dashing at high speeds for as long as his aching legs would carry him. Every long canyon or hole in the ground caused him to gripe and fret, for it lengthened his hopeless journey, and cost him time. But he didn't know what else to do. He had to be there for his brother. In his dreams during the day he heard Kippy calling to him, in pain and need. Each day he rushed until he dropped from exhaustion, always hoping the dreaded city would be over the very next hill. He was always disappointed. And on he went for two weeks, worrying and stressed with every foot he put under him.
One day in his marathon he smelled another mouse. Not a field mouse (he had smelled plenty of those but ignored them). A domestic mouse. His hoped leaped. Kippy had made it away from the humans! But the closer he got the more he realized it wasn't Kippy's smell. Very close. But not Kippy.
So when the smell got close enough that a domestic mouse might smell him in return, he buried himself in the dirt and lay in wait for the oncoming rodent.
He waited an hour. Dawn was almost upon him by the time the other came into view, and the sun was just below the horizon behind the stranger, causing his silhouette to become a dark shape.
As the shape passed by Fleeter, the field mouse was on the other in a flash.
He bowled over the other mouse and landed atop him, teeth ready for combat.
Until he found a sharp, bright green cocktail sword at his neck. The other mouse was no wild breed, but fast. Definitely fast.
"Who goes on me?" The strange mouse said. He was white. And wearing light armor. A Mouse Knight!
Fleeter was off the mouse faster than he had gotten on him. He lowered his tail in submission and took an apologetic stance. "Please forgive me, sir!" he exclaimed. "I didn't know it would be a Knight!"
The other mouse righted himself and stood, brushing the dust off his cloak and backpack. He eyeballed Fleeter expertly, determining whether he might trust the wild mouse's sincerity. Deciding so, he sheathed his blade. "Do you ambush other mice for a living, then?" the Knight asked.
"No sir!" Fleeter groveled. "I was chasing my brother, who was captured by humans! I must help him, Sir, he's very special - Squibble said so."
"Squibble!" squeaked the Knight in alarm. "How so, pray tell."
Fleeter rapidly went over the meeting with Squibble.
The Knight nodded. "Then your friend Kippy -"
"Brother." interrupted Fleeter.
"Your brother Kippy," said the Knight, "He must have been the one."
"Squibble was after a particular mouse - one he said would change everything. Your brother is very important, sir. We must rescue him."
Fleeter was so grateful he fell at the Knight's feet and licked them. "Oh, thank you sir Mouse Knight! Thank you, thank you!"
The other mouse removed his feet from the worship. "Don't do that... Uh... who are you anyway? Do you have a name? I am Sir Percival. Friends call me Perky for short, though."
Fleeter snapped to attention and saluted as best he knew how. "Fleeter, sir! Field mouse."
"I see that," said Perky. "A very fast one too."
"Yessir," said Fleeter proudly. "Fastest of the village."
"Yes," said Perky. "Well, if you'd like to accompany me to the shelter house, we can take care of the arrangements to obtain transportation to the city. I just came from there. It's far too great a walk."
"Eh?" said Perky.
"All gone," said Fleeter. "Humans came. Took everyone. Kippy and I were on our way to become Knights. We got there just in time to see the humans take everybody - even the other human."
Perky frowned and gnashed his teeth. "Oh dear!" Then, "Do you remember anything else?"
"There was a man all covered in black and a black mouse leading the bad humans," Fleeter said. It had been impossible to forget that spooky mouse.
Percival's head snapped up and something akin to fear showed on the brave Knight's face. "Black!?" he hissed. "Not brown like you - but black?" Fleeter nodded. "With red eyes?" Fleeter nodded again. Percival sighed and looked to the horizon as if for divine aid.
Long silence followed.
"That puts us in quite a pickle," Perky said. He kicked some dirt under his feet. "We cannot go back to the city. It's too far. The house is probably empty. Did anyone survive?"
"They didn't die - most were captured. All asleep like."
"They were taken alive?" Perky gasped. "Oh, that's terrible. It was for research! Squibble was right. By Jove, he was right all along. I knew I did well in trusting him."
"What do you mean?" asked Fleeter.
"Squibble is a sage," said Perky. "Sort of a prophet - a future teller. He saw this coming. And told the Mouse Knights to spread out - to stop wearing our armor, to pretend we were normal mice, and to stay away from the house."
"But they didn't?"
"No. They were too proud. They loved the things that made them different, and they loved having the house. I can't blame them for that. It was a beautiful house. Always warm, always enough food and water. Everyone had toys, wheels, and the human's love."
"The other mice said Squibble saw it coming too," said Fleeter, looking back toward the shelter house now so far away.
"Which other mice?" asked Perky, suddenly hopeful.
"A big fat one and a tan skinny one," said the field mouse.
"Stompy and Squibbette!" laughed Perky. "They made it then? They weren't captured?"
"I don't think so," said Fleeter. "They were hiding at the top of the hill. I stopped the human that came for them. Made him run." Fleeter puffed his chest out and held his whiskers up.
"Smart," Perky said. Fleeter smiled. "Smart to hide," Perky finished. Fleeter's smile went away. "They knew better than to fight armed humans. They would have called for help. Now we ought to do that same, I think. They're going to need us right away."
Fleeter looked at him as though he was insane as the other mouse took a red cloth, put it on a long stick, and waved it broadly back and forth in the air several times, stopped for a minute, and repeated the process several times.
"Is why?" Fleeter questioned.
"We Mouse Knights have allies," explained Perky. "I am calling in a favor."
"Go to your nest and tell the Queen that Sir Percival, Son of Spritely and Tree, Lord of the Mouse Knights, needs a favor," he told them. Fleeter's jaw dropped. "Ask for me that a message be sent with all speed to the house of the Rat and Mouse Club. She will know where it is. All the Queens know."
Fleeter just stared at the Knight.
"The message is this," said Perky. "We have need of immediate transport. We will meet them by the lake on the north side. Near the oak tree, and at the nest under the boulder beneath it. Go quickly."
The bees vanished from sight, taking the message to several different hives. From there to be taken by relay to the RMC house.
"You're the Lord of the Mouse Knights?!" gasped Fleeter.
Perky waved it off. "I inherited the title from my father. I only use it in emergencies. Bees like titles like Lord and such. They will hurry now, for the name of my father meant much to them."
Fleeter decided he would dare ask. In a meek voice he said, "What... what happened to your father?"
Perky shot him a serious glance and did not speak for a short moment. Fleeter felt he had overstepped his bounds with the Knight Lord. But Perky relaxed and said, "He died, Fleeter." When he saw that this was clearly not enough, he looked away to a distant place and added, "He died in a heroic battle, the end of which decided the outcome for millions of mice and rats everywhere. He stood atop the bodies of his enemies and saw victory that day, and after he was sure that his task was accomplished, he was taken by the wind."
"What's that mean!" blurted Fleeter, energized to hear this answer to the greatest mystery in all the land. For to most knowledge, no mouse nor rat lived who knew what had happened to the legendary Spritely.
"It means he simply vanished," said Perky. "The Mouse God took him home. His job was done. I am sure he loved it. It was the very storybook ending that Arthur had."
"Who is Arthur!" said Fleeter, eyeballs huge and attentive.
"Another great legend," said Perky. "Come - we must be heading to the lake. It is still a day or so to the west. We must beat the RMC there or we may lose our ride, though I suspect those humans would wait a month for us. They do seem to love us so."
As they began the walk, Fleeter decided one more risky question couldn't worsen things.
"Sir Percival," he said, "How do you know what happened to Spritely?"
"I was there," said Percival. "Fighting by his side."