Chapter 10: His Dream Come True
Opening the door into the dark, cold night the human reached down to pick up Nemo, Squibble, and Mouseknight. But the Mouse Knight was riveted to the spot, staring out at the porch.
There lay, in blue snow, the white and gold form of a frozen rat.
"Michael!" Mouseknight squeaked, and ran forward, falling on his giant friend. The rat was still breathing.
Immediately the mouse looked up at the human with his most imploring face.
"Please, kind sir. This is my best friend in the whole world!" he exclaimed.
Of course the human, who only heard chirp chirp, understood. He picked up Mike gingerly, and the mice who came with, and carried him into the warm house. Right way, Mike got the same treatment Mouseknight had when he had first arrived. Squibble looked at his master.
"It's Mike, Squibble! It's Mike!" Mouseknight chirped.
Mike didn't look so good. He was starved, frigid, and barely breathing. His body was covered in wounds that must have happened since the fight with the hawk. Most of them were infected. Mouseknight and his Squire looked at each other.
"Did I look that bad, Squib?" the knight asked.
"Worse, master," the little mouse said. "Much worse."
Mouseknight smiled. "Ha haaa! What did I tell you, Squib! Rats are tough! Much tougher than mice! He's going to make it."
Later when Mike was resting on a warm heatpad and had taken shots he needed, he awoke briefly.
Seeing the Mouse Knight, he gasped - swollen eyes getting big.
"Are you a ghost?" Mike asked. His voice sounded weak and hoarse, a shadow of his former manner.
"No. Are you?" said Mouseknight.
"Nope. Guardian Angel, remember?"
Mouseknight hugged the big rat, who hadn't the strength to hug back. But he smiled. "They told me you were dead," said Mike.
Squibble broke in, unable to contain himself any longer. "I saw you fall hundreds of feet!!" he blurted, demanding an explanation.
Mike laughed weakly. "Yeah. Right over the pond. Hawks don't swim too well. Hee hee."
"No wayyy!" Squibble gasped in awe.
"Hey, rats aren't stupid, kid," Mike coughed.
"What did you do then?" Mouseknight asked.
"I wandered a long time - found that the insects and mice had declared total war on the field - anything that would stand in your way, Squibble. They thought you were the last hope of all the Tribes of Nemo."
"He was," said Mouseknight, scritching Squibble on the head.
Squibble blushed deeply.
Mike continued, "They needed a leader. They didn't exactly know how to wage a holy war. So I became their general. I led the attacks against all kinds of monsters, Sir Mouse. You wouldn't believe it. Everything and its brother tried to stop you. As if the Devil himself wanted you to fail."
"We never saw a thing," Squibble said. "Nothing."
"That's because I'm good," boasted Mike, trying to lift his head.
Mouseknight tilted his head at the rat. "But... Mike, where did you learn to do all that? I didn't know you were a... a general..."
Mike smiled broadly and bruxed his teeth in satisfaction. "I was a general, mouse. A long, long time ago, far, far away... in another Kingdom. I've worn many bodies, and had many lives. But I want you to know... I've enjoyed this one the most."
"So far," Squibble broke in rudely.
Mike grinned at the tan mouse, then at Mouse Knight. "I came back to deliver a message, my friend. I had to."
Mouseknight looked at his friend in a new light. He saw him as if for the first time, with all the wisdom Nemo had taught him. He stared in fascinated wonder. He turned to look at Nemo, in silent question.
Nemo hopped up behind Squibble. "Little mouse, the men with the wings in the room... what are they doing?"
Squibble looked around. He sucked in breath.
"They... they're standing around Mike... !" he said softly. "And... and saluting... I think."
"Well, the rat's out of the bag, mouse." said Mike.
"You told me... when we met. You told me, and I didn't understand." Mouseknight said, in awe.
"They never do, my little friend. Part of the rules, I think."
Mouseknight came very close to Mike then. Right to his face. And whispered, "You didn't survive the fall, did you, Mike?"
Mike turned to his little friend.
"No, my buddy. I didn't."
"But you came back."
"You needed help."
"Oh, Mike. Oh, my friend." And the Mouse Knight laid his head gently on the soft golden fur.
"You need to take care of this mouse," Mike told Mouseknight as he nudged Squibble. "He is important."
Mouseknight looked at Squibble, who appeared bewildered.
"I will," Mouseknight said, and opened his mouth to speak more questions, but closed it again on seeing Mike's eyes glazing over.
"Goodbye, Mouseknight. I shall always watch over you. And your children." Mike said.
"I will miss you so, Mike..." Mouseknight said.
"We'll be together again soon enough, brother. One day, you will cross a bridge of rainbow light, and I will be waiting for you on the other side. I promise."
"One day," said the knight, crying.
Mike coughed and Mouseknight felt the strength leaving his body.
"Oh... one more thing, little mouse... would you do something for me?" he whispered.
"Anything, Mike. Anything," answered Mouseknight.
Michael whispered into the mouse's ear.
The human came back into the room and found the rat had died.
"Oh... I'm sorry little ones. I'm so sorry," he said.
But the rodents were all looking up at the ceiling... especially the smallest one, and the man could swear they were smiling.
So the human took them, all three, in his car. Near dawn, they entered the city. Nemo would stand on the dash and point right or left, according to the Mouse Knight's directions. The Mouse Knight, who didn't know his way through the city, was listening to Squibble, who was listening, apparently, to Bigfat and repeating every word verbatim. Such as, "No, meathead - not that way! Hey... I said left, you idiot!"
So eventually, just before dawn's first light, they arrived at the rear parking lot of a hotel near the park that led down into the mouse Kingdom.
Mouseknight, Nemo and Squibble took a deep breath and went down to see what they might find. The human waited patiently above in the cold.
Below, the grand hall was empty. The pipes were silent. The room was cold, and the throne bare.
Mouseknight let out an audible sigh that echoed in the cavern. Squibble slumped visibly.
"All that for nothing..." Squibble moaned.
Nemo, whose eyes were much sharper than a mouse's, put his big paw on the Mouse Knight's shoulder, and pointed.
There, beside the throne, something moved.
"Who's there?" Mouseknight said.
A white mouse shuffled up to them in the cold. When it got near, it sniffed the Mouse Knight carefully, then Squibble. Then it stood up curiously.
"Ummm... who goes here?" it asked, as though a genuine question.
Mouseknight giggled. "It's who goes there, soldier. And I am the Mouse Knight. I am Saint Mouse, made so by King Arnold. This is my brave Squire, Squibble."
The mouse rapidly snapped to attention. "Sir! Sir I have been posted here, with others, 24 hours a day, for the past 5 months, awaiting your return, my lord!"
"Well here we are, pleeb," said Squibble, trying out his new status and loving it. "Where is everybody?"
"The heat stopped, my lord," the mouse replied. Squibble trembled with excitement at being called lord. "The King became ill and before he died, he appointed a new mouse King. The new mouse moved the nest, against the wishes of all, ordered it so. Had it not been for him, we would have all died of illness or cold. The water froze, and there was no food."
"Who is this new King?" asked Mouseknight.
"One of your brothers, my lord," answered the guard mouse. "We call him BJ, as he requested a name. Most of the time, he's just your majesty, though. He is a good King, my liege."
Mouseknight smiled. "Lead us to them, brave guardian."
So they came among the throngs of mice, and rats, still living together, in a new and heated place directly under the motel. The King straight away smelled his brother and came down off his throne yelling, "He is returned! He is returned!" No one had to ask who he meant.
Mice and rats surrounded the knight and his squire. Rodents gathered around Nemo, sniffing him up and down, and decided he was probably a god. Mouseknight was licked and licked. Squibble was besieged by young girls who had heard all about him. And whenever they would ask the Mouse Knight how they had ever made it, he would point at his faithful friend and say, "I would never have made it without Squibble the Brave." The girls loved it, and Squibble took great pride in being so important.
But the knight was looking for someone special in the masses.
And she was there, standing shyly off to one side. The knight made a gesture to the crowd and they parted. Tree came to greet him with licks and kisses. They embraced.
Mouseknight decided it was certainly the best, most wonderful feeling in the whole wide world.
Squibble hugged his mama. All three of them laughed, and cried, and shared the sacred moment while the entire room fell silent.
The King finally asked, "Did... did you succeed, my lord?"
The Mouse Knight knelt before the King, who looked shocked that such a hero as the Mouse Knight himself would ever do such a thing. The knight looked around, and someone handed him a plastic cocktail sword, as if reading his mind. He grinned, and placed it before him, point on the ground. He bowed his head and smiled. He felt his heart swell with excitement.
"My King, I have completed the quest," the Mouse Knight said proudly. The kind human awaits us, right outside, to take us to paradise."
The entire room burst into OOOHs and AHHHs and amazed squeaks.
The King looked at his beloved brother, whom he so deeply admired, and embraced him. "I knew you would do it. I knew you would!"
"But before we go, there is one very large matter I must attend to," said the Mouse Knight, and he stood.
The room froze from their revelry when they saw the serious expression on the little mouse's face.
Mouseknight turned to Squibble.
Squibble looked up at his master and obeyed quickly, looking confused.
The Mouse Knight laid the flat of his sword upon Squibble's shoulder.
"For your outstanding bravery, your undying loyalty, and your amazing strength of will, I knight you. In the name of KingSnake, King Arnold, and Nemo. I make you... SIR Squibble!" He passed the sword over his head twice, and then knelt before his once-squire, handing the sword to him over one arm.
Squibble's eyes had never in his life been so big. Or so wet. Tree clasped her hands together over her heart. The entire room burst into cheers of praise for the new Mouse Knight as he accepted the blade. They hoisted Squibble up on their shoulders and the crowd joyously made for the parking lot where the human waited.
The human gasped out loud upon seeing the hordes of mice and rats that came swarming up out of the basement and into the parking lot. They all stopped, put Squibble down, and stared. The human gaped. "Biiiig family, for such a little mouse," he said.
Squibble came right up to the big human. The mice and rats cringed as one. But the human reached down and picked up the tiny mouse, and smiled. Squibble crinkled his nose at the human. The message was clear. Keep your promise, human. Nemo jumped clear up to the hood of the car and stared at the kind man also.
"Alright, alright," said the man. "I am such a sucker for a cute face!" He looked around at all the animals. "Or... hundreds... of them..." He glanced about. "But where's... the little white mouse who started all this?"
The Mouse Knight had made a promise to an old friend, and he intended to keep it. He had stayed behind.
It was a journey to the far side of the city block. It took him just under an hour. There, he found the residence of Baby, Mike's girlfriend. He knocked at the door.
Baby answered, and the Mouse Knight breathed a sigh of relief. She smiled warmly at seeing the little mouse.
"I've come back to take you to paradise," the knight said graciously with a bow. "Mike told me where to find you, and asked that I come personally. I promised him I would."
"Can I bring my children?" she asked, as she stepped back from the door.
Mouseknight's jaw fell open upon seeing the four young, strong rats. Two boys and two girls. And each of them was golden from the tip of their nose to their shoulder s, then white from then on. They looked just like Mike. Seeing their Uncle Mouseknight, whom they had heard so much about, they fell upon him with affectionate kisses and hugs. They were big and friendly, just like their father.
The Mouse Knight led them back to the truck, where the human had not even considered leaving without his favorite little mouse. On the way, the mouse explained to the five rats about the journey, Mike's legendary feats, and his return to Heaven. Baby cried, and her children comforted her. The Mouse Knight shook a tiny finger at the kids.
"So be careful with your power," he said, "because there are no other rats like you."
They all nodded to their uncle with great respect.
So it was that the amazed human took the hundreds of homeless rodents into his own house, along with thousands of ants, bees, and wild mice in the basement. He treated those that were ill, asked the mice through Nemo not to breed, and spent every last cent of his money caring for his new Kingdom. But upon arriving home on that very first day, he took everyone into the heated garage and set it up for them - no small or easy feat - with nest boxes, food, water, toys, and a floor covered in Carefresh bedding, which he promised to clean once a week at least. Then, with hundreds of rodents watching him, he picked up Nemo and the Mouse Knight. Nemo hopped up onto his right shoulder, as he was accustomed to doing. The Mouse Knight looked down at everyone... at Squibble, and shrugged.
"Okay everyone," said the human. "This little mouse asked me to take you in - so welcome to your new home. I am going to somehow figure out how to tell you all apart, but it's only right that we start right here," and he looked down at the little white mouse in his hand.
Squibble's breath caught in his throat. The human spoke to the Mouse Knight, holding him out at arm's length.
"Because you are so strong, so full of energy and spirit, little mouse, I choose to name you... Spritely."
The Mouse Knight's heart skipped a beat.
He had his Name!
And thinking it over, he loved it. It was the perfect name.
The room was silent in reverence to the first of the Mouse Knights. They all knew what this moment meant to him. It was sacred. Holy.
The mouse slowly crawled up to t he human's face and licked his lip in gratitude. At that moment, his entire life had been worth it. Every ounce of suffering, every test, every moment of doubt. Everything was perfect. Pure and shiningly perfect. He looked up then down at Squibble. Squibble nodded. Mike had seen it. Everyone had.
So Spritely and Tree were married, and had children. Squibble had many consorts. The Kingdom flourished in health and happiness.
The human bought Spritely an entire set of brand new encyclopedias. And each day , upon each passing of his cage, he would turn the page for the little mouse if some other animal had not. Eventually, Spritely taught all his closest friends to read. Squibble and Tree, their children, Mike's children, and Bigfat's children too.
Nemo and Spritely became the best of friends, often talking late into the nights.
Spritely himself trained two of Mike's children to become the very first of the Rat Knights. Their fame was widespread, and everywhere they went there were rats who were saved, fed, rescued and healed for the wisdom and power of those two knights.
Bigfat was knighted posthumously. It became widely believed that he had been an incarnation of the Mousegod himself, though no one could figure out where such a rumor had originated. And, as the Mouse Knight later pointed out, who's to say? It may have been true. Because of this, all of Bigfat's twenty-five children always ate first at dinner, were always deeply respected, and always had as much as they wanted.
Squibble's life took a strange and dramatic turn after his master's quest was completed. It began when he started seeing spirits, and was offered a very special crusade. He would want to say he lived happily ever after, and most would wish you to believe it, but that little mouse had much more to go through before his own holy quest was done. In the end, after much tribulation and many long months of fate-driven hardship, his fame exceeded even that of the first Mouse Knight.
But those are other stories.
So, as he aged, the original Mouse Knight had learned to read so well that he read everything in the house. Thus, being such a smart, ambitious mouse, he decided the only thing to do... was learn to write.
So he did.