of the Last God
(Book II of the Oerth Cycle)
(C) 2000 BY
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Farrah sniffled quietly in the shade of the old oak tree. Her brother had called it "Old Gnarly", and said it was what his friend Merle had once called it. Farrah had never gotten along well with her brother - the two had always argued over one thing or another, usually small, petty things that seemed so terribly important at the time. Farrah found that now she couldn't even remember a single thing they had fought over - only that they had fought a lot. Yet, there were happy times, too. Times when they had played and laughed, and shared secrets. Farrah missed her brother dearly. He was only two years older than she was, but he seemed so big and strong and wise, now. She desperately wished he was here right now, so she could ask him what to do.
'He'd probably just tell me to go through with it. He was Potter's friend, and he could quote the Law of the Mice backwards and forwards,' she thought to herself glumly. Still, she felt in her heart that maybe... Maybe he wouldn't. Maybe, just once, he'd have listened to her, and agreed that she should follow her heart and not marry Potter. Farrah knew Tinker had known love. He had spent the majority of his free time after school with Merle, many times right here in this very spot. Farrah knew he had been in love with her - he didn't say it, but then again, he didn't have to. She'd been sent by her momma to come get him often enough, and had seen it for herself. She'd seen it in his eyes, his voice, his smile... And she now knew that those many, many times he would spark an argument with her, being mean and sharp-tongued, were because she had pulled him away from this very spot, from the person he loved.
'I'm sorry, Tinker. Momma made me do it,' she thought, looking up to the fluffy white clouds drifting in the sky above. Her heart ached, and a little mousie-tear rolled down her cheek. Again, she wished so desperately that he was here, now, so she could talk to him, even if only for a moment. Just to tell him the one thing she had wanted to tell him before he left that last time, but couldn't. The one thing she had wanted to say that fateful afternoon he packed his bags and walked out of their lives forever, but couldn't because of all those years of fighting with him. "I love you, Tinker. You were the best brother a girl could have," Farrah whispered to the blue sky above, then wept quietly as she watched the clouds silently drift by.
A light, whispering breeze brought a faint, almost undetectable scent to Farrah's sharp, mousie-nose, and her heart skipped a beat. 'Carnivore!' her mind screamed. Old Gnarly had a small hollow at it's base just next to where Farrah sat, and she quickly squirmed into it, rolling herself into a tight little ball as she pushed herself backwards into the small opening. In a moment, she was wedged tightly into the little hole, her little ears and whiskers quivering in fear. She knew it wasn't a bear - bears smelled differently. She also knew it wasn't the musties magically returning to the Wild Wood - they smelled differently, too. No, this was something else, something that triggered a deep fear within her. She only hoped her little dress wouldn't give her away. Her dress was pale blue with cute, puffy little sleeves, but the bodice and smock she wore over it was dark green. Farrah quietly tucked the puffy blue sleeves underneath the bodice, and ran her paws along her sides to tuck her skirt beneath her legs and wrap her smock over it. Her fur was light gray - perhaps that would help conceal her. Farrah trembled as she watched and listened, the smell of carnivore growing stronger. Soon, she could hear quiet rustling in the grass. Something was coming.
Suddenly, Farrah's sharp eyes spotted two enormous cat-creatures stealthily moving into the clearing. They peered about cautiously, and Farrah held perfectly still, praying silently to all the gods and spirits which watched over her people that the cats would not spot her. They were not dumb animals - they were intelligent, walking on their hind legs. They wore armor of metal plates over their torsos, large plates protecting their shoulders and a skirt-like set of plates protecting their upper legs, and each bore a sword at their hip. Their lower legs and arms were bare, and in their paws each carried a net, with a second net tucked into their belts.
'The evil cat-people of the legends!" Farah thought to herself, the old stories of the people who had, in ancient times, defeated and subjugated the mice, using them as slaves and food. "And they are hunting! Maybe even hunting me!' Farrah thought, and struggled to remain perfectly still and not shudder with fear. As she watched, four more stepped from the woods, then another, the last one carrying no nets. Finally, an eighth cat stepped from the woods, wearing a long, gray cloak. The seventh turned and mrowled something to the last, and it nodded, pointing to the ground. Farrah suddenly realized in terror that the last one was pointing to the same spot she had walked across to get to Old Gnarly. 'They are tracking me!' Farrah thought, every instinct in her body screaming for her to run away, but knowing that the moment she moved, they would spot her. Suddenly, one of the cats with a net in its paws hissed quietly, pointing with a paw across the clearing, far to Farrah's left. The seventh hissed something in reply, and they all faded back into the forest.
Farrah quietly looked in the direction they had pointed, wondering what might have scared those enormous cats off. Suddenly, she spotted five young male mice, each carrying one of the guns her father had made. The Forest Patrol the Council had organized, making its rounds. They were grinning and chatting with each other, without a care in the world. At their lead was Potter, as brash and sassy as usual. Ever since he'd been selected to be the leader of the Forest Patrol, he'd been full of himself, his ego inflated to an enormous amount - and that was another reason Farrah hadn't wanted to marry him. She simply found his behavior repulsive. 'A proper mouse should be humble,' her mother always said, and Potter was, in the end, not humble at all. His eyes weren't even on the woods around him. The breeze brought the sounds of his conversation to Farrah's ears, and she realized that he was again bragging and strutting before his friends.
With a start, Farrah realized in horror they were walking right into a trap.
For a long, terrible moment, Farrah tried to think of a way to warn them without revealing her hiding spot to the cats. She couldn't make a noise or move - that would only mean the cats would know where she was. 'I can't do anything!' Farrah realized in despair.
Suddenly, it began. The first six cats she'd seen stepped out from behind the trees, casting their nets at the mice.
Potter and his friends squeaked in fear as they spotted the cats, the nets sailing towards them. Potter and one other turned to run, but the other three raised their guns to shoot. With a loud BANG-BANGBANG, they fired just as the nets hit them. One of the cats lurched back, clutching at his face, but suddenly the seventh cat stepped from behind and snarled something, charging. The first six followed him, three of them leaping on the mice already netted and pulling out small loops of rope from their belt to tie them up. In a trice, the other cats had easily caught up to Potter and his friend. While three of them tackled the slower mouse, the seventh cat simply lashed out with a claw, catching Potter by the back of his little leather vest and lifting him into the air. Potter tried to use his gun then, but it was no use - the cat simply snatched it from his paws like a parent might snatch a sharp stick from the paws of a baby mouse.
Farrah watched in terror as the eighth, cloaked cat stepped out from behind a tree. An errant breeze fluttered the cloak, and with a start Farrah saw that the cat wore almost nothing beneath it, and was female. The seventh cat walked over, easily holding a screaming Potter in the air.
"Help me, please! SOMEONE HELP!" Potter shrieked.
The she-cat cuffed Potter sharply across the muzzle. "Mrowr! Be thou silent, mouse, lest pain wilt thou suffer."
Farrah was frightened to death. The cats spoke her language! Perhaps not the way it was spoken today - her dialect was ancient, and hard to understand. Yet, it was still understandable.
"You-you speak my language!" Potter squeaked.
"Mrowl... Aye, mouse, I doth indeed speaketh thine tongue. Now be thou yet silent. Words shalt we yet have anon, back at camp, but for the nonce, be thou yet silent, else great pain shalt thou suffereth in sooth."
The male cat gave Potter to one of the others, who quickly trussed him up. He then spoke to the cloaked she-cat at length in their yowling, snarling language. She replied, gesturing, and the male nodded. After pausing a moment to examine the bullet-graze on the face of the one who was wounded, he spat out a series of sharp commands. The five of the other cats then lifted the five tied-up mice while the cat with the graze on his face picked up the discarded guns. As one, they turned and walked back into the forest, vanishing from sight after a few heartbeats.
For a long time after that,
Farrah simply trembled with fear, unable to move. She was certain
the moment she left her safe little hiding spot, the cats would
return. She listened, sniffed the air carefully, and looked about
for any sign - but they were gone. After an hour, she was finally
able to work up the courage to squirm out of the tight little
hole she'd crammed herself into. Ducking low, she scampered to
the trees, hiding in their shadows. Darting carefully from tree
to tree, her eyes, ears and nose on alert for any sign of the
cats, she began to make her way back to the village. Great danger
had come to the Wild Woods, and the protectors of the mice, the
musties, were long gone. Perhaps she could warn her father and
the other Council members - perhaps they would think of something
to do to help poor Potter and his friends. If not, perhaps they
could at least save the rest of the village.
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