Scurry and Scary

Village of Whitepine, Mouse Territories

"There I was, two little pups clutching my legs from behind, trembling in fear, as the terrible noise from over the tree root approached." Marcus took a sip of his ale, looking out with his old squinted eyes at the folks gathered in the tavern. "We feared the worst - a rat, a weasel... I was ready, but with two youngins I was at a disadvantage."

"The noise came about and faced us. The pups squeaked as the large spider came closer." Marcus grinned at his audience. "And I just grinned."

The older mouse took another swig of his ale. "I said to the pups, I said... 'Run to that little bush and let me take care of this.' They didn't go at first but then I shouted, 'Go!' They ran quickly and the spider tried to pass over me to grab them."

"That was when this old mouse took out a blade and leaped up with the help of my stick." He grabbed his staff and slammed it on the floor. "In seconds, two of that spiders legs were cut in half, and--"

Marcus was interrupted by one of the audience, standing back at the bar, drinking what was undoubtedly his 5th mug. "Wait a minute, you... a greyfur... jumped up with a dart and took out two spider legs in one leap?" The mouse made a 'pfft' noise, which ended up dribbling ale on his fur.

"Well, it was a dagger at the time..." added Marcus.

"And let me guess," the gruff mouse continued. "You took out all twenty of his eyes with a mere prick of your nails?" He laughed before taking another chug.

Marcus furled his brow, getting a bit angry with the interruption.

Another mouse, much younger, stood up and yelled at the drunkard. "Hey, this greyfur could take on an army of spiders. My dad saw it back in the--"

"Yeah, and your dad's dead, pip," the mouse added, finishing his mug.

Marcus stood up, now offended at the slight at the younger mouse's father. He put his ale down and walked a bit closer with his walking stick/staff. He spoke in a low tone as the whole tavern grew silent. "That mouse... his father... was a hero. Unlike you, he died for the Territories. Unlike you, he didn't drink away his problems and try to drag people down with him. He... was worth carrying the title of Guard."

The gruff mouse stood up more stiffly and was noticeably angry as well now. He looked down at the shorter Marcus and spoke in a gravelly tone, fueled by anger and ale. "How DARE you speak of my glorious membership in the Guard. They wish I was still in service!"

"There's not enough ale in all the territories to bring the Guard to your level to want you back." Marcus exhaled out his nose, a snort of sorts.

And that was it - the gruff mouse snapped and threw his fist at Marcus. It would have landed quite hard on most mice, even a trained soldier, even from a drunkard like this one. But Marcus merely moved his head and dodged the fist, his body shifting to the left.

The mouse threw another fist and Marcus dodged them all. He did this a few more times and seemed to become more frustrated. "You're quick, I'll give you that." The gruff one feigned a kick and then punched a hard forward jab at the greyfur.

Marcus snorted and sidestepped the last attempt, bringing his staff up into the mouse's face. A loud 'crack' noise could be heard, but he wasn't finished. He twirled the staff around and it came down on the drunkard's back. He fell to the ground, but tried to get up and Marcus snapped him again with the staff.

The mouse laid still, still breathing and awake, blood coming out of his snout.

"You will not speak ill of the Guard again," said Marcus, quietly into his ear. "And you will not boast about the lies of your service. You dishonor me, and this village."

The mouse just grumbled and growled on the floor, with Marcus keeping him down with one paw on his neck. The greyfur eventually stepped off and headed back to his seat. There were no cheers, but the visitors just returned to the table. The gruff mouse eventually got up and continued to sit in the corner, a tad bit of wisdom showing that he acknowledged some truth.

"Now... where was I?" Marcus took a slug of his drink. "I leaped up and snapped two of that spider's legs in half. Most spiders would have run, but not this one. He was hungry!"

There was a feeling in Marcus' stomach... in his head and heart. Something wasn't right, and it wasn't hunger like the spider in his tale.

"So I uhh..." He lost his place in the story. The feeling was still there and got worse. Or was it better? It was an odd sensation and he could have sworn he started to see a haze or something like wisps floating about.

"Marcus?" asked the barkeep. "You ok buddy?"

Marcus looked over and there was definitely blue particles or something starting to surround him. Magic? Death? Bad ale? Nah, he had faced all of those in his day. This was something new.

The greyfur mouse tried to speak, but nothing came out of his mouth. His friends, the young ones, the angry drunkard, the barkeep, the tavern itself... they all began to disappear as the blue haze engulfed him. But he felt good, in an odd way. It was scary, but not necessarily bad. His mind could not pinpoint his emotions.

The blue haze cleared and there he was, mostly darkness. His staff and adventure pack were next to him on the floor, although there was really no floor. Normally that fact alone would have left him scurrying away, even as experienced as he was. But he was calm. He was somehow ready for what might be revealed here.

The little old mouse finally squeaked a "Huh." He was in awe and yet not lost on the newness. He just looked around in wonder, eventually "standing up" with his staff in hand.

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