Ch 2 Muridae fey race to unravel how the Gods meddling will change their world.
The Jenkins’ family farm was a world all on its own. A Muridae could travel for a month, the length or breadth of the land, and not reach the boarders. All kinds of mice inhabited the land. Most were kind, gentle, and virtuous but as with any civilization there existed a corrupt underbelly of vice and greed. However, in the far away home of Todd and Apple Monterey no one else need exist.
Todd Monterey together with his young wife Apple live out amongst the furthest regions on the farm, in the old oak tree on the outskirts of the northern most corn field.
It’s believed the old oak has been growing since the beginning of time. The mighty tree has known several severe storms and their damaging effects. The once straight truck was almost ripped in twain when a lightening bolt struck the very center of heavily branched bough. The broken branches removed nonetheless left a large scar on half the tree. It soon recovered and more branches sprung forth from just under the scar. Today instead of one mighty tree, it looks more like some giant, in days gone by, smashed two trees of clay together to awkwardly form one. There was great beauty in the old tree. It was a living tale of perseverance above all else.
“I can’t believe those old codgers,” Todd grumbled as he carried supplies into the house.
“What’s wrong dear?” Apple asked from her place on the couch. She sat with her feet raised on a near by table reading a book by fire light when Todd came through the door.
“You know how our neighbor Jiffy gave me a lift over to the store for some supplies?”
Apple nodded, not wanting to interrupt.
“Well, who do you think was there?” He asked obviously annoyed.
Apple shook her head, “I don’t know who?”
“Popacorn and Winston, were sitting outside the store drinking their berry brandy. Those two really get under my skin,” he groused setting a case of vegetables on the table. “No sooner had I jumped down from Jiffy’s back didn’t they start in, ‘here comes little hermit boy’ and ‘I oughta take what we’s owe your granddad outta your hide’. I hate that.”
“Pay them no mind dear,” Apple said as she slowly got up from the couch, her pregnant belly hindering most motion. “They’re harmless old mice with a grudge. Nothing you can do or say will ever change that.”
“Apple you don’t know how much I want to walk up and punch that white haired, toothless, coot Popacorn square in the jaw. He’s got it flapping constantly, criticizing granddad.”
Apple walked up behind her husband and wrapped her arms around him. With her head against his back she gave a squeeze and said, “Todd you know the truth about who your granddad was and that’s all that matters. Those two will never get over the humiliation he caused them on a regular basis.”
“If it wasn’t for him I don’t know what would’ve happened to me,” Todd replied, his gaze wondering to some distant unforeseen place. His hand covered Apples as he lovingly stroked the top with his thump. “Sometimes, I fear for what our child will have to endure living here.”
“I know you stay because of me,” she said releasing her grip to waddle over to the table. Apple grabbed a few vegetables and moved to pack them away. “I am sorry to cause you pain. You know I never want to do that but I can’t do this alone. I need my mother and sisters there to help me deliver the baby.”
“Dear heart, don’t blame yourself. I would do anything to make you happy. Please go rest yourself,” he said chasing her from the kitchen back to her place on the couch. “I shouldn‘t have bothered you with that nonsense. You’re right there’s nothing that can be done about them. Let me take care of the supplies and then I’ll make dinner.”
“Alright, I love you Todd. I am sorry if I cause you any trouble by staying here.”
“I don’t want to here such talk. Apple you make me happier then I could ever tell or show you in two or three lifetimes. I don’t want you to think about it again. Okay?”
Apple nodded her head yes as she sat carefully on the couch.
“Oh yeah, I almost forgot. That fabric you wanted came in. I’m glad Jiffy agreed to help me get it all. I don’t know what I’d do without that nutty squirrel.”
The winter winds howled and blankets of snow fell outside as Todd built up the nice warm fire in the fire place. The house still smelled faintly of the vegetable stew he cooked for dinner. Todd takes care of most of the house work these days as Apple is too pregnant.
He wrapped Apple in his arms and held her close. They talked while lying in bed together. It’s the one of the few places she’s comfortable now that she’s close to her due date.
“Apple dear, we really should settle on names before our baby is born. Don’t you think?” Todd asked.
“Todd honey, some things in life you can’t prepare for. Mamma always said she changed our names after meeting us. I’m going to wait to meet our child before we name her. Now relax, we only have a little while longer to wait. Not so much time now, why she‘ll be here be for we know it.”
Shocked and confused Todd asked, “Her?! How do you know the child will be a girl?! I thought you just said you’re waiting until you meet the baby?”
“Well, I had a dream last night and she spoke to me in it,” Apple replied matter-of-factly. “She said, ‘Mommy, I can’t wait until you meet your special girl.’ Isn’t it just exciting?! We’re going to have a daughter!”
“If you know we’re having a daughter, why don’t we talk about girl names?” Todd tried again to coax his wife into preparing.
“Todd Monterey, I know what you’re trying to do and it won’t work! I will not discuss baby names until we meet. Now, that’s that,” Apple chided.
Relenting, Todd gave into his Apple’s reprimand and changed the subject. “This should get you excited. While chopping wood after dinner I had a visit from a messenger sparrow. He said that Oracle Fay is expecting to arrive the day before the equinox.”
“That’s odd for her to arrive before a child’s birth. Will she even be able to travel in this weather at her age?” Apple asked, concerned. “She is coming from so very far away. Is she still located in Flower City?”
“Yeah; she’s always lived in Flower City, in Mrs. Jenkins’ flower garden. They think it’s the safest place just because of the rose brambles and thorns. But I tell you one day… ”
“Okay, okay Grandpa Todd; let’s not go down that road, again,” Apple said, interrupting him. “How long do you think it will take for her to get here from Flower City?”
“It takes a young mouse a good couple of weeks in nice weather. I can’t imagine how long it will take a lady her age. She does have all those keepers; maybe they have some way for her to travel. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. But, I think we should try to get some sleep now.”
“I think you’re right dear,” Apple replied while snuggling in a little closer.
Todd wrapped his arms around Apple interlacing his fingers with hers. He closed his eyes taking a deep breath filled with the sweet smell of Apple’s fruity perfume and drifted of to sleep.
“What!?!” Fay exclaimed loudly, yellowing blood shot eyes wide threatened to sear Goddess Imerra where she stood. “What do you mean you want me to travel by crow!? Have you gone feather brained?!”
“Fay, do I have to remind you why we need to move quickly?” Imerra asserted. “We have been able to narrow down the timing of the birth but we don’t know which family will deliver the Oracle Child. Now, if you fly with Roger you can reach anywhere in the territory within hours. Roger is the safest flyer in the crow’s elite guard. Lord Fennik worked out all of the details with the crow king, so Roger can stay with us for as long as it takes.”
“It’s grand that you were able to narrow down the births. Heaven knows how many children are born over a year in an area as big as the farm. But there must be a better way for me to travel besides flying?” She pleaded. “Can’t you do whatever you did before and flash me where I need to be?”
“Fay, are you turning eighty or eight? You’re acting like a spoiled child. If I start flashing you to each expectant mother we will raise suspicions,” admonished Goddess Imerra. “Now, you will be traveling with one of your servant girls, Mina. She will make sure you have whatever you need. She will also be carrying a scrying crystal. It will alert you to anyone who may pose a danger. Mina knows what to do should the crystal start to vibrate. Fay, I truly hope you are able to find the child quickly.”
Sighing deeply, Fay resigned herself to the task set before her. “I am the servant of the Gods. I will do what needs to be done. I know this is why I was chosen for this task. Will I be able to reach you if I need you?”
Goddess Imerra crossed Fay’s room to sit next to her friend. “Fay you are a strong woman. You will do what needs to be done because of your strength. You would not let others suffer if you can prevent it. That’s what we are trying to do, prevent suffering. If the Virtues and the power of the Oracle are turned to the dark, all is lost for all the earthly creatures.”
A soft knock on the door interrupted the moment between them.
“I must go now Fay. I will not be able to contact you for a while. If there are any problems Mina knows how to contact us but only if it’s an emergency.”
“Yes, I understand.”
Another knock sounded at the room door as Goddess Imerra began to fade from sight.
“Come in,” Fay yelled. The door opened to her servant Mina carrying a tray.
“Mistress would you care for some tea?” Mina asked as she entered the room. “I thought you could use something soothing after your time with Goddess Imerra.”
“Yes, that does sound nice,” Fay answered. “Mina, how much do you know about what is going on here?”
“Mistress, I only know as much as the Goddess Imerra says I need to know. I know that I am to watch over your needs and to keep a look out for any suspicious characters. She told me how to use the crystal. It is quite a beautiful pendent. The Goddess instructed me that I am to wear it always.” Mina replied calmly.
Mina in her early twenties has been in the service of Oracle Fay for over three years now. She’s strong, agile and the only servant Fay actually likes. Mina treats Fay with respect and dignity unlike the others who either scorn or pity her.
“With what little you know, one might think you would be scared,” Fay probed suddenly more curious about her handler then before.
“Honesty, if I may speak openly mistress?” Mina requested.
“Yes, yes by all means. If you have learned nothing working here all this time, you should know I appreciate honesty above all else,” replied Fay.
“Then I must say; I was scared when the Goddess first appeared to me but soon I felt relaxed. The longer she spoke to me the more at peace I felt. And…well, when she bestowed me with the pendent all my fear was washed away. It really is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. The rainbow crystal is mesmerizing with the way the colors swirl like oil in water and the gold is so warm against my skin,” Mina continued placing a hand to her chest over the pendent. “That warmth spreads, feeling like the wonderful embrace of a protective parent.”
“Hmm, I see,” Fay responded contemplating the unexpected answer offered by Mina. “Thank you for your honesty Mina, you’ve given me much to consider. Now, onto new business. Do you have the list of the expectant mothers we are supposed to visit?”
“Yes, mistress and I don’t think you are going to like it,” she cautioned.
“I already don’t like it because I am expected to ride a dirty, tick infested crow, so how could it be any worse?” Grumbled Fay.
“It could be a hundred and thirty two times worse,” ventured Mina.
“What!?!” exclaimed Fay so loudly it caused Mina to shrink back a half step. “You do realize we are only looking for children expected to be born within a three day time frame?”
“Yes, mistress,” Mina bravely continued, “but the list was given to me by the Goddess and I dared not question the number.”
“No. No. I suppose you wouldn’t,” Fay replied more calmly. She continued talking more to herself than to Mina. “What is that crazy Goddess up to? We only have just over eleven weeks to search for the next child. That means we need to visit at least twelve families a week. This will, by no means, be an easy task.”
She began pacing her bedroom seemingly lost in thought, rubbing her chin with a hand that showed signs of arthritis. After a few minutes of pacing, Fay found herself stopped in front of the balcony doors. Placing her hands behind her back and sighing deeply she continued their conversation, “Mina, the Goddess has laid a daunting task before us child. According to my old bones this winter is threatening to be a cold and blistery one. I don’t suppose the majority of the children are to be born here in the capital of Flower City?”
Mina took a deep breath to steady he nerve before venturing a response, “They’re pretty evenly scattered between all the colonies. The Flower City colony has twenty two, the Orchard Valley colony has thirty four, the Bean Town colony has twenty five, the Packersville colony has thirty one, and the Watertown colony has nineteen.”
“Twenty two and thirty four and twenty five and thirty one is only one hundred and thirty one. I thought you said we had one hundred and thirty two families to visit,” questioned Fay.
“Yes mistress, we do have one hundred and thirty two families to visit. The one family unaccounted for is the young couple of Todd and Apple Monterey. They live in the old oak tree on the outskirts of the northern corn fields,” answered Mina. “Because they’re the farthest away I thought we could visit them first while the winter weather is still fair. Then we can work are way back before the worst of winter hits and finish with the Flower City families.”
“That’s a novel plan but the past five Oracle Children have been born right here in Flower City with Orchard Valley having the next highest number of Oracles born. We’ll start here, then travel to Orchard Valley in the south, then onto Water town in the east, then to Packersville in the west, then to Bean Town in the northeast and if need be finish with the Monterey family. I highly doubt we will need to go much further than our own back yard,” Fay finished confidently.