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27 January 2006 @ 09:32 pm
First Mouse On The Moon [Chapter One]  
Author's Notes: This was my first serious attempt at writing a novel, mainly as a school project in Year Ten. I was fifteen. Let me emphasis that, fifteen. We had a year to do it in, stupid me chose to do a series of nine novels, but of course only finished book one. This is book one. Basically the storlyline is childish and unlikely, but I still think its cute, in a way.

I'll be posting this chapter by chapter. Remember this was written four years ago, so be nice. Thank you.

First Mouse On The Moon
by Katherine

Chapter One

Tessica sat in the firelight, brooding. Her parents sat on the other side, laughing politely to a joke their guest had just retold, again. She stared at him, almost despising his lewd taste in humour. In fact, she almost despised the whole of him, from his tiny small beady eyes behind his round little spectacles, to his smooth black coat that glistened with grease, and looked like it was about to burst over his rotund stomach. No, forget rotund, his belly was just fat. As if he felt her eyes on him, he turned and gave her a closed smile, the points of his teeth jutting out over his lower lip. Tessica repressed a surge of revulsion, and grinned tolerantly back at him.
“You’ve been rather quiet tonight, Tess. What’s the matter?” he asked, smiling at her again.
“Oh, nothing for you to be concerned about, Sir Morim, I assure you. I’m just a little worn out, that’s all,” she replied evasively, dismissing it with a wave of one delicate paw, “I collected one too many mushrooms this afternoon, I think.”
“Well, that’s good to hear, although I do wish you wouldn’t call me Sir Morim all the time, Millton’s just fine.”
Tess nodded demurely, but did not reply. The mole studied her for a few more moments before turning once again to her parents to flatter her mother on the skilfulness of her cooking that evening.
Tess dropped her eyes, unable to watch the scene any more. She knew he was only here for one reason, the same reason that had kept him coming for the past six months. He wanted to marry her. Her! The mouse daughter of a wealthy family! He was a mole! Whoever heard of such a match! A mouse and a mole, it just wasn’t natural. Her parents, how ever, thought otherwise. They were delighted at the match, and the prospects of it, and her mother came to see her in her room after he had gone.
“Tess, are you okay?” she called as she opened the door to the room.
“Yes, Mum, I’m fine.”
“You just looked a bit ill, that’s all…Is everything okay? What’s bothering you?”
Tess sighed. She had to tell someone, it was now or never.
“Actually, Mum, I think its Sir Morim.”
“Millton? But how? Tess, is this about the whole marriage deal? You know we don’t have much choice about this!”
“But Mum, we do! Aren’t we one of the richest families in this paddock? I don’t see the problem.”
“Tess,” her mother sighed, her face grave, “I think it’s time to tell you something.”
Tessica looked at her mother, noticing for the first time the lines of stress on her face, the marks of endless nights of worrying that she had never knew existed. The quiet self-assurance had disappeared from her once-sparkling eyes, and there was a grey tinge to her whiskers and the fur around her face that hadn’t been there the day before.
“What is it Mum, is there something wrong?”
Her mother sighed again, and then looked Tess in the eyes. “Yes. Yes there is. We haven’t been entirely honest with you, Tess. You know your old Uncle Thome?”
Tess nodded, a bad feeling growing in her stomach.
“Well, the reason you haven’t seen him in a long time is that he’s dead.”
Tess gasped, and her eyes filled with tears. Old, kind, funny, sweet Thome! Dead!
“But how?”
“I’m afraid he’d been drinking.”
Tess nodded again. Uncle Thome had been a heavy drinker until he met Rosa, her aunt by marriage, and she had persuaded him to give it up. When she had died, he flew into such despair that he had been drunk almost all the time. They had visited him once, but he had made such an embarrassing fool of himself that they had never gone again, and had not seen him since. And now he was dead. Tess was stunned, but did not see what that had to do with her marrying the mole.
“You see, Tess, Thome had a rather large drinking bill, and several large debts to various people, and now that he’s dead, he can’t pay them. And these people are clambering for their money, so it has fallen to us as the closest relatives to pay it. We are already low in the banks, and only half the debts have been paid. So you see, if you marry Millton, then, with his steady income, which you have to admit, is rather high, then we just might be able to survive the coming winter.”
There was a long silence following this statement as Tess thought it all over.
“Isn’t there any other way?” she finally asked. Her mother shook her head slowly.
“Only if some of us move out, so there would be less maintenance costs, and we can then rent out the rooms, or is one of us dies, and we get more blood-money.”
Tess shuddered at that thought; too many of their family had died over the last year.
“I know, I’ll move out, and you can have my rooms!”
“I don’t think that’ll be very good, honey. You know you’re our only daughter left!”
“Then why are you forcing me to marry an animal I find totally repulsive!” she shouted.
“Tess!” Her mother stood up, shocked. “What a dreadful thing to say! How horrid! Why, that’s quite unkind! Millton’s a lovely fellow! He’s nice, he’s generous, and he’s not too bad looking, for a mole. I don’t know what your problem is!”
“He’s awful, and I hate him!” Tess stood up, her feelings about the mole spilling out after half a year of being pent up inside, and started pacing around the room, punctuating her words with erratic arm movements.
“He’s old, for a start, he’s got to be twenty years older than me! And he looks it, too! He’s ugly, his fur’s all matted and greasy, and he smells. Haven’t you noticed that? He smells like old straw and rancid grass! And moths! And as for generosity! HA! He’s only generous to you so you will make me marry him! Do you know what they say about him? They say he’s only ever given one thing away in his life, and that’s insults! He chases young children away from his hole! No wonder he’s never had a wife, they couldn’t stand him!” Tess finished, and stood in the middle of the room, slightly out of breath from her out burst. Her mother looked shocked and slightly outraged.
“Well! I never heard such a tantrum in all my life! You had better learn your manners, young lady, for you will need them when you marry Sir Morim, and serve him like a young wife should!”
Her mother swept out of the room, slamming the solid wooden door behind her. Tess stared after her for a moment, and then collapsed on her bed, crying. The emotions of the last few minutes overcame her, her grief, turmoil, and frustration. She wept for her uncle, she wept for her family, and lastly, she wept for herself.

It was late when Tess woke up, or was it early the next morning? She wondered belatedly. The moon was beginning to set through her window, and it’s pale light shone down on her face at the end of the bed. She gazed at it longingly for a minute, wondering what it would be like to live up there, so far away from it all, just her and the stars and their music, with no parents to pester her, no close relatives to die on her, and no sleazy moles to marry. Ah well, she’d just have to the next best thing, she thought, and in that instant made up her mind to run away from the only home she had ever known, and the only family that she had ever loved, a family that had turned around and betrayed her. She felt a bit guilty for a moment, about how her parents might feel, her being the only daughter they had left, but then realized that they could rent out her rooms, and what was love to them when they had a steady supply of money? This thought saddened her at the same time that it hardened her resolve to get away from such tyrannical people.
She gazed around the room for a while, wondering what to take. Warm clothes, obviously. And something lighter for summer. Shoes. A brush. Some small pieces of jewellery to trade if the going gets rough. Some personal oddments… She paused as she put these in her bag, reliving the fond memories that went with them. They almost made her turn around and decide to stay and run into her parents room begging for forgiveness for trying to disobey their command, but then her eyes fell on a tasteless ornament that the mole had given her, a awfully enamelled porcelain duck, and she shuddered, hurriedly grabbing a cloak, and slipping down stairs to the kitchen.
There were still embers in the kitchen grate when she got down there, and the room was pleasantly warm. She stirred the fire a little, and laced some twigs on to give her some light. She fondly looked around the small dirt room. This was her favourite room of the house, and most of her fondest memories had taken place here. The battered wooden table under which she had played as a child, the windows from which she had pinched countless pies, the stone flags on the floor which she had run across thousands of times. It seemed so much smaller now…
She padded over to the pantry where there were all manner of foods, and stacked the rest of the bag full, who knew when, if ever, she might get a decent feed out there in the wilds. She edged out, her bag bulky and uncomfortable on her back. The house was deadly silent, and she was suddenly fearful that someone might hear her and wake up. There was a sound on the stairs, a small creak, and Tess froze, panic etching it’s way across her heart. She frantically looked around for a place to hide, but before she could find anyplace suitable, a small figure appeared in the doorway.
Tessica spun around, almost knocking the child behind her over. She gave a sigh of relief once she saw who it was.
“Whatcha doin, Tess?”
It was her youngest, and littlest brother, Torai. He stared up at her with his big brown trusting eyes, and Tess felt a profound sadness. Of all her family, this was the one sibling she’d miss most. She knelt down and gave Torai a hug.
“Whatcha upto?” he asked, noting the bag full of food and things.
“I’m just going away for a little while, not too long. Like a holiday. Yeah, I’m going away on a holiday.”
Little Torai’s lip started to tremble ever so slightly, “Why?”
“I’m going away because Mum and Dad want me to marry a horrible old mole-”
“Mista Morim?”
“Yes, dear,” He’s very perceptive, she thought proudly, he’ll make a great husband one day, “Sir Morim.”
“He’s a nasty poo-face. He wouldn’t give me one of Mum’s biscuits.”
Tess almost laughed. Torai’s choice of insults was about right.
“Well, you tell Mum that, okay? Say that’s why I’m taking a holiday.”
“How long are you going for?” The lip had started to tremble again, and his grip on her hand was getting tighter by the minute.
“It’s only for a little while, Torai. Don’t worry, I’ll be back for your birthday.” The child’s face brightened immediately.
“You will? And you’ll be there to see me blow out all my candles? And get my presents? And Dad said he’d teach me to ride my bike!”
“Shhhhh! Not so loud! Yes! But I can only be there then if you let me go now, okay?”
Torai nodded, and then gave her a hug in return, “I’ll miss you, Tess.”
“I know. I’ll miss you too. Look, I’m missing you already, and I haven’t even left yet!” Her brother giggled, and she scruffed his hair, “Come on, back to bed now. You need your energy for tomorrow.”
Torai scampered back up the stairs, pausing at the door to blow her a kiss, which she caught and returned. She stood staring after him sadly for a moment, and then unlatched and opened the heavy door to the garden, and stepped out into a world steeped in the silver light of the full moon, now low in the horizon.
She made her way down the path, past the flowers and herbs that she had helped plant, opened the gate that she had entered billions of times throughout her life, and then started in the silvery darkness down the road, away from the city and into the vast wildness where anything could happen, and her future could be changed with a gust of the wind.

Three weeks later Tess was permanently cold, hungry, and tired. Her feet hurt, she had run out of food a week ago and had been living off the land, and she looked like she had crawled through a bramble patch, and on occasion she had to find somewhere relatively warm to sleep. Her parents had noticed her missing that afternoon (she was a bit annoyed that it took half a day for them to wonder where she was), and had sent out search party after search party looking for her. Sir Morim had also tried to help, by sending out spies to look for her, waiting where she must most likely be coming or staying. He was fully aware that her feelings for him had been what caused her to run away, and was anxious to get her back as soon as possible, both for his sake and her parents. Tess solved this minor inconvenience by running around a lot, and staying out of places she was longing to go into, such as hotels, restaurants, bathhouses, and even charity houses for the homeless. She knew there would be people out there looking for her at every turn, and she wasn’t about to make it easy for them to find her, though she would be inevitably caught she was sure.
And so she was low, depressed, and filled with a hard determination to evade capture of all kinds as she entered the last town for some miles. Once again she had only just escaped a tribe of searchers by the skin of her teeth, this chase lasting for most of the day, and she was bone tired. Her head hung wearily, her feet dragged in the dust, her limbs weighed like lead, and she could barely see where she was walking. The world around her was a haze of grey, and her ears felt muffled with cotton wads of exhaustion.
With a shock she stumbled into someone, and there was an angry “Hey! Watch where you’re going!”
She slowly raised her head and tried to focus on the face of the obstacle. The mouse’s annoyed face swam into focus, and she haltingly tried to apologize, but he didn’t wait to hear it. Giving her a look of profound disgust, he turned around and stalked off. Tess almost started after him, begging for food, or warmth, or a safe place to stay, but a lifetime of inbred pride stopped her. She wasn’t that desperate that she had to beg. She could however, ask, and that’s exactly what she did. She knew that the search patrol wouldn’t come this far out, and even if they had tracked her down, she was that tired and starving she couldn’t be bothered hiding anymore. She shuffled through the town until she reached the nearest charity shelter, and there received the first hot meal, clean clothes and fresh comfortable bed she’d had in weeks.
First she ate, stuffing the soup and bread into her mouth with a ravenous hunger that surprised even the attendant, then she scrubbed twenty-two days of dust and mud, sweat and grime from her body and fur. Finally, feeling warm, cosy, and realising that true happiness doesn’t come from riches and fortune but in cleanliness after three weeks of crawling around on the ground, she fell into a feather bed with the cleanest, crispest white sheets she had ever seen in her life, and slept for two days and a morning.

The ceiling was painted a cool creamy pale green colour, and Tess lay staring up at it for a long time, revelling in the peace of the place. The air was tranquil, and golden sunlight streamed in a nearby window to light the dust motes in the air, and fall on the sheets creating a pleasant warmth across her legs. She sighed contentedly, and lazily moved an arm in the air, making the motes dance and waver like grand ladies at a ball.
She turned her head, idly curious, as there was a slight confusion in the room outside. She could hear raised voices, and then the calmer one of the attendant running the hostel.
“I demand to search the place!” the first gruff words came through the door and across the room with no trouble at all.
“I am sorry, Sir, but we have people in need of rest and healing here, you can’t just barge in and disturb them.”
“Then we will search quietly, but I insist you let us look in that back room.”
“I’ve let you see the front room, the eatery, the storeroom, and the laundry, what else do you need to see?” The complacent voice of the attendant didn’t carry nearly so well, but it was still audible to Tess’ sharp ears if she listened hard enough.
“I have demands to search all the hostels in the area, and would you really stand in the way of a soldier about to do his duty?”
That voice… it sounded familiar…
“No, no, no, I wouldn’t dream of it, I just don’t see why it has to be done now, while there are people still sleeping… look, if you tell me who or what it is you are looking for, then maybe I could help you find it.”
“Well, I shouldn’t be telling you this, but I am in a hurry. If she is not here then I have to waste time checking the entire town until I do find her, and she could be way out of reach by the time that’s finished. She’s about so high,” there was pause in which she imagined the soldier gesturing the hight of the offender, “has huge brown eyes, really big pretty brown eyes, a bit of a pointy face, for a mouse, long, light brown whiskers, uhhhhhh, a thin little body, she’s fragile creature, really, and a coat of almost pure grey fur. Of course, she may not have looked like that when she had come in, due to being on the road for a couple of weeks, but she would have been sure to have at least some kind of wash, as she’s from a noble family. I don’t think she’s ever gone for more than two days without washing!”
As those words reached Tess’ waiting ears, a cold lump began to grow in her stomach, a lump she had grown all too used to in the last few weeks. They were looking for her.
“Well, we have had one new entrant that sort of fits the description you’ve given me… but she’s sleeping right now, and I think it would be best if we did not disturb her. She’s young, but I think she’s had a rough time of it recently.”
“Did she have any expensive looking clothes or jewellery with her that you saw?”
“No not really, it was all pretty much muddy and soiled, although she did have a silver chain around her neck….”
Tess grabbed the chain that hung there. It had been a gift from her grandmother before she died half way through the summer, and she had never taken it off after, something that had annoyed her mother immensely, and had not even thought to remove it in case it had betrayed her.
“Excellent. I swear, we will be most quiet, but if we could have just a little look around? We will remove our armour, to reduce noise, but at this stage it really is essential that we don’t miss her, and if the girl you have in mind is found out afterwards to be the one we’re looking for, well…you could be arrested.”
There was a pause while the attendant thought this over, but the threat of arrest seemed to decide it for him.
“Well, okay, I’ll allow it, but only you, mind, and that armour must come off!”
There was an instant of panic running through Tess’ mind, what do I do, what do I do? A frozen moment where the world seemed to go in slow motion and distort, liquefy, and all her troubles run into the one objective; to get away. There was a crash from the other room as the soldier dropped his armour on the wooden floor, and the instant was gone, liquid turned solid and shattered like dropped ice. Tess could hear heavy thumping boots coming her way, and knew she had to get out, or spend a life of misery as a mole-wife. She shuddered at the thought, and jumped off the bed, hurriedly tidying the sheets. She ducked as the attendant poked his head around the door and whispered to the soldier, “I think they’re all asleep, you can come in now,” and as he took his head out of the room again, she scrambled under a bed two rows away and close to the window. She turned around and saw her bag lying on the floor by the bed she had just occupied, sheets only just covering it, and was about to rush out from under the bed to get it when a shadow fell across the room as a massive figure filled the doorway. Slowly she looked up, dreading what she might see, and gasped.
An enormous dark brown rat stood in the doorway, casting out the darkness. She could see its ugly yellow teeth glisten from where she was, under the bed, and it’s eyes flicked around suspiciously. There were mutilated patches of fur round its neck and chest where he had slept in his armour and it had rubbed the skin raw, and by the look on the attendant’s face, he smelt too. Tess could see the muscles stacked on his arms and chest, and swallowed hard at the thought of what they could do were he to be made angry.
The rat sniffed, then started along the first row of beds, looking at the other refugees of circumstance lying in their beds, most fast asleep. As he reached the other end of the room she padded back to her bag, as quiet as possible, hardly making a sound on the floorboards. The rat stopped at one of the beds to chat quietly with a small child who had woken up at the sound of the armour falling to the ground outside, and was sitting up in his mother’s arms. Tess used this opportunity to run back under the bed she had come from. The attendant muttered something to the soldier, and he turned around. Tess made a break for the window, scuttling along the ground like a bug. She shouldered the bag as she ran, and a strap caught around her arm. She tried to free it, and tripped over the last bed next to the window. The rat turned around like lightning at the crash it made and saw her thump into the wall. Tess sat there, dazed, and blurrily watched the rat come pounding towards her.
“Halt right there, Tessica! There’s nowhere for you to run to, we’ve got you now, and you’re going back home!”
Tessica stood up unsteadily and glared defiantly back at him, “No! I’m not going back to marry that un-creature! I would rather die out there!”
And so saying she flung open the window and jumped out. She landed with a thump on the ground, which didn’t help the slightly stunned state she was in, and rolled down the hill. As she rolled she saw flashes of the rat jumping out of the window after her, and seven other soldiers running out the door. He landed on his feet, and started sprinting down the hill. Tess knew that she would never outrun him, and angled her roll into a nearby patch of bushes. Suddenly she stopped with a jolt and crawled into the branches. Using them to block the rat’s sight of her she ran close to the ground to the nearest tree. She had always been a good climber, again much to the disgust of her mother, who wanted her to be a lady and sit and crochet all day, and had used this high-up-out-of-sight tactic many times to evade her pursuers, even though she knew it was only a matter of time before they found her. She reached the last branch that looked like it would hold her weight and held on while she recovered and got her breath back.
Before she could get back down they found her, as she was making her slow way backwards to solid ground, and the rat stood under the tree screaming curses at her while his soldiers took off their heavy plate armour and prepared to go up. Tess watched them climb apprehensively, branch by branch, hoping that the branches had been weakened enough by her weight not to support the weight of the bigger, heavier soldiers. Her hope proved well founded, for about halfway up they started to creak and bend alarmingly. She watched, giggling quietly despite herself at the faces she saw as the soldiers slid off the bending branches to land on the ground in a heap. She winced as a sharp crack spit the air, and the first branch broke clean of the tree, falling feet to the ground, and knocking it’s burden unconscious. This happened again and again until the ground was littered with motionless bodies.
Eventually there was just one soldier left. He was smaller and lighter than the others, and a lot quicker too, so he had come a lot further up then the rest, and they were belatedly cheering him from the ground, those who were conscious. Tess watched him climb with a wary eye and a rather jealous countenance; she had never been as fast as he was. As he climbed he concentrated not on her, but on the branches under him, so when there was even just the slightest hint of weakness he moved on to the next one. He had a good judging eye too, choosing the strongest branches, and avoiding the strained or splintered ones. Gradually he came closer and closer, working his way around the tree to find the sturdiest branches. Tess, in a moment of panic, started to scramble upwards, trying to get higher, but there were only a few more limbs that could support her, and the extra distance was barely noticeable. She looked frantically around wondering if there were any trees she could jump onto nearby without falling. She had no such luck. The tree stood alone. Her eyes flicked back to the mouse crawling up the tree, and she was alarmed to find he was only a few branches away.
Suddenly a paw grabbed the limb nearest to her, and the soldier’s head popped up. Their eyes met for an instant, and she saw his reluctance to do what he had to. She whispered, “I’m sorry, but I just can’t go back,” and brought the bag around to meet his skull with the strength of desperation. His head dropped from sight behind the branch, and there was a crash as he hit splintered wood. Tess closed her eyes and waited for the thump of a body hitting the ground far below, but it never came. Puzzled, she leaned over the edge of the branch and saw him dangling two branches down with one hand clamped onto a branch. She could see his knuckles turning white from the grip he had, and there were glimpses of his legs kicking under him as he struggled for a hold on the slippery branch. The soldiers below him called up encouragement, and the rat still shouted abuse, directing it at anything that would listen.
There was a loud crack, and the branch split in two, the lower half spinning down to land on the ground, only just missing another soldier. The soldier on the branch clutched at the remaining limb, trying to climb back to the trunk, but each time he tried to get on it, it cracked a little more. He must have realised that trying to save himself from certain death was hopeless, and stopped moving, just hung there, limply, like a dead fish, waiting for his arms to tire and his strength to give out, or for the limb to inevitably break and send him hurtling to the ground. There was another sudden crack, like the splintering of a thick bone, and the branch broke. It dropped, heavy with the weight of the soldier, and he let go, reflexively rolling himself into a ball. ‘Like that’s going to help’ thought Tess as she watched him fall, hitting branches and bouncing off the thicker limbs on his way down and breaking smaller twigs and sticks.
She turned her head as there was a sickening crunch-splat sound, and the mouse hit the ground uttering nothing but a low grunt. She peeked through the branches to the ground to see his body spreadeagled across the dirt in a physically impossible position, and knew with a sinking cold feeling she had just sent her first soul to the Otherworld.

Come night-time she was still waiting in the branches of the tree, shivering with cold and gazing at the stars. After what had happened to the soldier she dared not let go of the trunk of the tree, lest the branch break and she go smashing into the ground to die just like he did, not even to put on her cloak and jumper. She’d rather freeze than fall and die. And she’d rather die than go willingly down to where the rat and his soldiers had made a fire and basked in the light and warmth and smell of roasting birds.
So here she was, stuck up a tree practically out in the middle of
nowhere, cold reaching icy tendrils to her bones, hunger growling in her stomach like a caged beast, her whole body suffused with cramp from being stuck up a tree for god knows how many hours, and a pack of desperate soldiers underneath her waiting to get their hands on the one who had evaded their capture for so long. How was she going to get down?
Tess forced her blurry mind to work, but the only plan she could come up with was playing dead up in the tree come morning, and waiting until they went away to tell her parents. It wasn’t much of a plan, and it would totally rely on the soldier’s stupidity and the conditions they woke up in the next morning, but if she was lucky it would work. So thinking, she wrapped her arms tighter around the branch and rested her head on the trunk to watch the stars without too much discomfort, and before long, despite her best intentions, she was asleep.