When the Secret Keeper came up with a fable prompt for this week’s A to Z Challenge, I found it near impossible to say no. That said, enjoy.
THE MOUSE WHO WOULD BE KING
Æsop had some hidden tales, as rare and long forgotten as a cache of Gnostic scrolls buried beneath a sea of sand. Better to bring them into the air, let them breathe again.
Come close now, and I will tell you the story of The Mouse Who Would Be King.
Down in the meadow, between hedge and stream, lived a thriving community of field mice.
Ears up, tails curled, they were, by and large, a most independent, anarchic lot. Freedom and fun were their watchwords, and kings and queens less needed than grain on a full stomach.
“Great green gooseberries,” fretted Trefoil Silverpaws, tying his whiskers in a twist. “Humming and jumming is all well and good when the sun shines, but what happens when snows fall, foxes pounce, and we have no one to guide us safely through the lean times? I mean, I love a good game of Capture the Marsh-mallow as much as the next mouse, but I have been looking at the situation, you know, and have legitimate concerns.”
Juniper, his cousin, balanced between two stalks of timothy. Kicking off into a double back-flip, she dropped to the ground in a perfect 3-footed dismount, saying, “You want a King to rule the meadow?”
Like a metalsmith lost in his work, Trefoil nodded absentmindedly as he laced baby’s breath together into a mouse-sized crown. “Maybe a King, maybe a Queen,” he said placing the floral wreath upon his cousin’s head.
“No, no, no thanks – Queen is too tough a gig for me, Tre. Out in front of everyone, making speeches, leading flight from fox and stoat. Power’s not something I’m comfortable with; put that crown round your ears instead,” she quipped, vanishing down a paw-worn run without so much as a by-your-leave.
“Quail and quake,” he chirrupped flippantly to her retreating tail, “for King Trefoil is not amused!”
Rats to riches, Silverpaws Rex did have a certain potent ring to it, he mused, setting the snowy crown upon his head and hoping Juniper was wrong about royal woes.
So began the reign of Trefoil the First, King of the Lower Marshlands, Emperor of Lupine and the Tall Grasses.
Taking all things into account – and mice being mice – his summer rule was so uneventful as to be virtually ignored by all save his youngest subjects, eager to play follow the leader. Unfortunately, even the most benevolent, untested monarch has sleepless nights when the seasons change and danger is on the wing.
Villains come in many shapes and sizes, and for the meadow residents, their greatest enemy was the great horned owl who silently picked off mousy morsels night after night.
With all eyes turned to their self-appointed ruler, pleading for regal action, the mice cried out in one voice, “You promised to keep us safe, King Trefoil, to face the beasts of beak and claw!”
Xerxes never knew such a burden, the young monarch thought as his crown wilted under the mortal weight of kingship.
Yearning against hope to take back his sovereign bluster, Trefoil Silverpaws locked eyes with Juniper, smiled sadly, then charged into the night to meet their impossible foe.
Zut alors, how he would miss them all.
And the moral of this story is: King is a tough gig, even in a flower crown.
A to Z Writing Challenge #6