Nostradormouse, стр. 11
Nostradormouse stirred. His eyes flickered open and he gave a great yawn. As he stood and stretched, all the other sleeping creatures woke too. From above the clearing, a cry was heard and all heads gazed upwards to see a hawk circling in the cloudless sky.
Spring had returned to The Great Woods for the first time.
The tree returns to life; the tail ends with a point,
Rumours worm their way into The Great Woods,
Families are reunited; a lost couple find their way
And the prophet reveals a great bear in the stars.
Later, in the centre of The Great Woods, the animals had all left. Apart from the steady flow of water from the four streams, there was no sound or movement in the clearing where the great tree stood. The Nidhog was sleeping soundly at the roots of the tree trunk, and Ratatosk had taken shelter in the hollow where he had made his nest. Even the Golden-feathered bird was quiet; what they felt could not be put into words.
The fissure at the base of the trunk had closed up, but there was still a scar there, as a reminder to all who saw it that time was moving on. It would take a few moons before the creatures of The Great Woods realised just what this meant to them, and many moons more before the effects of the seasons were felt.
But for now, things were not too different. The air in the morning was colder than before, and the days were shorter, and there were leaves upon the trees, even if they were still small, and curled up into buds. But spring had definitely arrived, as the circling hawk announced at every new sunrise.
There were, however, dark clouds on the horizon. They swirled and threatened to spill over the edge of the world, but hadn’t yet summoned the courage to carry their inky blackness over the spring skies.
Under the earth, too, were signs that more change was on its way. In parts of The Great Wood, those animals that lived underground were often woken in the night by rumbles. Soft, gentle rumbles, and yet discomforting all the same. There were rumours, of course. There were always rumours. There was talk of a gigantic worm that eats everything in its path; a worm so huge that it would split The Great Woods into a thousand pieces.
But rumours are for fools, aren’t they? And anyway, there were those who put their faith in a more reliable source, and he hadn’t said a word.
A few nights after the events at the centre of The Great Woods, Arvic and Clethrion arrived back at his burrow. They were very tired from their long journey, but Arvic was keen to introduce Clethrion to his cousin Pitamus, and to reassure him that his gift had been delivered.
Pitamus and his wife, Lina, were standing at the entrance to their burrow, gazing up at the stars, when they heard the familiar voice of Arvic.
‘Pitamus!’ he called, as he came round the corner, ‘I’m back!’
‘So I see,’ replied Pitamus, ‘and you’re not alone!’
Arvic gave Pitamus a broad grin and proudly introduced Clethrion. Both Pitamus and Lina gave her a big hug, for they knew from Arvic’s demeanour that Clethrion was someone very special to him.
‘We were just looking at the stars, Clethrion,’ said Lina, after introductions were complete, ‘and there appears to be some new ones!’
Clethrion and Arvic exchanged knowing glances. ‘Will you tell them, or shall I?’ said Clethrion.
‘Tell us what?’ asked Pitamus.
‘Well…’ began Arvic, and then looked at Clethrion. He could see that she was eager to tell her new friends of the magical events that had transpired at the centre of The Great Woods. ‘You tell them, my love,’ he said.
The four of them sat by the entrance to the burrow, and Clethrion excitedly related their story: how she and Arvic had first met, how they followed the stream to the tree, and how Nostradormouse had appeared to everyone there, and rode on the back of a serpent to let out the seasons with the staff that Pitamus had made.
‘He used my staff?’ said Pitamus. ‘My staff?’
Clethrion nodded. ‘He knew you were making it for him,’ she exclaimed.
‘That doesn’t surprise me in the least!’ said Lina.
‘Tell them about the bear,’ urged Arvic.
‘Oh, yes,’ continued Clethrion, ‘and this is the best bit of all! The bear was called “Winter”, and it burst into stars!’
‘Stars?’ said Pitamus. ‘Are you saying that the new stars we noticed in the sky this evening…were once a bear?’
Arvic and Clethrion said ‘yes!’ in unison.
‘You’re having us on!’ said Pitamus, and laughed heartily. Then he noticed that both Arvic and Clethrion were looking quite serious. He gazed up into the night sky again and quickly found the new stars; they were easy to spot as they were glowing brighter than the others. But however hard he focused, he could not see that they had ever been a bear.
A short distance away from the Voles, two weary mice stopped by a stream for a drink. They, too, had been travelling for days, and now they were exhausted. Initially, they had followed the stream from the centre of The Great Woods, because they’d thought that it would lead them back to their home. However, they had not taken into account just how meandering the stream had become. After only a short while (mice were not accustomed to measuring time) they had come to a tributary. Which arm of the stream should they take? On the way to the centre, the stream had only one arm. Now it had two.
They had followed what they considered to be the original arm of the stream, but the further they walked, the more uncertain of their decision they’d become. Things took more of a downturn when they discovered that the stream branched off again. Now they were well and truly lost.
‘What are we going to do?’ cried one of the mice. The other mouse gently held her in his arms, and comforted her as best he could.
‘There, there, dear,’ he said, ‘it’ll be all right,’ but his thoughts were not as reassuring.
Just then, the moon came out from behind a cloud. On the hill beside them, it revealed a figure silhouetted against the night sky. It was wearing a cloak, and carried a staff. It started to walk towards them, and as it got nearer to them, they recognised their only son.
‘It’s our boy!’ said the father.
‘My son!’ said the mother, running forward to greet the hooded mouse.
The three mice huddled together and hugged for a long time. When they finally parted, the mother said, ‘I looked for you at the great gathering, my son, but you had disappeared!’
‘Where did you go?’ asked the father, ‘your mother was so worried!’
‘I’m sorry if I upset you,’ said Nostradormouse, ‘but I knew that I would be inundated with creatures wanting to know their future, so I took refuge in a hollow of the great tree until things calmed down.’
‘Well, you’re here now,’ said his mother, ‘and it’s so good to see you!’
‘It’s good to see you, too,’ he replied, ‘but I’m afraid I can’t return home just yet.’
Both his parents looked crest-fallen at this news, but they knew, as all parents learn, that their only son had his own life to live.
‘You are not lost,’ he told them, ‘and you haven’t much further to travel.’ He pointed to the left arm of the stream. ‘Continue along this stream and it will lead you back home.’
‘Thank-you, son,’ said his father. ‘I want you to know we’re both proud of you. Take care, and keep in touch if you can.’
‘Or even better, visit!’ said his mother, ‘our home isn’t complete without you!’
Nostradormouse smiled warmly at them both, and then kissed his mother goodbye. But when he kissed his father farewell, he whispered something to him. They watched him make his way through the trees, until he became a silhouette once more. He climbed a bank, and then turned to look at them on the brow of the hill. He waved, and then vanished into the night.