Nostradormouse, стр. 2

The dormouse gulped. This was not good. He had left home reluctantly; he didn’t want these powers, but they had been thrust upon him. Now he had enemies, and he would always be looking over his shoulder. Then, something whispered to him, and he knew that there was one thing left to do.

‘Go well, Remus,’ he said.

‘What did you call me?’ replied the wolf. ‘I have no name. We wolves do not need names.’

‘Nonetheless, you have earned your name this night.’

Remus considered this for a moment. The pack-mind was silent. Finally, he said, ‘Then Remus it is, but you will get no thanks from me.’

‘And I expect none,’ replied the dormouse.

Remus turned back to his departing companions and trotted after them. The woods swallowed them up and the clearing was left in silence.

The dormouse turned to the family of rabbits and smiled sweetly at them.

‘Everything is okay now,’ he said, ‘they won’t bother you again.’

‘How did you do that?’ asked the father, ‘I’ve never seen anything like it!’

His wife nodded her head in agreement.

The dormouse thought for a moment before answering. ‘To tell you the truth, I’m not sure I know. I really thought I would be eaten, but it’s as if there’s something inside me that takes over. It’s still me, but it’s also something far bigger than me. I can’t explain.’

One of the three children tugged at the mother’s forearm and she bent down to hear what he had to say. The child whispered it to her and she nodded.

‘My son wishes to know if you’re the mouse everyone’s been talking about?’

‘What mouse is that?’ he replied.

The little rabbit looked at him, and gained some courage.

‘The mouse that heals,’ he said, ‘The mouse that tells the future.’

‘Ah, that mouse!’ came the reply, and he chuckled.

‘You are, aren’t you?’ the little rabbit said. ‘You’re Nostradormouse!’

‘At your service!’ he said, and his eyes twinkled like dancing fireflies.

‘Would you care to travel with us for a while?’ said the father.

‘It would be an honour,’ came the reply.

And so, the family of rabbits and the hooded dormouse set off into the woods. The rabbits felt safer with their companion beside them, and Nostradormouse was glad of the company. They all knew where they were going, but only the dormouse knew why. He could hear a pulse, like a heartbeat, coming from far off in the distance. It summoned him with the promise of wonders. Once or twice, he caught the father rabbit looking at him, and he could almost taste the thoughts from his new friend: Who are you? Where did you come from? How can you know the future?

By rights, the dormouse should not have been aware of his beginnings. And yet, he did know the truth of his origin and the future that was yet to come; it was an enormous responsibility, and it still scared the little dormouse. But still, he soldiered on towards the centre of The Great Woods, and the pulse grew ever stronger.

His story begins many moons ago, at the shores of a deep lake, and that is where we will start…

Chapter One

The tail begins to grow;

From nine, only eight shall pass through.

One shall never reach the up-streamer,

And the smallest shall begin a big sleep.

Long ago, when the Earth was young, there was only one continent, covered almost entirely with trees. It was known to its inhabitants as The Great Woods. There were no seasons, and the animals that lived there had yet to earn their names. Although they could speak, they had no wisdom to utter and no knowledge to tell. At the centre of these woods stood an ancient tree; nothing grew under its branches, which remained leafless and lifeless.

Several leagues from this ancient tree was a deep lake. One morning, as the rising sun sparkled on its surface, a stag appeared out of the mist, and drank at the water’s edge. A salmon bobbed to the surface, and welcomed him.

‘Hello, Fintan,’ replied the stag.

The salmon was somewhat surprised. ‘Why did you call me Fintan?’ he asked.

‘Because it’s your name, of course!’

‘It is?’ said Fintan.

‘It is!’ said the stag.

‘Oh! So what’s your name then?’

‘I’m Find.’

‘I didn’t ask how you were,’ said Fintan, who was now thoroughly confused.

‘I said Find, not fine!’

‘Oh. Right. Sorry,’ said Fintan. ‘How do you know this?’

‘Because,’ said Find, ‘I’m the spirit of wisdom.’

Fintan grew quiet for a moment. ‘Are you sure?’ he said at length, ‘you look like a stag to me.’

Find laughed. ‘What should I look like, then?’

‘I don’t know,’ replied the salmon, ‘you’re the wise one!’

Find was not used to being spoken to like this, but decided to ignore it, as the salmon didn’t know any better.

‘Why are you here?’ asked Fintan.

‘Watch and learn,’ replied Find, and with a graceful sweeping motion, he lifted his head and then shook his antlers. Thousands of bright sparks flew off in all directions; many of them dissipated into the air, others fell into the water, and some floated upwards into the sky. Nine of them, however, floated off on the breeze which blew in unexpectedly from the South. They coasted on the air current and then dropped out at intervals, as the wind whipped round the lakeside. The earth seemed to swallow them whole, and then the wind died down as fast as it had arrived.

‘What was that?’ asked Fintan.

‘You’ll see,’ said Find.

The earth trembled, which sent ripples all around the lake. Then, nine green shoots sprouted out of the ground where the sparks had fallen only moments before. They grew rapidly upwards and outwards until nine Hazel trees stood proudly at the lakeside. Find addressed them all.

‘I charge you with a most sacred duty,’ he said, as his voice carried out over the lake. ‘You must all grow one special hazelnut, unlike any you will ever grow again, and you must drop this nut into the lake.’

The trees shook the leaves on their branches to indicate that they understood. Find turned back to the incredulous Fintan.

‘And you,’ he said, ‘must eat these nuts.’

Fintan stared at Find for a few seconds.

‘Do I look like a mouse to you?’ he said, fins akimbo.

Find didn’t smile this time; he was deadly serious. Fintan gulped.

‘Eek?’ he said, and then disappeared into the depths of the lake with a splash.

Find’s plan was simple; once Fintan had eaten all nine nuts, he would be the wisest creature on Earth. He could then swim out of the lake into the rivers, spreading his wisdom to the world as he swam.

One by one, the Hazel trees did as they were told, and Fintan ate the nuts as they fell, becoming wiser as he did so. And as he ate them, bright spots appeared on his body, until there were eight.

One Hazel tree, however, would not give up its nut. Fintan grew anxious, and summoned Find to the edge of the lake.

‘What is it, Fintan?’ said Find.

‘I’ve eaten eight nuts,’ said Fintan, ‘but this tree won’t give me the ninth!’

Find turned to face the tree. Its leaves started to shake nervously.

‘Why do you not do as I asked?’ he said.

Fintan was amazed when he understood the tree’s reply. ‘I cannot,’ it said, ‘for it is no longer mine to give.’

Find grew angry, and was about to tear the Hazel tree out by its roots, when a mouse emerged from a hollow in the Hazel’s trunk.

‘Please don’t hurt the Hazel,’ said the mouse, ‘it’s been very kind to my family. It was me who took the nut;  I wanted to make sure my family have enough to eat.’

‘Where is it?’

‘It’s with my horde,’ the mouse replied, fearing for its life, ‘And I don’t know which one it is.’

Find considered the situation carefully; maybe eight hazel nuts was enough? After all, whoever shared his wisdom wouldn’t miss one nut, would they? After much thought, he realised what would happen, and saw there was much to be said in letting the mouse keep his pickings.