Nostradormouse, стр. 4

‘Three moons shall pass before word reaches you of my journey.

The salmon will swim upstream, returning to the wisest lake.

Its waters will likewise journey to the well-source of all life.

Follow this stream to find me & you shall witness a wonder.’

His father squeezed his mother’s hand tightly. For a moment, they had both thought that they would never see their son again, but now, a glimmer of hope had entered their lives.

‘Goodbye, son,’ said his father.

‘Goodbye Papa. Goodbye Mama. I love you!’

With that, the young dormouse stepped out of the hollow and was gone.

Several leagues from the grove of hazels, in the centre of The Great Woods, stood the ancient tree. It is said that this tree had roots that stretched to the very centre of the Earth, and that its branches stretched into the heavens.

No creature in The Great Woods knew what kind of tree it was, as it had lain inactive for longer than memory. Its trunk was smooth, and had no markings to reveal its name. Its branches, four of which were so large that they now trailed on the earth, had not held leaves for many moons.

The tree was the subject of many myths and legends in the animal communities. Some myths said that the tree was the tree of all life, and would miraculously bloom again when the Earth was ready. But such stories are for the young, and the tree was dead. Wasn’t it?

But now there were stirrings in the undergrowth, and the words of the first dormouse grew in strength with each retelling. And, deep inside the trunk of the ancient tree, four seeds trembled with the promise of life.

Chapter Three

Friendships are made amongst mist;

Much trust is put into rumour,

The philanthropic herb is pillow-bound,

And the serpent takes root in readiness.

On the third night of his travels, the young dormouse came to the edge of a glade. There was a light mist over the ground, and moonlight peered cautiously through the branches of the tall pine trees that towered over him. The smell of pine needles was a new delight. He had travelled a long way so far, but he knew there was much further to go. He had slept fitfully, in short bursts, and his slumber was always accompanied by dreams. They came in confusing shapes and symbols at first, but he had begun to make sense of them. Someone needed his help, and he knew it would test his mettle. He didn’t feel at all ready, but the time was close at hand.

Suddenly, he heard a soft shuffling in the undergrowth. ‘Who goes there?’ said a timid voice.

This is it, he thought grimly. He took a deep breath and then spoke.

‘I have yet to earn my name,’ he said, ‘But yours… is Pitamus.’

‘It is?’ asked the voice from beneath the mist.

The dormouse nodded, then felt a little foolish; if he couldn’t see Pitamus, chances are Pitamus couldn’t see him nodding.

‘Pitamus,’ it repeated, as though it were trying the voice on for size before buying it. ‘I like it! How do you know me, stranger?’

The dormouse replied, ‘Em… I don’t. But, you’re in need of help, aren’t you?’

‘Help? How did you know I needed help?’ said the voice in the mist, gradually gaining a little more confidence as it spoke.

‘I… I just did,’ said the dormouse. This isn’t going very well,he thought. Concentrate. This is where the dreams have led you.‘I know that your family aren’t well, and you fear that nothing may save them.’

‘You do?’ said Pitamus, ‘have you been talking to my cousin?’

  ‘Er… no,’ said the dormouse. I’ve got to sound more confident, or he won’t trust me,he thought. He took a deep breath and said, ‘fear no longer, Pitamus, for help is at hand.’

The young dormouse could almost hear the hesitant thoughts that swam around in Pitamus’s head. Then, just to his left, he glimpsed the dark grey head of a vole emerge out of the mist, with tiny ears and eyes, ideal for living underground. Pitamus twitched his nose and looked suspiciously at his new acquaintance.

‘I do need some help,’ said Pitamus, ‘but how do I know that I can trust you?’

‘Em…You don’t,’ said the dormouse. ‘Sorry.’

Pitamus sniffed the air, then cautiously made his way over to the dormouse. He sniffed again, and looked him up and down.

‘You smell trustworthy,’ he said, ‘and my family isvery ill.’

The Dormouse smiled. ‘Then let me help.’

‘Hmm,’ said the vole, ‘okay. Follow me.’

Pitamus led the young dormouse into a maze of tunnels just below the surface. Fortunately, he was not yet fully grown, and so had no trouble fitting through even the narrow sections of passageway, and eventually they arrived in Pitamus Vole’s burrow. It was a snug affair; there was a stove in one corner, which radiated a pleasant warmth and the smell of burning pine wood. A table with several wooden chairs stood next to it. On the walls, hung on the ends of tree roots, were all manner of copper pots, pans and utensils. Pitamus’s wife and children were curled up in bed at the far end of the main room, looking the worst for wear. When they saw the stranger emerge into their home, they shrank away from him in fear.

‘What are you doing, letting a mouse into our home?’ said the vole’s wife.

‘He’s here to help us, dear,’ answered Pitamus.

‘Help us? A little mouse? What can hedo?’

Before Pitamus could answer, the dormouse came forward. ‘Pardon me, but I think I can cure your ailment.’

‘Think?’ said the vole’s wife, and then coughed. ‘Do you hear that? He thinkshe can cure us!’

Pitamus sat on the side of their bed and held his wife’s hand, then he whispered something in her ear. This seemed to sooth away her worries, and she allowed the dormouse to examine her, and then examine her children. He made various ‘um’ and ‘ah’ sounds as he felt their temperature and looked into their eyes. The truth was, he didn’t have the slightest idea what he was looking for, but he had to have faith in his instincts.

Presently, he stood back from the three forms, huddled together in their bed, and stroked his whiskers thoughtfully.

‘Can you help us?’ asked Pitamus, afraid to know the answer.

The dormouse looked at him, then back at the three voles, and tapped his nose three times with his fingers. He smiled and nodded his head. Pitamus came forward and extended his hand. ‘Thank-you,’ he said, as the dormouse shook it.

‘I must go out into the woods and gather the right ingredients for my nostrum,’ he exclaimed, and with that, he turned and left, re-tracing his steps.

‘What’s a nostrum?’ said one of the children, when he was gone.

‘I’m not sure,’ said Pitamus, ‘perhaps it’s medicine.’

‘I’m still not sure if I trust him,’ said his wife, ‘even if he is the mouse we’ve been hearing about. Go and make sure he doesn’t pick anything poisonous, would you dear?’

Pitamus looked alarmed. ‘He wouldn’t, would he?’ he said, and scampered back up the tunnel after the dormouse.

The mist had cleared from the glade, and the dormouse stood on his hind legs and peered cautiously at his surroundings. His whiskers twitched, as they always did when he was nervous. Look for a plant with jagged edges, came the voice of Find, and pick them carefully, or they will sting you. Ever since he had woken from his long sleep, the voice in his head had been advising him, and sometimes it seemed a little overwhelming. When he spoke those riddles, for instance; he heard himself saying the words, but he couldn’t quite believe it was him saying them. He went hesitantly over to a plant that had large, dark green leaves with jagged edges.

He was about to pick one, when Pitamus came out of the tunnel and shouted, ‘Careful! They’ll sting you!’