(This is open to everybeast. Hopefully, if there is any trouble, you will tell me. I am glad to edit. Please enjoy, and remember–Vermin may not be good, but they do not have to be evil.)
The winter season was a time of darkness and peace in the North. Few vermin braved the freezing winds and snows. Instead, they huddled around fires against the deadly cold. Fear and desperation makes allies of the bitterest enemies, and the ferrets, rats, and foxes from rival bands sat together, talking as friends, waiting until the ice melted to continue their bloody wars. This was the time for making friendships and seeking companions. Now, however, it was the time for losing friends, thought Tornsnout as he looked outside his small cave. All of his allies were gone, leaving him and his tribe behind.
Spring advanced, and the ice that bound tribes and bands together melted away in the sunlight. Already, grass and moss turned green and alive. Tornsnout sighed, his eyes half-closed, before turning to his tribe.
“The squirrels and mice and badgers will be coming out of their warm homes soon. I’m willing to bet they grew fatter since last spring. And we are weaker!” Tornsnout grabbed one of the fools closest to him by the neck, shaking him.
“Z-zir? Viz iz not our fault!” A weasel stepped up, defending his friend.
“I know.” the ferret gasps, air returned to him as Tornsnout stalks away. “But, ever since you made me your king, I have thought long of what we need.”
“Vat? Vat do ve need?” a ferret called Hissu asked. He had been loyal, and Tornsnout found a chuckle escaping his lips.
“We need a home. We are not slavers or bandits. Most of you have never even seen blood that didn’t come from one of your own! It may be no fault of yours, but one more season like this, and I will be king over a tribe of skeletons. How many remember Terrek? I remember. We buried him outside this very cave last winter!” Tornsnout took a breath, looking down at his paws. “I remember Ferneyes. She was the prettiest weaselmaid. Then, winter came. Now, she is gone. Covered by blankets, somewhere in this cave. And the “goodbeasts” cry when one of theirs is made a slave?”
“Tornsnout, you hav been a good king, and you say good tings vell. Ve all remember young Ferneyes. I vatched her birt. Ve are all angry. But, da ones sout ov here are strong.” Old One, his body so tortured by the seasons that few knew if he was a ferret or a weasel, spoke, his paw touching Tornsnout’s cloak.
“The old one is right, Tornsnout. Before you became king, and before your father’s father was king, we had a home in the south, but got thrown out. Surely, you remember this from our songs! I taught them to you.” a short weasel, Broketail, said.
“Our ancestors were weak. They refused to take slaves or to fight. You, Broketail, follow that example.” Tornsnout snarled. “There is no time for honor and mercy. A season, a season more, and all of us will die. Our songs speak of hundreds of weasels and ferrets leaving the place called Mossflower, before the first of my ancestors came into power. Now, there are but fifty of us.”
“Our young ones die. Other tribes call us cowards and fools! Even their slaves pity us. If we go south, all of us, we can take back what once belonged to us. Our ancestors once ruled that place as its Noble Guardians! Let us have a home, and our title back!”
Tornsnout spoke the last words with his rusted sword drawn. It reflected some of the sunlight into the cave, casting fifty starved faces into light. Most of them cheered. Only Old One and Broketail covered their eyes.
“Ever since he became king a season ago, he wanted to do this. His father told us to watch over him and teach him of peace before he died. Do you think we failed?” Broketail asked Old One.
“No. It iz not vat ve failed, it iz vat he iz right. Ve hid in de Nortlands too long. Ve are dying out because ve are not slavers or killers.” Old One coughed, blood spattering over his tattered clothing. “Ve need Tornsnout, friend. But, ve must vetch vat he does not do harm.”
And thus, it was. Tornsnout gathered the Firstone tribe, and lead them south, towards the forests and rivers of Mossflower, returning them to the place of their ancestors.
“Hey, it iz pretty!” Hissu bounced around the camp. He had been looking into the river, prodding the sleepy Old One, and even set his own tail on fire once that morning. The others blamed his good health, for with his health, his playful energy returned. “Here iz wonderful!”
“Yes, yes it is!” Tornsnout patted him on the back, smiling. At last, his tribe had life, he thought as he looked up at the blue sky. A blue so different from the grays of the skies in the North. It seemed strange, however, that no warriors opposed them, and no fortress greeted them. Only the woods, green and dark, rose around the Firstone tribe. Tornsnout could not believe their luck. After so many stories of Mossflower’s woodlander warriors, the Firstone were safe and for once, growing in number.
Tornsnout grinned as he watched a young ferret trying to grab Hissu’s tail as they ran around the camp. Strong, healthy, with a beautiful smile and piercing green eyes--what more could his tribe need as proof of his great leadership?
“King Tornsnout! Vey captured a pair of woodlanders!” In an instant, his hopes for peace were dashed. The woodlanders were here, after all. It was time to defend their claim to the land.
The first to be interrogated was a shrew. She struggled and spat at the weasels holding her down as Tornsnout looked on.
“Enough! What are you doing in our territory?” he asked.
“Your territory? We shrews have been living near this river for as long as I remember, you witless weasel! It’s our land! If I didn’t have my paws tied, I’d…” As she took a breath to continue, Tornsnout hit her over the head. She passed out in an instant.
“So, I may be right after all. Maybe honor and mercy cannot be our ways.” he bent down to look at the shrew maid. She was quite pretty, he noted. “Perhaps the other prisoner will talk more sensibly. It would be a shame to have to kill her.”
His tribe lived along this river for almost a full two months now, and already, he felt his heart tied to this place. Their dibbuns were healthy, their old ones did not die, and starvation did not rear its ugly head once. If he must kill, he will, thought Tornsnout as he made his way for the other tent. The death of a few woodlanders whose ancestors exiled his, was a price he was willing to pay for the wonders his tribe now held.
“Who are you?” Tornsnout asked. He had trouble identifying the woodlander, the poor beast was bound so well. The others must have thought this one more dangerous then the shrew, he decided.