The salty scent of the ocean blew through her ears as she made great leaps and bounds through the darkness towards the black spire protruding from the horizon. The strangest thing about the mountain was the little flecks of light dotting it, almost like windows. Maybe Heldegras was there. Flitz had dug herself a shadey spot to lay low in during the day, but now it was go time.
She landed in a cloud of sand and hid herself behind a dune. The thing before her was huge. It was a mountain and a tower at the same time it seemed. Judging by the lights, it couldn't have possibly been a long forgotten abandoned relic, it was inhabited.
Clotted matted chunks of blood streaked down her neck, arm and side. Before she got any closer, she'd have to make certain exactly what kinds of creatures lived there.
((If you would like to read the full story of Cecil, so you can make sense of his coughing and missing arm, you can skim his profile –->Click Here))
Cecil paced himself as he made his way down the steps of the giant fortress. He had a cheerful hop in his step between his violent coughing. He went to scratch where his left arm used to be, but looked over and sighed."Darn ghost arm, making me feel like you're still there." He said to himself.
The aged mouse always went out at this time to catch some fresh air and to get himself moving. He was aged fifty at this point, seen many things, fought many battles as a mouse thief, and did many missions. As a retired mouse thief and a long time adviser at Salamandastron, he knew he would live out the rest of his days with his disease at this sacred place.
He held a torch up with his only arm, to see out in the darkness, feeling that there was something out there. He couldn't quite put his paw on it, but he knew some beast was out there. His years sneaking and thieving gave him that intuition. The smallish mouse walked towards the sea waters, waiting for whatever beast might pop out, so he could greet them.
The torchlight shone upon two commically long ears and a long serpent like tail protruding over the dune. Flitz fancied herself perfectly invisible, but she was hardly built for stealth. She creeped deeper downwards as far as she could, flinching away from the light, trying to find cover in shadow. Someone was out there.
She chanced a glance over the edge and took a peek at the torch bearer. He was an older mouse, unarmed and missing a limb, probably harmless. She wasn't exactly trained in combat, but she felt she could take him. There wasn't a lot she wouldn't do, she'd strike an old man if she had to.
But only if she had to.
A small voice came from behind the dune. "H-hello? Sir? Excuse me sir?"
Cecil only smiled; the thick mustache on his aged, but battle scarred face wriggled with the movement of his smile. "Well missy, you aren't so shy afterall. I know you'd come out eventually. Come here my dear, I'm not here to hurt you. I come from the mountain above. I'm only here to help." He said as he raised his torch up to have the glow of the fire shine towards the direction of the dune.
He had a few of his trusty throwing knives and fighting dagger equipped to his belt on his hooded tunic. He might be old and dying, but Cecil still knew the ways of being a warrior. He always exercised his body and kept up with his throwing and slashing abilities. He was in decent fighting shape for what he was. The thin mouse was always ready just in case.
Cecil felt no presence of danger. He had a feeling this new stranger wasn't a bad beast trying to take over the fortress or trying to kill mercilessly. He approached the dune slowly, in peace.
From the mountain above. She knew it! This old mouse probably didn't have the whole mountain to himself either, there were probably others, Heldegras might have been one of them. She was still hesitant and unsure of the stranger, but at the same she had nothing to gain hiding in the dirt. If her mission to find her friend had failed, she could possibly find a hot meal instead.
The stangers words ellicited a response. Over the dune, a small mouselike head peered over the sand, gradually followed by a body, with long clownish feet and an even longer whip like tail. She seemed scruffy and underweight, and old browned stains of blood matted her fur on her right side. Large eyes scanned him from head to toe, resting on the blades of his belt.
"Well uh, if you're offering, I could use a hand-I mean help! F*ck-I!" She fiddles with the tattered remains of her vest, struggling to correct herself before settling for an introduction." Well uh, my name is Flitz."
Cecil was relieved that she was no marauder or villain. He put a hop into his step before stopping before her, face to face. What an odd creature.. He thought to himself. The graying mouse never seen a beast like her around these parts before. The strangest he has encountered were Monitor Lizards or toads. This new figure intrigued him greatly, but he knew better not to ask questions of the nature, as they were rude in his old fashioned ways.
"Well I'd shake your paw, Flitz, but mine is full! I am called Cecil Deepglaive, my dear. I come from a place called Noonvale, but a little more than twenty years ago, moved here." He said before continuing. "You look like an awful mess. Seen some battle have you? In any case, come with me, I shall take you into the military fortress that is Salamandastron. I'll have the haremaids tend to your wounds and clean you up, right as rain!"
"Oh um…"She extended her hand for the usual greeting, but he was right. He kind of did only have one hand, and it was baring a torch. She settled for a polite wave instead. "Right. Pleased to meet you Cecil!" She swallowed hard at the words military fortress.
This feeble old man was probably a retired veteran soldier. That's what she got for making assumptions. A dark looming mountain filled to the brim with militia. She told herself she needed to take risks, but this was a pretty big risk, or maybe that was an assumption in itself. Maybe they were good beasts? She rubbed the wound on her neck bashfully. Good beasts. Funny joke.
"Battle? Oh right aherm, yes battle. It looks a lot worse than it really is, so…" Why did small talk have to be so difficult? Not entirely sure what to say, she hoped he would fill in the blanks of the conversation, or lead the way to the mountain soon.
"You seem nervous, Flitz. C'mon now! Don't be too shy, I know the long patrol hares will be thrilled to see a new face. The privates and leverets are a goofy bunch. They grow on you." He said with a upbeat tone in his voice.
The aging mouse beckoned her to follow him as he turned around and started to walk forward.
"Come now, Flitz, I have much to show you after we get you cleaned up and bandaged. I think you'll enjoy mountain. It's a cosy place. Very homely and warm I'd like to say. A lot less intimidating than it seems that for sure." He Held the torch up higher so he could see the path towards the steps. The long steps that eventually led into the giant fortress that is Salamandastron.
Was it that obvious that she was nervous? Did she really look that awful? Flitz shook herself out and tried her best to immitate a totally relaxed posture. Cecil did his best to qwell her fears of the mountain and reassure her. They were there to help. Cecil hadn't been unkind (yet) and the hares he described sounded like fun, although she never heard of hares living in a mountain before.
She followed him towards the mountain to see if it was really as nice as he said it was, but then, steps. Was there no doorway at the base of the mountain? Must they climb up it? She got close and tentatively tried to jump up the stairs, only to tumble down them into a heap in the dirt.
You don't jump up steps idiot.
Shaking herself off, she approached the stairs again and inspected them closely. They were way too tiny for her feet. The second time around she tried standing on tip toes, but it was hard to keep her balance that way. Luckily she caught herself before she tipped backwards.
"Okay I'm coming just, just wait a sec…"
The third time around she placed her frontpaws higher up the steps, followed by her hind paws on tippy toes. This way it would be more even. She used her tail behind her as a tripod to maintain her equilibrium and-
Cecil chuckled and encouraged her to move forward. "You can do it!"
The lithe adviser watched as she made new attempts that seemed to work out for the better. He smiled at the excitement she seemed to have from making it. "Now, it's only a small climb. See the large doors? Thats our ticket into the fortress." He said as he acted as a guide for the young creature. It was a very short walk before the the tall doors were right in their faces.
"Now, it's almost meal time, so I hope you're hungry! The hare cooks make plenty." Cecil stated. He tried to budge on the door, but it was locked! "Oh drat, my mind must be leaving me, I forgot the latches lock up when they close. Not to worry. I can get us in." He set the torch in the sconce on the wall near the door and chuckled.
He took his only paw and one of his lock picks out of a small pouch. Tossing it into the air, Cecil caught it as it fell between his teeth. Then he took out one of his daggers and jammed it against the bolt between the cracks of the two doors. Afterward, he brought his head close to the small latch that was visible between the crack which connected to the big latch on the inside. With a few turns of his dagger and some shaking of his head, it popped open. He spat out the lockpick and smiled.
"There we go!"
"See the doors?
Flitz looked upwards and sure enough therewas a set of doors. There was supposed to be medical care, a bath, a bed and most importantly food behind those doors! Oh and maybe Heldegras too, she hoped so. "Yep, I see them!"
Getting to them would be another manner. She managed to balance herself on the steps but she had to advance in a slow crawl, climbing careful with her front paws first, and carefully stepping one foot at a time in bhind her, using her tail as a sort of balance. Hopefully there wouldn't be that many more steps. Fueled by the old man's promise of meals, she pressed onwards until she finally reached the top.
"Ha!" She posed with her hands on her hips, proud of herself as though she made a small climb, she did it! Now all they had to was-
Oh no. The door was locked. Her heart visibly sank for a moment, but it seemed the old man wasn't going to disappoint, as he had a couple of tricks up his one sleeve. She watched him go to work impressed and surprised by his skill and offered him a shifty glance and a cheeky grin, smiling at him. "Somebody is sneaaaaaky!"
"I'm glad you made it up!" He said with excitement as he pushed open the doors with his paw. "Yes, years and years of sneaking, stealing, and eavesdropping got me here. Thats how I lost my arm." Spoken with good nature, the jovial beast took the lead and beckoned her to follow. "Just because I'm older than most now, I still have to keep some of my youth with me." He chuckled.
"Now this is the first corridor that leads to the many places of the giant mountain fortress. I hope you will enjoy your stay. I'll show you to the sickbay where injured creatures go to get proper treatment. We'll have you bandaged up proper in no time."
Military base, plus one thief. Got it. If Flitz had any possessions she might be worried about them. The man spoke kindly, but the fact that he was missing a limb held some very heavy implications. Maybe he even lost it in this very mountain. She listened to his story and nodded, curious to know more, but asking vertain questions was just impolite, and she didn't want to offend her host.
She followed him through the corridor, wide eyed, drinking in all the sites. "Whoah.How far up does it go?" She mused more to herself than anyone. In her head she wondered how many beasts it took to build this, how long ago it might have been, to what specific purpose, who might have passed through the halls…For some reason she had the feeling it was a powerful, ancient place. Suddenly she felt very small.
"Goes all the way up to the badger chambers on the top of the mountain! It's a vast amount of space, that's for sure." He exclaimed having her follow him further into the belly of the mountain.
He nodded as he passed by many young and older hares a like, many bowed with an elegant leg to the newcomer. They went about their tasks, saying their "Hi's" to the duo. "Alright Flitz, here we are." He pointed forward with his only paw and smiled. "The infirmary. Here you will be cleaned up, can bathe, and have a new set of clothes if you so wish to do so. Afterwards, we will have dinner. Meet me out here in one hour, I'll be around, just call if you need me."
Cecil looked to the harenurses and smiled. "Please do take care of our guest, she's had a long day." One of them chuckled and replied heartily. "Aye aye, sah. She'll be right as rain don't cha know. We'll take good care o' her. Wot!"
Badger! Sirens went screaming in her head, badger! That was the catch, that's what was wrong with this place, BADGERS! BADGERS!?
Flitz contained herself and did her best to be a polite guest. She nodded politely at all the hares as they passed her by. For a mountain inhabited by a badger, there was a remarkable amount of people still roaming the hallways.
When they arrived, as Cecil pointed to the door with only one hand, Flitz had a startling revelation about where the other one probably went. "Okay I'll see you in a bit."
Despite her fear, she couldn't help but chuckle at the hares speech and chipper attitutde. If she was going to get gored to death by a badger, she may as well be bathed, bandaged and fed first, and it wasn't like someone hadn't tried to eat her once already, maybe she should lighten up? She'd still be careful, but it was hard not to feel disarmed around the hares.
"Top of the evenin' to ya marm! We're 'ere ta make you feel right as rain, wot! C'mon now missie, lets get you cleaned up. There's a fire 'eated bath over there." The harenurse points with a soft white paw towards the bathing area. "You just take yore time an' will be ready to fix you up when you are ready." The nurse went to work getting herbs and medicines ready while the other nursemaid started cutting cloth bandages in different lengths.
Cecil was strolling around the corridors, waiting for his guest to be finished. "I do wish I could show her to the Badger lord, but we haven't had one in seasons." He said quietly to himself, thinking about the lack of a leader. He didn't have any counseling sessions with some of the hares for the rest of the night, as a matter of fact, he hadn't had much to do all day. The old mouse was just happy to see a new face pop up.
No matter how uptight and careful Flitz was trying to be, the hares strange accent always made her crack a smile and giggle, it was contagious. Eventually she'd crack a sheepish sort of grin and give in. "Hahaha alright alright. Thank you!"
She took the hares up on their offer and had a bath. Water around these parts must be plentiful if they could squander it on luxuries like bathing, and it felt amazing. In fact, now that she thought of it, this was probably her first bath in a long time!
Once all the blood, dirt, and sea water was out of her fur, she looked and felt like a completely new person. She thanked the hares profusely and carefully hopped up and down the hallways looking for Cecil.
Quickly, the old mouse phased behind her, as if he were some kind of phantom that wandered. "Yes, my dear? Oh? You look great! They did a wonderful job, I hope you had a good experience with them." He said before walking ahead once more.
"Now come on, we cannot be late to dinner. The chefs have whipped up quite the spread. I hope you don't mind hare manners; they aren't the best." The aging mouse beckoned his guest to follow him to the mess hall. This was Salamandastron's great dining area that could hold the full regiment of it's fighting hares. The mountain had hundreds of creatures living within it's core. A big dining hall was only appropriate for the many mouths it had to feed.
She was clean, but the bath did nothing to wash away her nerves. Cecil gave her such a start that she almost lept straight out of her skin.
"Eep! Oh! Cecil!" She took a moment to gather herself and catch her breath. "What? Oh yes! Thank you." The comment seemed to affect her more than she was trying to let on, fiddling anxiously with hem of her new clothes. "Yeah the hares were super nice, they even let me borrow this shirt!"
Which was good, because earlier she looked absolutely terrible. Cecil could hardly bring her to dinner looking like that. "Dinner!" The change in attitude was almost instant, and it wasn't a wonder, she looked like she hadn't seen food in quite some time. "You're right we really shouldn't be late for dinner! Lead the way!"
"I'm glad they were so helpful to you! That's why they are our best nurses." He noticed the shirt and her excitement along with it. "I'm glad you like it, you can keep that shirt, it fits you." He said with a chuckle.
He quickly walked on with her behind him as she exploded with her statement for dinner. "Yes yes! That's the ticket, you'll fit in fine with the hares here. We'll be there before you know it!" With that said, his statement became true. They reached the dining hall in no time, seeing the place busy with leverets, elders, soldiers, and more. Many of the hares bowed with an elegant leg to the newcomer and gave old Cecil their salute of respect.
"Like I said, don't mind their table manners, not many of them have it." He said, chuckling to himself.