A laughing voice rings out from the shadows of the clearing, sending the fiery autumn leaves spinning in the wind.
“So this is who The Council has sent to attempt to defeat me? What a joke!” The guffaws continue, though it is accented by footfalls, closing in, drawing ever closer. “The great hero, armed with nothing but a hooded cloak and a blade the size of a needle! This must be a jest.”
The hero, for her part, remains silent, holding his blade in front of her. The only acknowledgement that she’s even heard her opponent is a baring of teeth, more snarl than smile. There’s little more than a flowing of shadows along the clearing floor, and for the first time, the hooded mouse shows the first sign of impatience: she spins her blade and looks up, the hood falling backward, revealing a small head with silky pink ears and keen, bright eyes, the shiny red fur more reminiscent of a fox than a mouse.
“Why won’t you come over here and find out?” She speaks for the first time, eyes narrowed, sword thrust outward, almost as if to say, ‘Come and try to best me, I dare you’. Armor made of a combination of dark, tightly knitted thread and reinforced tree bark with hardened sap over it. The girl mouse isn’t sure how much protection it will provide, cobbled together as it was at the last minute, but she has been chosen, and she will not turn back, not until there is no other option.
She will fight for her people, her country, and the Council, even if it takes everything that she has to do so.
Finally, after what seems like an age, the other speaker emerges from the flora and fauna, still chortling merrily. “The Council has surely lost its wits. Not that it had much to begin with.” The mouse tenses, resisting the urge to grind her teeth in frustration. She’d had enough of this posturing, and she was most anxious to get started. Even if the very thought of facing this beast terrified her more than anything she’d ever faced.
“Can we get on with this, please? The Council told me a lot of things about you, but not that you were so vocal,” The mouse quips in return, leaning on her blade, trying to ignore the sensation of her heart racing inside of her chest, fluttering frantically at her throat.
The being laughed, at last stepping into the dying sunlight. The mouse grits her teeth to hold in a shocked gasp, and when it spreads its wings, it blocks the light, throwing the clearing into darkness. The beast grins, showing off a mouthful of long, pointed teeth that reminded her of needles. Its huge nostrils flare as it chuckles to itself again, blowing out a gust so powerful that the mouse is nearly knocked off of her feet.
A bat. Of all things, The Council had asked her to face off against a giant bat.
Why, exactly, had she agreed to this insanity again?
The thing that strikes her first about her opponent was the jeweled studs in its ears, the colors of blood and the night sky, naked of the jewelry the sky had lent it.
“Are you frightened, you little, tiny thing?” The bat asks, tilting its great head to the side, bringing its face right up next to hers. She barely manages to hold in her flinch. “What hope does a little insect such as yourself have against me? This is my territory, after all. Something I’m assuming The Council conveniently forgot to mention.”
“You’re lying!” She snarls back, puffing her chest and standing to her full height, which, granted, isn’t much. “The Council wouldn’t lie to me like that!”
“I wouldn’t be so sure, little mouse.” The bat sounds far from bored now; quite the opposite, and its eyes, glimmering in the black space like wet rubies, flash with something that the mouse can’t identify, and doesn’t like. “You’d be surprised what knowledge is held back from those who use a person’s duty and honor to serve their own ends.”
“What, pray tell, would you know about that, you great flapping beast? Look at you! You’re a wreck.”
Much to her opponent’s surprise, the bat laughed, a husky, rasping sound.
“Oh, my little spitfire, I know more about that than you think. I’ll answer your questions, if you’re willing to listen. What a little terror you are.”
The mouse frowned, all the fight leaving her body as quickly as it had come. So far, the bat had made no move to hurt her.
What would it hurt, then, hearing it out?