Prompt: The rat died…
The rat died. His companions didn’t know if they could call it murder. No one had forced them to scale the tower of Hickory Dickory. It was a private residence, and they’d received no invitation. Of course, Lord Dickory himself had turned everything around into private residence. He owned the farmland around the edge of their forest. He owned the creek, according to his own decrees and his muscle-bound toad enforcers. He owned the tower in which he lived: a grandfather clock from the days of the giant hairless men.
The rat died on the hour, squeezed between two brass pieces of the machine as they tried to ascend and face the lord, force him to give back the reed-written deeds of the other rodents. The rat’s blood dripped all the way back down, staining the pendulum red, telling the poor harvest mice and moles below that their three heroes were now just two.
Long had the people of Forest’s Edge told tales of the three blind mice, but they were greatly exaggerated. Only one of them was a mouse: Shend of the gray and white fur. Her comrades in hired heroism were Gollick the rat and Bartruce the husky vole. All three of them had been blind, which was why Gollick had missed a step, lodged his foot in the gears, and been pulled to his death by the grinding of Hickory Dickory Tower.
The spinning confused them greatly, made it hard for them to judge distances by sound alone. All three of the blind mice had lost their sight in a fire that destroyed their home, a fire that burned through the wicker laundry basket where all the orphaned children slept in a warm huddle. It was the work of a different villain: a giant red centipede always declaring that the world should be ablaze and that he could only sleep in a bed of ash.
Gollick, Bartruce, and Shend didn’t have the pleasure of seeing the centipede ripped to pieces for what he’d done. His flames had licked their eyes, turned them brown and gray, so the trio had to settle for the feeling of his blood as it dripped between their knuckles and the sound his segments made as they split. Klichp! They didn’t bury him, and they certainly didn’t burn him and grant him his ashes.
Lost in the clock, the two blind mice knew only that they needed to go up. Lord Dickory lived in the clock’s face, occasionally popping out of a little door in it to make proclamations to all his desperate bullied subjects. The mad shrew wanted more than just the tower. He wanted to enslave them all, slowly, with currency rather than chains, and force them to reclaim more relics of the hairless giants. He wanted a sea of monuments he could scurry between, machinery to protect him from the claws of birds and the torches of the common rodents below.
Shend and Bartruce held each other, spinning around on a flat gear, waiting for their minds to adjust to the rhythms of the machine. Soon they were able to separate the ticks from the tocks. They focused, as they often did for an hour each night around their campfire, and mostly discarded the sounds of the tower from their minds. They made it their new silence, an act that could’ve saved poor Gollick.
In that new silence they heard feet scratching on a floor above them. Lord Dickory paced, awaiting reports from his guards that the invaders had been killed. They didn’t need confirmation of his fear, as they could hear it in the tapping and scratching of his nails, but he gave it to them anyway as he yelled somewhere above them.
“It’s because I only have one!” the villain shouted at whatever guard was by his side. “Only one tower. I should have three by now! Five! Seventeen! They would never know which I was hiding in if that was the case!”
The two blind mice finally moved, using another gear as a ladder. Slowly they skulked up to the floor, to the place right under the lord’s feet. They heard his tail dragging. Shend squeezed out of the way so Bartruce could put his face against the wood. He was the best chewer, and the quietest. He dragged his teeth across, peeling off a chunk of wood that fell into the workings of the clock below. Each time Lord Dickory took a step the vole bit down once more, to hide the noise.
Shend slowly drew her weapon, revealing a piece of her blade every time a curl of wood fell. Her dagger was re-forged from a giant’s box cutter, and made short work of both thin wood and flesh, especially the flesh of villains. She could bleed them to death before they heard the first drop hit the floor.
Bartruce was more primal in his battles. He used only his teeth, but he was just as much an expert with them as she with her long dagger. The moment approached. The floor above them was so thin, one bite away; the light of Dickory’s lamps shone through it. The shadow of his foot passed over…
Kursh! Bartruce smashed his way upward, snagging the lord’s entire foot in his mouth. The shrew wailed and scrambled backward, pulling the attacking vole up into the room with him. The lord wore a comfortable robe of owl fledgling feathers: colorful and without dignity. A bubbling tub of hot water made from split thimbles, a bath to relax the lord, was off to one side. Bartruce heaved with all his cheek and neck muscles, tossing the shrew into it and creating a giant splash.
He had but one guard with him, as the rest kept the base of the clock protected from the commoners; the tolling of the clock only dispelled them for a few moments each hour… The guard was a stocky rat with a stumpy tail. He was already armed with two fish-hook clawed gauntlets. He charged at Bartruce, right over the hole. Shend leapt out of it and grabbed his knees. She forced him down and kicked him until he fell through to be shredded by the cogs. They would never even smell his blood, as the smell of Gollick’s would always be stronger.
Shend approached Bartruce just as he flopped into the tub and held Lord Dickory under the water with his forehead. She waited a few moments, savoring the sounds of the splashing, so like the splitting of the centipede, before tapping her companion on the haunch.
“He has to live long enough to tell us where the reed-deeds are,” she reminded. Bartruce’s head turned towards her. Lord Dickory’s pale paw shot out of the water and pulled a lever on the wall: a little something he’d had installed for situations like this. The tower chimed prematurely, the sound filling up the heads of the blind mice and drowning everything else out. When the shaking and tolling finally stopped, they heard Lord Dickory scurrying out the window. They gave chase, as there was nowhere to go but up.
The climb was difficult, as a storm had rolled in. Rain poured, threatening to dislodge them and send them falling to the ground and guards below. The panicked Dickory scrambled all the way up to the tiny brass spire atop the tower. He hugged it like it was his mother and he was somehow the only child of her litter. The two blind mice stopped. They heard the rumbling in the sky above. They backed up, to the edges of the clock’s roof.
“Are you afraid?” Lord Dickory shouted at them. “Of course you are, you blind fools. You don’t even know how high we are! How high I’ve climbed! I’ll have more towers I tell you! Every hour will chime my name! Every whisper will…”
The rumbling quieted and the lightning struck. The soaked shrew at the peak was roasted in an instant. He tumbled, smoking, off the side of his palace. Down below, the crowd tore him apart piece by piece, sending his burned smell back up to the blind mice. They clung to the edges of the tower, greatly wounded by the power of the lightning. They were not dead, not yet.
They put their paws to the gutter and listened. Even through the pouring rain they could feel the pulse of their companion on the other side. They could feel the dripping of Gollick’s blood in the machine below.
The three blind mice were now two and scarred, but they knew the longer their description grew, the greater they would be as warriors and heroes. There were no more titles for Lord Dickory or his blasted tower.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by billdakat during a livestream. I hereby transfer all story rights to them, with the caveat that it remain posted on this blog. If you would like your own story, stop by twitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!