Happy New Year, everyone!
And now, the thrilling conclusion to yesterday’s tale. Here’s a link to the first portion, in case you missed it:
Squeaker, for all of his absentmindedness, had been quite precise. And it was after a satisfying meal of moths and mosquitoes, that Mortimer found himself stationed on an abandoned bit of castle wall, suspiciously devoid of guards, in the precise place the would-be kidnappers were to emerge with the poor princess.
Somewhere in a distant tower, he heard a clock chime midnight. Perhaps Squeaker had been wrong, he thought – or hoped, at least. Perhaps there was no kidnapping. Perhaps all was well. Perhaps, at that very moment, the princess was sleeping soundly in her own bed.
Perhaps, Mortimer thought, he was being foolish for even waiting, for thinking that he could do something. All on the word of a mouse.
Perhaps Squeaker was playing a trick on him?
Squeaker wouldn’t. And he could sense the sincerity in his little mouse voice when he’d asked for help. If there was a prank being pulled, Squeaker wasn’t in on it.
Mortimer felt restless. Experimentally, he flapped his wings a few times, allowing himself to rise a few inches off of the stone surface.
Maybe this was a waste of time. He hoped it was a waste of time.
When he finally heard noises below, it surprised him. The low grinding of stone-on-stone made him jump and squeak in a most undignified way, but the men below didn’t seem to notice.
It appeared that Squeaker had, in fact, been correct. Mortimer glared sightless at the ground below him and let out a loud, purposeful cry. Momentarily, it came back to him, confirming his suspicions.
Two men. One holding a lantern. The other leading the blindfolded and gagged Princess.
Another squeak confirmed what he wanted to know – her hands were bound but her feet were free. It seemed the villains had not wanted to carry her for such a distance.
‘Lazy, as well as wicked, then,’ Mortimer remarked to himself.
The situation, admittedly, was not great.
He would, for example, have felt better if he had a sword. Not, mind you, that he could lift a sword. Or that he knew what to do with one. But having one would have made him feel better regardless. Because, reader, when you a rather small bat up against two large and unknown men, it is easy to feel powerless.
But Mortimer knew he was not quite powerless. And he had promised to help. So he would do what he could.
Mortimer took stock of the situation, took a deep breath and swooped.
Bats are not, as a general rule, particularly dangerous creatures, reader. But they can be when they want to be. Mortimer’s first move was to let out a loud, screeching cry. He smiled a tiny, batty smile as he saw the two men pause in their steps.
“It’s just a bat,” he heard the front man say to the other.
Oh. If only it were just a bat.
With a second swoop, Mortimer targeted the lantern-holder’s face, small claws out and ready to scratch. He did not, as he had wished, manage to scratch the target’s eyes, but, reader, a bat scratching you in the face is sufficiently distracting and within a second, Mortimer heard what he wanted to hear – the lantern dropping and dowsing in the grass as the man used both hands to grab at his face.
Easy prey without a light, he thought.
Yet another swoop. This time he came dangerously close to the target, claws raking across the second man’s face – he could feel blood seeping in the wake of his claws. A satisfied smile lit his batty face as he heard the man cry out, clutching at his face, struggling to get blood out of his eyes.
“Run, Princess!” he squeaked, as loudly as he could. “Run as fast as you can!”
Of course, humans don’t understand bat language, but somehow, in spite of this, the Princess seemed to have gotten the message.
She ran, using her bound hands to pull down the clumsily-tied blindfold and yank the gag from her mouth. Screaming her head off in a most un-princess-like manner, she ran for the nearest guard post, as her less-than-stellar kidnappers continued to wipe the blood from their eyes.
Mortimer perched on the castle wall, watching. It was only when the Princess returned with a group of guards, blades-and-torches drawn, that he allowed himself to relax.
Adventure and excitement are all very well, reader, but only when they end well. And, luckily, this one did.
Mortimer left the scene, confident that all was well.
He snatched a few more particularly tasty moths and returned to his perch, high up in the highest castle tower, well before sunrise. He hung upside down, comfortably wrapped in the warmth of his own wings, as was his wont.
And he was more than halfway asleep, snuggled safe and warm, when a squeaky little mousey voice came from the beam above him.
“Thank you,” it said simply.
“You’re welcome,” he replied, sleepily. “Now go away.”