A Mouse's Tale

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Chapter 16

"Mouse!" the voice brought her back out of the darkness as her eyes flew open and she sharply sat up. Her heart was pounding wildly in her chest, her breaths short and fast as her eyes danced around the room before falling on the girl who sat beside her, illuminated by the soft light of a candle.

"Mouse, are you alright?" she asked, placing a gentle, concerned hand on her shoulder.

"I'm fine, Arya," Mouse replied, feeling herself relax, all of the built up tension flowing out of her body. It had been just a dream... well more like a memory turned into a nightmare. She shuddered as she recalled the day that the King and Queen had died. She sent a silent prayer of thanks to the Creator that Arya had not wanted to move into their room after being crowned the new Queen. By right, it was her room now, but Arya did not feel right about moving into it right away, not after what had happened before her eyes in there. Even after the Physicians had cleaned and sterilized the room to be sure that it was clear of any traces of the Plague that had taken her parents, Arya still did not want to move into the Great Chambers. She often stated that it was a room meant for the King and Queen, two people, not just one, and that she would not move into it until she was married, if she ever did get married. Mouse was perfectly content with staying in Arya's current chambers as she was afraid of what sort of presences could be lurking around still in that room. She had never returned back to that secret passageway that she had found, for the memory still upset her.

Mouse couldn't understand why her subconsciousness had sent her back to that memory, or why it had turned it into the nightmare that she had just experienced.

Maybe it was Marcus' anger that triggered it, she mused, reflecting on Marcus' reaction to their visit to his chambers earlier that day. I don't understand why he is so angry all the time. Why can't he just accept that his sister is the ruler and not him? They are family after all. Why doesn't he see that? Mouse sighed, shaking her head as if to shake away any remnants of the horrors of her nightmare.

"Mouse, don't tell me you're fine," Arya insisted. "You were screaming! Something has to be wrong."

"It was just a nightmare, Arya," Mouse sighed, smiling slightly at the thoughtfulness of Arya's concern. "No need to worry."

"You mean to say that your screaming woke me up for nothing?" Arya glared at her. "Then I even get out of my nice, warm bed to see what was wrong and you send me away with a 'Oh, it was just a nightmare, don't worry, go back to bed.' For all I knew, you could have been getting murdered. I could have just ignored you and gone back to sleep, but no, I'm a good friend like that and when I check up on you, you shrug it all off as if it's no big deal!"

"I never told you to go back to bed," Mouse pointed out. "But I'm thankful to have such a kind and caring friend that would come and wake me from my nightmares. I do appreciate that. It's just sometimes you don't want to talk about your nightmares, you don't want to go back to those dark places." She shuddered again.

"I'm sorry," Arya patted her shoulder gently. "If I could protect you from your nightmares I would." Her words rung through Mouse's ears. Protect you. Protect her. The words were eerily close to King Terian's in her nightmare.

Why did he keep saying that? she wondered. That's what I have already sworn to do, so why would he keep telling me to protect her?

"Thanks," she heard her voice responded with a smile. "And I would do likewise, if I could."

"Well, I don't know about you, but I'm going back to sleep," Arya said, standing up from the bed.

"I may go for a walk," Mouse shrugged. "Clear my head a little."

"Ok," Arya looked at her with concern. "But do try to get some sleep if you can."

"I will," she promised as she watched Arya disappear into the darkness of the night as the light of the candle disappeared behind the door. Taking a deep breath to clear her head, she slowly climbed out of bed, pulling the curtains open a little bit to let the moonlight into the room. Using that, she found some clothes and pulled them on, then went in search of a candle. She only found a small one and, with a shrug at its size, lit it.

She quietly slipped out into the dark hallway, using the light of her small candle to guide her as she slowly made her way down the hallway. She didn't really know where she was going, but she also didn't really care. She just wanted to walk, to clear her mind. Her dream had spooked her, so much so that she couldn't go back to sleep even if she had wanted to.

Maybe I can find something to read in the library, Mouse decided. Reading always calms me, helps me to relax. With her mind made up, Mouse quickly made her way to the Grand Library. She nodded to the patrolling guards as she passed them in the hallway, then quietly slipped through the large doors of the Grand Library. Though she had been there many times, the Grand Library never ceased to take her breath away.

The walls were lined with hundreds upon hundreds of books of all sizes - from the floor to the ceiling they were covered with books. You would have to use a very tall ladder to reach a book on the top shelf. There were also aisles of bookcases filled with books lined across the floor. Everywhere Mouse looked as her eyes danced around the room she could see books. She sighed happily as she made her way over to one of the bookcases and began to examine the books that it held. She finally pulled out a blue book labeled Romeo & Juliet.

"Shakespeare, eh?" his voice came out of nowhere. Mouse felt herself stiffen as his warm breath fell on the back of her neck. She did not reply, but instead turned and started to walk away, flipping open the book, trying to lose herself in its pages.

"Ah, Romeo & Juliet!" he exclaimed, as he lightly snatched the book from her hands and flipped through it. "The star-crossed lovers who could never be together. Such a tragedy, don't you agree?"

"Do you mind?" she growled, reaching for the book. He quickly took a couple of light steps backwards, dangling the book just out of her reach.

"You didn't answer my question," he grinned. "Isn't it such a tragedy when two people love each other but aren't able to be with each other?"

"Yes, it is a tragedy," she sighed, rolling her eyes. "Now will you please give me back my book?" She held her hand out, waiting for him to return her book to her.

"Why do you care so much about this tragedy when there's an even greater tragedy before you?" he questioned with a sly expression.

"And what tragedy would that be?" Mouse asked, playing along though she really didn't want to, knowing very well what he was leading up to.

"The one right here," he replied, motioning between them. "Two star-crossed lovers, unable to be together. Such a tragedy."

"It's not a tragedy because we are not star-crossed lovers!" Mouse snapped. "Heck, we aren't even lovers!"

"But we could be," he smiled, moving closer to her.

"Don't!" she snapped, pulling out one of her hidden blades. "You know what happened last time. And this time, I came prepared." She flashed the dagger at him. He eyed it warily as he slowly tried to take a step closer.

"No," Mouse warned, angling the point towards him.

"Fine," he held his hand up in surrender as he slowly backed off. "But someday, you will give in to your feelings, little mouse, and when you do, I'll be ready. I will claim my prize." His eyes flickered up and down her body, then back up to her eyes. His eyes softened as he stared at her. "Why won't you give me a chance?"

"Because I don't love you, Darien," Mouse replied, lowering her dagger. "I'm in love with someone else." As she heard the words slip from her lips, Darien wasn't the only one to be surprised.

I love him, she realized. I really do love him. She felt her heart skip a beat at this realization. She had never felt this way about anyone before and now that the words had fallen from her lips, she realized that it was true. She was in love with Vyron.

"As in you're in love with Vyron," the words spat from Darien's mouth. "What has he got that I don't?"

"My love," Mouse replied with a smirk. Anger flashed through Darien's eyes.

"We will see about that," Mouse barely caught his words as he turned on his heels and stormed out of the room, leaving Mouse to wonder at the meaning of the words that she was not meant to hear.

She stood in silence for a couple of minutes, trying to make her body relax and release the tension it had gained by Darien's nearness. When she finally felt comfortable again, she turned back to the bookcase, looking for a new book to read since Darien had taken her previous one with him when he left. She decided against picking another Shakespeare novel, and instead picked a fantasy novel called Alanna: The First Adventure - Song of the Lioness: Book One.

She then turned and walked over to a window seat, curling up with her new book. As she began to read the novel, she could feel her eyes slowly begin close as a heavy weariness washed over her. This time, as she slipped into her dream world, instead of running from decaying corpses, Mouse found herself fighting to become the first Lady Knight in a man's world.

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