Featuring appearances from thirty of the Haanta series' most beloved characters, Tales from Frewyn Volume Two pays tribute to the animals that inhabit the world of the Two Continents. From Mr Cluck, the rooster that refuses to crow, to Tuatha, the stubborn Westren longhorn, the series boasts a multitude of strange and wonderful creatures, including traveling mice, mischievous mares, vicious rats, and eloquent gulls. Join everyone in Khantara Ghaasta, the Diras Castle keep, and the far reaches of Westren and Haantaledhran in honouring their feathered companions and furred friends with this collection of their most daring and delightful episodes.
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Read-Along: The Rat, Pt. 3To the barracks they went, leaving Martje to fumble about in the wreck of pots and pans hunting for her new nemesis.
"Not another mouse is it?" said Sheamas, setting his consignment down.
"Worse," said Shayne.
Sheamas looked dreadful. "Gods be praised, it's never a rat, is it?"
"So I heard."
Sheamas removed his hat and held it to his heart. "May the Gods preserve us," he said solemnly. "Martje will tear the place apart lookin' for it, even if it's not in the kitchen anymore. Once, when Ma was just teachin' her how to cook, she found a rat scratching about in the pantry. It was a small one, but it scared her somethin' terrible. Lochan had been keepin' it as a pet for the winter and was lettin' it wander around the house. He kept it clean and it was harmless, but the moment Martje saw it, that was the end of all peace. She hollered and hallooed, and chased it round till she flattened it with her pan."
"Aye. She cleaned it up and buried it outside, but when Lochan heard about it, he cried for a week." Sheamas replaced his cap and scratched his neck. "On the farms, we all got mice, but they mostly stay in the barn or keep to themselves. Nothin' to be done for it in the country. Here in the city, though, a rat in a home means somethin' else. Worse on you, Shayne, if you ever got a mouse or a rat in your cottage."
"If I do somewheres, I hope she never finds 'em," said Shayne, with a horrified aspect. "She near broke the furnace when it wasn't heatin' proper. I can't think of what she's gonna do to the range if she sees a mouse a-scurryin' across it." Shayne mused momentarily, taking his pipe from the front of his overalls and chewing on the end. "But she grew up on the farm," he said, confused. "Mice are everywhere in the fields, a-runnin' across your feet and all."
"You're assumin' she ever left the house," Sheamas chuckled.
Shayne made a grave thrum and folded his arms, biting the end of his pipe.
Sheamas secured the lid on the consignment and prayed to the Gods, asking that the rat, wherever it was, have the good sense to leave the keep before Martje find it. His heart went out to the creature, for having seen how the business was handled when there was a mouse in their mother's home, he sincerely wished that no creature be put through such torment for doing what nature had designed. It was only cold and hungry and probably lost, but Shayne was asking Sheamas to come into the armoury and say hello to Tomas, and the rat must be left to its fate.
Word of the rat's presence soon spread throughout the keep, and from everyone's reaction, the small creature might as well have been a vulture, come to roost on the battlement and lay siege to the castle: the nobles locked themselves in their apartments with their card tables and tea, the servants lifted the hems of their skirts and hid in the servants' hall, and though everyone was in some manner or other aware of the creature skulking and slenching about, no one was more sensible of its presence than the king.
The moment the commander broke the news to him, the king replied with a slightly discomposed "Oh..." stood from his seat in the library, where he was looking over the matters at court for the day, and began inching toward the door. He looked under tables, around corners, behind chairs, even beneath his parchments. "Well," said Alasdair, after a moment's pause, "I'm certainly glad I didn't eat anything this morning."
"It probably wandered in from the square," said Boudicca. "It is collection day. It probably came from one of the waste carts."
Alasdair was instantly horrified. "That means it's going to bring all its filth and disease here." He shuddered in quiet anguish and sidled the commander, looking charily about his feet.
"Diras Castle is the cleanest home on the Two Continents, Alasdair," she laughed. "One rat shall not ruin your reputation as the shining master of Frewyn's premiere house."
"No, but the rat might find its way into my closet and gnaw on my jerkins and gnash through my bow strings."
"Poor you, Alasdair. And this is what discomposes Frewyn's king, not a declaration of war, not a rebellion, not even the sight of Rosse's unconscionably tight galligaskins, but a rat."
"As horrifying as Rosse's clothing choices are," said Alasdair, searching under the nearby tables, "they are not contagious."
"I daresay they are. Atrocious fashion is far more catching in the courts than disease can ever be."
"Rats can carry rabies."
"And nobles carry fatuousness, which is the worst of the two, I assure you. Bilar can treat illness, Alasdair, but no cleric's remedy can cure ignorance."
Alasdair sighed. "Perhaps you're right. Perhaps I'm overacting--" but just then, a skree was heard in the hallway, the shrieks of young girls echoed throughout the keep, and Alasdair nearly leapt on the commander. "I'm calling the trapper," he said, in a panic.
"I think you need not trouble yourself when you have many proficient hunters in the keep, Alasdair. Gaumhin or Brigdan might help you."
"They are in the yard training with the Royal Guard. I'm not going to trouble them for this."
"But their king is in distress, and it is their duty to protect him."
Alasdair gave her a flat look. "I might ask the whole armed forces to search for the rat for that reason."
"And why not? It should be an excellent exercise for them. The Royal Guard are so busy marching about the borders of the keep, they might be in want of a little amusement. And what of Ennan? It might be good practice for him to be shooting at such a quickly moving target."
"If the rat should bite him, I would never forgive myself."
"You might ask Soledhan to charm it out of the keep."
"I want none of the children near it."
"Martje would never allow that cat in her kitchen again after all the milk it spoiled."
"My mate can be asked."
"So he can skin it and gut it and wear it as a trophy?"
The commander shrugged. "It will be dead, at least."
"I want no one I love going near it--not even Rautu. I know Martje is determined to kill it herself, but I cannot allow it knowing what infections this thing might be host to."
"Alasdair," said Boudicca laughingly, shaking her head, "you are far too scrupulous."
"I think you mean endearing in this instance."
"That as well. And what of your queen, Alasdair? Her workplace is not far from the kitchen. The rat might be lurking about her tailor this very moment."
About the Author: Michelle Franklin is a small woman of moderate consequence who writes many, many books about giants, romance, and chocolate.
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