A Dappled Hollow

Two fields split the valley wide, each spit divided by a barren brook. One dark and loamy of soil, to the east, filled over with thick tangles of shrubbery, moss and lichen. The other region to the west, of light sand, sparsely covered by xanthous grass, which swayed rhythmically in the mountain-bound winds. Endemic to both tracts were two parties of mice, the remnants of an ancient tribe that long since passed from the misty vale to the mysterious regions that lay beyond, regions whose dimensions and contents were but scarcely whispered by the crayfish and mantids that, on rare occasion, made ingress to the flume on hunt or vision quest, vanishing swiftly as they’d come and leaving nothing but their tales behind.

A particularly inquisitive member of the mice of the flaxen field known as Short Tail for a old injury sustained from the maw of a lizard, had, one day, occasion to contemplate aloud, “Have you ever noticed, our coats are as our clime?”

“Fie,” The Matron of their brood exclaimed.

“Why fie?” He licked his fur some and then held his left limb to the ground, flat and even; it was much the same color as the soil.

“An errant lie,” one of the young mice enjoined hotly.

Short Tail rose in perplexity. “This I have been told, but look.”

“Some things cannot be found by looking.”

“If one never looked, one would never know. Have your wits evaporated with the morning dew?”

“All are of the field. And what is of the field is of like substance to it,” the other mice replied in unison.

“Liars you be,” declared a dusky mouse from the far and loamy field that had been listening to the conversation from the harbourage of the barren brook. “Have your eyes dried up along with your wits?” Behind the speaker a number of his brethren massed, defensive of posture and wary of eye.

“It is you that cannot see,” The Matron replied with rising agitation.

“I see sharply as cuts the Cloud King’s talons. Why do you attempt to deceive us when the truth is so plain?”

“They mean to lull and plunder us!” one of the dusky mouse’s brethren cried.

“That must be it! First, our trust, then our seeds!” Another tittered.

“What madness!” The Matron shot back, bristling at the accusation.

Short Tail rose up, “We gain nothing by this row. If its scrapping we chose, its scrap we shall be.” But his words were heeded not, and swiftly, argument gave way to blows at the border of the the eastern and western tracts. Tufts of fur, pale and umber alike fell there upon variegated soil and shrill cries filled the air. Short Tail tried once more to plead for peace but recieved only a bite upon his side for his troubles. Dispirited, he fled the field, following a long, unbroken patch of green-yellow grass into the center of the lowlands were his burrow lay. There he nursed his wounds and fell to a deep and dreamless slumber.

A day passed without sign of Short Tail’s brood, or their newfound rivals. The mouse began to wonder, then worry, and, as the bright orb rose to its apex in the cloud-thin sky, made way to the border between the two great tracts. When he returned to the scene of the upheaval, he found only smatterings of blood and the feathers of a hawk.

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