Another day of kingly duties. Conker groaned and wiped the sweat off his brow. The weather in Windy was all over the place, and during summer it could either melt your tail right off or rain for days on end.
He missed Berri, and he missed his old home. One of these days, he should just sneak out and sleep in his own bed again. What would his pals think? What would his mom think? They probably saw his mug in the newspapers. Must've been all over the isle already. He resented it.
He noticed someone sitting nearby. It was Rodent, his general and self-appointed advisor, page, and whatever second-in-command role he could devise for himself. Conker rubbed his tired face as he felt a pressing need to use the toilet. He didn't even want to say hi.
As he walked past the marble hallways, he heard a dull "thunk!" against one of the many windows. He was going to check it out, but before he could, that little nerd Rodent already scurried up to it.
"Sire!" he said, in his weird nasally voice. "That- that was a bird! I gotta help 'im!"
Before Conker could say anything, Rodent had opened a small part of the window and had stuck his head out. When he got back in, he was holding a tiny bird.
Conker cocked an eyebrow. What's the use of going through all that trouble for such an insignificant creature when he's supposed to be working?
Rodent, on the other hand, seemed doting over the tiny bird. He held its wings carefully against the animal, making sure it wouldn't accidentally hurt itself. Its beady eyes stared at Conker, which made him cringe a little.
"This is a pigeon," said Rodent. "A collared dove, to be precise, yes."
The bird lightly pecked at the squirrel's hands, but it didn't hurt. Rodent spoke comforting words to it, and it seemed to relax.
Conker's tail twitched impatiently and he crossed his arms. "Why do you know so much about them's flying rats anyway?"
With a small gasp, Rodent clutched the pigeon to his chest. The blood on its feathers stained his perfect proper sweater vest, but he didn't seem to care one bit. "Pigeons," Rodent muttered, "Were one of the few ways of exchanging mail during the Milk Wars. The enemy would train hawks to hunt them, so's the messages never arrived where they were supposed to."
"Huh." Conker wasn't expecting a yarn like that. It piqued his curiousity. "You sure know a lot about this kinda stuff."
"Well, that is to say," said Rodent, "I'm more a book smart kinda guy. I've read a ton on it, on the old war. I even got a tank for my sweet 16! My mom thought it'd be a fun thing, considering I was like a walking encyclopedia on wartime aesthetics. And then I kinda got into tanks."
A tank? Conker bit his lip. His mom gave him a cake when he turned 16. It was a tasty cake, but compared to a tank... his dad got him money, and Berri- no. Don't think about her.
Rodent kept rambling. "And, well, since pigeons played such a role, I decided to study them too. Did you know pigeons navigate through the planet's magnetism? They're really, really clever little birds, only rivaled by crows."
While looking at his general stroke the feathers of the bird lovingly, Conker felt a twinge of emotional guilt somehow. Rodent had everything his little nerdy heart could wish for... yet found the life of this pigeon so very important. While it was just that. A pigeon. What in this pigeon compelled this spoiled, rich kid to treat it like it was the last of its kind?
"Oh! Your highness," said Rodent, a glint in his spectacled eyes. "Could I use some of your first-aid kit? This little guy really needs some time to recover."
"Uh? Sure, do what ya want. My castle is your castle."
Conker definitely got a change of heart now. And as the younger squirrel trotted off while muttering to the pigeon, he got lost in thought. Maybe Rodent wasn't so bad. A spoiled kid who grew up a little wacky, but good-natured nonetheless.
He had a good heart.
Conker chuckled wryly. "Good ol' Rodent. Bless his soul."