This fanfic is a work in progress. I apologize for all the gaps in the timeline and all the unanswered questions. I hope to someday remedy most of that.

Thanks for checking out my fanfic, and happy reading!

The sky was clear, the sun high, and the breeze warm. Pretty flowers were blooming, and the trees had begun to put out cheery green leaves. The first insects of the year were flitting through the prairie grasses. The land of Tuscani, far beyond the Eastern edges of Mossflower, was basking in the glory of an early Spring morning. But DoraRose could enjoy none of it.

The young mousemaid sat on a bench on the East side of her family's house, scowling darkly. Arms crossed, brows furrowed, she ignored the laces of her calf-high sandals tapping her shins as she bounced her heels on the ground in agitation. She picked at the fabric of the long sleeve of her green tunic, crossing her legs and glaring at the hole in the knee of her brown leggings.

"What's a'matter, Rose?"

The young maiden looked up, her scowl as grumpy as ever. "You know what's wrong, Emyuil!" Her younger brother was standing before her, dressed similarly to her. She knew the rumors that their fathers were different; and it was true, they didn't look much alike. Emyuil's fur was a dark gray and his eyes were the colour of obsidian, which contrasted against her wood-brown fur and sky-blue eyes. But DoraRose knew they were full siblings. She had met one of their father's brothers once before, when she had only just begun training with weapons. Emyuil looked just like that uncle, and, according to family history, like their great-grandfather, David Mightyone, first wielder of the black battleaxe Nightsong.

Her brother's forehead crinkled with concern. "Why would Momma 'avin' a baby make you mad?"

DoraRose's scowl deepened. "We all got kicked out o' the house at dawn, and all I had for breakfast was bread and cheese and jelly, an' all o' my books and journals an' everything is up in my room where I can't get to it! I've got nothing to do, an' I want oatmeal!"

"'M sorry, Rose...d'y'wanna play swords wif me?"

DoraRose glared at him, and Emyuil ducked his head, looking at the ground and murmuring an apology. The maiden sighed, knowing her mother would tell her that since she was the older one, she had the responsibility to resolve the argument. "No, Emyuil, I should be sorry. It's just...I wish we weren't having another baby. Babies are gross."

"I wasn't gross." The younger mouse said earnestly.

"Yeah, you were," Rose argued, her temper getting the better of her, as it always did. "You cried all the time, an' you threw up on everything, and oh my word, there were SO MANY messy diapers!" Emyuil looked as if he had just gotten stung, tears starting to well up in his eyes.

"You were just as bad, Rose."

A pair of older mice, clothed in the same fashion as the younger mice, had just joined them. DoraRose glared at them as they set their gardening tools against the wall. Her older brothers had been working in the family garden, apparently. The maiden scowled. "No, I wasn't! I didn't throw up everywhere like Emmy did!"

The next oldest brother rested his paws on Emyuil's shoulders as the youngest mouse sniffled a little. Emyuil was the only mouse in the family who didn't have brown fur, but this brother shared the obsidian eyes. "Why are you bein' so harsh, Rose? I prefer your flowers to your thorns," he chided gently.

DoraRose kicked the dirt murderously. The eldest of the 4 sighed, his hazel eyes sad. "Rose, I've lived through 4 o' you younger siblings, an' I can assure you that all y'all cried and had more messy diapers than seemed possible. Emmy had it the worst o' all of us 'cause o' his colic and indigestion. None o' the rest of us had that problem. And seein' as how he's the only younger sibling you've ever had, you shouldn't be shamin' him out of a place o' ignorance, y'hear?"

The maiden glanced at her baby brother, who was still sniffling a little, then stared at the dirt between her feet. "Aye, I hear you," she said softly, shame seeping into her heart.

The next oldest of them sighed. "John, now you've prob'ly gone an' scared 'em into thinkin' this baby's gonna die like our older sister did."

John sighed again, rubbing his eyes. "Oh, Marker...I'm sorry, y'all. Is that what y'all are worried about now?" Emyuil and DoraRose nodded. John sat down on the bench by his sister and wrapped an arm around her, using his other arm to bring Emyuil close. Marker stood in front of them, paws in his pockets, scuffing the dirt with his foot.

"Nobeast could ever figure out how or why she died; she just did," John murmured, half to himself.

DoraRose felt ashamed for wishing this new baby wasn't being born. That's about the same as wishing the baby was dead. The maiden looked up into John's hazel eyes. "This new baby's not gonna die, right?"

Her eldest brother was quiet for a long time, his face troubled. "I don't know," he finally answered.

DoraRose felt tears well up in her eyes, and Emyuil started sniffling again. John glanced at Marker, who had placed his paw on the youngest mouse's shoulder. Marker shrugged. The eldest mouse glared at him, then sighed yet again. "Hey, now. Don't give up hope. Don't ever give up hope. We can hope, an' aye, we can pray that this little baby will live a long, full, happy life. But even if its life is cut short, we need to keep on living to honour it. Okay?"

Rose and Emyuil nodded, and the maiden peeked up into her eldest brother's face. "I also hope it's a female so I can finally have somebeast to play dolls with." Emyuil wrinkled his nose in disgust, which set John off laughing. Hugging his youngest siblings close and tight, he continued to laugh. Marker joined in, and soon DoraRose and Emyuil did, too, even as they tried to wriggle out of their big brother's embrace.

"Well, I'm glad my little mouselings are in a good mood." They turned and saw a tall, muscular male mouse in the doorway, the tired smile on his scarred face crinkling up the corners of his hazel eyes.

Emyuil escaped John's grasp and pounced on the huge mouse. "Papa!" The youngest mouse giggled as their father swung him up into the air and twirled him around.

DoraRose stood up, pensive. "Papa, did the baby get born yet?"

Their father stopped twirling around, and Emyuil collapsed on their parent's broad shoulder, gasping between giggles. Smiling, their father ruffled his daughter's ears. "Oh, aye, she has. A strong, pretty little lady. She was born about half an hour ago."

John smirked and poked in DoraRose, causing her to shy away and giggle. "Another little female, huh?"

Marker grinned at Emyuil. "Hey, maybe the 3 of you can play dollies together."

Their father chuckled as his youngest son protested. Rose grabbed her father's free paw and boounced up and down on the balls of her feet. "Can we meet her right now, Papa? Huh? Huh? Can we? Can we?" John stood and stretched, looking eager to meet the new baby.

Smiling, their father set Emyuil down and gently held his and Rose's paws in his huge ones. "Oh, I suppose," he told them. "But you must make sure to be quiet and gentle so she doesn't wake up. And then I'm going to need Rose and Marker to help me in the forge. Can't let a baby keep the fires from being kept."

"Sure, Papa, no problem. Then John an' I are going to start plowing the fields," Marker informed his father as the 5 of them headed inside.

They crossed through the kitchen on their way to the parent's bedroom. The squirrel Healer smiled, looking up from his tea and scones. "Ah, goin' t'take the young uns to see their sister, Farrer?"

The large mouse nodded. "Aye, thought it'd be good to introduce them when she's a asleep an' not cryin'."

The mole midwife nodded. "'Tis woise o' ye t'do it naow, Sir Furrur," she informed him as she took a bite of scone and sipped her tea.

The Healer waved them on. "Lady Lydia is resting, but I think she would protest if we didn't let all of you in. I trust you know the procedure."

Farrer chuckled. "Oh, aye. After 6 babies, I feel pretty certain as how to proceed. Come, my mouselings," he continued to lead his children on through the sitting room and down the hall. "Remember, quiet and gentle, but if she does wake up, don't feel bad. Babies are sometimes very fussy."

DoraRose glanced at her baby brother as the entered their parent's bedroom, but then got distracted, as she always did when she came in here. Nightsong, the black battleaxe of her family, was on the pegs where it rested when her father was sleeping. Her mother's mandolin was on its own pegs, just waiting to be played. The wardrobes, chests, and dressers were family heirlooms, carved with beautiful knotwork and mythical scenes of heroes and constellations.

Lydia was lying in the huge canopy bed, propped up with pillows. The canopy and curtains were fine linen, embroidered with flowers. It was one of the fanciest things in the whole house. The bed itself had more knotwork and scenes from myths carved into the deep brown wood. DoraRose felt, as she always did, that she could stay in here and study the pictures all day.

Their mother was holding a bundle wrapped in a blue blanket. She smiled warmly at them as they entered the room, her sky-blue eyes crinkling up at the corners. "Hello, my darlings," she said as Farrer let go of Rose and Emyuil's paws and walked over to Lydia's side, kissing the top of her head with great tenderness.

John and Marker walked forward, bending over the bundle and gently murmuring. As their mother answered, DoraRose started forward, then stopped and turned to her baby brother. He looked unsure...maybe even afraid.

Farrer's brow furrowed. "What's wrong, Emmy? Don't you wish to meet your baby sister?"

Emyuil gulped, but before he could answer, DoraRose took hold of his paw. "Hey, I'm sorry for hurting you," she said, smiling. She was determined to make up for what she had said earlier. "And I'm sorry if what I said made you feel scared or anything. Babies aren't bad. I was just in a bad mood."

Emyuil nodded and hugged her. Rose smiled. "Wanna see the baby with me? Together?" Again he nodded, and held her paw tightly. The maiden stood a little taller, amazed at how good it felt to have her brother trust her like this. Taking a deep breath, she led them to their mother's bedside.

Lydia smiled and tilted the bundle so they could see. "Isn't she beautiful?" she whispered.

When she saw the baby's face, DoraRose felt her breath catch in her chest, and she heard Emyuil take a tiny gasp. The baby was tiny, and her fur was brown and fuzzy. She had miniature ears and a little pink nose that twitched as she slept. Her eyes were closed, but gently, not squeezed tightly. DoraRose felt as if she had never seen something so perfect and wonderful in her whole entire life. It was as if this tiny baby had stolen part of her heart, and Rose was pretty sure she was okay with that.

Farrer and Lydia exchanged smiles. "We're going to wait a few days to officially name her," Farrer informed his children. "But we're thinking of naming her LilyMoore," added Lydia. "What do you 4 think?"

DoraRose didn't wait for her siblings to answer. She didn't care what they thought. "It's perfect," she breathed.

Just like the baby.

The end of this only the beginning...