I know most of you think that I've forgotten this fic, but that's not so, as witnessed by the update. Sorry it took so long.

Disclaimer: I don't own much.

Please review and enjoy! Please don't flame me. I actually got one the other day and it sob hurt my feelings.

Mouse's head shot up sharply.

She was in the outskirts of the Pelagir Forest gathering Wake-robin to sell at Market tomorrow when she'd heard it. There it was again. And again. Placing down her half-filled basket Mouse did what the villagers of Sweet-Springs would term Something Very Mouselike; she went looking for the source of the noise.

It was a kind of screaming wail, and it sounded so horrible that Mouse found herself involuntarily shivering. There it was again, to the left. Quietly Mouse moved around the buttresses of the giant trees that, in her opinion, made the Forest so beautiful. Rounding the last buttress she inhaled sharply at what she saw. A bird, a BIG bird, was caught in one of the village traps. It was an expensive trap, and it was noisy, so it had to belong to one of the Mayor's sons. Weather it was Oggra or Olaf it didn't matter; they were both as bad as each other.

Unlike the other village men, who made sure their traps could only trap what they were hunting, Ogre and Oaf as Mouse liked to think of them, built their traps with no regard to the welfare of other animals. Both birds and beasts were caught in their bear and deer traps. And they were cruel. So very cruel.

The bear traps involved a thorny vine, Pricklepear, which grew around the trunks of certain trees and was semi-intelligent (Mouse personally thought that it had once been a Heartsease that had gotten caught in a Change Circle and then multiplied). When the bear tried to pull free the Pricklepear would tighten its grip around the ensnared body part. The more the animal fought, the faster the vine tightened. Until in the end the bear, from loss of blood, fear, and exhaustion, gave up and died.

The deer traps won't as bloody, but they were no less cruel. After being lured into range by the bait, which was usually a peace of fruit or such, a net would drop down onto the animal. The net was covered in round Crab's Eye pods, dried so the seeds inside rattled and shook. The deer would thrash around, the pods would rustle, and the deer would panic. It was--- not nice to find them that way. Mouse had been beaten severely the last time she had, out of sympathy, killed one of the unfortunate, half-mad creatures. Mad or not, according to the village they were still meat. And meet killed without dressing soon spoiled.

The bird gave another halfhearted attempt at escape as the source of the noise emerged from the bushes on the other side of the clearing. Mouse almost ran there and then. It was a--- a--- a cat. Not like the ones in the village though. No, this one was long, and thin, and had scales. It looked like one of its parents had been a snake. Not for the first time in Mouse's life did she curse the ancient mages and their stupid games of power.

'It was all their fault! Damn stupid power mad mages! Damn, stupid, gods cursed Change Circles!'

The Snake-Cat began slowly stalking across the clearing towards the helplessly entangled bird. Which was now very, very still. Mouse looked down at her father's hunting knife. It was the only thing of his she had left. It was also dulled by five years use cutting herbs, wood, grass, and the like. With a sigh Mouse concluded it would be no help at all in a fight.

'Not that I could use it properly if it had been.' Mouse thought. 'But I can't just let it die.' she deliberated with a tinge of despair. 'I can't sit here and watch it get eaten.'

Mouse shrunk back behind the tree as the cat advanced a little further towards the ensnared bird.

'Think! Think! What do I have?' Mouse evaluated her possessions 'I have a blunt hunting knife, half a basket of Wake-robin--- And a Forest full of traps.' Mouse smiled a most unMouselike smile.

Quietly she slipped back to her basket and began crushing the roots and rhizomes of the Wake-robin with the butt of her knife and smearing their juices on her exposed skin. The villages may think her touched for some of the things she did, but Mouse was nowhere near as stupid as the Brothers, and if you believed what the Mayor said, they were the smartest in the village.

Like every other child she'd listened to the Bards' Tales of wyrsa and the like. If this creature was the feeline version of those horrid, dog-like, creatures Mouse wasn't taking any chances. She didn't particularly wish to be hunted for the rest of her life, and if smelling like spoiled meat was the price she must pay--- then so be it. That done Mouse quickly made her way back to the clearing. The Snat, as she had decided to call it, was in the same position as when she'd left. Its whip-like tail snapping from side to side. Taking a deep breath and sending up a prayer to The Trine, Mouse mentally plotted the way to the Brothers worst trap.

'Okay Mouse, you can do this. You can do this.' Mouse fixed the rout she must run firmly in her mind. 'Trine protect me.'

Picking up a convenient stone Mouse stepped into the clearing, took aim, and threw it as hard as she could. It hit the Snat in the side of the head with a muffled thud. With a piercing growl the creature swung round and focused on this new, freer, prey.

'I never knew cats could make that sound.' was Mouse's last thought before she did an about face and ran like Hel's Hounds were on her trail.

Because, in a way, they were.

So what do you think so far? I love Mouseā€¦ don't you? I only thought her up today (25 of April Which incidentally is ANZAC Day. At the going down of the sun/ and in the morning/ we will remember them. Lest We Forget.)

Come on people, click the little button that says 'Go' and watch as the box you need to write in appears off the side of your screen. And if anyone wants any further information on things that I mention in the chapters - herbs and the like contact me. By the by the above Hel is not the Christian Hell. I'm using the Norse Goddess Hel (daughter of Loki the Trickster God) as the female, and somewhat darker, aspect of the Shadow-lover.