Hello! 'Tis I, Rabbit! Coauthor of A Home Far Away. Although I am taking a step back from AHFA to pursue other projects, I thought I would revisit the world MJ and I so carefully crafted, and so I have written a little spin-off, starring two young explorers back in the days of peace at Gallade's Guild. Hope you like them, because there might be more to come!
"Okay, left or right?"
The Wimpod looked up at his companion, squinting as she smirked back at him while teetering back and forth with her paws folded behind her. Each one held a sheet of parchment with a request scrawled onto it. The two stood in front of the bulletin board in Gallade's Guild. The guild hall was bustling with activity as various teams began preparing for their days. No one paid much attention to the two novice explorers as they discussed their next mission. Mudge wasn't entirely pleased with the idea of letting his partner choose, and now he was even less pleased about tacking on a fifty-fifty chance.
"Does it really matter? Just pick one," he groaned.
The Purrloin simply furrowed her eyebrows. "Left or right," she repeated huffily as she tapped her foot. She added, "It does matter. One of them is super easy and the other is, like, crazy hard. So pick one."
Mudge somehow doubted that either of them were easy, given that Ridge tended to gravitate towards the high-reward quests. He wondered what the quest givers would think if they found out they were being turned into a game. Rolling his eyes, he relented. "Left."
Ridge pulled her left paw out from behind her back, holding out a piece of paper for Mudge to read. "Reclaim a stolen broach from a gang of thieves in... Seasnow City?" he groaned. That place was a two-day trip through the snowy hills of the north, and that was if they got transport to the hills. Curse their stupid legs. "Did you factor in the travel costs when you looked at that reward?"
Ridge turned the paper around, looking down at the five hundred Poké reward. "No… Well, it's still a lot of money, even so. Besides, you love traveling!"
"But to Seasnow? It's the middle of winter! Walking through the snow nips my scuttlers!"
"It'll be fiiiiine." Ridge brushed him off, rolling the paper up and stuffing it in her bag as she turned back towards the bulletin board to replace the other one.
Mudge considered asking what the other request she had put back was, but he knew it was futile. He could tell Ridge was already set on going to the North, so now it was all he could do to simply follow her.
There was a caravan that would take them to the border of the hills, but from there they would have to walk. As it was the middle of winter, they would be lucky not to encounter any blizzards on the way. Two days of snow, Mudge thought to himself. While he did enjoy seeing new places and exploring new territories, he wasn't at all a fan of the snow. His short body meant his stomach was always brushing against the snow, and there was a thin line between stepping lightly over the white blanket that covered the ground and finding himself sunken into the snow.
Despite the unpleasant future awaiting him, he kept a light, cheery mood as he followed Ridge onto the wagon that would carry them towards their destination. Ridge was wearing a brown satchel with the Guild emblem on the front, in which she had packed some food, berries, an Escape Orb and a Blowback Orb (the latter Ridge had picked up in a mystery dungeon last week) and two reviver seeds, although they didn't expect to need them. On her left ear was a gold ring, attached to which was a Pidgeot tail feather, the red plumage standing out against her purple fur.
"That's a pretty nice feather you got," Armaldo, the caravan owner, commented as he came through to check each wagon.
"Thanks." Ridge puffed out her chest. "It's a trophy from my very first victory."
"Against a Pidgeot?" Armaldo's eyes widened, impressed.
Mudge knew the feather was from no such fight, but he didn't say anything.
"Yup. We're explorers from Gallade's Guild. And we're going to be the top explorers pretty soon," Ridge boasted.
"Oh, yeah?" Armaldo smiled, amused at the small cat. "Well, good luck. We're all good here, so we should start headin' out in a couple minutes." And with that, he slapped the wall of the wagon and hopped down onto the ground.
They were in a storage wagon, as the caravan had no passenger wagons to speak of. Ridge sat on the floor, her back up against a couple sacks of apples, while Mudge stood atop a wooden crate marked "THIS SIDE UP." There was one other passenger, a Deerling sitting near the inner corner with his hooves tucked under his chest, his coat a dark brown to reflect the winter months.
It didn't take long for Ridge to become bored, and she declared as much very loudly. "When are we going to get there?" she whined.
"In about five hours," Mudge replied, not looking up from his journal where he had been writing about the beginning of their trip.
"And how long has it been so far?" Ridge asked.
"UUUGGH." Ridge rolled onto her stomach, rubbing her forehead against the wooden floor. Then she begrudgingly stood up and looked around for something to occupy her attention. She then locked eyes with the third passenger, who looked away quickly, silently begging her not to bother him. She walked over and began bothering him.
"So, where are you headed?" she asked.
The Deerling looked at her, considering whether she was worth the conversation. Then, he answered, "Seasnow City."
"No way, us too!" Ridge gasped excitedly. "We could be travel buddies!"
"No thanks," Deerling replied, turning on his side to face his back to her, the universal "I no longer want to talk" signal.
Ridge continued talking. "Why not? It'll be good to stick together if there's a storm or something. Plus, you're a Grass-type. You're weak to snow just like Mudge is."
Mudge raised a tiny leg to correct her, but he was cut off.
"'Mudge'?" Deerling echoed, turning his head to eye the Wimpod on the crate.
"Mudjeck," Mudge said, eyeing him right back. "Mudge for short."
"And I'm Ridgerry, but everyone calls me Ridge!"
"And you actually want to be called that?" Deerling sneered.
"Well, what are you called?" Ridge asked defensively.
Deerling didn't respond, simply turning his head back away from her.
Ridge turned up her nose. "Yeah, that's right. You don't even have a name. So don't even come at us," she huffed, walking back over to her partner and plopping down onto the floor in front of the crate, her arms crossed.
The rest of the trip was spent in relative silence. Ridge and Mudge played word games for a little bit before Ridge decided her time was better spent napping, and Mudge turned his attention to a novel he had picked up at a bookstore before leaving. The book was small, designed for small Pokemon to be able to hold it more easily, and on the cover was a picture of a herd of Bouffalant, with the words Lonesome Pidove stylized across the top.
After a while, Deerling looked over curiously, and despite his better judgement, he asked, "What are you reading?"
Mudge's eyes lifted from the pages to the Grass-type, judging his intentions. Then, he said curtly, "Lonesome Pidove."
Deerling wasn't bookish, and found the name to be unfamiliar. He might have asked what it was about, but he decided he didn't particularly care, and would rather do without the useless smalltalk. So instead he simply nodded as if the title meant anything to him, and went back to doing nothing.
That proved to be the only semblance of conversation between the two, all the way until they felt the wheels of the caravan wagon slow to a stop. Outside the wagon, Mudge could see the ground spotted white with snow. "Ridge, we're here," he said, hopping from the crate down onto his partner's sleeping figure.
"Hngh?" Ridge squirmed and tried to bat him away. "What? Can't it wait?"
"No." Mudge prodded her face with a short, tiny leg. "C'mon."
Soon after, Armaldo came up and stood by the entrance to the wagon. "This is as far north as we're goin'. Y'all'll have to hoof it from here."
"Thanks," Mudge said as he climbed off of the cat and hopped down onto the ground. Ridge jumped down after him, and noticed immediately how much colder it was here. There was snow on the ground, half melted from the sun, but as she looked north, she could see it beginning to build up. Deerling hopped off the wagon, a bag strapped to his back like a saddle bag. He didn't so much as look at the two explorers as he began walking off in the direction of Seasnow City.
"What's with that guy?" Ridge asked, furrowing her brow. "It's like we spit in his salad or something."
Mudge shrugged, although it looked more like a headtilt and went mostly unnoticed. "We should start walking, too. The sooner we get there, the better."
The bug began leading the way, and Ridge readjusted the satchel on her shoulder and followed.
"I'm tired," Ridge groaned as she trudged along. The snow was shin-deep, and each step plunged her paws into the cold. She had used the attachable second strap on her satchel to convert it to a backpack and walked on all fours. Mudge still led the way, as Ridge taking the lead would surely get them horribly lost. And had several times before. The sun was just reaching the edge of the sky, threatening to disappear and allow the cold bite of the winter night to take hold. Mudge looked around; he had been keeping an eye out for a place to stop for the past half hour now. This time of year, it was virtually guaranteed to snow overnight.
The terrain around them was seemingly lifeless, fields of snow glittering in the evening light atop rolling white hills. It could easily be mistaken for a desert of white sand dunes, if not for the clouds of breath hanging in the air, and the red flush marks left on Ridge's nose and paws.
"Just a bit further," Mudge puffed.
"But it's coooooold," she whined.
Mudge rolled his eyes. "And it'll keep being cold unless we walk further."
Silence settled in again as they continued walking. It didn't take much longer for them to see their salvation. At the base of a pine tree, a dark hollow within its roots sat open towards them. Mudge perked a little and started to veer towards it.
"What're the chances that thing's empty?" he asked.
"Good enough for me," Ridge answered, catching a second wind as she started scampering for the burrow.
"Wait, Ridge, we should—"
But Ridge already had her head inside, darting her eyes around. "Hellooo? Anyone home?" she called, and Mudge grumbled and ran as fast as his little legs could carry him.
Thankfully, there were no Sevipers or Zangoose nesting inside, but Ridge caught the very faint scent of a Thievul from within the makeshift den. She pulled her head out and turned to her partner. "It's empty," she reported. "There's a smell, but it's faint. Whoever lived here moved on."
After a short pause, Mudge nodded approval. "Then let's take it."
Ridge laid curled up around Mudge in the darkness of the burrow, her tan and purple fur protecting her partner from the cold air that wafted in from the opening. Without the sun fighting against the winter chill, the temperature outside was downright dangerous, and the complete silence in the vast snow fields stood testament to the fact that every Pokemon, wild or civilized, knew it. Settled in comfortably, Ridge let out a warm sigh before commenting quietly to her partner, "That Deerling must be ahead of us, but I didn't see his tracks at all."
"He probably took a different route," Mudge replied drowsily. "He's bigger than us, so he was probably able to cover more ground."
"Do you think we'll meet him again at Seasnow?"
"Probably," Mudge answered. "That's usually how these things work."
"What things?" Ridge asked, but Mudge was already asleep. With an amused huff, Ridge rested her head on her paws and let the gentle rhythm of Mudge's soft snoring lull her to sleep.
The next morning, Mudge was up and roasting berries over a small fire outside the burrow while Ridge remained inside. The scent of the cooking berries had woken her ten minutes ago, but she seemed determined to go back to sleep.
"How long are you going to stay in there?" Mudge chastised. "Breakfast is ready, and it'll get cold fast."
Ridge groaned, contemplating pretending not to have heard, then grudgingly, she heaved herself up, stretched loudly, and made a big show of climbing drearily from the burrow. "It's cold out here," she complained as her paws touched the snow.
"It'll warm up a bit later," Mudge promised, nodding to a stick with roasted berries speared through it. "Come eat."
"My pawsies hurt," Ridge whined as she walked over and sat down on a rock next to her partner, picking up the stick of berries.
"You're the one who wanted to take this mission," Mudge pointed out.
"I didn't think we'd be walking the whole way there!" Ridge defended.
"It can't be helped. Transport services don't want to mess with the North during blizzard season. It's too risky."
"Stupid transport services," Ridge pouted, biting into the berry and letting its warm juices fill her mouth.
"If we go at the same pace as yesterday, we should arrive at Seasnow by dusk," Mudge guessed.
And arrive they did, nearly two hours after the sunset after a grueling, draining day where Mudge had gone selectively deaf. Ridge dragged her paws through the snow, ready to collapse at any moment. She had been 'ready to collapse at any moment' for the past hour, trying to convince her partner through body language to take a break, but Mudge had known her long enough to know she could still walk a while longer if she had to. She was a skilled actress, however, managing to evoke pity from the innkeeper and get a room on the ground floor of the two-story inn.
The two slept deeply in the soft, warm beds of the inn, waking not once throughout the night and half the morning. When Ridge finally awoke the next day, she saw Mudge's bed empty. Curious and a bit confused, Ridge got up and made her way out to the lobby, where she found her partner talking with a Snorunt.
"What's going on?" Ridge asked as she joined the two.
Mudge looked up at her. He did not look one bit amused. "Sleep well?" he asked.
"Like a rock," Ridge replied, then turned to Snorunt. "Who's this?"
"Our client," Mudge answered. "Didn't you read the request?"
"The important bits."
If that shook the Snorunt's confidence, it didn't show. Or maybe it was just physically impossible for them to look any more anxious than nature made them. "He-ello, you m-must be Ridgdgdgdgerry," he shivered. "It's nice to, uh, it's n-nice to meet-t you."
"You, too. You can just call me Ridge," Ridge replied. "So you're the one with the stolen broach?"
"Yes. It was— it b-belonged to m-m-my mother. It was stolen by a band of Zigz-z-z-zagoon— f-five of them or so, I th-think. They've been stealing lots of stuff— j-jewelry, food, v-v-valuables— f-from the city this past week-k-k."
Ridge glanced over to Mudge. How is he stammering more than we are? she asked with her eyes alone, but Mudge just looked back to their client.
"Th-they've made a hideout-t in the snow dunes n-not far from here, just north" Snorunt went on. "O-only problem is— and-d-d I told this to your partner just now— only problem is, I acci-cci-ccidentally sent out multip-ple requests, and someone else... w-well, this is s-s-sort of embarrassing, but someone else already responded."
"What?!" Ridge leaned forward and shot her arms up above her head. "No way! So you already got it back?!"
"W-well, no, not yet. He j-just arrived y-yesterday, only a few hours bef-f-fore you did, and—"
"Wait, 'he'?" Mudge interrupted. "Who was it?"
"A Deerling. He was on his own— which I th-thought was st-trange since exploration teams usually come in three— and he said he'd get it back for me."
"The Deerling from the caravan, no doubt," Mudge commented.
"So he was an Explorer…?" Ridge turned back to their client. "W-well, if we get it back first, you'll still pay us, right?" Ridge asked.
"Of— I-I mean, of course, b-but shouldn't Explorers—"
"Then it's a race!"
As the two left the inn to begin the search, Snorunt leading them to the northern exit of the city, Ridge took a look around. She hadn't paid much attention last night, but now she found it could hardly even be called a city. The buildings were only one or two stories high, and there were no streets or walkways to speak of, only paths carved out into the dense snow by the countless footprints that marked their frequent usage. Sure, there was a decent number of Pokemon walking about, but it seemed more like a town rather than a city. Ridge expressed this to Snorunt, who looked at her.
"Oh, I g-guess you've nev-ver been here bef-f-fore, huh? Since you're from d-down south and all? The trek up here was mostly uphill, right?" he asked. Ridge nodded, and Snorunt went on. "In s-summer, it's a much diff-ferent journey. Almost entirely even ground. You see, the b-buildings here are actually five stories high- some even seven stories. B-but in the winter, we get s-so much snow, well, it b-buries them. Some of the buildings are even completely subm-merged, and can only be accessed through tunnels connected to the taller buildings. In order to ad-dapt to such heavy snowfall, well, we built doors on the top floors of the buildings."
"For real? So, I could just dig down through five stories of snow?" Ridge asked in surprise.
"If you wanted, yes," Snorunt replied. "That's how S-S-Seasnow City got its name, because of the rise and fall of the snow like giant t-tidal waves."
"That's crazy," Ridge exclaimed, sweeping her gaze around to take in everything again. What else had she missed?
"I couldn't imagine living somewhere like this," Mudge agreed.
Once the trio reached the edge of the city, Snorunt stopped. "Th-this is as f-f-far as I can take you. I l-leav-ve the rest t-to you."
"No problem," Ridge replied confidently. "We'll get your broach back for sure, so just wait for us at the inn!"
It wasn't entirely difficult for the two to find the Zigzagoons' hideout. While Ridge wasn't particularly skilled at tracking scents, the light footprints of a Deerling left in the snow were enough of a supplement for them to find the large opening in the ground, like a giant bowl carved into the snow, with a great pine tree in the very center. Along the walls were several holes leading into what Mudge could only imagine were tunnels through the snow. That was likely the reason why only Deerling's tracks were left on the surface.
Inside the clearing, by the base of the tree, Ridge and Mudge could see the Grass-type standing in front of a white and black Zigzagoon with star patterns over their eyes. Ridge had never seen such a Zigzagoon before, and whispered to her partner, "What is that?"
"A variant of Zigzagoon," Mudge replied, equally quiet. "They're not from around here, usually. Dark-types."
"... Do you think they got some in the circus?"
"Wouldn't be surprised."
Ridge turned her attention back to the two by the tree as Deerling pulled a small sack from his bag and held it out. The Zigzagoon took it in its claws and opened it. Ridge could just make out the glint of gold reflecting the sunlight. Then, the Zigzagoon turned and barked something, and from one of the tunnels scampered another, a black and brown Zigzagoon with something held carefully in its teeth. The white Zigzagoon took what looked like an emerald jewel from his companion, then handed it to Deerling. "That's the broach!" Mudge hissed.
"He's buying it?" Ridge asked incredulously. "We need to stop them!"
But before she could move to jump down into the clearing, Mudge stopped her. "Wait! We don't know how many are down there. We can't just jump in without a plan."
Despite wanting to protest, Ridge knew her partner was right, and so with great reluctance, the two drew back and waited at a safe distance for the Grass-type to emerge. Deerling trotted casually across the snow, his saddle bag now a great deal lighter, confident in a successful deal. He then noticed the two Explorers several yards in front of him. "Hey, Rudy!" Ridge called as Deerling walked slightly warily towards them.
Deerling seemed to falter for a moment, confused, then continued his approach. "'Rudy'?" he asked quizzically.
"Well, you made fun of our names, despite not even having one of your own, right?" Ridge shrugged, as if that were a sensible reason for calling him that.
"I'm fine without a name, thanks," Deerling replied snidely.
Mudge glowered as he scuttled in beside his partner. "So, Rudy—"
"I said not to call—"
"Is that what you call Explorer work?" Mudge asked. "That's right, we know you're an Explorer. And I bet you knew we were Explorers, too, out on the same mission."
Deerling paused. "I did," he admitted.
"Why didn't you just tell us and we could have worked something out?" Ridge asked.
"There's nothing to work out," Deerling snuffed her as he continued walking past them towards the city. "I reclaimed the broach, and I will get the reward."
"But how much did you pay to get it back?" Mudge asked. "Probably about the same as the reward money, if not more, right?"
Deerling turned his head to look over his shoulder at them. "It's not about the money. It's about the reputation. After finishing this mission so swiftly and seamlessly, my reputation will increase, and I'll be one step closer to becoming the most famous explorer on the continent."
"By cutting corners?" Mudge gave him a disgusted look.
"By finding the quickest and easiest solution. If you want to move up the chain fast, you should take notes."
"Well, what if we just steal the broach from you?" Ridge said, brandishing her claws at him.
At this, Deerling turned around fully, lowering his head as if he were about to charge at them. "I'd like to see you try," he Growled. Ridge felt her resolve crack, but she couldn't back down now. Their paycheck depended on it.
With a loud battle cry, Ridge charged forward and swiped at the Grass-type with her claws. Deerling deftly jumped back out of the way, twisting his body around in the air, then landed on his front legs and shot his hind legs out in a Double-Kick, landing once on Ridge's chest, and again in the center of her torso. The Purrloin fell backwards, coughing as the wind was knocked out of her. She sunk halfway into the snow, wrapping her arms protectively over her chest.
"Ridge!" Mudge ran forward and shot an Aqua Jet at Deerling, hitting him in the side and knocking him off balance as the Grass-type had reared up to attack his partner again. Deerling turned and shot an angry glare at the Wimpod, but he didn't seem to have taken any actual damage from the attack. So rather than counterattack against the Bug-type, Deerling simply scoffed and turned back towards the city, his head held high as if he had just won.
Mudge stopped beside Ridge and looked at her worriedly. "Are you alright?"
"Rudy, that bastard," she coughed as she sat up in the snow. "He knows Fighting-type moves really hurt…" She stood up. "What should we do now? He seems like he's stronger than us, but if we gang up on him, maybe we can-"
"No, forget him," Mudge shook his head. "If we steal the broach from him, he'd probably tell Snorunt what happened and we'd look like the bad guys."
"What should we do, then?" Ridge asked.
Mudge thought for a moment, then said slowly, "Snorunt said the Zigzagoon have been stealing things for days, right…?"
It didn't take long for the two to find an opening to one of the tunnels leading to the Zigzagoons' hideout. It took even less time for Mudge to crawl through it, following it down into the clearing. Thankfully, none of the Zigzagoon bandits were in that particular tunnel, although he was sure they spent their time holed away in some of the other ones. Once he emerged into the clearing, he saw the hole where the Zigzagoon had retrieved the broach. From this angle, he could now see that it wasn't a tunnel, but a shallow burrow filled with stolen items. He made it not three steps towards the stash before the white Zigzagoon, sitting at the base of the tree, noticed him.
"Hey! Who the hell're you?!"
With lightning speed, Mudge darted towards the stolen items, grabbing the first thing he could reach— a silver necklace— then turned tail and sprinted for the tunnel he had come in through.
The Zigzagoon jumped to his feet and chased after, leaping into the hole in the snow and crawling with some difficulty through the straight and narrow passageway. Clearly, the clearing hadn't been built by the Zigzagoon, as his irregular movement pattern slowed him down in his pursuit of the intruder.
Mudge burst out of the other end of the tunnel long before the Zigzagoon was able to catch up, and there, sitting at the mouth of the hole, was a glass orb. He swatted it with his tail, flinging it down into the tunnel. Before Zigzagoon could even stop, the orb tumbled down and made contact with his face, and all at once it erupted in an explosion of wind, like a powerful gale had been trapped inside of it. The impact jostled the snow, and before Zigzagoon could tell what had happened, he found the tunnel caving in around him. Unable to turn around or continue forward, he let out a scream that was quickly muffled by the thick and heavy snow.
As soon as the Blowback Orb went off, all the other Zigzagoon emerged hurriedly from their tunnels to see what was going on. So distracted they were by their leader buried in the snow that they didn't notice the Purrloin stuffing jewelry and items into her satchel. Quickly and quietly, she emptied out the stash and snuck out one of the tunnels, just barely fitting through the narrow passageway with the bulging bag on her back.
Once she emerged on the other side, about fifty feet away from the clearing, she made a break for the city, sprinting all the way until she reached the first few buildings and not stopping until she made it back to the inn, where Mudge had agreed to rendezvous.
Panting, the cat skidding to a stop, kicking up snow. There, Mudge stood with Snorunt, awaiting her arrival. "Oh, um, that Deerling Ex-xplorer already returned the broach to me a while ago, so—"
"Don't worry about Rudy," Mudge interrupted. "We've got something better."
After catching her breath, Ridge dumped the contents of her bag onto the snow. The glittering of the gems and golden trinkets caught the eye of the passersby walking past.
"Is that…?" Snorunt didn't know what to say, and stared wide-eyed.
"Hey! My necklace!" A Dewgong paused as she saw a familiar pendant amongst the pile. "You got it back!"
"Is that my ring?"
"My father's pocket watch!"
In a matter of minutes it seemed like half the city was buzzing as items were returned to their rightful owners. Although they hadn't put in formal requests with a guild, many of the locals gladly repaid the two for their kindness, and by the time they had returned the last item, the two explorers had been given nearly four times the original reward.
"I guess we can chalk this up to another victory for Team Wimpurr!" Ridge boasted as she looked proudly down at the Poké which now filled her satchel. They'd have to stop at a bank before they left; the weight of all the money made Ridge feel as if she might fall through the snow.
"You've done an amaz-zing thing here today, t-truly amazing," Snorunt told them admirably. "I never would have imagined, n-not in a m-million that someone could pull something like this off. I-I mean, f-for a m-m-measly request such as mine…"
"There's no such thing as an unimportant request," Mudge replied. "We explorers are here to help!"
"Team… Wimpurr, y-you said your name was?" Snorunt asked.
"That's right!" Ridge said proudly. "I came up with it!"
Snorunt didn't comment on the weak connotation it gave off, but instead smiled at the spirited young Explorer, "We're all very grateful to you, Team Wimpurr. From e-everyone, thank you!"
Ridge rolled over on the bed at the Seasnow inn, looking over in the darkness at her partner who was writing by the light of the candle beside him. "Writing about our mission?" She asked.
"Yeah," Mudge replied, then glanced mischievously at her. "I'm writing about how Rudy kicked your ass."
"Hey! Don't write that!" Ridge shot up, lifting her upper body onto her elbows. "Write that I let him keep it because we had a better plan."
"'And then Ridgerry, lying helpless in the snow, looked up as Rudy reared back to attack again-'"
"Don't write that!" Ridge practically fell out of the bed trying to grab the journal from her partner, but he jumped on top of the book and scuttled out of her reach.
Just then, a knock came at the door, followed by a mildly irritated voice, "Try to keep it down in there." They upset the landlord. The two froze and looked at each other. Then, Ridge burst into laughter, and Mudge couldn't help but join her, although he quickly stopped and shushed her.
Ridge slapped a paw over her mouth as Mudge called back, "We're sorry! We'll go to sleep now!"