"But I LOVE him!" Petula Arabella Cygneblanc screamed for the sixth time that hour.
Abbot Cedric, exhausted from staying up all night arguing, sighed and shook his head. The squirrelmaid novice's fluffy albino-white fur was slicked down with tears and her voice was hoarse, and still she wouldn't budge.
"Why did you let him in in the first place if you didn't trust him?" she asked accusingly.
"Petula, the Order is honour-bound to offer assistance to anybeast in need," the Abbot said patiently. "But this-"
"I don't care what you think, you stupid old mouse!" Petula shrieked, stomping her footpaw like a Dibbun in a tantrum. "I love him and he loves me, and we're going to run away and get married and there's nothing you can do to stop us!" With that, she turned on her heel and fled out of the Great Hall, sobbing.
The subject of the argument was lounging under a blossoming tree beside the pond outside. He glanced up when he heard Petula approaching, and then fell backwards with a gasp as she ran to him and hugged him hard enough to knock his breath out.
"EYESHINE!" she wailed, squeezing him tighter. "Th-th-they say I can't s-see you anymore! Th-they said it's n-not right! It-it's not fair! I HATE THEM ALL!"
The silver-furred ferret sighed and awkwardly returned the hug.
Eyeshine had arrived at the Abbey during a huge storm early that winter, crawling up to the door with a broken leg and hammering on the door with a dagger handle. It was only through sheer luck he'd been heard. The Order had brought him in, as he was hurt and appeared to be alone, though they'd remained careful around him. The ferret had, to be fair, never given them cause not to trust him, always being polite and helpful, but he eventually seemed to get tired of the Abbeydweller's barely-concealed nervousness around him, and attempted to socialise less and less.
Petula had spotted him in the Great Hall on the first day his leg had healed up enough to come downstairs. He had been sitting in a corner, tapping his crutch on the flagstones and picking at his food. Her eye had immediately been caught by his gleaming silvery coat, golden-brown eyes, and sleek muscles. Seeing he was alone, she had sat down next to him and tried to engage him in conversation. They had exchanged names, but then he had shuffled slightly away and pretended to be interested in his salad.
"Your fur is beautiful," Petula had said, stroking his tail gently.
"Oh? Oh, yes, it's a quirk of birth. It may look pretty, but trust me, it's not much use," Eyeshine said. "When I'm out in the forest you can see me from a mile away. If I'm hunt- er, scouting, I have to roll in dust to cover it up."
"Oh, that's such a shame!" Petula cooed, playing with the tip of his tail.
Eyeshine scrambled upright, leaning heavily on his crutch. "Um, I have to be going."
"See you later, then," said Petula happily, inhaling the oddly intriguing musk he left behind in the air.
Over the season, Petula had slowly become more infatuated with the ferret, despite his apparent efforts to avoid her. The other novices had whispered and laughed behind her back, and the elders had also whispered and tutted in disapproval, the main difference being they waited until she wasn't in earshot. Every time she got close to him, Eyeshine made his excuses and fled. She wondered why. Was she not pretty? Well, maybe she was a little on the plump side now – she'd only moved into the Abbey recently, and when first confronted with Abbey food it was impossible not to gorge – but not that much, surely.
Then, one day, she'd been climbing a tree in the orchard and had fallen. Eyeshine had rushed to catch her – or possibly he'd been walking under the tree and she'd landed on his head, as all the other Abbeydwellers claimed, but the result was the same. Petula had lain limply in his paws, gasping for breath after the shock of her fall, and her pink eyes had locked with his golden ones. She had clung to him as if she'd die when he let her go. Neither of them had said anything. She hadn't felt they'd needed to. After a short time he'd put her down, mumbled an excuse, and slunk away, but she finally knew it; he must feel the same way. He was just too shy.
She'd cornered him by the pond one evening, when he was taking one of his lonely walks. His leg was healing well and he no longer had the crutch. Anyone watching them would probably have guessed he wished he did, so he could have something with which to fend her off. Petula didn't notice.
"I love you!" she declared.
This did not go across as she had hoped. "Oh. Uh. Good?"
Ignoring his apparent fright, Petula clasped the ferret's paw in both her own. "From the moment I saw you, I knew we were meant to be together!"
"Really? Um ..."
"Ah, the stories of our love will outlast our lives and echo through the ages," Petula sighed. "Maidens in the future will die of envy when they hear of my love for you!"
Eyeshine gasped as she grabbed him in a bearhug and squeezed the air from his lungs. "Ow! … Look … Petula, was it? I … I don't think this could work."
"What? Why not?"
"Well, I'm … y'know … a ferret." His paw rested on her shoulder. "I'm vermin. We're from two different worlds. It can't work out. I'll only end up hurting you."
"Oh, you silly thing," Petula giggled. "What do we care what other creatures say, as long as we're together? And maybe we can adopt some babies-"
Eyeshine struggled out of her grip and ran for his life.
"I'll wait!" she called plaintively.
That had been some weeks ago. Petula was confident that Eyeshine was coming around. He no longer backed away when she entered the room, and she'd noticed him giving her interested glances when he thought she wasn't looking. She gave him her headscarf as a token of her love, and he accepted it graciously. Once at dinnertime she'd seen him watching her eat, and been horribly embarrassed at the amount she'd been eating until he smiled and told her he'd always loved to see young maidens enjoying their food, and they'd happily shared a cake. Since then the Abbey food had seemed to taste even better, and she'd put on a little more weight, but Eyeshine seemed to like it so she didn't care. He started walking her up to her room in the evenings, and didn't push her away when she hugged him. Once or twice he'd hugged her back.
One night, she'd woken in the small hours to see a shadowy figure in her room. She'd swallowed a scream for help just in time upon seeing the moonlight gleam on silver fur. She'd pretended to be asleep, and he'd quietly left before dawn.
The scandal had grown. Nobeast even tried to hide their whispering anymore. It had reached its peak at the turn of the season, when several beasts had reported possessions missing; food, some small trinkets like the pawmade bead necklaces favoured by the young maidens, spare bedding and clothes, and, more worryingly, knives from the kitchen. Eyeshine had been the immediate suspect. Petula had been on his side throughout the whole incident. Unfortunately, she further alienated her friends by her smugness when a search of his rooms turned up nothing. Eventually, Abbot Cedric had taken her aside to talk to her, and all the pressure from the past season had caused her temper to blow. The fight had lasted for hours, and eventually she'd run out sobbing and vowing to run away from the Abbey for good.
Eyeshine calmly let the squirrel cry herself out, not objecting even when her nose ran down his back. Finally she stopped weeping and looked him in the eye.
"I can't live here anymore! Come away with me!" she wailed. "We can make a new home somewhere else, somewhere where nobeast will care!"
"I don't know," the ferret said sadly. "Maybe your friends are right. Ferrets and squirrels just aren't meant to cross paths. My kind is supposed to hate yours. I told you before, it was fun while it lasted but it really can't lead to anything good."
Petula's lip started trembling again. "B-b-but I love you! I was always told that true love can conquer all! There has to be somewhere else we can go. Nowhere could be worse than here! I'll just die if I can't have you!"
Eyeshine smiled and pulled her into a more comfortable position on his lap. "Well, I guess I can't argue with that."
Their whiskers brushed gently, and he moved in closer. Petula breathed in, trembling with anticipation …
Suddenly the paw on her shoulder moved, his claws dug firmly into the soft spot on her neck, and the world faded into painful darkness.
Petula woke with a start to find herself tied to a tree, out of sight of the Abbey. Eyeshine was standing not far away, facing away from her, rummaging in a sack. He turned around when he heard her groan.
"Oh, you're awake. I was wondering if you would wake up, I thought for a minute I'd misjudged the pressure. No, don't struggle. I have some friends I'd like you to meet." He grinned and whistled a brief tune. Next thing Petula knew, four vermin came crashing out of the underbrush, dropping more sacks at his feet, bouncing around him like happy puppies, thumping him on the back and being punched amicably in return. She spotted a fox, a stoat, a smaller male ferret, and a female ferret whose participation in the romp was hindered somewhat by the fact that she was very obviously pregnant. Eyeshine threw a paw around the shoulders of the latter beast and smiled sadly at Petula.
"I don't believe you've met Raz. My much-loved wife."
"His wife," said the ferret jill – Raz – with a sadistic grin. "Woulda just bin 'is mate, but 'e wanted it done proper." She hung off Eyeshine's shoulder and ran her claws through his fur possessively.
"B-b-but-but you said you loved me-"
"No, I did not," Eyeshine explained, speaking slowly and carefully as if to a badly-behaved Dibbun. "You assumed I did. You see, while you may think the world revolves around your own kind, most vermin do not actually find squirrels particularly attractive. I mean, no fangs? How boring. And the smell's completely wrong. I did warn you, you know. All chasing after vermin will bring you is suffering. I just meant it a little more literally than you took it."
He dropped the sack and the contents spilled out. Mostly food; preserved fruit, fresh bread, oatcakes, nuts, and a kitchen knife. Presumably the other sacks contained more of the same.
"I know your friends found me innocent of stealing their things, but do you really think I'm stupid enough to leave them in my room?" he said reasonably. "Once my leg healed up enough to walk I sneaked out to find the gang and tell them I was safe, and we've been coming in through the little wallgate whenever we thought we could get away with it. Mostly just for useful things like extra food – we got some nice blankets too. No point in stealing anything too valuable, we can't eat them and we're a bit far from anybeast to trade them with."
"Though we did pick up a few trinkets," said Raz, stroking the glass beads at her throat. "I recall 'e told me 'e took this from yore room while yer was sleepin'. That's me darlin', could steal yer eyes if yer weren't watchin'!"
Petula recognised the scarf the big tough-looking fox had tied around his bicep as the one she'd given to Eyeshine. She felt briefly indignant. He told me he slept with that under his pillow!
"Hehehehe, yeah, an' yore a nice bonus," said the stoat, a scrawny creature with spiky tufts of headfur poking out from under a scarf, twitching as he giggled.
The third ferret – a smaller male who looked so much like Raz that they must have been littermates – grabbed Petula's shoulder and squeezed. His horrible-smelling breath insinuated itself into her nose and mouth, and she gagged.
"S-so now I suppose you'll go running back to your evil horde and come to conquer the Abbey?" Petula squeaked. The vermin cackled.
"We don't have a horde. There's only the five of us, and we're not interested in your Abbey." Eyeshine shook his head. "We'll be leaving tomorrow, now you're missing they'll keep watch so we can't even sneak in anymore. And before you try screaming for help, we're already far enough away from the Abbey that nobeast will hear you."
The stoat joined the ferret in poking and prodding, sniggering as he did. One paw eased under her skirt and squeezed her thigh.
"Eheheehehee. She fresh, Riggs?"
"Smells it." Fangs sank into the rim of Petula's ear, and she yelped. "Ooh, lively too. Reckon we'll fix that!"
Petula squeezed her eyes shut. "Look ... I have a pretty good idea what you're going to do. I won't fight, if you want. I don't want to make trouble. Just get it over with and let me go."
Raz chuckled. "Er, Riggy? Tuftail? I fink yer might be givin' 'er the wrong idea."
"Wot?" Riggy and Tuftail looked up, then seemed to simultaneously come to a realisation. They let go of Petula and leapt backwards, with wails of "EW!"
"Wot's she talkin' about?" asked the big fox, looking confused. Eyeshine pulled him down and whispered in his ear. The fox's expression changed to one of revulsion. "Yuck! Why'd we wanna do that?"
"I have no idea, Thunder old friend," said Eyeshine. "She's heard too many lurid adventuring stories, I suppose. Silly beast. 'Oooh, we're vermin, we're evil! Must go do evil things!' We'd never dream of doing that! It's sick and twisted and disrespectful to femalekind as a whole, and frankly it's disrespectful to us to assume that we'd do such a thing! I apologise if my followers have misled you in such a manner, and I'm sure they do too. Right, buckoes?"
"Yes! I mean no! I mean yes ... No! No, we're not gonna do that!" the younger ferret babbled. "Me sister would kill me!"
"Damn right I would, Riggs," said Raz, cuffing his ear affectionately. "We was brung up better'n that! 'Sides, yer don't know where she's been. Yer could catch stuff."
"I'm sure not gonna try it," said Tuftail, his sniggering ceased for once. "'Snot like I even like girls ..." He stopped abruptly as he realised the others were giving him a very funny look. "Wot?"
"Yer don't? Damn, me sister's gonna be disappointed."
"... Riggy, yer sister's married an' 'er mate's standin' right there?"
"Yeah, but 'e's got the squirrel ..." said Thunder helpfully.
Eyeshine gritted his teeth. "Sweetheart ... lads ... can we please have this conversation some other time?!"
Petula started to feel slightly neglected. "So, uh ... what are you going to do?"
Five knives were plucked from belts, and five sets of teeth glimmered.
"Poor, silly Petula," said Eyeshine, shaking his head and smiling again. "We didn't tell you the most important reason your virtue is safe yet. Didn't you know vermin mothers also teach their children not to play with their food?"
Later, the gang sprawled around the fire, picking their teeth. The stench of burning flesh and fur rose from the shallow firepit, but they ignored it.
Raz polished the squirrel's skull on her sleeve and wrapped the severed tail around her shoulders like a white fluffy scarf. "Gonna keep the skull? It'd make a nice trophy."
"Nah," said Eyeshine. "I'll drop it outside the Abbey tomorrow."
"Ah, let 'em give it a decent burial. Goin' soft?"
"Nothing like that! I just can't stand the idea of having her looking over my shoulder in death as well!"
Raz chuckled and patted her swollen belly. "The littluns sez thankee for the meat as well. Or they will once they're out'n'about. Sorta hope they gets a taste fer it when they get big, I don't fink I can cope wiv more'n two at a time fer long an' it'll save us findin' food fer 'em fer a while ..."
"Name one after me, sis!" said Riggy, with a mouthful of rib-bone.
"One of you's enough, Riggs!" said Thunder, flicking an apple core at him. Riggy threw it back.
"'Ey, Tufty, ever notice y'don't twitch as much when yer well-fed?"
"Awww, heehee, thanks, Riggy!" Tuftail held out half a thighbone. "Still some marrow in this. I know it's yer favourite." Riggy took it and thumped Tuftail's shoulder gently in thanks, causing the stoat to giggle uncontrollably again.
"Oi, ladies! Can'tcher do the decent thing an' save it fer when I'm asleep like Raz an' the boss do?" said Thunder, throwing the apple core at Riggy again.
"How do you know what we're doing if you're asleep?"
"Yer knocked 'er up, dincha?"
Eyeshine rubbed his temples and groaned. "Remind me why I keep you around again?"
Riggy chuckled and chucked the apple core at Eyeshine. "Aww, yer love us!"
Raz, half-asleep, stroked her husband's tail with one paw and her belly with the other, and sang softly;
"Ply 'er 'eart wiv gold and silver
Take yore sweet'eart down to the river
Dash 'er on the pavin' stones
It may break yore 'eart to break 'er bones
But somebeast's got to do the cullin' of the fold ..."
[Yes, I went there. It's a loosely Twilight-inspired Mary Sue parody, with a really sad pun for a title. The vampire in Twilight is named Edward Cullen, for those who've been living under a rock for the past five years, and "Culling of the Fold" is an amazingly violent yet stunningly beautiful song by an undeservedly obscure band called the Decemberists, sung by the utter genius Colin Meloy. Cut 'em up, boys. (Next time I might base a fic on a worse song of his. How about "A Cautionary Song"? Or "Odalisque"? Look up the lyrics and prepare for nightmares.)
I never did get the appeal of vampires in general, given the whole "they're actually dead people" thing, but Twilight is beyond vampire-creepy. Yes, let's encourage little girls to believe that having a boy break into their house and attempt to telepathically spy on them is a sign of true love! The main pair in this fic were based loosely on Bella and Edward, but the other characters are all mine because A) I don't know enough about the books to base them on the Cullens and B) this way I have more creative freedom.
My favourite types of Sue parody aren't the ones where they just have exaggerated Sue characteristics, because someone out there will have done something more outlandish in all seriousness. I like the ones where the Sue behaves in a Sue-like manner and everyone around her reacts the way normal people would, preferably if it results in the Sue dying or otherwise suffering. I also hate fics where the Sue randomly persuades villainous types to give up their evil ways on the spur of the moment. I might be in the minority in the fandom, but I always liked the vermin who were still at least a little bad. Bad enough, anyway, to use an innocent maiden's feelings to break into the Abbey and steal a bunch of stuff. Eating a Sue doesn't make these guys evil, though. Sues need to die. Might keep these vermin and do something else with 'em some day. Any suggestions?
Before you ask, silver-furred ferrets are perfectly normal – Google 'em. They actually just have white hairs with black tips, which makes them look sparkly silver, which I felt was appropriate for an Edward reference. And they're very pretty even if it means their camouflage isn't worth a damn. Cedric was the name given for the Abbot before Mortimer, though he never appeared onscreen.
Anonymous reviews are back on, since the little snotrag who used to flame around here appears to be gone – touch wood. Yay!]