Tales of the Mouse Guard

Chapter 1: Lear's Patrol

There is a bittersweet feeling among the Guard. The defeat of the traitor, Midnight has given us a bolstered feeling of confidence, but the death of the oldfur, Celanawe has tempered it with a sense of remorse. Still, there is too much to do now to mourn continuously. With the spring upon us, I shall be sending the guardsmice out on their first missions of the new year. Hopefully this season will bring less hardship than the previous two.

Gwendolyn, Spring equinox, 1153

Lear had always enjoyed the outdoors. He had joined the Mouse Guard so that he could learn the skills to survive in and defend the open country he loved so much. Now, he had ascended in the ranks to stand proudly as a patrol leader, a position that resulted in him being sent on long-ranging missions to the farther corners of the Mouse Territories, which suited him fine.

The blonde mouse adjusted his leaf green cloak over his right shoulder, where it hung down to partially conceal the quiver of arrows that hung at his side. His left paw set the bow over his shoulder securely, so it would not slip off, should there be a flurry of movement. Not, of course, that he expected any such suddenness, but ever since Midnight's and then Abigail's discovered treachery, he decided it was best to be safe.

Of course, for all his personal preparation, a patrol leader needs a patrol, and Lear wouldn't trade his for all the world. As he rounded the corner of the Guard's fortress, Lockhaven, he saw the second member of his three-mouse patrol. Manus leaned against one wall, the hood of his dark purple cloak down around his shoulders. His halberd leaned against the wall next to him, close to paw. Lear held up one paw in greeting to his friend. "Hail, Manus. Are you ready for the first mission of the season?"

Manus looked in Lear's direction. As he did so, the light caught the small earring in the lobe of his right ear, casting metallic shimmers across his naturally gray fur. His expression was, as was usual for him, one which made him seem unduly angry. Lear knew better than to ask the patrol guard whether anything was bothering him; Manus was nearly always like he was-this was about as happy as he got, these days. "We shouldn't be going out now," the grayfur said in a quiet voice, "We've already found that Midnight and Abigail were traitors. We should be interrogating each other to find out if there are others!"

Lear sighed patiently. Though not unduly suspicious, Manus had been born and raised in Lockhaven. His father and older brother had both been guardsmice. His sense of honor and duty to the Guard was not to be challenged. It was only natural that he would be upset to find that some of the Guard were untrustworthy. Lear put a reassurring paw on his friend's shoulder. "Come now, friend. It has already been looked into, and Gwendolyn has determined that there are no more traitors amongst us. Now, come. We are expected." Lear led the way down the corridor as Manus grabbed his halberd from the wall and followed. Manus didn't make any further arguements. His code of honor kept him from questioning any decision made by the Guard's matriarch.

Not to be easily consoled, the grayfur muttered something to himself. Having spent countless missions listening for trouble in the open country, where such skills were the difference between life and a gruesome death, Lear noticed his friend's utterance and looked over his shoulder. "What are you on about?"

Manus looked up, tearing his gaze from the floor in front of him. "Abigail had said that there were traitors in other towns that had depleted their stores of supplies. They should be investigated."

The blonde-furred mouse waved a paw vaguely dismissively. "That isn't our problem. Gwendolyn has already sent other guardsmice to investigate those reports. Kenzie, Saxon, and Sadie have gone to look into Elmwood, Sienna's patrol has been dispatched to look around Appleloft, and even Captain Shale has been sent to investigate Sprucetuck. Don't worry, Manus. Everything is beeing taken care of." Manus looked doubtful, but said nothing.

Soon, the pair arrived at the corridor leading to Gwendolyn's meeting room. As they approached the door, Lear turned to Manus. "Have you seen Jann around, per chance?" he asked. He pronounced the name "yawn".

Manus shrugged, his expression less than interested. "He's probably off polishing that shield of his, reciting his mantra, or whatever it is he does." Lear gave a sigh. Jann had been in Lockhaven during the seige of Lockhaven the previous fall. Horrified at the bloodshed, the mouse had since decided to become the steadfast "shield" of his group, defending them from all harm, even at the cost of his own life. Lear prayed that it would not come to that. Jann and Manus had been close friends of Lear for many seasons, and he would be saddened greatly to lose either of them. The patrol leader turned back to the business at hand. Jann could be found later. Right now, he had to concentrate on recieving his mission. His paw raised and knocked upon the wooden door before him. After a moment, during which Lear could hear a few muffeld words from beyond, a voice on the other side raised and called out, admitting the two mice.

Lear opened the door to the meeting room, the same room where Midnight had made his final assault, wielding the weapon belonging to the hero, the Black Axe. Here, Kenzie, Saxon, Sadie, Lieam, Rand, Celanawe, and, of course, Gwendolyn herself had fought off Midnight's traitorous forces. Though he knew that his gray-furred companion felt a sense of destiny about this room, Lear himself felt just as stifled as he did in any room of Lockhaven. He was surrounded on all sides by walls and capped by a cieling. He couldn't wait to be on his way. As the pair entered, they were met by a trio of fellow guardsmice. Another patrol, led by a well-known patrol leader named Samaro walked out, apparently having already recieved their first springtime mission. At the far end of the room, between a long table and a wide window that looked out over the area in front of Lockhaven, stood the Guard's matriarch.

Gwendolyn was beautiful, Lear had to admit. Perhaps it was the elegant yet practical light blue outfit she wore, or maybe it was the snow white fur that made her seem so like a piece of gentle nature given life, or yet maybe the grace and pride with which she moved or even stood perfectly still, but the matriarch of the Mouse Guard looked every bit the part. It was no mystery that Saxon, the Guard's most talented swordsmouse, had professed his love for her last winter. The real mystery, according to chatter in the barracks, was how he had worked up the courage. Lear supposed that after losing his way in the Darkheather, being carried off by bats, and getting dropped into an old burial chamber containing the remains of his old mentor, there was nothing left that the red-cloaked warrior could possibly fear.

Lear and Manus approached their leader and gave short, respectful bows. Gwendolyn nodded back and placed her paws upon the table. "I am glad to see things are well for you two, and hope you are prepared for your first mission of the spring."

Manus answered for them both. "Whatever you have need of us for, M'lady, we are prepared." Gwendolyn nodded again and gave the mice their mission.