Wishing you merry New Beginnings and a dashing New Year, from Wallie’s Wentletrap!
“It’s all so—so—ugh—”
“Just try to be quiet, mate,” advised Dancy. “No one’s asking you to give a pledge or anythin’, y’know. It may mean nothing to you, but it means something to these ’uns.”
Her warning shamed Pouncit. The hare-maid didn’t speak again, her face flaming. But then there was a murmur and rustle in the gathering, and she forgot her resent when she saw Florette and Matt. The two mice had their paws full guiding their fleet of little ones, four scrambling infants more heads than bodies. One good little mousemaid held to Florette’s paw, but the other three were full of mischief. Between them, Florette and Matt herded the young ones forward.
“That one’s got your eyes, Matt! He’s what you deserve!”
“Look at that good little girl there—there’s a maid what takes after her mother.”
“Oh is that so, Dillwhiskers? And what about that gel there trying to nick Florette’s sword?”
Matt scooped two of the offenders into his arms, smiling at the amusement of the tribefolk. The little mice squealed as their father kissed them, their eyes wide at the attention of so many. The third miscreant, his mother unceremoniously caught by the tail. Gathered together at last, the young mice quieted when the Mouse Chief greeted their parents.
“Ah,” said the chieftain, smiling. “Florette, Matt, what a beautiful family. What are their names?”
“This is Daisy, and here’s Butternip,” said Florette, of the two she held. “And that’s Walnut and Hazletop.”
“Daisy, Butternip, Walnut, and Hazletop,” said the Mouse Chief. “Come here, all of you, closer to me.”
The family gathered closer. Pouncit watched as the chieftain addressed the gathered tribe.
“Today,” he said, “we greet as one family the family of Matt and Florette, and their four young ones, Daisy, Butternip, Walnut, and Hazletop. These children are born to us at the end of a fearsome age: there may yet be troubles ahead, but we will care for them and God willing, we will overcome, together. It is my privilege to bless these young ones and their parents. Join me in commending this young family to the Good that is over us all.”
Pouncit closed one eye. She watched as the chieftain laid his paws first on Matt and Florette. The two warrior mice bowed their heads, their tails twined together.
“Matt, Florette, you have both been a blessing to us. I pray wisdom on you both in the rearing of these children, and a deeper bond of love, fiercer, freer than the swords that you wield.” He touched the children’s heads in turn. “Daisy, Butternip, Walnut, and Hazletop. May you thrive and grow in the way of the One, of He who Watches. May you grow in His strength, and in the sureness of Light. And may you be a blessing to your parents. The Good One binds you, little ones, and whatever comes to pass you are joined by more than blood. May we all, gathered here today, be family to each other, and care for these young ones in love. So may it be.”
“May it be and let it be,” answered the tribe.
“May it be and let it be,” said Pouncit, under her breath.
The two grown mice lifted their heads. Florette leaned to the chief and kissed both his cheeks. That gesture signaled the end of the formality, and at once there rose from the gathered creatures an audible cheer.
“Florette, you imp, you don’t fool me with that smile. Cummere and let me hug you!”
“Four children! It’s good the pair o’ you ’re warriors or I’d think the odds were against ye.”
“There’s Butternip after the sword again. You’ve got your paws full alright!”
“Little wooden swords is what they need. They grow so fast!”
Florette saw Pouncit hesitating at the edge of a group. She waved to the young hare-maid.
“Pouncit! Come here,” she said.
Pouncit hopped forward, feeling a little stiff. The mouse-maid caught her paws and hugged her tightly.
“I’m so glad you’re here,” said Florette. “I thought you might think it was too quaint.”
“Ay.” Matt’s voice was warm, his eyes amused. “It’s good to see you here, my friend. This is a rare battlefield, isn’t it?”
Florette swatted at his ears. “D’ye think of anything else, you war-mongerer, you?”
He kissed her lightly. “Firstly, I think of you, m’dear,” he said.
The mousebabes were scurrying around Pouncit. They were in awe of her fluffy tail and big feet. Pouncit shuffled awkwardly, still hot under her fur.
“Florette—Matt,” she said, hesitating.
The two mice looked at her. The concern on their faces, the open friendship, made Pouncit hurry to say her piece.
“I—I just want to say,” she stumbled, wringing her paws—“I—it’s just—well—”
“Out with it, maid!” cried an old mouse leaning on his cane. “Ye’re makin’ us die o’ jitters, pickin’ words like pansies!”
Florette waved a dismissive paw at him, smiling. “Hush, you!” she scolded.
“It’s just,” stammered Pouncit, trying to ignore the eyes on her and the hush that had fallen over the listeners. “I want to say—how happy I am, for you both—my friends—and that all of this—these—it’s special. There’s something very special about it.” She took Florette’s free paw and pressed it. “It’s just right.”
“Ay, right it is!”
“On the spot!”
“Just the thing!”
“Cheers for Matt and Florette and the little ’uns! Hurrah!”
Matt and Florette hugged Pouncit tightly.
“Come on, you two,” said the hare, shaking free of them at last and swatting a tiny Butternip from her tail. “You look tired. Let’s find something to eat, shall we? I’ll help you with the mouselings.”
“Ah, thank you,” said Florette, gratefully. “You wouldn’t believe the morning we’ve had.”
“Or the night,” said Matt, with a small, weary smile.