The sausage made me think of Seven Tricks, my Mouse Prince/Nutcracker holiday release. I wrote this story in response, before burrowing it away for after Seven Tricks's release.
I think Mousetrick, my mischievous rodent of a protagonist would approve. :)
This is dedicated to P.T. Wyant for inspiring me and to Nine Star Press for giving Mousetrick a chance to scamper into your homes.
Time for Cracktooth to share a little from his perspective. :)
The king came home, only to find his sausage had been eaten.
“You dared to devour my dinner!” He pointed an accusing finger at the guilty, grease spattered countenances of his wife and daughter.
“You told us to!” Prissipat’s blue eyes shone with unshed tears. “You even sent a mouse to give us the message, knowing I hate mice!”
“I sent a mouse to give you a message? The king’s eyebrows weren’t as fierce as Cracktooth’s uncle’s, but they were impressively hairy. Especially when they worked up and down in a display of fierce displeasure. “What sort of nonsense is this?!”
“Well, that’s what the odious this creature claimed…” the queen began, only to falter at her husband’s expression. “Not that I believed him.”
“Mice,” Prissipat muttered the word through gritted teeth. “I can’t believe we listened to that vermin. They’re not be trusted. Not ever!”
“No, they’re not,” Cracktooth agreed, struggling to keep the amusement out of his voice. “They played quick the trick on us.”
“Well, I’ll trick them.” The king rumaged into one of his trouser pockets.
There had been a time when kings had servants to carry all their necessities. Not any more.
This king had been reduced by a lack of weath to carry things around himself. This mean he had to wear trousers with pockets.
It was something he never failed to complain of to Cracktooth whenever he had the chance. Such utterances with accompanied by many a reproachful glance.
Cracktooth was, after all, one of the king’s servants. Well, a relation of one. If he was truly loyal to his monarch, he should carry his monarch’s necessities for him. Not force him to wear trousers with pockets, making his king go to all the trouble of keeping track of his possessions himself.
The king didn’t dare complain about it directly to Dousselmause himself, even if the magician was in the king’s service. Bad things happened if you complained to a magician. Ill fortune had a way of finding you, or worse.
A magician might listen to your complaint and do something about it. His response would bring you little satisfaction and no happiness.
Cracktooth suppressed a shudder. He remembered only too well how his uncle had once answered his own complaint about being too big, too clumsy, and not having enough space.
Douselmause had changed all of that.
For a while, Cracktooth feared his transformation would be permanent. Instead, he’d simply had several of the worst days of his life being small in a world which was huge and terrifying.
Cracktooth felt his face heat up. He reached up a hand, almost expecting it to be a paw. He could almost smell warm fur, hear the rustling of paper, while a tail twitched with an almost seductive grace.
Get those thoughts out of your head, he told himself, slapping his cheek. Smooth and hairless.
It was almost a disappointment.
What was he thinking? He was a human again. It was a huge relief in more ways than one, being human again.
“Ah, ha!” The king’s crow brought Cracktooth back to the here and now.
The king withdrew a handful of nails from his pocket.
They glittered in his palm like metal teeth.
“Papa, what are you doing?” Prissipat stared at the metal things in her father’s hand with more than a little disgust.
“Dear, why are you carrying nails in your pocket?” The queen wrinkled her nose. “You haven’t been drinking with the carpenter again, have you?” She narrowed her eyes in suspicion. “Or that pretty apprentice of his?”
“Err, of course not!” The king’s guilty blush suggested otherwise. “I just had, um, important business with the carpenter. King’s business.” He poked a nail with his finger. “Items like these can be useful. Especially at times like this.” He grinned, exposed stained teeth. “If someone plays a trick on you, I say trick them back.”
He scattered the nails across the floor, moving so they landed in various places upon the ground.
“Papa!” Prissipat said in an injured tone. “Mama and I are wearing slippers! Those things will poke our feet!”
“If we step on one of those sharp objects-“ the queen began in an irate voice.
“Ah, but you can move around them or step over them.” The king tapped the side of his bulbous nose with sly malice. “A mouse will not be able to avoid these nails with such ease.”
“Especially if he returns to the kitchen to steal more food.” Prissipat smiled. The expression looked even uglier on her face, coupled with her dimples and full lips.
Such a smile didn’t suit her.
Cracktooth swallowed a sigh.
What had happened to the beautiful princess, who’d once taken his breath away?
If only Prissipat would smile truly from the heart, perhaps he’d catch a glimpse of her.
Lately, all Cracktooth saw was her ugly face.
“Oh, perfect!” The queen bared her teeth in smile no more beautiful than her husband’s or her daughter’s. “Such a prank is perfect for the foul little creature.”
Creature, not creatures. Everyone was blaming the young male mouse with the fine, black fur for the theft of the sausage. Never mind that his queen had spoken to them first.
The male mouse was probably acting on her orders.
Cracktooth closed his eyes, trying not to remember fur, anxiety, and a frantically beating heart. How terrifying it had been to be so small, in peril of things you could easily avoid as a human.
Cracktooth raised his eyelid to study the glint of metal on the ground.
Such a prank was too much retaliation for a single sausage. The magician’s nephew shifted his glance to king’s thick middle. It wasn’t like he was going to suffer overmuch from missing his dinner.
The mice were probably hungrier. They’d taken quite a risk, tricking the humans.
It was too high a price to pay for that trick.
Cracktooth waited until the king, the queen, and Prissipat left the room, still chortling over the damage the mice would suffer if they returned.
The nails glittered in the moonlight.
He bent over and started picking them up. He gathered each and every one of them in the palm of his hand.
The cold gleam of the orb shining in the night sky reflected its light upon the metal, making them easy to spot.
It felt like the moon itself was watching him. It was too full, too bright. He shivered, while picking up the last nail from the ground.
Oh, it was a fine time for magic, a night like this. His uncle loved such moonlight.
“What are you doing, Cracktooth?” A deep, disapproving voice cut through his thoughts.
He who lets his thoughts drift toward Dousselmause summons his presence. His uncle had once boasted (or warned him) that he was drawn to such mental wandering.
Cracktooth turned to face his uncle, his hand full of nails.
“Just cleaning up a trifle.” Cracktooth tried to make his tone as careless as possible. “Nothing to concern you.”
“You call acting against our king’s will a trifle?” Dousselmause raised his eyebrows, knitting them together in an expression more fierce than their monarch could ever master. “It does concern me, nephew, concerns me deeply to see you thwart his vengeance.”
“Since when are you concerned with the theft of a sausage?” Cracktooth laced every word with scorn. “Surely there are matters more worthy of your attention.”
“Nothing concerns me more than my nephew’s well-being.” Dousselmause softened his voice and dropped his eyebrows. “It isn’t healthy to risk your king’s ire for a pair of mice.”
“What can I say? I find myself much more sympathetic than I once would have been.” Anger, which had simmered within Cracktooth’s belly for too long trickled into his words. “Who’s to blame for that?”
“You may be right.” The rest of fierceness dropped from Dousselmause’s eyebows, causing them to droop. “Magic has consequences. Now I must pay for what I did to you.” He removed something from his coat.
“What’s that?” Cracktooth eyed the contraption of wood and metal which his uncle laid on the table. “Another mousetrap?”
“Not just any trap. It’s the means to showing our regard for those who dared to steal our king’s supper.” Dousselmause fixed his glittering eyes upon his nephew’s. “The seductive scent of any cheese I put in this metal jaw will be irrestible.”
“Surely there’s a way to resist.” Cracktooth picked up the trap and tried not to shudder. It was easy to imagine the metal slicing into fur.
Particularly sleek, dark fur.
“Only by taking seven steps backwards will a mouse free himself from its spell.” Dousselmause gazed at the trap with a measure of malevolent pride. “Tomorrow, these traps will be everywhere. Anywhere a mouse might scamper.”
Fear dried Cracktooth’s mouth. Once more, he thought of that dusky fur glistening with blood.
No, he couldn’t let it happen.
He was no longer a mouse himself. It shouldn’t matter.
He closed his eyes, only to see that black mouse, whiskers trembling, as he raised his muzzle to face humans so much bigger than himself.
That mouse didn’t deserve such a fate.
“What will you do with this information, Cracktooth?” Dousselmause reached out to snatch the trap out of his nephew’s hands. “Remember. I’m watching you.”
Swift as the shadows cast by the moon, the magician disappeared.
He stared at the platter of cheese, which had been left on the table.
His uncle’s threats were never idle. He would be watching him.
Tomorrow, the traps would be everywhere.
Crackooth bit his lip and eyed the cheese.
It didn’t matter. He had to find that mouse and warn him, despite the risk.