Perek was a humble weapon-maker living among the rodents at the start of the war. He was so determined in his work, that he would forget to go to the stream every so often to clean his glossy black fur. But, his small fingers were so skilled that he could make a tough little blade thinner than paper, but sharper than broken glass. Because of this fact, the other rodents often overlooked the rat's scent.

At the beginning of this story, Perek was putting the finishing touches on a silver rapier for the rodent king, Rokendo. The thin, silver blade was no wider than Perek's finger, but was sharper than a cat's claw. The hilt was ornately carved and the handle had been painstakingly wrapped in soft red leather. Two threads trailed from the handle, one bright red and the other shining gold.

Finally, after many long days of work, Perek slipped the rapier into a sheath of red leather and carried it to the king's hall. Perek scurried through the courtyard of the rodents' stronghold, carefully enfolding his precious work in his arms. The king's hall was lavishly decorated with thin netting made from delicate strings of gold and silver. Perek bowed his sleek, dark head before the king.

Rokendo, an eager grey mouse with white stripes running down his sides and back, leaned forward in his bronze throne, wondering what tidings the black rat brought. Perek held up the sheathed rapier, his nose still turned toward the beautifully woven rug beneath his paws. Pleased, the king sent a small mouse to fetch the thin sword.

The mouse knelt before the throne, presenting the rapier. Rokendo picked it up and sent the mouse on her way. The king squirmed like a young mouse-ling waiting to open his birthday present. He curled a forepaw about the handle and slowly drew out the blade, admiring the sharpness. "You have done well," the king said, giving the air an experimental slice with his new weapon.

"Yes, mi lord," Perek said, speaking with the accent of the south-lands whence he came. "The blade in yore hand is the fine'st rapier I've ever made. It's be gottin' two threads, one red fer the blood the blade'll shed, one gold fer the royl'ty that wields it."

"Very good…" the king murmured, holding the threads in his paw to look at them closely.

Suddenly, a large rat with tawny fur and a smooth tail hurried through the arched bronze doorway. She bowed low before Rokendo, panting heavily. This rat cared for some young rat-lets and mouse-lings and also came from the south-lands that Perek came from. "Mi lord," she wheezed, "The five mice-lin's I was watchin', they be gone!"

Rokendo sat up straight. "What happened?" he asked urgently.

The rat's dark whiskers quivered nervously. "I had turned mi back," she explained, "fer two secon's. When I turned back to 'em, they was gone! I don't be knowin' what happened to 'em. I came here strai' away."

The king hurriedly attached the rapier's sheath to his belt and sprang to his paws, weapon drawn. "Come, Perek, we must investigate," he said, swiftly darting out of the hall. Perek and the mouse-lings' caretaker followed.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The first thing Rokendo and the rats saw at the crime scene was bits of downy fur floating on the wind. "Oh, the poor mice-lin's," the caretaker sobbed, "eat'n by a horrible mons'er. Ne'er had a chance, the poor, defenseless mice-lin's. Ne'er a bitsy chance." She wept bitter tears, covering her eyes.

While Rokendo comforted the weeping caretaker, Perek gathered the disquieting scraps of fur and put them into a small sack tied to his waist. "What 'ere be left of the mice-lin's," Perek said sadly, "mus' be buried 'neath the stronghold with the other dead."

"'Tis true," the caretaker sniffed, "They was such good little chil'ren, those poor mice-lin's."

After all the pieces of fur had been collected in the sack, the caretaker took them and carried them back to the stronghold. She mourned and wept all the way. Rokendo sighed and sheathed his rapier.

Soon, they approached the great pine gates of their stronghold. "Who is at the gate?" a big russet rat called from atop the stone wall.

"It's the king," Rokendo replied, "one caretaker, and Perek. We wish to reenter the stronghold."

"By all means," the rat replied, "enter your kingdom, O king!"

The gates opened before them and they entered. The bustle of life within the stronghold ceased when they caught sight of the king's grim face and the tears on the whiskers of the caretaker. One mouse mother gave a sharp cry and wept aloud, for she had been the mother of the dead mouse-lings.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Below the stronghold was the cemetery. It was accessible only from a hole in the earth, but held many dead bodies. It was dark down there, but the rats that worked there were quite accustomed to the dark, having not wanted to leave the underground.

Borak, one of the morticians, quietly approached a wrapped body. He pulled it from its shelf and dragged it to a dirty, stone tub. Peeling away the wrappings from the dead rat's face, Borak prepared the body for its once-a-week ceremonial bath. Such a bath was supposed to keep the lifeless body looking healthy and smelling nice.

As Borak washed the body, a small procession, led by the mouse priest Neram, came down to the cemetery. There was a mother mouse wailing loudly and even the king himself walked alongside her.

Neram went ahead and said words designated for such a funeral, "Rats and mice from the earth have risen, and so shall they return. To them, children have been given, but even they to the earth return."

The troubled rodents murmured in answer, "Indeed, these words speak true, each young child returns without clue."

The priest raised the sack containing the fur scraps high. "O greatest one, who lives above," he bellowed, "Receive each dead child with love."

Rodents' voices were raised high, "Indeed, indeed, the children your love do need."

Louder than ever, all the rodents, even Neram, cried, "Indeed, indeed, indeed, even we your love do need. Lift our hearts and calm our souls. Make our love burn for you like shining coals."

Borak rested his elbows on the rim of the tub. Services like this always moved him half to tears. He watched as the sack was given its own little perch on the wall. Each rodent laid a tiny white blossom, appropriately called Child's Peace, beside the sack and silently left.

After the grieving rodents had gone, Borak slipped over to the sack, guessing its contents were stillborn mice. What he found, however, were scraps of fur still attached to the skin, enough to cover a newborn mouse-ling. But there was an assortment of colors, five different ones. This was a tragedy unlike any other; the mouse-lings had been eaten.