Tales of the Guard

The Serpent of South Haven

When we came to Copperwood, they told us this tale: Long ago, a community grew in their town of mice who believed that it was wrong for the Mouse Guard to hunt the predators who feed on us. They left Copperwood to establish a town beyond the southern extent of the Scent Border, which they called South Haven. Some time later, news came that South Haven was besieged by a terrible snake, so a young hunter took Copperwood’s sacred horn and traveled south to free them from this tyranny. He was never heard from again.

And so we traveled south, beyond the Scent Border, to the isolated town of South Haven. We were met with hostility and suspicion. Since they had come so far to avoid the Guard, we offered to simply wait while they brought us the horn, but they refused. We heard about the sacrifices made to the serpent, and though the practice disgusted us all, I accepted that these mice had made their choice to live here in this way, and I had no right to force them to do differently.

We still needed the horn, though, and it belonged rightfully to Copperwood, not them, so we ventured into the serpent’s den ourselves in pursuit of the hunter. We found him there, dead, but not eaten by a snake. No, he lay atop an ancient set of snake bones, shot to death by arrows. The mayor followed in after us with his archers, intent on killing us as he had killed the hunter. The snake had died long ago, but the mayor continued to offer sacrifices to it, convinced that his town would continue only so long as the people continued to live in fear of the serpent. The mayor did not know, however, that a younger snake had moved into this burrow. He arrived at that moment, with the mayor and his archers between it and us. We rescued them and defeated the serpent. We took the horn and returned to South Haven, where we told the mice about the mayor’s sacrifices and the fate of the serpent. I will not tell the mice of South Haven how they must live, but neither will I let a few old mice rule over the others by using secrets to manipulate their fears. I have no right to force them to live how I say they should, but neither does some greyfur.

We have collected the Five Sacred Horns, a task they said we could never accomplish. We must act quickly now. We have seen how active Volker has been. He may be ready to march to war soon. Thousands of mouse lives hang in the balance. We must return to Ferndale, to the home I left behind years ago, to face the dark god that killed my mother and obliterated my home. We go to drive off the Destroyer of Ferndale.

Trouble in Flintrust

Hard times beset the town of Flintrust. Some of their problems seem unavoidable, but others were clearly the result of the short-sightedness of the masters of the trade guilds who prioritized their immediate profit over the prosperity of the town. It has always been a town for honest, hard-working mice. Many of their young travel to Lockhaven every year to become tenderpaws. With the economic problems the town faces, the young mouslings have fewer prospects, so even more turn to this tradition. While it supplies the Guard with new recruits, the loss of so many young mice only sends Flintrust deeper into this awful spiral.

We happened to arrive in the midst of an election. A challenger for Mayor Winslow’s office accused him of corruption. He argued that Flintrust should be even more dedicated to the Guard, and send more of their young as tenderpaws. We discovered that Mayor Winslow had taken money from the masters of the trade guilds. The simple reality was that they controlled everything in Flintrust, and the mayor could not accomplish anything without their cooperation. He had tried to rein them in as best he could, though it really didn’t amount to much.

The Horn of Flintrust is the traditional badge of office for the captain of the town guard. He was, understandably, loathe to part with it, and his duty to the town made it impossible for him to come with us, but a crucial shipment of food had gone missing recently, so he agreed to lend us the horn for our mission if we could bring in the missing shipment. We found it soon enough on the road outside of town, where a shrike had attacked. If you have never seen a shrike’s gruesome larder, then I envy you. The site of this monstrosity enraged me. We slew the vicious bird and even rescued some of the mice it had impaled upon the thorns above. We managed to recover much of the shipment and bring it and the wounded mice to Flintrust.

As we returned to town and my mind returned to the topic of its economic woes, the example of the shrike and my seething anger could not help but compare the bird’s ruthless predation, the way it takes even more than it could ever eat and cruelly impales mice to feed upon them later, to the practices of the trade guilds in Flintrust. I barged into the guild hall straight away, setting aside my cloak to deal with them not as a patrol leader of the Mouse Guard, but simply as one mouse enraged by their callous disregard for their fellow mice, their overweening greed, and their horrible, monstrous cruelty. They were not prepared for such a response. It was stupid and hot-headed of me, but it might have introduced precisely the element of chaos necessary to change things in Flintrust. Fearful that I would kill them then and there (and I can’t entirely promise that I would not have), they pledged to change their practices.

I am, as ever, fortunate to have such companions as Brienne, Clove, and Beagan. While it may arguably have helped when dealing with the trade guilds, my anger certainly did not help in making Mayor Winslow’s case to the people of Flintrust. When I could not, Brienne was able to take control of the situation and lead our efforts on the Mayor’s behalf. We told the people of Flintrust that a strong and prosperous town that could continue sending tenderpaws for many years to come would benefit the Guard far more than sending all their young away, leaving the town with little future. Our words seemed to carry some weight, as Mayor Winslow carried the day and retained his office.

Garrow's Journal: Betrayal at Grasslake

From Dawnrock, we turned south and east, to Grasslake. It’s both Brienne’s and Clove’s hometown, as well as Juliya’s home since the fall of Ferndale. Marguerite must have known this, because when we arrived, we found all of our friends and family tied up on a boat, with Marguerite and her patrol about to push them into the lake. She said that there was a conspiracy about who might target them for retribution, so they needed to put them out onto the lake “for their safety,” but we all recognized that she was the only thing they needed safety from. There was a tense confrontation, but they tried to push the boat out, and violence erupted. Clove attacked them with particular viciousness. We succeeded in subduing them and releasing our families.

We learned something in Grasslake, though. Apparently Midnight knew about Volker’s conspiracy, and his rebellion was his own misguided response to it. Clearly he didn’t disagree with the conspiracy’s aim of starting an insane war against every species that preys upon us. He decided that a single authoritarian ruler would be the only person who could root out this conspiracy, and decided to overthrow the Matriarch to accomplish that end. Fortunately he was thwarted, but he may know more about this conspiracy now. We’ve heard rumors that he has attracted a certain following in the Wild Country beyond Wolfpointe … so that’s where we’re going next. To Midnight.

Elymis considers this sheer lunacy. He may well be right. He’s also not terribly pleased with how I handled things with Marguerite. Once subdued, I had a chance to really talk to her. I think I got through to her, and helped her see what a disastrous course Volker is really on. She won’t betray him. The bond between them forged at Woodruff’s Grove is not something to be put aside lightly. I understand that. I feel the same way about those I left Ferndale with. But I think now she sees that her loyalty to Volker demands that she do something to save him from the terrible course he’s set himself on. I trust her to do what’s right, in her own way, so I let her go. I told Elymis that it’s better to have her out there helping us in her own way, than killed for petty revenge. Of course, he disagreed.

It was good to see Juliya again. She provided me with some new arrows to replace a few I’d lost or broken along the way. I thought about telling her how I feel about her, but I was so busy with other things, and it seems like so much to lay upon her as we leave on such a dangerous mission to go beyond the Scent Border again to meet with the traitor Midnight. If I’m to die out there in the next few days, it’s probably better that she never knows.

Garrow's Journal: Conspiracy in Dawnrock

We passed through Lockhaven on the way to Dawnrock. It was difficult getting a chance to see Gwendolyn, but I knew enough about how Lockhaven works to slip in a moment while she was going from one meeting to the next. I asked what authority I had to operate inside Dawnrock, as Guard Captain Volker had requested. She told me that she’d selected me as a patrol leader because she trusted me to do what’s right. It was subtle, and perhaps my misinterpretation here will ultimately condemn me as a traitor, but there was something to that interaction that made me think she knew something was going on, and relied on me to find it out.

On the way north to Dawnrock, Elymis got the drop on me. Volker had said he’d died, but Elymis said he’d faked his death because one of the mice in his patrol, Marguerite, was working with Volker in what he said was a conspiracy that ran deep within the Guard. Marguerite now led his patrol, he said, and he had the freedom to try to learn more about this conspiracy. He said they wanted to put the Mouse Guard on a course of war to annihilate all our predators entirely. What madness!

In Dawnrock, we learned that the councilmouse did indeed hide a weasel in his home — but a weasel ambassador from one of the less aggressive Tunnel Lords. Naturally, that takes a more hostile bent than you might think — this Tunnel Lord imagined that peace with the mice would make him stronger, and give him the edge to dominate his fellow Tunnel Lords — but it’s a start. Volker wanted us to assassinate the weasel ambassador to kill this chance at peace. When we failed to do it, he had others to do the job for us. We helped smuggle the ambassador out of Dawnrock, past Volker’s backup assassins, to a boat that took him back to his lord.

I’m fairly certain that we’ve made an enemy of Guard Captain Volker now, as well as whatever other guardsmice have joined him in this mad conspiracy.

Garrow's Journal: The Ruins of Ferndale

Martin led us into the tunnels beneath the Scent Border, leading to Ferndale. The spring rains caused a flash flood which nearly drowned us down there in the dark. We managed to survive, though, and saved Martin while we were at it. We came out near the ruins of Ferndale to find weasels pushing their peasants hard to excavate the site. They were searching for the horn as well, apparently more to deny us than to gather them themselves, but it is highly suspicious. Why would they begin such a search now, at the same time that we’ve begun our search for it? It suggests a terrible possibility, like the collusion between Fin and Midnight last autumn.

We attacked the overseers, prodding the weasel peasants to rise up against them. They did, though they were afterwards more interested in rejoining their families than joining us. I fear they’ve made a short-sighted mistake. Surely Fin will punish them brutally for their disloyalty. But I cannot impose my will upon them like their fellow weasels do, so I respected their decision.

We had to move quickly and quietly to perform our own excavation. Thankfully I have some of the bravest, most capable mice in the Territories with me. We found my mother, and with her the horn. I was able to finally give her a proper burial. Unfortunately, Clove and I were captured by weasels, but Beagan and Brienne pulled off a daring rescue.

With that, we set on the path back to Barkstone. It was a long and perilous journey, but one I’ve now made some times, so we were able to make it relatively quickly and with little incident.

In Barkstone, Guard Captain Volker told me of a weasel living in one of the cities as the guest of the mayor. He tasked me with assassinating this weasel, as his presence proves that the mayor is involved in a plot with the weasels against the Territories. Having just days before led weasel peasants in an uprising against their masters, though, I tried to tell him that weasel society is not nearly so monolithic, but he would not have it. It seems highly irregular, though. The Guard has no jurisdiction in the cities and towns. If this weasel is the guest of the mayor, the Guard has no right to say otherwise. And what proof do we have of treachery, aside from this creature’s species? Our path takes us next through Lockhaven. I told the Guard Captain that while there I would, of course, let the Matriarch know about this mission. The Guard Captain did not seem pleased at all by that suggestion, and took it as a sort of betrayal of his trust. That seems to reinforce my suspicion that there is something dubious about this task, if he is so adamant that the Matriarch should not know about it. I joined the Guard to help my fellow mice, because we will all succeed or fail as one, but that does not mean mindlessly following orders, as the weasel peasants do. In fact, it precludes it. If I should find that this leaves me with no place in the Guard, so be it.

Garrow's Journal: Pouring the Scent Border

The cask of scent we brought appears weak. Beagan noticed it, and then brilliantly saved the day by strengthening it on the spot. I’ll have to remember to talk to him about what could have gone wrong with it. On the one hand, I know the poor sciencemice of Sprucetuck work hard, and I should be amazed that they’re able to brew something like this at all rather than concerned that they made a single weak batch, but we’ve come to depend greatly on this scent. The border is important, and bears scrutiny. I’d hate to bring this news to Gwendolyn and spark a major investigation that would get them in trouble if they simply missed one batch. We were lucky to have Beagan with us to fix the problem. But what if this indicates other problems at Sprucetuck? Worse, what if our scent was sabotaged?

We found evidence that weasels had sabotaged the Scent Border. We found a fox eating a hare inside the Scent Border. We moved to drive it back over (and perhaps teach it a healthy fear of mice along the way). A fox is a dangerous and cunning enemy, but our patrol proved more dangerous and more cunning. The adolescent hares left orphaned by the fox’s attack, lost and confused by the tragedy, came with us. This proved quite useful when Martin tried to run. Of course, he stood little chance against us mounted on hares. We tried to convince the hares to join us, but once they had had some time to recover, they preferred to strike out on their own. We wished them good fortune and bade them farewell.

I decided to try to track down the weasels responsible for sabotaging the Scent Border. Foolishly, I ignored everything I tell my patrol mates and went alone. I found some weasels, all right, and very nearly did not live to tell the tale. Instinct took over, and fortunately a mouse trying to run and hide is a very difficult thing to catch. I was able to escape the weasels and make it back to my patrol.

We’re now encamped just inside the Scent Border. Beyond lies the ruins of Ferndale, my home. Tomorrow we’ll set out for it. It will be the first time I’ve come home since the Destroyer reduced it to ruin. Our mission is to recover the Sacred Horn, but I have another goal, a more personal one: to finally bury my mother.

Garrow's Journal: The Road to Barkstone

I have our orders from Gwendolyn. She has ordered us to repour a stretch of the Scent Border that I know all too well, near the ruins of Ferndale. She has also asked me to make contact with a Guard Captain in Barkstone named Volker to help him organize the Guard’s efforts against the Destroyer. I decided to combine both missions by taking the route through Barkstone to reach the Scent Border.

Near Barkstone we encountered some bandits spinning a tale about “protecting the roads” in the middle of shaking down a merchant. They said that with the Guard’s recent troubles, they wanted to keep the road safe, and that required contributions from merchants. I pointed to the Guard’s example, how we keep the roads clear and accept only what is freely given to support us. They tried to pay us off, and it came to a fight when they saw that they couldn’t. We defeated them, though I felt that savagery rising again in me in the midst of the battle. It might have gone badly for me, had the rest of my patrol not been there to save me. I told them that they should take the road we had just cleared back to Lockhaven and there see what they can do for the Guard, if they are so keen to protect the roads. I think our example reminded them of something they had forgotten. I think they really will go to Lockhaven, though whether or not they’re cut out for the Guard remains to be seen. At least their ambitions can be pointed in a useful direction there, I hope.

I don’t think Beagan likes me very much. He seems very suspicious overall, but he seems to be particularly suspicious of me. He must have asked around about me in Lockhaven then, and if he did he no doubt heard about my father. Ah, that must be it, then — he thinks I’m a traitor. And those bandits lurking outside of Barkstone more than likely had some sort of connection to the Axe. What Beagan calls my leniency must look like conspiracy to him. Punishment is a poor way to change the way a mouse thinks and feels. Punish a mouse and you strengthen his animosity and bitterness. Bandits like these have merely forgotten what every mouse is capable of. They’ve given in to their bitterness and despair. It’s up to us as Guardmice to remind them of what they’ve forgotten.

Volker had plans to raise an army against the Destroyer. Such an effort would cost hundreds or even thousands of lives. I told him of the Sacred Horns. He didn’t seem to think much of the plan, but he granted that allowing a single patrol to pursue that lead might be worthwhile while he takes the time to raise an army. That makes it a race. If we can retrieve the Horns before Volker has raised his army, we might be able to drive off the Destroyer before it comes to a battle that will cost thousands of lives even if we manage to win.

I don’t want to be the sort of leader who makes such decisions for others, though, so I took it to the rest of the patrol. I think they all had different reasons, but they did end up agreeing with me. I was proud of that moment.

So we’re in Barkstone for the moment, preparing to venture back out into the wilderness. We’ll pour the Scent first to ensure that the Border is secure behind us, but then we’ll be crossing it. It will be the first time I’ve returned to Ferndale since its fall. I must find my mother and retrieve her horn. While I’m there, I intend to give her a proper burial.

Brienne seems stalwart and reliable, but I think Clove is still sizing me up. She seems to be getting along well with Beagan, though whether that means good or ill for me I’m not yet entirely sure.

On Volker’s suggestion I spoke to a prisoner being held in Barkstone, a former captain in Midnight’s army. He says he knows of tunnels through Darkheather that reach beneath Ferndale. Those would be the tunnels ruled by Fin the Brutal. They say the weasels abandoned Darkheather at the end of the war, but who can say for sure what is true down there in the dark? I suspect this mouse is leading us into a trap, so I have insisted that he come with us, so that he can share in whatever grisly fate he intends for us. I’m sure that decision did little to quell Beagan’s suspicions. So be it. He is a tenderpaw, and tenderpaws must learn that the world is a more complex place than they once thought.

I arranged a training exercise for my patrol — two teams, each tasked with painting each side of a newt a different color. They did well. That’s good. I’ll have to pick a more challenging target next. Are they ready for a snake, perhaps? More importantly, are they ready for weasels?

Garrow's Journal: Assembling the Patrol
Spring 1153

I introduced my tenderpaw Beagan to the other members of our patrol today, Brienne and Clove. We’d barely made introductions, though, when we heard the alarm and rushed to it. A blue jay had gotten into the beetle pens. Brienne and I focused on driving him off while Beagan and Clove focused on protecting the beetles. Beagan did well. He had these pots that I could fix to my arrows and shoot at the bird. They broke on impact, releasing a cloud of gas that choked him (although they seemed just as good at choking me). He lost his nerve a bit when he saw us making some progress on our enemy, hoping to shoo him away harmlessly and avoid any further bloodshed. I appreciate his compassionate nature, but he needs to better understand the consequences of such actions. I think he got a taste of it today, because despite driving the jay off, we lost most of our beetle herd. Just what we need after losing most of our larders to Abigail’s treachery. But at least it’s spring, and we’ll be able to start replenishing our stores soon.

Still awaiting our mission from Gwendolyn. Met with her and some of the guard captains today about the Destroyer. I tried to tell them that our only hope against this dark slumbering god is to gather the five sacred horns, but they wouldn’t listen. They instead talk about gathering armies or employing some monumentally clever trap to drive it away or destroy it. They have no idea what power this creature possesses. Frankly, even the five sacred horns may not be enough, but they’re our best chance. Would we need to even recover the five that were lost? I hope not, but when dealing with ancient gods of destruction, I suppose it’s only natural that lost relics should come into play.

Dealing with them made me so angry I had to leave Lockhaven for a bit and just spend some time in the wilds. That’s where I am now. I feel better now, calmer, though I do fear for the path that lies before me. My patrol has faced its first enemy today, though. We did well, and that gives me hope that we may be able to succeed despite the storm clouds I see gathering around us. But we didn’t do well enough, and that tells me what we must do next.


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