Marlin: First 6,000 words. May 12th, 2018.

So I’ve started writing a new book these last couple of days. I’m at just above 6,000 words for the few hours of work I’ve put in so far. I’m hoping to have it done in the next month or so depending on my diligence.

I wanted to share it with you piecemeal as I make it. I have the beginnings of the plots down, and it’s fun so far. A lot of work, but so much fun.

I’ve been reading Brian Jacques works for two hours each day before starting to write, so I can absorb as much awesomeness as I can from the literature and writing style and to make sure I don’t copy anything. This is by far the best thing I’ve written, in style alone, so far. It’s all a learning experience, right?

Anyway, here’s the beginning of Marlin, the story of the life of Mistlehop’s founder. Here’s a basic drawing I did of her a while ago.

100417 Marlin the mouse warrior

Marlin

by

Jordan Townsend

 

A Fateful Voyage.

Across the sea sailed a large merchant vessel. A very pregnant mouse and her husband are below deck. A seagull, the ships doctor, is tending to the expectant mother.
“It’ll not be long Helena, before your mousling makes itself known to the world,” cheered on the seagull, wiping at the sweat soaked mouse’s furry forehead with a dampened cloth.
Helena grimaced. The contractions had started twenty minutes ago, and like it or not, the youngling was to be born today. She had hoped they would wait until they had made dry land, to their new home in Port Palo, before deciding to come—but that was not to be, as she steeled her body as a contraction rocked deeply within her.
“Ohh,” groaned Helena.

Gregory, her husband, held tightly onto her paw.
Patrice, the seagull, turned to him, having gathered a bucket into her feathered wings.
“Please go and fill this. We’ll need it once the baby starts to crown,”

Gregory took the bucket from her and nodded resolutely.

He walked from their compartment at the end of the hall, below deck, and made his way out into the bright and sunny day. He squinted against the dazzling light playing off the water and felt the salt spray mist against the fur of his face and arms.  Gregory made his way around to the back of the large merchant ship, that carried not only his future progeny and belabored wife, but also their livelihood in the form of various cloths—both enchanted and fine.
Gregory reached the back of the vessel and came to the duckboard that hanged by strong chain on either side perilously close to the churning water. The ship traveled at great speed despite its massive size. The ripple it cast through the water was long and deep. As he came to the duckboard, Gregory passed the otter Jasper, who was tending to the large net cast from the back of the boat to gather fish as they traveled. Jasper was letting slack from one of the two pulleys at the back of the boat, which caused the net to drift further behind, and deeper into the sea where it had a better chance of catching the many plentiful sea fish that followed behind the boat in great schools.
Jasper nodded towards Gregory and smiled.
“Patrice will have her right, don’t you worry. That old sea bird has done more below this ships decks than most doctors do in practice on dry land.”
Gregory smiled and turned back towards Jasper as he walked out onto the duckboard, holding one length of chain with his free paw.
“I’m glad she’s here with us, that’s for sure. I don’t quite know what if it was just Helena dealing with that on her own.”
Jasper clicked his teeth approvingly, as he pulled back on the winch that controlled that side of the netting, securing it in place once again.

Gregory held firmly onto the chain with his paw, and kneeled down on the edge of the duckboard. As he lowered the bucket into the water, there came a great and massive jolt as the net pulled sharply downwards into the blue seawater.

Gregory gripped the bucket handle and the chain out of surprise and fear, and the edge of the duckboard was pulled into the water, causing rivulets of water to geyser out of the lattice of wooden planks that made up the duckboard. Gathering himself quickly, he bounded onto the boat, as a terrifying large fish cascaded out of the water with the boats netting twisted around the great sharp point that extended from its head.
“It’s a great flipping Marlin!” yelled Jasper, as he turned his attention to the winch before him.

The marlin dived below the water once again, as water splashed against the boat, and the line holding the net zipped outwards so quickly the line hummed from its speed.
“Help me stop the net!” yelled Jasper, as he reached for the winches handle, as the dark mass beneath the water suddenly changed direction and came full speed around and towards the side of the boat. The marlin slammed its side into the boat at full speed, trying its best to remove the net from around it’s head. The boat rocked heavily on it side, then fell back down into the water with a tremendous wave of water splashing up on the deck, soaking both of the animals from whisker to tail.

The bucket momentarily forgotten, Gregory raced over to the winch as both he and Jasper tried in vain to slow the speed that the line was traveling. The line went limp as the marlin changed course and tried to get under the boat, before becoming taut once again, as the end of the boat began to shudder violently into the water. The boat end sunk deeply into the water, and bounced upwards as the marlin changed course once again.
The winches began to spin wildly as the marlins frantic attempts at escape continued. Jasper and Gregory were thrown from the winch, as it slammed into its final position as the line ran to its looped end around the winches housing. The winches handle snapped clean off from the force of the sudden stop, and a resounding crack was heard as both the winch and Jaspers arm broke in several places all at once. They hardly had time to notice.

“Take my knife and cut the lines!” shouted Jasper, motioning with his now useless arm, as bone prodded sharply from his mangled forearm.
Gregory, took no time at all to heed his command, and unsheathed the great knife from it’s cloth scabbard. Sunlight caught the blade, and blinded the poor mouse momentarily, before he swung around and struck the rope as hard as he could.
The knife slid into the rope cleanly, but did not break. Gregory started to hack away at it until the rope split, frayed, and snapped. Without a second thought, he ran to the other winch, which had fared better than the first, and began to saw at the rope with frantic thrusts. It too frayed, split, and snapped and the boat lurched forward with a sickening ferocity before settling back into the water. As the boat rocked and calmed once again, the great black mass of the marlin sped off into the depths.
Gregory turned towards Jasper, who was wide eyed and panting from the pain of his broken arm.
“Looks like that did that trick,” panted Jasper.
Gregory bent and lifted the knifes scabbard from the otters waist, and gently slid the knife back into its home once again.

Gregory picked up the bucket that had been rolling around the deck, and filled it wordlessly before once again turning to Jasper.
“We’d better get downstairs and get your arm looked at,” offered Gregory.

Jasper nodded mutely, gritting his teeth against the pain shooting up along his arm and into his very being.

Gregory led the way down below decks and through to the room where he had left Helena and Patrice only a few harrowing minutes before.
The door to the room had been closed, likely slammed shut from one of the violent lurches the boat took. Beyond the door, could be heard a tiny frail voice, crying against the gloom of the hallway.
Gregory inhaled sharply, and opened the door carefully, incase anything had fallen to block the entrance. He was greeted by Helena clutching the pink frame of a young mousling, who’s face was scrunched up as it continued crying. Patrice walked over and gathered the bucket from the thunderstruck father, and ushered him and Jasper into the room.
“What the bloody hell happened?” asked Gregory, as he kneeled down beside his wife and newborn youngling.

“Whatever happened outside, when the boat slammed up and down, caused Helena to go into full contractions,” offered Patrice, as she dunked a cloth into the bucket, wrung it tightly, and passed it to Gregory.

“She was born in just a few minutes,” said Helena, looking both radiant and unabashedly tired.
Gregory wiped the cloth around Helena’s nose and whiskers, and along her sweat soaked forehead. Between her arms the young mouse cooed quietly to herself, as she stared up at Gregory with massive blue eyes. Her crying spell had stopped, as she began to study the face of her father with the unshielded curiosity only the newly born can produce.

Helena sighed contentedly and looked up at Gregory.

“What shall we call her?” asked Helena.

Gregory thought for but a moment, and smiled.
“Marlin. Let’s call her Marlin.”

Helena smiled.
“Is that what caused all this mess out there?”

Gregory nodded.
“It’s a fitting name for a mouse born on the sea,” offered Patrice, as she turned her attention to Jasper. He held up his busted arm as easily as he could.
“My my, that must hurt something shocking,” clucked Patrice, as she turned him around and began to lead him to the sick bay down the hall.
Patrice turned to the new family, and paused momentarily, before saying.
“Marlin the mouse, born on the seas, I wonder what adventures she may see.”
Gregory and Helena both smiled at the seagull, as she once again turned and headed down the hall way.
“I’m sure I’ve got something to heal that, Jasper,” said Patrice, as they disappeared from view.

Helena once again looked up at her husband.

“Who would have thought a great ruddy fish would give us our daughter? What a day it’s been.”
Gregory nodded as he dunked the cloth into the bucket, and began to gingerly bathe his wife and daughter, taking great care not to hurt either of them with his attention.
As he wiped the blood from the beginnings of fur forming on Marlin’s pink face, he smiled at her. Marlin stared up at him, squinting her eyes as the cloth came around and wiped at her brow, and she smiled a toothless grin.
“There we go little one, there we go,” crooned Gregory.
Helena looked on as the two of them bonded, and as a smile cornered her lips, she began to doze—as the steady rhythm of the boat continued onwards to their new home across the sea.

****

Below them at some great depth, the marlin swung it’s massive pointed head from side to side, as the net first loosened, and then slid off to fall to the depths below. The marlin headed on with its life, not knowing the namesake of which it had been named cooed and gurgled happily to herself above the deep blue waters.

****
The travel took a few more weeks and was relatively less harrowing since the marlins departure. Jaspers arm had been set, and a few healing spells had been lain across the broken bone and skin to stitch them together once again, and he had been healing well since, though was not up to his usual level of robust duties that the others working the boat were happy to take up for him as he mended.
He carried his arm in a blue cloth sling, though it could easily move on its own at this point, as Patrice had ordered a month of half duty for the young otter, so that his bones mended to be stronger before the breaks occurred. Her word being law on the open waters.
Helena and Gregory sat up on the deck, playing peek a boo with Marlin, as the ship made landfall in the Port Palo docks.

Soon they had gathered their modest belongings from their compartment and Helena had given orders to Jasper and the crew on where and when to unload their wares, as she ran the family business with diligence and apt mindfulness on all it’s proceedings.

Gregory carried Marlin on a sling around his chest, and they disembarked from the boat and made landfall for the first time in a month. Getting used to the lack of sway that firm ground gave, they made their way into the city and to their new storefront and home in the merchants alley. The key to the door was threaded on fine silk around Gregory’s neck, and as he reached into the opening of his shirt, Marlin giggled.
Gregory pulled the key from around his neck, and unlocked the door to the shops entrance, and swept it open in a wide arc. Helena smiled at him.
“Home we are.”
Gregory nodded.
“Once again,” responded Gregory.
Helena shuffled into the entrance of the shop, who’s walls were bare except for the racks that the cloth bolts were to be placed in, and the various barrels and open topped boxes stacked against the far wall.
Helena walked over the stack of boxes and placed what she was carrying down on the red carpeted floor before them. She picked up on of the open topped crates, suitable for a thrice week old mousling to sleep in and laid it in the center of the room. Going back to the bag she had placed on the floor, she opened it and removed a padded cloth segment, and folded it until it would fit snuggly inside the box. Helena tucked it into the crates frame—and motioned for Gregory to hand her Marlin. Gregory undid the sling that held her and passed Marlin over to her mother, who gently laid the mouse into the crate.
“We can watch her while we get things set up for the cloth delivery later tonight,” said Helena, pointing at the stacks of boxes against the wall.
Gregory nodded.
“Shouldn’t take too long, I would wager.”
Helena huffed out a puff of air and began to take down the boxes one at a time, standing on tiptoes to reach them, before laying it against the corner of open wall and the cloth racks already secured into place.
The two of them made quick work before the store was how they liked it, just as it had been in their old home before coming to Port Palo.
The work for the day momentarily done, they gathered their things, and young Marlin once again in her sling, and walked through the store to the house beyond. They had paid to have the place furnished before they arrived, so they could sell most of their things, and have more space for their wares on the ship, which was undoubtably being unloaded as they went from room to room, gathering up the place that was to be their home. They found their room to be suitable, and the baby’s room to be large enough for the crib it held now, and a proper bed once Marlin reached the right age to need one. They fed Marlin and put her to bed. Marlin cried for a few minutes before succumbing to the softness of the crib and spent the rest of the night resting peacefully.
The mice ate their dinner quietly, being too tired to talk, while they waited for their wares to arrive from the docks. Assured that Marlin was safely asleep in her crib, they waited in the nearly empty storefront, until there came a knock on the door at six o’clock that night. A group of otters pulling a series of carts laden with their cloths waited patiently outside their door, as the supervisor waited for someone to answer the door. Helena opened the door to greet him, and the others, and began to give them instructions on how to arrange their wares and which bolts went where, in regards to magical ability, or finery of the cloth. Soon all the carts were unloaded, and the otters had finished their work, and the store looked ready to sell everything it housed.

The mice thanked them, and tipped them each a silver coin, before closing the door and locking it quickly behind them. Helena sighed, quite exhausted.
“How about we take tomorrow off, and explore the city?” Helena asked, grinning up at Gregory.

Gregory smiled and nodded.

“May as well. I’ll be looking for a proper café for our breakfast, that’s for sure.”
Helena laughed.
“Of course dear, trying the local cuisine as soon as you can.”

Gregory smiled and rubbed his paws together agreeably.
“Shall we go to bed then and get a proper start in the morning?” asked Gregory.
Helena wiped at her whiskers with both paws and yawned.
“Sounds like a plan, then.”
Helena doublechecked the lock on the front door of the store, and finding it properly secured, whipped around gaily, and put out her paw. Gregory took it in his, and they danced together in between the racks of cloth, around the crates, and barrels of threads and rolled lengths of cloth—through the store, and up into their room, where they promptly fell on the bed laughing and smiling with one another. Gregory gathered Helena in his arms and snuggled in close to her.
“We’re home, darling.”

Helena smiled. She yawned.
“That we are, that we are.”

They fell asleep holding one another, only to be woken the next morning to the sounds of a new city bustling around them.

 

Helena was the first to waken, still being held by Gregory. She rustled against him, until he woke from his slumber.

“I’ll feed her, you keep resting,” offered Helena, caressing his whiskers with one paw before rolling out of bed and onto her feet.
Helena walked to Marlin’s room to find her already wide awake and alert.

“You’re up early, my dear.”
Marlin cooed agreeably and focused in on her mother’s face.
Helena bent down and caressed her daughter’s whiskers much the same she had done for Gregory, before picking her up, and holding her close. Marlin buried her face into her mother’s chest and began feeding.

Helena walked throughout their home, and through the store, switching sides as needed as her arm got tired from carrying Marlin, until the babe was thoroughly supped and content. Helena patted the youngling on her back, until Marlin burped, and then walked them both to their room, to find Gregory still sleeping. Helena slid in next to him and shook him awake. Gregory woke gently enough, to find his wife and daughter staring at him from atop the bed spread.

“Go and wash up darling, and we’ll see about this café you want.”
Helena jiggled Marlin on her knee quite happily as Gregory got out of bed and headed towards the washroom at the end of the hall. He came back a few minutes later, his face and fur scrubbed and his attention much more alert.
Helena passed Marlin to him and began to get dressed for the day, changing out of her day-old clothes.
Soon they were ready to go and locked the store up and headed out into the city.
Their store was one of many on that street, on both sides. It was a merchants alley, and was already awake with customer and store keeper alike, bidding for wares and haggling prices.
They passed a boar arranging a stand of boar bristle brushes and combs outside his store, and waved him down. The boar was pleasant enough.
“Morning folks. Looking for a new brush for your wonderful lady’s fur? Or perhaps a bow for your young daughter,” asked the boar amicably,

Gregory shook his head and smiled.

“Actually, we just moved here—into that building,” as he pointed towards their new home a few stores down.

The boar nodded.

“How may I help you then, my new neighbors?”

Helena was perusing the brushes but turned to look up at the boar.
“We’re hoping you know of a café we could go for breakfast today? It’s our first day in town, and we’re hoping to get it off on the right paw.”

The boar thought for a moment, and then snapped his trotters together.
“I have just the place. If you head down this street until you pass a yellow store, dresses and gowns most fine, and take a right—you’ll find yourself in a restaurant alleyway, where there are more than just a single café to choose from. I recommend the Boarhouse Café, as my cousin owns it—and the breakfasts are quite good for such a reasonable price.”

Helena smiled and thanked the boar.
They headed on their way.

The boar waved after them.

“Come back here when you get a chance, and I’ll introduce you to the city myself, if you’d like.”
Gregory turned and smiled at the boar, assuring him that they would take him up on his offer most assuredly.

The family walked through the street, admiring the different store fronts, passing the local grocers, who was taking carts of fresh vegetables early in the day before the market rush of morning shoppers came in—and passed the dress store. They turned and came down the street a few restaurants before coming to the Boarhouse Café. The sign hanging over the door pictured a boar welcoming those that entered into a painted reproduction of the café with open arms.
Gregory watched the sign swing in the breeze.
“That reminds me. I’ll need to put our sign up today before we open.”
Helena nodded.

“That you do. It’s resting on the wall by the door.”

Gregory held the door open for Helena and Marlin and went in after them.
They sat down at the nearest table, and waited for a few minutes before a mole came up with paper menus in her large paws.
“Morning folks. Shall I get you two some coffee while you peruse the menu?”

Helena nodded and smiled.
“That would be lovely of you dear.”

The mole curtsied and went off to gather their morning drinks.
Gregory turned to Helena, who was bouncing Marlin on her knee rhythmically.

“So where else do you want to go today?”
Helena pursed her lips, her nose whiskers twitching delicately.
“We’ll we found the grocers, so we should probably stock up today, but other than that—we should just get the store opened.”

Gregory nodded.
“Alright. What are you going to have for breakfast?”

Helena looked down at her menu, until she found something she wanted.
“Oatcakes for me, with cream. I’m sure Marlin would like to try some cream. Wouldn’t you, little one?”

Helena scrunched up her face and tittered at the young mousling, poking at her belly with one claw.
Marlin giggled and smiled up at her. She gurgled happily.
Helena looked up from Marlin and towards Gregory.
“What about you, hon?”
Gregory thought for a moment before deciding.
“The oatcakes have it. Fresh cream does sound delightful doesn’t it?”

Helena nodded.
They placed their menus on the table and waited until the mole brought their coffee to them.
She laid out a small pitcher of cream, and two glass mugs of coffee for the two mice.
“Are you ready to order then?” asked the mole, wiping her large clawed paw across her temple.

The mice nodded and gave her their order.
The mole curtsied once again, and went back to the kitchen.
The couple sat and listened to the other diners as they ate and ordered their meals.
A couple of stoats were situated in the table next to them and were talking loudly to one another.
They were deeply in the middle of their conversation, and the first stoat was speaking at a  quickened pace, accentuating his point with claw jabs in the air.

“You see, it’s the foreigners that cause us all this trouble. They come in and take the jobs of all those animals that would work if they could—even the jobs they don’t really feel up to doing, and then push those hard working natural born animals out onto the streets.”
The stoat that sat across from him was nodding sternly, listening intently to what his friend had to say.
“Do you think they could take our jobs?” asked the stoat, through a mouthful of granola.

The first stoat nodded in an exaggerated manner.

“Of surely, surely they could. It wouldn’t put it passed any dirty foreigner from waltzing into our factory, demanding half the wage for the same amount of work, and pushing us all into homelessness. It’s what they do you see. It’s how they beat the system.”

The second stoat nodded dumbly again.

“Perhaps we should round them all up, and make them leave the town,” said the stoat.
The first one agreed.
“That could work, if we could get enough animals that feel the same way as us together. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to talk with our coworkers and see how many share our views?” offered the first stoat, waving his fork into the air with his paw.
Helena and Gregory listened intently—but said nothing.
Soon the stoats were done with their breakfast, paid, and headed out into the street.

The mole serving them brought out their breakfast and laid it in front of each of them.

They thanked her, as she curtsied once more, and headed off to tend to another table.
“Can you believe what they were saying?” asked Helena, scowling at her breakfast, as she took her knife and cut into her oat cake.
Gregory shook his head.

“It looks like old resentments follow us around.”

Helena shook her head angrily.
“I thought that if we moved to such a progressive place as Port Palo, we would be able to leave that sort of misguided hatred back in the old country.”
Gregory shrugged.
“Someone has to be at blame for every little inconvenience, but perhaps it will not get worse—and stay the middling talk of breakfast conversation.”

He gathered cream from the bowl next to his cake and slathered it onto the side of the chunk Gregory had cut from the sweet roll.
Helena chewed her mouthful, still scowling.
“We’ll see dear, we’ll see.”
They ate their breakfast quickly, wanting to get out of the café as soon as they could. Helena tried offering Marlin a mouthful of cream, which she ate up eagerly, licking her muzzle and whiskers as best she could.

They paid their bill and headed back to their store, forgetting to take the boar up on his offer of exploration. The mood had soured that morning. Gregory busied himself with putting the sign up above the door, standing on a ten step ladder to reach the sign posts hooks.
The sign firmly in place once again, swinging gently in the breeze, he lowered himself to the ground, and took the ladder inside to store it properly.

They opened the store, and much to their amazement were selling pieces of cloth within the first hour. Those that worked at the other stores came to see them on their breaks, to welcome them into the neighborhood, and to offer advice on where to go to have fun nights drinking and where the best restaurants were—many being close by down one of the many streets running intersected with their own.

The boar that saw them that morning came just as dusk started to settle into the day, and he introduced himself.
“I’m Wilbur,” said the boar, holding his hat between his trotters and smiling sheepishly.
Gregory stuck out his paw, and they shook agreeably.
“Thanks for telling us about the Boarhouse. Their oatcakes and cream were delicious.”

Wilbur nodded, and smiled.
“I’m glad you liked them. My cousin works very hard every day to make that the best experience he can.”
Helena nodded. She already knew she liked the middle aged boar. He had a kind way about him, that spoke to her sensibilities very well.

Wilbur raised a trotter to his chin and rubbed it wistfully.

“When would you like me to take you on a tour of the city?”

The couple thought about it for a moment.
“How about tomorrow?” suggested Gregory.

Wilbur clapped his trotters together and smiled.
“That sounds like a fine idea. I’ll be by early in the morning and we can spend a few hours learning the city.”

Helena nodded and thanked the boar.

Wilbur wished them a good night and made his way to the door.
He turned back to them.

“Be careful at night around here. There’s been some talk about anti-immigrant agendas beginning to take hold in the city. As long as you’re together, or travel with friends, such as myself, you should be fine—but take care not to go down any darkened alleyways by yourselves.”
The couple agreed and thanked him once again.
Wilbur made his way through the door, the bell hanging over head tinkling as the door shut behind him.

“Nice boar, that Wilbur,” said Gregory.

Helena nodded.
“Yes. Let’s make sure to keep him as a friend for as long as we can.”

Their new friend gone for the evening, the young mouse couple decided it was time to close up shop for the day. They made quick work of closing down the store, helping the last of the customers with what they needed and escorting them amicably through the door. Once the last of the customers had been helped, Gregory locked the door behind the old sheep, and swapped the sign that hanged from the door frame from open to closed.

That done they gathered Marlin and made it back into their house and readied to go to the grocers for supplies for the coming week.
They were diligent with their shopping, after learning where the major food groups were organized within the store and were soon back at home having carried cloth bags of food through the street to their house. They unpacked the food, organizing the dry goods into their larder, and the fresh vegetables into their cellar, and readied themselves for dinner. They ate a modest meal of lettuce leaves and barely mead that they had procured that night in small bottles from the grocers, and went to bed soon after feeding Marlin for the night.
 

 

Marlin Grew.

Years passed in much the same fashion. Marlin grew quickly and strongly from a small babe to a stalwart young maiden. She made the best of most situations and worked hard under her parents tutelage to learn as much as she could. Marlin wanted for nothing, and took great care of those she came in contact with.

One fine summers afternoon, in her ninth year, Marlin walked through the streets by her home, enjoying the feeling of the bustling port town as the many different animals that made up its populace went about their lives. The sun beat down on her warmly, lifting her spirits as she traveled through an alley way, as she was cut in shadow by the height of the buildings buttressing either side. A group of animals—a fat stoat, and triplet foxes—lounged lazily on crates to one side of the alleyway.

As Marlin passed the stoat called out to her.

“Hey there, mousey, where do you think you’re going?”
Marlin stopped and turned as the group surrounded her. Marlin made no noise, but attempted to pass the stoat, who placed his outstretched arm against the cool wall blocking her path.
He sniggered.

“You’re not going anywhere without paying the toll to get through.”

Marlin grimaced, thinking of the small allotment of coin she carried with her for the meal she was hoping to procure.
“I only have enough for myself, and I’ll not be giving it to you lot, that’s for sure.”

Marlin readied her body and raised her fists.

“You’ll have to fight me for them.”
The stoat and foxes chortled, choking back laughter at the sight of the small mouse ready to defend herself.
One of the foxes nodded slyly to his siblings and came up behind her, propping his leg outward.
The other two foxes laughing to each other pushed Marlin with hard shoves and she toppled over onto the dirt packed ground.
The animals set upon her with punches and raking claws as she did her best to cover her face and body with her arms. The stoat clawed into her—and straddled her waist with his clawed paws raised.
He grabbed at her shirt with one free paw, and pulled her face close to his. Marlin could smell his hot breath washing over him. Her nose and whiskers wrinkled in disgust.
“Are you going to pay up now? Or do we have to spill more of your blood before you’ll give up your precious coins?”
She spat in her face. Long driblets of spit hanged from his nose and muzzle. The stoat pulled back his arm as the foxes started to kick Marlin in the ribs and legs, hard sharp blows.
Marlin closed her eyes tightly against the onslaught, until a cry rang out as an almighty crack echoed throughout the summer days air. Marlins eyes opened and she saw the stoat turn around quickly while yelling in pained surprise.

Crack! Went the board as it connected with the grey stoats face, and down he went senseless and without hesitation. He slumped off Martin and lay in a heap next to her.
The stoat that carried the board readied it again, and swung low with all his might, connecting with the hind legs of the fox nearest him. The fox yelped in pain and fell to the ground clutching his wounded legs cursing his attacker.
“You’ve broken them!”

The stoat carrying the board swiftly kicked the fox in the face, and out he went, much like his friend.
The two remaining foxes bolted from the alleyway hissing and throwing curses to the both of them behind them as they ran.

The victorious brown and white stoat dropped the wooden plank on the ground and walked up to Marlin, who was still laying there in a mild daze.
He offered his paw.
Marlin took it and was soon on her feet again.

She looked over the stoat appreciatively.

“Thanks. I was surely done for, if you hadn’t come to help me.”
The stoat nodded and bowed low.
Marlin dusted off her clothes, being careful not to touch the scratch marks raked up her arms too easily as they began to sting something awful.

“What’s your name, friend?”
The stoat looked at her with green unblinking eyes. He reached up towards his neck with his paw and pulled the fur aside to reveal a great and gristly scar running along the width of his neck.
He pantomimed a talking head with his paw, and shook his head.

Marlin smiled.
“Oh, so you can’t speak, is that it?”
The stoat nodded and smiled.

He reached for his stomach and held it with both paws.
He gestured wildly with both arms, pointing towards the defeated animals, and then clutched his stomach once again.

Marlin looked at him quizzically and let out a small yip.

“So you’re saying your name is something like tummy, is it?”

The stoat shrugged and rolled his eyes, and grabbed his stomach once more, again gesturing to the two waylaid attackers.

Marlin winked up at him, her whiskers twitching.

“Alright Tum, why don’t you come with me. We should probably get out of here before the others return with more of their ilk.

The stoat sighed inaudibly and nodded.

They walked through the streets back towards Marlins home and came to the store front.
Marlin gestured inside.
“This is my family’s store, I’m mother and father will have a reward for you for helping me out so deftly. Follow me.”
Marlin and the stoat walked into the store, and made their way to the back, where Helena was working a great loom, weaving intricate patterns one line at a time into a great tapestry depicting boats sailing on clear waters.

Helena stopped when she saw Marlin and her new friend standing next to her, and noticed the long scratches along her arms, and the beginnings of swelling of her facial features.
“What happened to you my dear!”

Marlin offered a lopsided grin.

“I was getting mugged, and this fine young fella came to my rescue.”

Helena put down her threads and came to inspect her daughter’s wounds more closely.
She held up each arm, and gently prodded the bruising rising out of Marlins young face.

“We’d better get some salve for you for those wounds. You’ll have to clean them out properly with hot water and soap. It’ll sting something awful, but you make sure you do it.”

Helena lead Marlin and the stoat through the room with the loom, and back into the house beyond, to the sink in the kitchen.
“I’ll go and get you some bandages, while you clean yourself up. Wait until your father hears about this,” chided Helena.

She motioned for the stoat to sit at the table which he did wordlessly, and nodded a grin at her once he was comfortable.

“What’s your name, young sir?”

The stoat cupped his paw to his throat, and mimed the talking head again with his free paw, while vigorously shaking his head from side to side.

Marlin turned from the sink towards her mother.

“He can’t talk. I’m calling him Tum, since he keeps grabbing his stomach all the time.”

Helena nodded.
“Well that won’t do. Let me see if I have something for him so he can express himself.”

Marlin nodded, and went back to gingerly washing her wounds with a basin of hot water and bar of soap. It was not a fun job, but the hot water soothed her wounds nicely.
Helena left them alone for a few minutes.
Having finished washing the wounded appendages that would fit in the sink, Marlin dried them lightly with a small clean towel, and sat down next to Tum at the table.