Martin pushed back the curtain that hung in front of the bedroom entrance. At the table in the middle of the main living area was his mother, asleep. She was sitting on one of the corks, hunched over the table, resting her head on her arms. She had not gone to bed after she had tucked her children in. He walked around the table and into the larder. Finding their store of grain, he reached out to fill one of the bowls for his breakfast but knocked over some other items that were stored on the shelves, sending them clattering to the floor. Mrs. Brisby woke with a start, and looked around. She was obviously still very tired. Martin poked his head out from the larder.
“Sorry,” he said. Mrs. Brisby smiled and settled back onto the stool, resting her head on her hands and closing her eyes.
“What time is it?” she asked. Martin looked out of the window.
“It’s light outside,” he replied. Outside the sky was overcast, and almost uniform, stark white. “I can’t see the sun. It’s not a nice day.”
“Jeremy will be here soon. Are you packed?”
“Yes Mum.” He walked over to the table and sat down looking at her for a moment. Mrs. Brisby was too tired to notice her son’s unease. Her sleep had not been peaceful. Shadowy mice with billowing cloaks and haunted her. Martin continued to look at his mother, at the lines on her face, the signs of tiredness.
“I want to go with you,” he said quietly. Mrs. Brisby’s eyes opened again and she was properly awake. She gazed at her son and was truly aware for the first time that he was no longer a child. He had grown up without her properly noticing, taking after his father, maturing into a strong young adult.
“You can’t. You have to go with Jeremy,” she said, not meeting his gaze.
“No. I want to come with you. I can help. I’m old enough now, and strong. If anyone tries to hurt you again... I’ll protect you.” His face remained set. For a moment she thought about agreeing. He had Jonathan’s blood. She knew that NIMH had altered her husband. It had affected him and the Rats not only in the mind, but had also changed their bodies. They were more intelligent as well as stronger and slower to age. It frightened her to think how her children may have been affected by NIMH’s experiments, if indirectly. It was true that her children had taken longer to grow, and that others of the same age had already grown fully and moved on, but as Martin, her eldest son, sat before her, she saw how strong it had made him. He acted more like the Rats every day. She could hardly understand some of the things he spoke about and could not guess at how his mind worked. But it was, she decided, all for the better. Her other children would be just the same. Except Timothy. Illness at an early age had caused serious damage. He needed Mr. Ages, medicine or else he would become ill again, and would probably require the treatment for the rest of his life. It was for Timothy and her other children that she had reached the decision.
“You need to protect the others Martin. While I’m gone, they’ll have to look up to you. You’re the oldest and the strongest; I need you to protect them. That’s why you can’t come with me.”
Martin lowered his head. When he raised it again his eyes were glazed.
“Okay Mum. If you say so,” he said. She was about to reply when there was a little voice from behind her.
Mrs. Brisby turned round to see Cynthia standing at the doorway to the bedrooms. She was rubbing her eyes with a little paw. Mrs. Brisby smiled and then turned back to Martin, but he was back in the larder. The smile faded and once again she turned to Cynthia.
Breakfast was rushed, but there was much discussion. All the children were now awake and were sitting at the table. Cynthia was playing with her food in a distracted way.
“What will it be like at Thorn Valley?” she asked.
“Yeah. Did any of the rats mention it?” said Timothy, looking up from his own breakfast. Mrs. Brisby smiled as she stacked food into four small piles.
“Nicodemus did say something about it when I went to the Rosebush.”
“What did he say?” Timmy’s eyes were bright as he asked this.
“He said it was a beautiful place. It was walled in on all sides by rocky hills and the mountains and these were covered in thorny thickets that stopped humans going into the valley. The valley itself was wide and filled with oak and maple trees. There were three lakes, a larger one and two smaller ones, ponds he said. It wasn’t true, but Nicodemus liked to think that they were the first to ever see the valley.” Mrs. Brisby had a wistful note to her voice as she related the story.
Martin was listening intently, but went back to his food as his mother finished the description.
“It sounds wonderful,” said Teresa finishing her food.
“Why can’t we come with you?” asked Cynthia. Mrs. Brisby turned round and saw the food on Cynthia’s plate ignored.
“Finish your breakfast,” she said with a nod, continuing once Cynthia started to eat again. “Because it may be dangerous and I’m not sure of the direction. I’m just hoping that I will be able to find them. Justin made it sound easy, said I should just go to the valley, but...”
“You don’t know they way?” asked Martin sounding concerned.
“Well I know the rough direction, and then there should be the landmarks to guide me.” She noticed Martin’s expression. “I’ll be fine.” All the children were looking at her. “We discussed this last night, you cannot come with me!” The other children lowered their gazes, but Martin looked unconvinced. Mrs. Brisby sighed.
“Hurry up and finish your breakfast. Jeremy will be here soon and you all still need to pack.”
It was about and hour later when Jeremy arrived. Mrs. Brisby was waiting to meet him. The children were still inside.
“Okay Mz. Briz. I’m ready, but I don’t think I’ll be able to carry them all at once. I should be able to manage two at a time.” He was looking nervous again, furtive glances to the sides.
“I had thought about that,” replied Mrs. Brisby. “Thanks again Jeremy.” Jeremy grinned.
“I even got some extra string to help them hold on. See.” He turned showing off a tangle of string that would allow the children to find a good grip. She smiled.
“You’re a genius, Jeremy. I don’t know what I’d do without you. I’ll go and get the children.” She ducked inside. A moment later she reappeared, the children in tow. Mrs. Brisby had given the children little sacks with food and, in Timmy’s case, what remained of their supply of his medicine.
“Hey kids!” Jeremy called as they filed out of the house. The children greeted him, Cynthia still referring to him as the ‘turkey’.
They decided that Martin and Timothy should go first, and that Jeremy would come back for Teresa and Cynthia. There was apparently an abandoned mouse hole at the base of tree that was Jeremy’s home where the children would be comfortable, and not too far away from the summer house. Martin and Timothy hugged their mother and then clambered onto Jeremy’s back. Martin held Timothy close when they were in position, in case Timothy lacked the strength to hold on himself, despite his protestations to the contrary. They called some last goodbyes and then Jeremy was off soaring into the distance, Mrs. Brisby and the remaining children waving after them.
While Jeremy was gone Mrs. Brisby got Teresa and Cynthia to pick some of the blackberries that were growing nearby. They also checked for anything that had been left in the house that they would need. Jeremy returned before too long. Teresa was helping Cynthia onto his back when they all turned towards a shrill cry from the bushes.
“Brisby!” It was the Shrew.
“Oh no!” said Jeremy with terror filled eyes.
“Oh, I completely forgot!” said Mrs. Brisby clasping her hands over her mouth.
“Auntie Shrew?” asked a grinning Cynthia.
“Brisby!” came the cry again. Mrs. Brisby thought fast. If the Shrew saw what was going on she would insist on looking after the children herself. She had never approved of Mrs. Brisby’s friendship with Jeremy and had demonstrated this the last time she and the Crow had met. Although Auntie Shrew had all the best intentions, Mrs. Brisby believed the children would be happier and safer with Jeremy. She had to get them out of sight before the Shrew found out what was going on.
“Children. Go round the house and get some more blackberries,” then she added quietly to Teresa, “and stay there until I come and get you.” Teresa nodded in understanding and then hurried Cynthia along.
“Jeremy. Can you go and perch somewhere for a second?” Mrs. Brisby looked round from watching her children go to see Jeremy quivering with fear, looking all around him in terror.
“Jeremy!” she called.
“Hmmm!” came the panicked response, Jeremy’s attention snapping onto Mrs. Brisby. She gave him a wide-eyed look.
“Hide!” she whispered through her teeth.
“Oh yeah. Right.” He madly flapped his wings lifting off the ground and flying straight into the branches of a small shrub nearby. There the string tangled amongst the leaves and he struggled for a second, stopping after receiving a few frantic gestures from Mrs. Brisby. He hung there, swinging slowly almost obscured by the leaves. Just at that moment the Shrew appeared from around a tree.
“Over here, Auntie Shrew!” called Mrs. Brisby.
“Good day,” said the Shrew when she had made her way over. Her voice was laden with a forced courtesy used only by those wanting to show how hard they are trying to remain civil.
“I’m so sorry I forgot to come back...”
“And so you should be dear, I waited till near darkness. I was worried sick. I thought the cat may have got you, and was equally worried it could have got me! And what about the children? What would they do if anything happened to you and me? I wonder if you would be kind enough to furnish me with an explanation?” she stared furiously at Mrs. Brisby.
“I was attacked,” she said simply. The Shrew’s expression changed instantly to a look of concern. Her tone had similarly altered.
“How dreadful! By whom? If it was those Rats...”
“No, they were mice.”
“Yes. I think they may have been the ones you noticed earlier. The ‘shady characters’. They were waiting for me when I arrived at Mr. Ages’. There were two of them and...”
“How ever did you escape?” Auntie Shrew interrupted, obviously not wanting the conversation to go any further until she had satisfied her particular curiosity. Mrs. Brisby was about to speak when she stopped herself. Over the Shrew’s shoulder she could see Jeremy’s face through a gap in the leaves, shaking his head furiously.
“I managed to lose them in the long grass of the field. I hid in there until they went away. But the worst thing was they knew my name. It was almost as if they wanted me specifically.” The Shrew’s eyes widened in astonishment.
“That is worrying,” she said. “What are you doing about it? What if they find out where you live? Do you want me to look after the children?”
“The children are already staying with friends. I was just on my way to see someone who might know who these mice are. I’m worried what they may have done to Mr. Ages.”
“He is old enough to look after himself, but it is a worry, yes,” said the Shrew, looking slightly on edge herself now. “I better go then dear. If you need any help...” She didn’t finish.
“Thank you,” said Mrs. Brisby. The Shrew turned and left, moving a good deal faster then she had when she was arriving. Mrs. Brisby let out a sigh of relief and then went to find her children. They were waiting under the blackberry bush with another small pile of berries. They carried these back to the house, Mrs. Brisby explaining to Teresa what had happened, and thanking her for playing along when Cynthia piped up.
“Where’s the turkey?” Then Mrs. Brisby remembered Jeremy.
“Oh, Jeremy! I’m sorry I forgot.” She turned back to the shrub and ran under it. Jeremy was still swinging back and forth and wasn’t looking at his best.
“Hi Mz. Briz!” He slurred. Mrs. Brisby could almost make out a hint of green beneath the feathers. She scampered up into its branches then with a few quick bites freed Jeremy. He collapsed onto the ground.
“’Scuse me. Pardon me,” he said on landing.
“I’m so sorry, Jeremy.”
“No problem.” He set about tidying his feathers when he stopped suddenly. “Is she gone?” He looked towards the direction in which the Shrew had retreated.
“Yes. Do you still feel up to flying?” Mrs. Brisby asked.
“Oh sure,” he said and stood up. Within a few moments Teresa and Cynthia had received goodbye hugs and were clasped to Jeremy’s back. More farewells were called and then they were off. Mrs. Brisby waved until they were out of sight. Then she turned and went back into her house. She had a long journey ahead of her and she had to pack herself.
Near the edge of the woods a little clump of grass stirred. Then the Shrew poked her head out and looked around. What Mrs. Brisby had said about being attacked had frightened her. Ruffians like those always preyed on the small and weak. Well, small she may be but if they approached her they would find she was far from weak. She hopped out of the grass and then under a bush and out into a clearing. In the centre was an old stump, its surfaces weathered and craggy. She rounded it and reached the edge of the wood and looked out over the fields with the farmhouse sitting in the centre. It was then that she felt movement. Looking around and saw a mouse, with a long cloak and weapon, advancing slowly. She didn’t hesitate on seeing the stranger, but whirled around, ready to bolt for the fields. Her stomach sank when she saw two other mice where already there, blocking her escape. All three kept coming slowly, inexorably towards her. The Shrew turned back to the first mouse and cowered, wide eyed, shocked into immobility by a cold terror under his terrible gaze.
Mrs. Brisby placed some corn kernels onto the little piece of cloth she had spread on the table. There were already various seeds and grasses there. She picked up one of the kernels and popped it into her mouth. She would have expected to feel sad with the children gone, but she was actually happy, knowing that they were safe and that there was no chance of them being found. Turning, she went back into her bedroom to check for anything else she might need. It felt strange in the room, dark as it was. The house was very quiet and seemed empty without the children. The bedroom had one window, though at this time of day it was in such shadow that it may as well have been night outside, and with the curtain across the bedroom’s entrance, little light entered from the main chamber. There was nothing left in the room that she would need so she turned and was about to make her way out when she stopped. A feeling of unease crept over her. She peered over the top of the curtain from the shadows. There was nothing apparently wrong, though she still felt troubled. She started to move out of the darkness when she immediately recoiled in fear. As she watched, the door to her home opened slowly to reveal a mouse, one of those she had seen at Mr. Ages’. She recognised him as the one who had waited outside Mr. Ages’ home, the one with the sword. This mouse had been followed in by another. This one was definitely not one of those who had pursued her from Mr. Ages home. His movements were slower, more purposeful and betrayed a greater power driving them. He wore a cape, like the others but also a long scarf pulled up over his mouth and nose. His ears were ragged and torn and he had a scar down the right side of his face that had damaged his eye, for it was clouded, glazed and dead. The creature’s other eye was bright and held the promise of cold murder, and darted back and forth across the room and then settled on the food still laid out on the table.
Mrs. Brisby pressed her hands to her mouth to stifle a cry. She backed away hurriedly, though she tried desperately not to make a sound. She noticed that the second mouse did not seem to be carrying a weapon, though of the two he still seemed the more dangerous. While he sniffed at the food that was still spread on her table, the other darted further into the house, towards the children’s room. A chill spread through Mrs. Brisby as she realised how near her children had been to being found by these creatures. The mouse would probably find their beds still warm! The chill settled and into her stomach and festered, causing her hands to tremble as she racked her mind for a way to escape. The second mouse was now by her pantry, looking along the shelves with his good eye in a disinterested fashion. His movements were slow, deliberate and sinister. She could not go that way, would not go that way, not towards him.
Glancing around quickly, she saw the little window. Creeping over to it, she looked out, though she also used her nose and whiskers, every sense ready for a warning. The way seemed clear, and if it wasn’t, the shadow would probably conceal her for enough time to wait for an unhindered path. She picked up a stool and placed it beneath the window. Then standing on it she braced herself on the window ledge. As she shifted her weight trying to get through the little window the stool wobbled and clattered on the floor. She froze for a split second, listening for any sound. There was. Two sets of footsteps were heard. She dove through the window, as the two mice appeared at the doorway, tearing down the curtain. She slipped through the little hole and glanced back. The mouse with the dead eye looked back at her for a split second and then disappeared, possibly leaving through the front door come around the house. The other made his way to the window. She turned and ran, crying for help. The scarred mouse had appeared on top of the log, gazing around. Seeing Mrs. Brisby sprinting away he plunged a hand into his cloak. He withdrew a small but wickedly sharp knife. With a sharp movement he sent it sailing through the air. It dug deep into the ground just to her left. She made a quick dart to the right and kept moving. A third, grey mouse, armed with a spear and his face also marked with a scar, had taken up the chase, and was following her.
As Mrs. Brisby ran, she caught sight of other animals turning to look. Their gazes shifted to what Mrs. Brisby was running from and many shied away from the strange creature wielding its sharp weapon. She tried to think. She could not outrun these mice. They were faster than her. She had to try and hide from them. But where? They would doggedly pursue her throughout the forest and eventually catch her. She had to find another way. A memory from long ago surfaced in her mind. Something she had encountered during her youth. Something nearby she may be able to use. With another burst of speed she darted into the trees, the grey mouse close behind.
He ignored the tugs on his cloak as it caught on twigs and leaves. Following her scent and the trail of twitching leaves he knew exactly where she was going and knew there was no escape for her. Seeing an obstruction ahead he raised his spear in both hands and leapt onto a small branch that had fallen then pushed off gliding through the air and landing smoothly. He looked around the small clearing in which he found himself but could see no sign of Mrs. Brisby. Before him was the entrance to a tunnel, overgrown with weeds almost to the point of being invisible. He was in no doubt where Mrs. Brisby had gone. He drew close to the entrance sniffing the air, almost feeling it with his whiskers. It took several moments, the mouse becoming still with concentration, but he felt what he was hoping for. Mrs. Brisby’s scent was strong but the air was dead and stale. There was no through current, meaning this tunnel had only the one entrance. She could not get out another way. He peered into the darkness of the tunnel, catching his breath, waiting.
He turned towards a sound behind him. The mouse with the dark fur and the sword burst from the undergrowth and stared at his companion.
“Deakon!” he said. “You’ve lost her again.” There was no anger in the voice, only weariness. The grey mouse, addressed as Deakon, grinned.
“So quick to judge, but so slow to follow, as always, Malachi.” Deakon nodded towards the hole. “She’s down there.”
The other mouse, Malachi, looked to the rabbit hole, and then back to Deakon.
“I’ll wait here. You go down and get her out!”
“Because you lost her before, Deakon! Or should I get Spiro?”
The skin around Deakon’s eyes tightened as he used a look of disdain to try and hide the flash of panic. It did not work. The blank stare that Malachi returned was worse than any amount of gloating.
“Just be sure you get her when she bolts,” said Deakon, looking into the hole. Malachi’s face was completely unmoving as his companion disappeared into the darkness.
Deep in the tunnel Mrs. Brisby crept slowly through the dark. This place was not unknown to her. She and Jonathan had once taken refuge here, to shelter from the rain. They had been walking in the forest when they were caught by the downpour and, finding the abandoned warren, ducked inside, holding each other close for warmth, listening to the rain patter on the leaves outside. They had searched the warren, creeping through the dark tunnels, Jonathan holding her hand...
She shook the memory from her head. Strange to dwell on such things at a time like this. She needed to press on. Once again, she found herself taking refuge in this warren, but this time from a far greater threat.
She moved very slowly on all fours. The floor of the tunnel had deteriorated through disuse and was treacherous to those who would try to move quickly. She navigated the tunnels, remembering the route well. The tunnel was slightly stuffy and as she hurried along, Mrs. Brisby felt a strange, uneasy feeling, settle into her stomach. She tried to ignore it as she turned several corners, trying to find the other exit tunnel. She remembered it had been right about... here. Mrs. Brisby stopped as her whiskers connected with earth.
“No.” she breathed. Had she been wrong? Was this the wrong route? She frantically searched the wall in front of her and quickly found her answer. The sensation in her stomach quickly twisted making her feel nauseous with fear. The blockade in front of her was a collapsed section of tunnel; the back entrance was blocked. She had been in such a hurry she had not noticed. She scrabbled at the earthen barrier, hoping she could make a hole big enough to leave through, but stopped and turned when she heard a noise echo up the tunnel.
Mrs. Brisby pressed herself against the wall of the tunnel. The surface was cold and uneven, like the floor. Roots and stones protruded from the surface that would have been smooth if still in use. The touch of the cold earth against her body made her shudder. Trying to make her breathing as quiet as possible she listened intently for any sound from the darkness, her whiskers sensitive for any movement in the air, her nose waiting for any scent. On the very edge of hearing she was sure she could hear something breathing. She drew in a shaky breath. There was a sudden movement somewhere in the blackness of the tunnel.
She began to edge sideways, treading carefully over the tangle of roots and other detritus. There was a crack from somewhere to her right, and a grating sound: metal against earth. She darted forward, almost tripping over something on the floor. Landing on all fours she moved forward, finding the opposite wall of the tunnel, flattening herself against it. The grating abruptly stopped. Mrs. Brisby held her breath and with the inhalation came the other creature’s scent. It was definitely a mouse. There was silence. Everything was still. Then there was a sudden flurry of activity. She felt the movement in the air and dived to her left. As she did so she heard a gasp then a clatter followed by a dull thud and then a muffled groan. Now!
Mrs Brisby ran back towards the entrance of the tunnel, memory guiding her path. She stumbled on various objects littering the tunnel floor, but kept moving on all fours. The gloom began to brighten; ahead, Mrs. Brisby could see the ragged circle of light. As she shot out into the forest she caught a movement out of the corner of her eye. She turned in time to see the mouse with the sword barge into her knocking her to the ground. Mrs. Brisby lay there panting.
“Now why does this seem so familiar?” Malachi’s voice was flat and emotionless. Almost a monotone. Mrs. Brisby raised her head and looked once again into those terribly sad eyes. He stared back and then turned away looking back to the hole. “I wonder what you did with Deakon?” he looked back to her and put his hand to his sword, ready to remove it from its scabbard. However before he could draw it a hand was placed on the hilt. Malachi looked round to see another woodland mouse looking back at him.
“Michael!” gasped Mrs. Brisby. Michael grabbed the smaller mouse and pushed him aside, sending him rolling across the ground, using his weight and size advantage. Michael then faced Mrs. Brisby. His expression was set.
“Go! I’ll slow him down,” said Michael. Mrs. Brisby clambered to her feet.
“Thank you,” she whispered and ran into the trees.
Michael looked at the fallen mouse.
“I’d stay down if I was you lad. I wouldn’t want to hurt you,” he said squaring his shoulders. The younger mouse got up and went for his sword again. Michael strode forward and used the same method to stop him drawing it and was about to hold the mouse to keep him from running off, when the smaller creature, with one hand, managed to push Michael aside. This caught the larger mouse completely off guard; he would never have expected such strength. He grunted as he hit the floor, the impact winding him. Rolling over to try and get up, Michael found himself looking at the sharp tip of a sword. The other mouse was standing over him looking down with a cold fury. Michael closed his eyes and waited. Nothing. When he opened his eyes again, the mouse was gone...
Mrs. Brisby sprang from tree root to tree root, through a bramble bush and between thick-stalked flowers. Her whole life had become this sprint. She had to get away, use the head start that Michael had given her. She hoped that he would be okay.
The forest run she was following began to become overgrown and she dove through another thick bush, fighting against twigs, and leaves, ignoring grazes as she forced her way onwards. She closed her eyes against the obstructions and struggled on. Suddenly the resistance disappeared. Now she could hear the sound of running water.
“No!” she thought as she took in her surroundings. She had become disorientated and found her way to the bank of the brook. Now she had boxed herself in. She turned back to the woods and found the mouse with the dead eye standing before her, staring at her impassively with his good eye. She froze, her gaze locked with his. The skin around his eyes tightened.
Mrs. Brisby shook her head. She tried to speak, to plead with this creature, but the words would not leave her throat, almost as if they where driven back by his terrible stare. Mrs. Brisby backed away, but stopped when her tail touched the water.
Without shifting his gaze from Mrs. Brisby, the mouse began to glide forward, one of his hands disappearing into the folds of his cloak. It reappeared again holding a vicious little weapon, its blade splitting into two narrow prongs like fangs. Mrs. Brisby looked to the knife, then back into the mouse’s eye. The only way was into the water. She began to shift her weight and then looked over her shoulder at the rapidly flowing brook. There was no choice. She leapt towards the water, as far out into the stream as she could.
During the split second when her attention was elsewhere, the mouse moved quickly. Incredibly quickly. Mrs. Brisby’s eyes grew wide. She could feel his knife digging into her side. The forest seemed to fall away around her. Surprisingly, she felt little pain, though the sensation made her stomach churn with queasiness. Her legs grew suddenly weak, putting her off balance. Instead of leaping, she toppled forward into the water.
The shock of the cold liquid replaced the sickening feeling of unreality that had followed the attack. Mrs. Brisby floated, unmoving for a moment, and then tried to swim. The brook was running fast and she struggled to keep her head above the surface. She simply floated with the current for a while; the dull ache in her side became unbearable when she tried any strenuous movement. At one point she felt something nudge her hand in the water and she grabbed it. Despite the pain she hauled herself onto the piece of bark that she had drifted close to her. There was a strange numbness in her side. She looked down at her wound to see a delicate cloud of dark red visible in the water before it was dispersed by the currents. There was also an unpleasant feeling of nausea and weakness. Looking around she saw that the brook was taking her towards the farm. She remembered it ended up by the old water mill. Searching the bank she could see no sign of any mice trying to follow her. Nothing had followed her into the water either. She glanced down at her side again. The wound did not seem deep and she should be able to patch herself up. The journey would be slower but she was sure that she would be able...
Without warning, there was a flash of pain from her side. Mrs. Brisby closed her eyes tight and then opened them again, shaking her head, trying to clear it. It took a few seconds for her to be able to think clearly again. Now she was frightened. What had just happened? What had they done to her? She didn’t have time to contemplate it. She was reaching the beginning of the fields when her head began to swim and black spots appeared across her vision. She felt her grip on the bark faltering; her head suddenly felt very heavy. Her stomach lurched and her vision was thrown out of focus. She tried to pull herself up further onto the piece of driftwood but with a sickening slowness she slipped slowly away from the bark and below the water. Her side ached with more intensity now. It almost burned. The strange numbness was spreading. She made tiny movements, trying to get above the water again. Without being able to see what was happening there was a sudden sickening sensation of tumbling and then of rushing water. She felt herself being thrown this way and that by currents in the water. Her wound stung with each lurch of her body. Then there was finally stillness.
Mrs. Brisby tried to open her bleary eyes. She was near the edge of the water, floating amongst the water plants. Every movement she made sent pain racing through her entire body but she managed to reach solid ground, and pull herself a little way from the water. She could only concentrate on getting into the cover of the undergrowth, where she could rest. Her left leg was numb and her arms weak as she used the grass to try and pull herself along. Each effort sent fire racing up her spine; every tiny distance travelled came at a great price. Her breathing quickly became ragged and painful, and tears rolled from here eyes and were lost in already damp fur.
Just at that moment the sun broke from behind clouds. Rays of light shone from between leaves of the nearby trees illuminating the foliage around the little mouse, dappling the grass with an intense brightness. She could only register this as a blur, could see no detail as vibrant colours of flowers appeared as random clouds in the miasma that surrounded her. There was a flash of pain in her side, a crippling pressure around the back of her head, and her strength went. Her body went limp and she collapsed, lying still on the ground. The pain subsided slightly into a background haze, though every breath felt as if she was breathing fire, and with every pathetic rise and fall of her chest her vision darkened. Her eyes closed. Thoughts raced through her head, memories, images, and voices. Before the darkness, Mrs. Brisby thought of her friends, her children... and of Jonathan.