Title: Rules of Rodentia
Genre: MG Fantasy
Word Count: 36,200
It’s no mistake Tobin won top seed-finder for junior mice two seasons in a row. After all, he knows the Rules of Rodentia like the back of his paw. He thrives in the forest, not sitting cooped up inside the Great Burrow.
After Tobin returns from a scouting trip to see the Great Burrow ransacked, his outlook on routine forest life crumbles like last autumn’s leaves. Tobin spies the monstrous spider responsible for the damage scuttling into the woods. Worse yet, the beast's pincers clutch a newborn pinkling mouse, wrapped in webbing and squeaking for its mother. An extra scary sight for Tobin, as his mom gave birth earlier that day.
With the elder mice furiously working on burrow repairs, Tobin turns to his best friend Wiley and little sister Talia. His instincts are howling that the captured pinkling is his own sibling, so the three set off on a rescue quest. Following the spider’s trail means crossing a catfish-infested creek, plunging into unknown forest and crossing a deep ravine— all while watching out for the usual hawks and bobcats.
Along the spider’s trail, Tobin learns the eight-legged giants are called Arakni, and are a growing problem for many forest dwellers, including an entire serpent empire bent on spider control. With so many enemies looking to destroy the Arakni stronghold, Tobin must stay ahead of the pack to save a single newborn before an all-out battle falls upon the spider lair. But once he sees the horrors lurking inside, saving one pinkling will only be the beginning. Sometimes a mouse just has to break the Rules.
Crouched in perfect stillness beneath a toadstool, Tobin recalled his training. He knew the Rules of Rodentia like the back of his paw. It was no accident he was top seed-finder for junior mice two seasons in a row. Traveling this familiar patch of forest was simple as scratching a flea — as long as he stuck to the Rules.
Tobin concentrated on the final leg of his journey. Almost home, the Great Burrow loomed ahead. Shaped like a giant tortoise shell, the Great Burrow possessed dozens of hidden entrances. It was very important to use different paths and different entrances back inside.
Rule #11- A predictable path leads to easy pickings for a predator.
Tobin spied a route he hadn’t taken in some time. Next, his mind ticked through the age-old checklist taught to all young mice, the second-most important rule in all of Rodentia:
Rule #2- Always survey your surroundings before setting a paw in the open.
Scan for hawks.
Done. Clear skies.
Scan for ground predators.
No trembling grass, no alarming sounds or smells.
Finally, the muscles in his hind legs twitched.
Tobin burst from beneath the toadstool, darting a zig, then zag— enough to throw off a pouncing bobcat or swooping bird. With a giant leap he dived inside the safe confines of the Great Burrow.
He blinked, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the dark tunnels. Only then did he tread to his family's den on slow paws. Nothing but chaos waited at home.