Marcel crawled on his little elbows deeper into the crawlspace of the mayor’s house.
“Do you see anything yet?” The mayor called down. Marcel grumbled.
“Just a moment, please,” Marcel called back. There were very few jobs for possums and even fewer for possums who happened to be mages. He closed his eyes and sniffed.
Ah, there you are.
He turned down an alternate tunnel - one dug by the cockroaches themselves.
Got you now you little...
The little vermin had dug under the mayor’s house - starting in the basement, they had dug into the crawlspace and down into the foundations. Soon enough, the possum mage saw a light up ahead and heard tiny voices.
There was one in a tiny wizard robe standing in front of a group of acolytes.
“We call to the ancestors--”
“--Right!” Marcel said, his relatively large head bursting into the space. “That’s enough of that!”
Marcel maneuvered his wand into the space and drew a large light sigil. His wand was made of the spruce tree that his great-grandmother was buried under. It wasn’t a necromancer’s finger, but it’d do the trick.
“VA!” He shouted as the magic coalesced, blasting every creature in the space blind and stunned... Except for Marcel, of course, who had covered his eyes just in time with his other hand while the little roaches screamed and fell onto their backs.
The would-be insect cult tasted of deep places and fungus. The leader had on thick black-and-purple robes and her amulet was a little pointy, but other than that - a fine meal. Black and purple robes, he thought.
Marcel had to back up all the way to the basement where the mayor - a female beaver in a pink dress - was standing haughtily, her hands on her hips.
Marcel wiped some of the dirt off his face and his secondhand robes. “I think you should find your family portraits and heirlooms back to normal, madam Wakerhill.”
The beaver turned and hurried up the stairs. Marcel, exhausted, tried to follow her before he heard her gasp as soon as she entered her foyer.
“What is it, madam Wakerhill?” He gasped from below, putting his wand back into his tattered robes. He made it to the top step and looked around. Good. All the portraits were of beavers and a few badgers: no more weird cockroaches and no more slime coming out of the walls.
“Excellent, mister Mudplow,” she said, plinking a few coins in Marcel’s outstretched, pink paw.
All that work for six ducats, he thought as he looked around at the now-pristine foyer - the mayor’s ancestors looking down their tiny noses at him as he tipped his tall mage hat and excused himself.
The village was bustling with little creatures selling their wares in their little storefronts while the big beaver was in her manor. She was the cloth merchant in town and had collected a tidy profit, but she just needed the right person to run against her.
Why not him?
Why not him indeed. Such a silly thought... or was it? He’d been a good exterminator for a number of years. He’d made good connections.
He had been standing still in the center of town while otter younglings ran circles around him, tying him up in a rope.
“Agh, let me go, wee ones!” He yelped as he struggled. Finally releasing himself, he strode into Honeytree’s plant shop, smoothed out the fur on top of his elongated white head and looked up to the bear at the counter, surrounded by flowering plants.
“Honeytree, just the bear I was looking for.”
“Oh indeed, Marcel?”
“You like me, right?” He asked. He then corrected himself before she could answer. “I mean, you trust me and recognize my industrious nature?”
“You’re a good opposum, Marcel, yes.”
Marcel leaned on the bar, careful to miss a particularly feisty plant that hissed at him as soon as he put his elbow down.
“And what is your opinion of madam Wakerhill?”
The bear leaned her head to the side. “She’s been our mayor for a very long time,” she said.
“Perhaps too long?”
Honeytree shrugged. “Why do you ask, my little possum?”
Marcel shrugged in return with a sly smile on his long snoot. “I was weighing my options. I’ve been here for a couple years. ...Built a good reputation. I know people trust you, and I value your opinion.”
Honeytree started to nod slowly. “I can see it. It would definitely be a first. Consult Evenwit, perhaps. Maybe the gods have something to say about it?”
Marcel took her advice, used a ducat to buy a small plant, and carried it to the chipmunk cleric on the other side of the street - careful to avoid the children this time. He knocked on the wooden door in the side of the tree and noted the various placards of different gods hanging from a branch. She had added a new one recently: it didn’t even have a name, just a symbol of a star. Marcel stared at it for a while - it was familiar, somehow.
“H-hello?” she said as she opened the door. “Marcel Mudplow, h-how are you?”
“Evenwit, I’ve come for a divination.”
Evenwit ushered him inside and closed the door behind him. Marcel put his new plant down on a side table and sat opposite a crystal ball.
“Any particular God you seek answers from?”
“I saw you got a new one,” he said. “That one with seven spires?”
“Oh, heh, you saw that one did you? Let’s start a little e-easier, maybe. How about Statera?”
The Goddess of Balance? “Classic,” he said. “Sure.”
“And what is your question?” Evenwit asked as the lights within her den started dimming and the luminescent moss on her ceiling started glowing.
“Should I run for mayor?”
Evenwit stopped and looked up at her possum friend. “You don’t need to ask the gods for that, I don’t think,” Evenwit said. “I think madam Wakerhill and her family has been in power for far too long... but you might need assistance.”
“Certainly - that’s why I came.”
“Oh no,” Evenwit chuckled. “The g-gods don’t care who is mayor of this little village: Politics is too dirty for the gods. M-most of them, anyway. No, I mean some help closer to the ground.”
“Who do you have in mind?” Marcel asked slowly, dreading her answer.
“Well, Razia’s always been-”
Marcel stopped her. “As much as I think the vixen witch Razia is charming, I don’t... I’m not sure... She’s strange,” he finally ended up saying. As the only other pure mage in town, Marcel didn’t trust Razia for multiple reasons - not the least of which was her resemblance to someone at his old college.
“I think you should probably see her if you’re considering running for mayor. Why don’t you trust her?”
The possum licked his lips. “She’s... too good of a mage for... this town?”
Evenwit cringed. Marcel corrected himself.
“Not that we don’t deserve good mages, but I’m wondering why she settled here of all places. It’s a beautiful village, but with the kinds of things I’ve seen her do she could set up a huge business in New Nottingham or Vulane or some such place.”
“Not everything’s about business, Marcel,” Evenwit said, gesturing at the relic-draped room.
Marcel smiled and shrugged. “If you like her, then she must be trustworthy. I’ll set up an appointment with her.”
Evenwit smiled and raised her little paw. “I-I’ll notify her.”
Marcel’s smile got even wider. “Thank you very much, Evenwit!”
“You’ll be a pretty good mayor, Marcel: I like your chances.”
Marcel’s hovel was down the other side of the street, towards the dam. There were a few families of otters and their large houses leaned onto both sides of the possum’s shack like two big brothers leaning on a smaller, stronger sibling. Marcel entered - the doors in the village were always unlocked - and scooped some moss off the wall for a little midday treat.
Within a few hours, a letter slipped under his door. In immaculate cursive was his name on the front of the envelope:
Mister Marcel Mudplow
Fairly sure what it was - but still curious - he tore it open with one of his claws and began reading.
It was indeed a formal invitation from Razia to join her at her monthly tea date. There was no mention of him becoming mayor or anything like that, but he knew a few foxes back at the College of Elements: they liked things subtle and quiet - especially when eating, scheming, or drinking.
The problem with waiting a week was that it gave him more time to think. Sure, he was jealous of the old beaver and her manor and her manner, but as the days ticked down to his ‘appointment,’ Marcel wondered what the job really entailed.
But there were other considerations he had to take to prepare for the tea party. Madam Razia’s little cottage - which Marcel had only seen from a distance on the road out of town - radiated more charm in its little frame than all of Wakerhill manor’s massive edifice could.
Marcel spent the remaining pay from his extermination job on a fancy new suit. The mouse assured him that his suit’s big blue bow was the latest males’ fashion from New Nottingham.
Walking past the town’s well, Marcel saw the little otters wrestling and chasing each other. He carefully avoided a splash of mud as he entered the road through the woods. Even the woods are charming, he thought as a cool, salubrious breeze fluttered through his fur and accompanying fashionable bow.
Razia’s cottage was beyond a pool of what Marcel had determined to be some kind of enchanted koi and salmon. He also spotted a few big mouth bass whose backs seemed to sparkle with what seemed to be a few constellations in the night sky.
Marcel blinked, unsure of what he was walking into.
The opossum smoothed out his enormous bow as he approached Razia’s charming house. Flowers, bees, and dragonflies grew, buzzed, and fluttered around the little abode. He could hear laughter and giggling as he approached and gently knocked. Presently, Evenwit answered the door.
“Hello Marcel!” She said, opening the door wider. “Come in, come in!” Marcel was led to the tea table and the large fluffy bags that served as chairs. And there was Razia.
Razia was a dusk-colored vixen with bright violet eyes and a strong resemblance to one of the old deans of the College of Elements:
Varok the Silent.
Marcel floofed down his bow below his snoot with the caution one would have in a graveyard.
“Razia,” he said politely, bowing. The vixen giggled.
“Hello, Marcel,” she said, her soft voice caressing his large ears. “There’s no need for bowing, here.”
Marcel straightened up, his bow following along a second later.
“Right, right. Well, Razia, I guess you know why I asked to see you.”
“Yes - Evenwit told me you would like my blessing for mayor.”
Marcel sat down slowly. “That’s right, and I would be honored if you would give it.”
Razia took a sip of tea, her long dusky brush coiling around herself as the other females waited to hear her reaction. “I am thinking of getting into politics myself,” she said. “Perhaps as a guide of sorts.”
Marcel shifted uncomfortably in his seat, straightening his bow and sipping from his own dainty cup while maintaining a smile of his own. “I can see that.”
The group meandered in and out of politics, with Marcel making various promises to Razia and his business friends as the tea - and eventually wine - flowed. After a few hours, the possum’s bright blue bow was around his shoulders and Marcel was making promise after promise until finally...
“All right,” Razia said with her characteristic soft smile. “I give my blessing.”
Marcel’s gray eyes lit up. “Thank you, Razia!” He said, groggily jumping to his feet and shaking the vixen’s paw. “Thank you!”
The next few weeks buzzed by as Razia, Honeytree and Evenwit funded and managed Marcel’s campaign for mayor. Suddenly, it was the night of the annual feast, where creatures would bring their finest baked goods and listen to mayoral candidates before voting.
Madam Wakerhill went first, dressed in finery from the far reaches of the Kingdoms.
“I know many of you like Mr. Marcel,” she said, indicating the possum and his large pink bow on the little wooden stage. “But I tell you now, he is a subpar exterminator! Even now, my ancestors’ portraits are turning back into roaches! How do you respond to that, sir?”
There were little gasps from the audience. Razia nodded knowingly to Marcel, having taught him many orational tricks in the past few weeks. Marcel merely nodded to his opponent.
“Good to see you too, madam Wakerhill,” he chuckled to laughter from the audience, his enormous bow bobbling along with him. He changed the subject adroitly to her recent mismanagement of rain storage and then to rumors that the cloth she had been selling was of a less-than-premium quality. Caught off balance, the debate descended into Madam Wakerhill screaming - and by then it was all over. By the time the moon had begun to rise and the sun had begun to set, Marcel had won the vote by a landslide.
He joined his female friends in drink and story as madam Wakerhill disappeared from the festivities.
Early the next morning, as he was nursing a headache from the previous nights’ revelry, things came out of his mental fog to greet him: large promises he had made and words he had said during tea parties and post-election celebrations to certain purple-eyed vixens and business-females.
Other things made themselves known as well: his debts - metaphorical and otherwise - owed to those same females for becoming mayor in the first place. Promises he had made to the citizens that he had no idea how he was going to solve. He held his large white head and moaned, taking a sip of dew from a large, nearby leaf growing out of his wall before putting on his slippers.
Presently, he heard a delicate but firm knock knock knock on his hovel’s door.
“Hello Mayor Mudplow,” Razia said, her violet eyes burning and a small, mischievous smile on her muzzle. In her hand was a tome emitting weird blue smoke and a small roach in wizard garb atop it, tapping its tiny feet impatiently.
Razia stepped forward into Marcel’s tiny house.
“...I believe we have some things to discuss.”
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This brings the same things to mind as most of your work, Redwall books by Brian Jaques mostly. I like the element of political intrigue and the magic. I was hoping the cult of cockroaches would come back into prominence, some kind of riot at the vote or similar. They could have run as a third candidate in the election.
I am proud for the comparison to Brian Jaques, Graham, thank you! The cockroaches DO come back at the very end in the palm of their vixen friend ;)
Maybe the cockroaches deserve their own story?
They deserve their own epic 12-novel series, for sure! I'll take that into consideration - I'm working on a very odd story for this week's contest that I hope you'll enjoy
Let me know when it’s up.
Will do, bud! Hope my review was helpful
Hey Graham, my next (very weird) story is up: please let me know what you think :) https://blog.reedsy.com/short-story/tyxx1i/
If you'd like to hear more about Razia, consider reading "Cup of Tea": https://blog.reedsy.com/short-story/oqgiof/