"Sun's getting pretty low Mathieu!" called out Roanin.
Mathieu wanted to ignore the friendly reminder, but he couldn't in good conscience. If he didn't come in now then soon the reminders would become shouts of displeasure, and for what? A few more minutes of practice? It wasn't really worth the hassle.
That and there was the chance he'd catch Iris.
Ambling through the gates, wooden sword trailing behind him, Mathieu thought, as he always did at this time, how normal and homey everything felt.
And why shouldn't it? It has been almost 10 years, Mathieu rationalized.
In fact, he was more right than he knew, for in exactly seven days it would be ten years since Mathieu's strange arrival. Some blamed the circumstances of his appearance for the way he acted. Other's credited his parents, unknown though they were. Still others said it was probably just a phase and that he would grow out of it. Eventually.
For in truth, Mathieu was not home. In fact, he didn’t really know where home was.
And Mathieu knew, though few even suspected, that the reason he was constantly practicing, constantly restless, constantly doing things that drove the other inhabitants crazy was because he wanted to find home, wherever it was.
Mathieu probably could have garnered much more understanding if he simply told someone about his longing, but he didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. The inhabitants of Noonvale had gone out of their way to make this home, and he couldn’t just throw it all away and leave.
The only person who understood was Iris. She was a mouse, like Mathieu, and similar in age, and that was all it took for the two of them to become close friends. It was Iris who had actually confirmed Mathieu’s suspicions. The rest of Noonvale had been quite content to let Mathieu believe that he had always been here. And even in spite of being different, Mathieu never would have questioned it.
But then the dreams came.
Not much happened in them, but Mathieu knew they weren’t normal. There was just a voice calling his name, and an indistinguishable form in the distance. It seemed to be trying to find him, but he always woke up before it did.
“You’re thinking about it again aren’t you?”
Mathieu blinked, returning to the present, and found Iris standing next to him, watching.
“Perhaps,” Mathieu admitted, “How could you tell?”
“Well you didn’t notice that I’ve been next to you for almost a whole minute now, and you were about to walk straight into one of Flern’s holes.”
She was right, Mathieu noticed, glancing down at the vertical tunnel he’d been about to fall into.
Iris giggled, and Mathieu couldn’t help but grin. He liked Iris’s laugh, it was pretty.
Just like the rest of her, Mathieu found himself thinking, but then he shook his head. He would never tell Iris because he was afraid he’d scare her away, and she was one of the few young animals who could stand being around him. The others either thought he was odd, or had gotten in trouble with him enough times that their parents had told them to steer clear.
Iris grabbed Mathieu’s hand, pulling him along towards the dining hall.
“Come on! It’s time to eat! And they’re serving the first of the raspberry cordial tonight!”
Mathieu didn’t need to be told twice, raspberry cordial was his favorite, and moments later, he and Iris were running full tilt towards the dining hall.
All the young ones, Mathieu included, were sent to bed early that night. The Spring Festival was starting tomorrow, and everyone knew that sleep would be the last thing on anyone’s mind, so best to do it now before all the excitement made it impossible.
Mathieu knew as soon as his eyes finally closed, that he would have the dream again that night. It always started the same way, Mathieu was standing just outside the Noonvale gate, looking down the road. Then fog would roll in, limiting Mathieu’s line of sight to only a few feet.
Then he heard the voice.
It wasn’t a scary voice, if anything it sounded like it belonged to kind and noble creature, and all it ever did was call his name. Eventually Mathieu would see the figure way off in the distance, but never for very long. Just glimpses here and there through the fog.
This time something was different though.
The voice no longer sounded like it was searching for him. It was still the same voice, but its tone was sharper, urgent even. It was to the point that Mathieu had a thought which had never occurred to him before.
He should answer it.
But what would happen?
He had no choice. Mustering his courage, Mathieu took a deep breath and shouted,
The voice stopped it’s call, and the figure, which Mathieu could see moving off in the distance, came to a halt. It turned, and began to move once more.
Mathieu didn’t know if he should stay or run. He didn’t really know anything about this figure, other than what it sounded like. But even then, Mathieu didn’t know if that was its real voice! What if it had been trying to trick him? What if it-
The form was closer now, closer than it had ever been, within moments, Mathieu would be able to see it, and he tensed, readying himself to run if he had to.
“Easy Mathieu,” came the voice.
“Who are you?” Mathieu called out, the figure was only a few yards away now.
“How do I know you’re telling the truth?” Mathieu challenged.
The figure stopped just on the edge of the fog, so that Mathieu still couldn’t see him.
Losing some of his nerve, Mathieu took a step back and yelled, “Who are you? Show yourself!”
The figure took a step a forward and Mathieu couldn’t help but stare. The figure…
Was a mouse.
Just a mouse.
There was nothing very out of the ordinary about this mouse except for the beautiful sword that he wore. It shimmered and gleamed though there was no sun, and Mathieu thought that it couldn’t possibly have been made by mere steel. Mathieu’s eyes switched from the sword to the face of creature who wielded it, and saw a warm smile there. The figure waited for Mathieu’s curiosity to be sated, then he spoke once more.
“Greetings Mathieu, I am Martin the Warrior.”