QSFer K.S. Trenten has a new MM holiday fantasy out:
Some say a mouse king has seven heads. Hah, trust a human to get our legends wrong. A mouse prince must perform seven tricks before the twelve days of Christmas are up. It’s how he wins his crown, but I’ve got my whiskers set on something else. A stiff beauty with a magnificent jaw, waiting for me under the holiday shrub. I caught his scent in a dream, which I’ve been sniffing after ever since. Scamper with me through my adventures and misadventures, dodging traps, cats, and giants, while I win a steadfast nutcracker’s heart.
Some say a mouse king has seven heads with seven crowns. In a way, this is true. A mouse prince must play seven tricks before the twelve days of Christmas are over. If he doesn’t, he cannot claim his throne.
“You must prove your worth before I acknowledge you as my heir,” Madam Mousenip said to me in the shadow of the enormous ticking tower. “Only by succeeding at seven tricks will you possess what you desire.”
She herself had become our sovereign through seven capers of her own, earning the name Mousenip for delivering tiny bites, which left cheese looking unscathed and humans whimpering. She’d nipped a human princess once. The bite turned the girl’s face into something so beautiful her people fainted at the sight of her. That was Madam Mousenip. Kind even to hideous giants.
I flicked my whiskers in humble acknowledgement of the Mouse Queen’s words.
In truth, winning the throne was what she desired, not I. What I wished for was a bit more romantic and complicated.
I’d had a dream involving our coming Christmas, but it wasn’t of me ascending the throne, oh no. I’d dreamed of an endless supply of tissue, scattered about the giant shrubbery humans insisted on covering with baubles.
Not that the shredded paper was what I desired, although there was enough for all my subjects, saving the king-size portion for myself.
No, what I wanted was the exquisite creature standing half in and half out of a giant box left open on the floor.
Wooden was he, keeping his arms and legs stiff and motionless in his bright red coat and green trousers. Wispy white hair stuck out of the crown on his head and square chin.
Ah, he had to be a prince of some sort. Perhaps a prince of the wooden dolls? Some of the humans kept such poppets as toys or slaves. Not much of a royal title.
The beauty bared his teeth at me in a seductive show of defiance. Never had I seen such an enormous, toothy jaw. The scent of roasted nuts wafted from his mouth, making my nostrils flare with hunger.
I crept up to this still, defiant beauty.
He didn’t move, or acknowledge me, even when I was a paw away from his face. The strange prince just stood there and grinned.
This infuriated me. Who was he grinning at, if not myself? Was he mocking me?
I nudged him with my snout.
He rocked on his stiff wooden legs but didn’t budge. The creature stood like a human being, but no human possessed so broad and beautiful a mouth as he. Nor did they smell so deliciously of roasted nuts.
“Maybe you’re a giant nut yourself,” I said in the way of mice, which sounds like chittering to anyone without the talent to understand our speech. “Do you taste as good as you smell?”
I sank my teeth into his hard shoulder.
His head turned very slowly. He regarded me with wide hungry eyes. The strange prince dropped his jaw, only to close it on my snout.
In a moment of intimacy, we bit each other.
I awoke with the taste of bitter sawdust in my mouth, mixed with the salty residue of nuts.
Kari Trenten, a.k.a. K.S. Trenten lives in the Silicon Valley with her husband, two cats, juggling reality with all the stories bubbling in her imagination, filled with characters demanding attention.
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