Lord Plagerius mounted the steps of his palace and look out across the lay of the valley. A new enemy had appeared, a voracious one, one that could not be treatied with, they accepted neither parlay or surrender. The Tribe of the Shrew was coming, and the Kingdom of Mus was next on the menu. Plagerius shook his head, cursing that such were to be his days. The tribunal waited inside, and he bore the odd news from the wise ones.
The Kingdom of Mus
Men have never heard of the Kingdom of Mus, nor are they ever likely to. This is a tiny kingdom, not much more than a mile long at the widest point, and scarcely half that at the narrowest. Situated in what men call Rat-Valley, the Kingdom of Mus is a kingdom of mice. It is simply the nature of man to overlook the small things, never noticing the tiny dynasty that has grown in his own backyard, never knowing of it’s heroes, it’s epics, and it’s trials.
An Age of Heroes
The Kingdom of Mus is ancient by the standards of mice, being founded in great antiquity over 14 years ago. While this might seem to hardly be time to found a great dynasty, in those years some 50 generations of mice have been born under the diminutive green banner of Mus. And in that time there have been no fewer than three great wars, though such things man is unlikely to notice.
Wars of Rats and Mice
The first great war was during the 8th month of the Kingdom’s existance when the rats of Rat-Valley rose up to destroy Mus and enslave the mice as they had done once before and promised to do again. Mouse battled rat and the valley was filled with their terrible squeaks and there was much blood and many died. It seemed that the rats held great advantage as they were larger and stronger, but the mice had a secret weapon. The King of Mus was a mousy sorcerer of no small skill, and he used his magic to set the Rat-lord’s warren on fire.
The second war was not as close as the first war with the rats. It took the rats almost a full year to recover from their loses during the first war and it was only with the brilliant oration of Firewhisker, a rat shaman, that the rats again challenged Mus. The rats faced a new Kingdom, as the mice had gained greatly in power and their Kingdom had grown to half of it’s current size. Remembering the magic of the mice, Firewhisker had negotiated a treaty with Hissila of the Burnished Scale and a number of other great serpents. With a warhost of many able rats and half a score of green striped grass dragons, Firewhisker made his incursion into Mus.
While many mice perished in the battles that followed, the rats were defeated. In a moment of indecision, Hissila turned on Firewhisker and slew him with the fang and consumed his body. The resultant chaos turned the tide against the rats as the mice rallied under their great hero Cracker Thief. The Rats retreated and were made a broken power under the dominion of mice. The King of Mus expanded his borders greatly after annexing the lands of the rats and forging the Pax Rodentia and ending the wars of rats and mice.
The Third War
In the sixth year of Mus, a new menace appeared on the lands of the Kingdom, a new foe. These mighty beasts slew rat and mouse alike, and even the grass dragons retreated before these mammoths of bristling fur and spitting fangs. The beasts called themselves the children of the gods on high and on several occasions the beasts called forth their gods to break open warrens and pour boiling water from the skies and rains of hot coals and other punishments.
The Kingdom suffered a religious schism, as some extolled that the gods of the cats were the same provider gods of the rats and mice. Other scoffed at such a notion, claiming that the gods could not be so fickle as to grant such boons of food and then respond with such displays of suffering and death. Yet both sides found it hard to ignore the survivors from the Galifas Nest who survived it’s boiling with their scalded skin and oft-blind eyes.
The war reached it’s climax when the mice warriors slew two of the cats with their newly crafted spears. The epic of Hab Rat-Tooth recalls the the deed of Hab and his band of loyal mice and rats as they fought side by side to defend the nest at Halliskue. Hab was slain, along with many others but not before they injured Gongfang the Black and slew Silver-Eyes the Cruel and her sibling the Blood-Purr.
In the annals of men, the time between the founding of Mus and the War with the Cats was marked by a plague during which the rat and mouse populations boomed with large amounts of food spoiling before it could be eaten as well as the bodies of the dead. The War with the Cats marks the end of the plague and the attempt of humans to control the rodent population
The Dynasty of Mus
As the Kingdom of Mus grew, they encountered other nations, tribes, and powers. Remembering their own tumultuous formation, the Kings of Mus became diplomats rather than conquerers and forged many alliances with the other members of the Rodent races as well as making a tenuous peace with the Grass Dragons, quelling an Owl Worshipping Cult, and hiding the nests that were too close to the dominions of the Cats.
The arts of the mice grew during this time as well, as they slowly started crafting weapons and tools from what they could gather. From the embers of the holy mountain of Fireheart the mice crafted keen spears and long handled knives. The rats tended to more brutal weapons of spike shaped cleavers and axes.
King Wildcorn’s Boon
Considered the second greatest of the Kings of Mus, Wildcorn was a gifted sorcerer who could commune with the spirits of the earth and it was their guidance which gave him the wisdom of growing things. Armed with this knowledge the Kingdom flourished with a great harvest that came only days before Wildcorn’s natural death.
The Fall of the Valkervold
An ancestral land of the Rats, the Valkervold was a somewhat prosperous region of Mus. While it had the problem of rare incursions from the amphibious Frog Lords, the green skinned ones were usually beaten back to the water where the rats would no longer give chase. A new foe came, a cruel and savage race that gave no heed to the Pax Rodentia that had kept peace between the rodent-kiths.
The new menace was the Tribe of the Shrew. Short and foul tempered the Shrews came in a great host and within a span of a day had laid waste to the Valkervold. The injured and the dead, rat and shrew alike, were consumed bone and all by the voracious warriors of the tribe. News of the invasion was carried to the castle at New Galifas by the Pro-Consul of the Valkervold. The Pro-consul delivered the dire news before succumbing to the most vile of the Shrew’s weapons, their poison claws.
The next battles went poorly for the mice and rats as the shrews number and savagry proved more than a match for their spears. It would take a surprising death to forment change in the plans of the mice. Gongfang the Black, long a foe of the Kingdom himself was pulled down and slain by the shrews, which caused a great deal of anger in the Dominion of Cats. The Council of Leaves was held and the new lord of the cats, Cloud-Killer, made a temporary peace with the Kingdom of Mus so that the two could concentrate their efforts on eliminating the Shrewish menace that threatened to destroy them all.
The cats brought with them an ancient prophecy older than Mus itself, carried on through their own oral record. The Prophecy states that end of days would be heralded by a great evil that would force all foes to become allies, and that strangers would come from the World Above to guide and lead the defenders of the Last Kingdom against the great evil. This Prophecy caused near panic in the councils of the mice, they had never considered that Mus would be the Last Kingdom, and things like the end of the world were quite common in their own myths and prophecies.
Prelate Omn White-Tail looked up in astonishment, his prayer had been answered, he had called out for the saviours of Mus to come to their aid. He openly wept tears as he surveyed the newcomers. Their skin was bare as a babe’s yet they were garbed in sheets of metal and bore weapons of incredible design. By the Prophecy of Cats, never to be trusted but never to tell a lie, the saviors were made manifest.
Enter the PCs
All of this mousery may seem pointless to a basic game, and it is finally time to reveal it’s relevance. The PCs have been caught up in a primitive magic spell that has reduced them to the size of mice. All of their weapons and magics have been similarly shrunken, so the mage may still cast his fireball spell and net be destroyed by a blast thousands of times larger than himself.
The Castle at New Galifas
After arriving the now shrunken PCs are escorted by a cadre of religious caste mice and a number of hulking rat warriors to the capital of Mus. At New Galifas, where there is a memorial to the boiling of Old Galifas and to the many who perished there, the PCs are introduced to the King of Mus, the wizened and old Sla Proudwhisker. now a startling 14 months old, Sla is one of the oldest of the Kings, and he is greatly troubled that the end times should come so close on him.
The PCs are treated well by their hosts, whose religious mania borders on imprisonment. While entreating with the King, Cloud-Killer and his made Claws of the Moon arrive. Quite to the PCs surprise, they very well recognize the pair of local stray cats and the honor shown to the cats by the mice should be quite obvious to the PCs.
Encounter with a Shrew
The PCs are brought to a holding cell where a lone shrew remains. The Mice tell of a shrew band that was captured and that the lone survivor consumed the bodies of his brethern during their captivity and is the only one left. The other shrews gather their great hosts and prepare to break through the mouse lines in the south and if Mus falls, the dominion of the Cats will collapse as well, and then the shrews will lay siege to the gates of the World Above. According to the prophecy, this is the event that triggers the End of all that Is.
The PCs encounter not a diminutive mammal with an appetite for whatever it can catch. They find a vicious and intelligent foe that desires to slay them all and consume their broken bodies, dead or alive. Armed with poison and dangerous fangs and claws the Shrews are as savage and belligerent as any Orcish warhost and twice as hungry.
The Desperate Battle
After allowing a suitable time to adapt to their new condition, the PCs are faced with their first great decision as the Shrews attack New Galifas and quickly break through the ranks of mice and rats who attempt to fight them off. Do the PCs stand and fight, their command of magic, metal armor and weapons, and tactics turning the tide against the shrews, or do they flee?
The first battle with the shrews should show the PCs some key advantages. The Shrews, despite their fury are disorganized and have neither arms, armor, or discipline. During a battle a shrew warrior will often stop fighting to feed on the injured or the dead, friend or foe. If injured badly enough, a shrew will be set upon by his allies. The Mice have some key advantages, they can hold ranks and have the ability to use mouse sized spears. While a typical combat oriented PC shold be able to hold his own against the shrews, there are simply too many for him to defeat and attrition will exhaust the warrior until he is literally eaten out of his armor. After this first encounter with raging shrews, the PCs should have some idea of the plight of the Mice. A smart PC should realize that a shrew infestation would be quite detrimental to their home town, where all of the events are taking place.
A State of War
The Mice now look up to the PCs as agents of the divine, especially if they helped to defend New Galifas and the King. If not, they will find their level of respect greatly decreased, but will be given a chance to participate in the next battle. The mice lay out simple maps of Mus, marking the location of the Shrew camps, with the river to their backs and beastlands to the east and the river of stone to the west (the local road).
The Mice and rats plan to launch an attack at the Shrews with their allies in the Pax Rodentia as well as the vangard of the Cats and several Grass Dragons, though there is a good deal of distrust between the Dragons and the rats who remember the story of Firewhisker. Battle canny PCs should realize that the plan of attack will force the Shrews against the river and given no escape they will fight to the last, likely slaughtering the mice and their allies rather than breaking and running.
The sun beat down mercilessly of Gar Whitehead, his fur slick with blood. The battle had started will with the Shrews falling to his rat’s spears and knives. The rest of the host had thrown in and started the push to drive the shrews into the river. Near noon, something had changed, and the Shrews had started berzerking, ignoring their wounds to counterattack. Half of his troops were gone now, no doubtedly filling the bellies of the invaders. The battle had been a folly…
If the PCs support the battle and go into it, the losses will be heavy, but rather than being routed, the Mice will retreat when the battle turns against them. The shrews will also be weakened by their own losses, weakening their forces in the next battle.
If the PCs go against the plan, a smaller force launches the attack and the Mice and rats are slaughtered almost to the last. The PCs gain respect for being more wise, but now are tasked with preparing for the next attack.
The Shrews attack with a vengeance, and the PCs along with the Mice and Rats should be beaten, forced to give ground and pushed back. Losses on both sides are heavy, but the Mice are now fighting for their very survival against a hungry foe. After a few encounters/battles at various locations, such as Falltimber Warren, a mouse city built inside a fallen log and Bluewater Cress, a small spring thick with watercress, they should come to find the gates of the World Above.
The Gates of the World Above
The millpond is nearly sixty years old, likely built by the generation of the PCs grandparents. Compared to only three human generations, more than 240 mouse generations have passed. For the Kingdom of Mus the mill is a temple of food, and that should this temple be violated that the Gates shall be opened as they have never been and all that is will be buried under water. In the Prophecy of the Cats, the final battle will be had at the these very gates, and the fate of the world will hinge on the outcome of the battle…
The Mill Pond
The mill has a central place in the community as it is the sole location for the populace to grind their grain into flour for bread. The pond has been drained and dredged out twice in the last 60 years, an event that causes a large amount of water to run through what the locals call Rat Valley. Each time, the local colonies were all but wiped out by the deluge. If the spill gates are opened, a monumental task for the PCs, the invading Shrews will be washed away into the river. Since much of Rat Valley, and the greater part of the Kingdom of Mus is in the paws of the Shrews, the resulting loss of life will be almost exclusively on the part of the Shrews.
They fled in a great exodus, as spoken off in the sixth verse of the Prophecy of the Cats, and the land of the Mice was left fallow for the invaders. Most of the warrens were abandoned as the final host gathered at the Gates of the World Above. Many yonug mice took up arms and rushed to join the King’s legions while others took up what little they could carry and they fled with tears in their eyes. A few stayed in their holds, fighting to the bloody end against the Shrews, slowing their relentless advance across the once teeming Plain of Doral. Many shook with fear for much of the prophecy had come to pass, the invaders, the coming of the outsiders to guide them, the massing at the host at the gates, all that was left to happen was the final battle, and the end of the world…
The Kingdom lays in shambles with the last of the defenders abandoning New Galifas and most of the population fleeing to the Gates to find some semblance of safety. The remaining soldiers of the Pax Rodentia have gathered with the hopes of their families with them. They have come to fight and likely die in the final battle. There is a mood of hysteria with many of the non-military types either numb, panicking, or a moment away from emotional collapse.
The Shrews advance, their numbers seemingly endless compared to the remaining rats and mice. Even the seemingly tireless and might Cats are all but ready to abandon the field. Battle is joined and once again it seems that the tide of shrews cannot be slowed as they advance for the gates, and the mill beyond. A few carry with them glowing embers, their gift of fire for the World Above.
The obvious next step is for the PCs to trigger the rodent apocalypse and open the gates of the millpond. With a roar, the pond will quickly drain, washing the host of the shrews and their embers into the river as well as washing the various nests and warrens in the Kingdom away as well. Most of the remaining mice and rats will survive to begin the task of rebuilding their homes. The end of the World will have come, with all that they knew being destroyed, but the world continuing as it has.
Now there is a chance that the PCs will not open the gate. If the gates remain closed, the Shrews will overrun the host at the gate and will advance to the mill. Once there they will ignite their embers and set the entire place on fire. This frenzy will continue as the Shrews move beyond the mill to start burning the rest of the village, with the locals too busy fighting the mill fire to notice the small mouse-like creatures carrying embers to start the next blaze. The resulting fire will spread to the fields and eventually part of the forest where it will rage for several days before puttering out in a heavy rainstorm. The victory of the shrews will be the death of the mice and their Kingdom, as well as the near total destruction of the human village.
With a bout of nausea and vertigo, the PCs who have survived are returned to their normal size. The Kingdom of Mus lays before them, either soaked and reborn or left in smoldering ruin. Perhaps they have learned that good and evil have no consideration for size and scale, and perhaps the PCs are left with a feeling that their own world might not be so large as they think it is. Perhaps they are a little more considerate the next time they go tromping through some unknown place, as now they might not be sure whose land they are walking across.
Watership Down, by Richard Adams
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
A note on Mood and Theme
With most animal stories, it is tempting to wander over into a certain Disney-esque sort of whimsey. Like Watership Down, the plight of the Mice should be grim to the point of being depressing, but alternately can be emotionally moving in terms of sacrifice for the greater good and the almost tragic triumph of good over evil.
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CodexAll Flesh Must Be Eaten ( Society/ Organizations ) Natural - Area
In this place Brother, all flesh must be eaten.
First Precept of Consumption