Kristina arched her back softly against the grass covered hill as the animal procession arrived. As always, Mr. Pockets, a little white field mouse, led the group down the small dirt path. Behind him bobbed Mr. Crow, a stately fellow with a small monocle dangling from his red vest. Following him was Mrs. Hare with Picket, her eldest, clinging to her ears and swaying with the breeze. Kristina sighed quietly to herself and returned her stare to the blue cloudless sky, letting the warm spring breeze fill her lungs before letting it quietly escape.
"Animals of the forest, halt!" With this, Mr. Pockets threw up his right hand, the following animals stumbled for a moment before maintain some semblance of order. Picket leaned forward, smiling wildly, leaning his feet against his mother's forehead. "How are you this morning, Princess Meadow?"
"A good day to you sir," Kristina replied bowing slightly. "I am doing quite wonderfully." Kristina tipped her head slightly to the left, extending her hand down towards Mrs. Hare. Picket yelped happily and scurried up her arm, coming to a rest on her shoulder. Kristina shifted slightly.
"I had such an adventure, Princess Meadow. Mother said she was worried, but she worries far too much, if you ask me," Picket smiled, quietly poking his paw against Kristina's face.
"Picket Hare," Mrs. Hare chimed. "Princess Meadow definitely doesn't have time for your stories and she certainly does not appreciate you poking her in the face."
"I really don't mind, Mrs. Hare."
"See, she doesn't mind," Picket happily poked his paw into Kristina's face with each word. Kristina smiled. Mrs. Hare pulled a small needlework blanket from her satchel and nervously hummed, occasionally sending a disapproving glance to her son.
"Is everything satisfactory, Princess Meadow?" Mr. Crow asked, tilting his head slightly to the left. "Did we perform the arrival ritual okay? You seem a bit down. If you like, I will march them straight back up the hill and we'll do it again." Picket whelped quietly, latching softly onto Kristina's face.
"Everything is fine, Mr. Crow. As always, you performed perfectly." Mr. Crow nodded quickly, keeping his eyes peeled to Kristina. "I am a bit down, but it has nothing to do with the ritual. Your Princess is pleased." Mr. Crow bowed deeply extending his arms out, losing a few small black feathers in the process. "Down from there now, lad," Mr. Cow shot, pointing one of this feathered arms up towards the small Picket. Picket sighed quietly, managing to steal one more snug before rejoining his mother and the other woodland creatures.
A moment of silence passed before Mr. Pockets stepped forward, extending his arm up towards Kristina. Kristina nodded, throwing her hand down and allowing the small mouse to scurry up her arm. She bit back the urge to laugh; Mr. Pockets had sharp little paws, after all. After she was sure he held a firm grip on the collar of her jacket, she began the short walk down to the stream below.
"I was hoping there would be a story, but I see you did not bring the story hat." Kristina paused for a moment before jumping up on a nearby log and balancing her way across. "Mother told me that moving is a part of life, and I understand that, I just wish you could all come along."
"You're a very special little girl." Mr. Pockets paused for a second and Kristina could almost feel the little mouse fondle the next words from his mouth. "I don't think you realize how special. The world is complicated, young one, but still a remarkable place. There are dark days ahead, however, and in dark times we have to look for the best inside of all of us."
Mr. Pockets tugged the collar of Kristina's jacket and scurried down her outstretched arm. He scampered around for a bit, pulling various small leaves together, making a bit of a throne on a small rock. After he had completed his makeshift seat, he quietly tapped the rock next to him. Kristina giggled and sat next to Mr. Pockets, who, much to her surprise, pulled out a small black derby hat.
"Story hat!" Kristina could barely hold the excitement in her voice as Mr. Pocket shot a smile her way.
"Once upon a time, as these stories always begin..."
"Because stories are all linked with the story hat," Kristina finished. Mr. Pockets smiled quietly to himself.
"There was once a man named Alexander. Alexander was a good man, and loved his daughter and wife very much."
"Was he a prince?" Kristina inquired.
"In a way, he was. Anyhow, one day Alexander lost his wife and child and that turned him away from the goodness for a bit. He decided to make a world where his pain would never be felt by anyone else. He built a large tower and, in that tower, he sits to this day, blaming himself for the actions of others." Mr. Pockets paused for a second, looking up at the fixated Kristina. "He forgot what it feels like to trust people, and that's where you come in."
"I don't understand."
"People need to be reminded that the world is still filled with good." Mr. Pocket reached into Kristina's hand. "You saved my kingdom, Princess Meadow, and for that I can never repay you. You story isn't over yet, you are bound to do great things. I need to remember one thing though, Kristina. You are never alone. You can do it, Princess Meadow. Sometimes, we need to be a little bit braver than what we think we can be."
Kristina sat back for a moment, letting the sun soak into her face. Mr. Pockets drummed her hand slightly, humming some long forgotten tune. After a few moments, Mr. Pockets stood up, stretching his back and placing the story hat on the rock next to him. Kristina smiled silently as she scooped the small mouse into her hands. They didn't say anything to each other on the walk back to the other animals. They didn't need to.
[Editor's note: It is cute. Too cute. Stevehen assures me he is "going to mess this little girl up... just fair warning." We fear for her.]
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