The Squirrelhorde – The Monksville Chronicles #94

When choosing a venue from which to pull his food, the black bear Merksus has many options. He can stalk along the shoreline of Monksville and wait for a lakebreather to breech the surface, or he can creep through the forests in hopes of running up on a lame whitetail, or he can play it safe and sample the Wanaque River. In the past the river has treated him very well, but he abandoned it as a cub, preferring the taste of hot deermeat to that of stank damp fishmeat – but today the many whitetail herds are tamed, brainwashed, controlled by the giants, and lakebreathers don’t often make it to the surface before they’re snatched in the jaws of that long and slender thing lurking beneath the Reservoir’s surface. It seems Merksus’s only option is the Wanaque River, and that’s exactly where he’s headed.

The walk is long and arduous. His body is not what it used to be – a pristine black fur coat is now shaggy and patchy in places, his once taught hide now droops from a skeletal body which once boasted the largest muscles in all of Monksville’s keep. His once glimmering white teeth are now browned and littered with holes, as if he tried to bite the wrong side of a porcupine, and his claws? Well, his claws are black and sharp as ever, capable of felling a tree in a single swoop, though the paws to which they’re attached no longer stomp the ground with great force.

In the olden days, if Merksus came within eyeshot of a horde of ground squirrels they would make themselves scarce without a second thought; today, as he approaches the Wanaque River, the river which has flowed under the chutter of the ground squirrels ever since the Red Hawk Flock took control over The Sticks, the squirrelhorde does not move an inch. In fact, more and more of the twitching little bastards seem to appear with each halfhearted step Merksus takes. Around him, he begins to notice, many of the trees are bare, as if they’ve gone dormant, but this is peak summertime, the trees should all be rich with life. Many rocks are shattered and splattered with dried blood, deadfalls are prevalent, and the ground squirrels are now popping up out of the ground, their heads dirty and their eyes crazed, as if they haven’t seen shinelight in Mother knows how long.

One ground squirrel, a particularly plump thing with a tail which won’t stop convulsing, walks on the heads of the others and approaches Merksus. The bear stops in his tracks and watches as the squirrelhorde slowly builds a ramp so the head squirrel may meet this invader at eye level, and that’s just what he does. A dark and gloomy tide of feelings which Merksus has never before felt washes over him as he stares deeply into the empty, soulless eyes of the head squirrel – eat or you shall starve? Nay; eat or you shall be eaten.

High Bloodtooth Twitchtail, the reigning tyrant of the carnivorous squirrelhorde, he who convinced the foolish ground squirrels who followed him to the Wanaque River to abandon their old ways of omnivory and walk only the path of the meat-eater, churrs psychotically at the top of his little lungs and lunges at Merksus, aiming his single remaining buck tooth (sharpened to a razor edge) directly at the bear’s hungry eyes.

Merksus opens his massive maw and snags the rogue squirrel between his jaws, ending its miserable life with a single half-assed crunch.

The ground squirrels attack. Merksus’s entire world becomes a gray, writhing culmination of biting, chirping, scratching, whining, bleeding, and unbridled pain, a pain the likes of which no landwalker has ever encountered before. The stinging of buck teeth digging into his patchy hide, the slicing of tiny claws tearing through his starved flesh, it’s all too much. Merksus, with the entirety of the Wanaque River carnivorous squirrelhorde latched onto him like bloodsucking ticks on a sweaty fawn, charges forward and leaps into the raging river, catching his back leg on a jagged rock. He roars in pain, but the first of the squirrels detaches itself – it’s hard to eat a bear when your stomach is hanging off the sharp end of a rock – the first of many to fall. As a bear, Merksus has much bigger lungs than the tiny little squirrels, and so he dives beneath the surface and clamps his maw tight, allowing the current to take him and the twitching parasites for a long ride downstream.

When he breaches the surface of Monksville in the back end of The Sticks, what few ground squirrels remain attached are waterlogged and dead. Merksus crawls onto dry land and shakes his fur wildly, dislodging squirrels and tufts of hair this way and that. When the roaring of the pain begins to fade and the black bear can perceive his surroundings again, he’s almost shocked to see half of the entire Red Hawk Flock, led by none other than their High Queen Jemcis and her lackey boy Laentus, perched in the trees, staring down at him intently with hunger in their eyes. Hawks are lousy fishcatchers, and aside from desperate ‘munkies, not much landwalking game flocks to The Sticks these days. But here they have a severely weakened black bear, and even better, a tall piping pile of slain ground squirrels ripe for the picking.

After a moment of uneasy eye contact with the hawk queen, Merksus wades back into the water and begins to swim on his way. The hawks flap wing but do not mean to divebomb the bear – he has left them a great offering, and for that, he is allowed to live. The pile of squirrels is decimated, bones and all, by the time Merksus climbs up onto the forested shore on the other side of the footbridge which quarantines The Basin from the Northern Leg. He’s exhausted, sopping wet, and although the squirrel king was plump good eatin’, Merksus’s belly is not full. Not far from it, but unfull nonetheless; one more rodent should do it, so long as that rodent isn’t a ‘munkie.

His nose blind to smells due to starvation, Merksus walks southwest along the shoreline, knowing in his big bear heart that there will be morsel if Mother Monksville wills it. And if she does not… well… the great transition awaits.

This has been the eleventh subchapter of the last chapter of the book The Monksville Chronicles. Here is everything you need to know about it:

The Monksville Chronicles

I’ve written a few other books, too. Even fixed the link. Click here to see the list.

If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. From this day on, we move forever forward~

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