Before men ruled the world it was the domain of beasts.
All were guided by the Great and Noble Order, such that even those creatures who preyed upon one another for sustenance never took more than they needed and a long and glorious peace reigned.
But then came Lilith, Queen of the Frozen Hells and spurned lover of Lucifer. And with her she brought a frost that stripped the earth bare.
The beasts first began to starve and then they went mad. It was not long before they turned on each other, for desperation breeds evil; indiscriminate killing came upon the earth.
Some of the creatures were faster to adapt than others. Among them the wolves, who became Lilith’s willing servants. The wolves roamed freely through these blighted lands they called the Frostwood and took whatever they pleased.
It was not long, however, before game became scarce and even Lilith’s wolves grew hungry. They were forced to seek out ever smaller prey in their holes and burrows—foxes, rabbits and mice. Entire colonies were slaughtered, snatched from their homes by the jaws of the ravenous wolves.
Some of the foxes fled, for foxes are cunning and quick-witted. Many of the rabbits fought back, with a thumping of feet and a gnashing of teeth. But the mice only cowered in their homes, uncertain of what to do and stricken with fear.
The mice convened a council. Various suggestions were proposed and each was dismissed as more foolish or dangerous than the last. The mice debated until they could barely squeak another word. Eventually only one plan remained, but it seemed even more foolish and dangerous than all of the others had combined.
The mice decided to seek out Ol’ Grandfather Crow, one of the oldest creatures in the Frostwood and a powerful magician. Ol’ Grandfather Crow had long been an enemy to the mice, but it was known that he had not aligned himself with the White Queen; if any could save them from the wolves, it would be he.
And so the mice sent a delegation across the Frostwood to seek an audience with Ol’ Grandfather Crow. The adventures they had could fill several volumes. When, at last, they reached their destination they stood bravely before the magician and pleaded with him that they might be granted wings with which they could escape from the wolves as the crows were able.
To the great surprise of the mouse delegation, Ol’ Grandfather Crow agreed. But instead of granting the mice the same shimmering feathery wings of his ilk, he instead cursed them with strange, leathery wings, such that they would never be confused with crows.
Such is the way that Ol’ Grandfather Crow created bats—and why bats are sometimes called flitmice, by those who have lived long enough to remember the old stories.
The flitmice were forced from their nests. Some used their new wings to flee the Frostwood and found refuge: on mountains and in caves, in distant jungles amongst the high trees. There they remain to this day.
But others among the mice were displeased by the magician’s trickery and so, another council was convened. There they agreed to seek out an even greater enemy than Ol’ Grandfather Crow and an even more powerful magician… they sought out the Great Serpent himself and found him, at last, deep within the Frostwood, coiled up in the skull of a long-dead giant.
Without pretence, the Great Serpent told the mice that their salvation could be found in Lilith’s garden. For although the frost had killed many of the plants in the Frostwood, there in Lilith’s garden, grew a tree heavily laden with a prickly red fruit: the vampire tree.
In great numbers the flitmice descended upon Lilith’s garden, where they found the tree exactly as the Serpent had told them. In desperation they clutched and tore at the fruit, gorging themselves on it until their chins were stained red and dark droplets fell upon the snow.
The Great Serpent had been right: for the fruit made the flitmice stronger and smarter… but it also made them thirsty.
And that is the story of how mice became bats and how bats became vampires. And the moral, it is told, to never trust a magician no matter how desperate you become; for magic never comes without a cost.
The Fable of the Flitmice forms one chapter of The Interloper.