Rat Tales, Part One
By Rhian Waller
Copyright © 2017 by Rhian Waller
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof
may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Printed in the UK
First Printing, 2017
Cover image by Ritrit Media.
Proof edition. Not for resale.
With thanks to Barrie, Ato, Teddy, Alex and my mother, who have shared or at least put up with my growing rat obsession.
Dedicated to Leeloo, Priss and Ripley, the rescue rats who started the obsession in the first place.
Lu: a friendly, trusting white rat. She is one month old when her adventure starts
Rip: Lu’s calm, collected older sister
Preen: The middle sister. She frets a lot and likes to be tidy
Pew: A smelly but cunning old rat
Sleek: A messenger-rat for Black Spot
Black Spot: The Skipper of the rats. He hates and fears humans
Thug: A very large, strong rat who lives on the Hydromyst
Runa: A young Swedish girl determined to find her Pa
The Captain: A Dutch man. He is in charge of the ship and all of the crew
The Bosun: The officer in charge of anchors, sails, ropes and rigging
The First Mate: The second in command after the Captain
The Second Mate: The third in command. He likes a stiff drink
Chapter 1: Home nest
From the moment they were born, the three sisters were bound to have adventures. Rats are animals prone to adventure because they are bold, brave and bright. They are also small enough to pick up in one hand. When you are that size, even crossing a room can be a challenge because of cats, people and other hazards.
The three sisters did not know that when they were babies. When their mother realised they were about to be born, she retreated to her safe nest in the wall of the Customs building in the Dutch port of Vernaya. The nest was a soft place to give birth as it was lined with yellow paper stolen from the clerk’s desks and stuffing nibbled free from the chair in the boss’ office.
The three baby rats lay in the paper, all cuddled up and warm. They looked like pink jellybeans.
Mum Rat named her rittens Rip, Preen and Lu. They had to be short names because rats speak in squeaks, when they speak at all.
Their eyes opened when they were two weeks old and then Mum Rat had a job on her paws because they started to explore. Their world broadened from warm, milky softness to something bigger.
Rip, who was the biggest rat, had fur that was a rich brown. She was calm and did not enjoy playing or fighting. Preen, who was the middle rat, had grey fur that ran from her face, right over her back to her tail. She was pretty and spent a lot of time washing. Lu, the smallest sister, was almost pure white except for a black patch on her head. It was set slightly to the side and looked like a cocked flat cap. She was the friendliest but also rather silly.
Lu was the first to waddle out of the nest on unsteady paws and find the gap in the wall. Mum Rat was busy grooming Rip. Lu stuck her nose out.
There were all sorts of interesting smells in the Customs Office. This was where sailors and their passengers declared their cargo. Sometimes they had to present the things they carried across the sea in their ships and boats. They brought in samples of tobacco, exotic drinks, whiffy cheeses, cotton and plants from the other side of the world. Lu could also smell ink, paper and people. She could see the dim outlines of furniture.
She wanted to explore.
Rats speak to each other in lots of ways. They use quiet sounds, too high-pitched for a human to hear, and they also talk through their whiskers, twitching ears and through touch. They only squeak loudly when they are scared, angry or want to get attention. So Lu jumped when she heard her name.
‘Lu!” It was her mother. ‘No.”
Mum Rat used her body to push Lu back to the nest.
“What’s out there?” said Preen, later, when Mum Rat had gone in search of food and the rittens were too sleepy and full of milk to think about running off.
“Strange things,” said Lu.
“Good things?” said Preen.
“No,” said Rip, who listened to Mum Rat. “Bad things. Risk. Fear. There are Bigs out there.”
Bigs were how the rats saw any animal bigger than them, including people.
Lu wasn’t so sure the world outside was bad. It was big and busy but it was also interesting.
Rittens grow up fast and Lu got bigger. Her curiosity grew too.
Mum Rat kept all three of her children close. She taught them the three things all rittens should know. These were rules which, all together, were known as kree. They were there to make sure that rats, who can live in huge colonies, knew how to get along.
The first rule was that, no matter how bitter the argument or how vicious the fight, rats will forgive each other swiftly.
The second rule was that rats look out for each other. They might squabble over food, but they also help clean each other and stay together. If a rat is caught in a cage her friends will help her out if they can.
The third rule was manners. Rats should always politely sniff-sniff on meeting to learn about each other.
Lu listened to all this, but she wanted to know about outside as well.
“You should stay here,” said Mum Rat, who worried about Lu the most. The little ritten had ruby red eyes. Sometimes she swayed her head from side to side to see better, which made it look like she was disagreeing about something, even though she was the friendliest baby Mum Rat had ever had. Her poor eyesight made it even more dangerous out in the wide world; white rats did not often last long without becoming dinner for a cat or another kind of hunter.
“But I don’t want to stay!” said Lu. “I want to be out there.”
“Stay with me,” said Mum Rat. “You will be safe.”
“What is safe?” said Rip.
“Safe is here with me,” said Mum Rat. “Safe is good. Keep away from things that are not safe, like Bigs.”
“What is a Big?” said Preen.
“Bigs are the things with two legs that move out there in the day. They are loud and tall.”
“What if we don’t stay safe?” said Lu, who was not afraid of Bigs.
“Dad Rat did not stay safe,” said Mum Rat. “That is why a Cat got him. I do not want the cat to get you.”
“What is a Cat?” said Preen. She shivered.
“A Cat is a beast with sharp teeth and claws. Cats eat us,” said Mum Rat.
But Lu saw no sign of a cat outside
One day, when she was about a month old, she could not wait any longer. At that age, she was ready to run. She sneaked out of the nest and scurried through the hole. Rip watched her go.
“Lu is daft,” she yawned.
Preen stood up.
“I’ll want to see where she goes,” she said.
“Stay. It’s time to wash,” said Rip.
“But I want to see.”
Rip made a chirp of annoyance. As the biggest and oldest sister she thought it was her job to look after her sisters. She got up and followed Lu and Preen.
Lu, meanwhile, was finding things out.
She kept low and close to the wall. It was night and the Customs Office was empty.
Lu’s eyes were not strong but her nose, ears and nerves were alert.
Everything was so huge! She hadn’t known anything could be as wide as this. The walls went up forever. The desks were mountains and the floor was a vast field made of planks.
Nothing bad happened. No cats or owls grabbed Lu. There were no loud noises or flashes of light. She grew braver.
Lu climbed up a desk. She found a piece of paper. It was an important document but Lu didn’t know that. She grabbed it in her teeth, fell off the desk and ran across the floor. Once there she was so excited she went in circles, still holding the paper so it covered her body. If a Big had seen it they might have thought the room was haunted.
Then Lu got bored and dropped the paper because she smelled crumbs. A worker had eaten a sandwich and dropped some on the floor. Lu found it and ate it fast. Preen joined her and they squabbled over the bread.
“Shh,” said Rip. “You make too much noise.”
But Preen and Lu were having fun. They pretended to fight. Preen climbed up a cabinet to escape and knocked some books on the floor. They fell with a clatter. The rats froze.
Nothing happened for a very long time from Lu’s point of view. Rats live fast. Their hearts beat ten times quicker than a human’s.
Lu started to relax. Then the rats heard a key in the lock.
The door opened.
There was noise and light.
A guard came in.
Lu looked far up into a huge face. It hung like a moon.
The Big walked into the office. His footsteps were thunder. He lifted the light in his hand, dazzling the rats. He went past them. Now he was between them and the hole that led back to the nest.
“The Big will find us!” squeaked Preen.
“This way!” said Lu.
“No, go back!” said Rip, who wanted to get home.
“No time!” said Lu and just then the Big shone his torch on the three scampering sisters. He made a loud noise.
Lu dashed away. She ran to the open door.
She could feel cold against her fur. She smelled salt, water and space. It was too late to stop. She hurtled out of the Customs Office and found herself running over smooth flagstones. She was outside!
Chapter 2: The Outside
Lu pressed against the wall and stopped running. The air was different. It moved more. Wood creaked and water slapped against stone. There were more Bigs moving around but they were further away. She panted.
Where were Preen and Rip?
Lu realised she was alone. Her tail drooped and she made herself small. She was afraid. She had never been alone before. It’s easier to be brave when you have someone beside you.
Visit: http://www.Shakespir.com/books/view/718114 to purchase this book to continue reading. Show the author you appreciate their work!
“Bigs hunt us, they hurt us and they trap us. They spoil our food and make us sick. You can’t be friends with a Big. Bigs hate us. They want us all gone. Now I want you gone too!” – Black Spot Three young rats set out on an adventure which will take them around the world. Born in a busy dock, sisters Rip, Lu and Preen join the crew of the Hydromyst, a Dutch ship sailing in the time of pirates, trade wars and wind. Despised by the human sailors and distrusted by Black Spot, the dangerous Skipper of the rats, the three sisters have to win their place on the ship by undertaking a series of trials. Lu’s friendship with a young stowaway will put all three sisters at risk - but worse is to come for everyone on board when the ship sails into a terrible storm. Will the three sisters ever make it back to port? Sea Rats is the first part of a trilogy charting the adventures of three rats and the human companions they meet along the way. This book supports the APOPO Foundation which trains “Hero Rats” to save human lives. Visit www.apopo.org for details.