What you need to know about Mouse -- Mouse lives in the Eternal Dungeon and works as a cleaning maid. She's in her late teens and grew up in a large, rather poor family. As a small child her leg was crushed by a wagonwheel; she walks with a pronouced limp. She's short, skinny, has a pasty complexion, light ash brown (aka "mouse") colored hair and is painfully aware of her leg and rather plain looks. She likes the nickname "mouse" -- and that's what she wants to be, small, not seen, working quietly in the shadows, noticed only for the results of her actions (except in her case, it's clean floors and fresh linens, as opposed to droppings and a mess in the pantry).
To Mouse's complete dismay as she rounded the bend, Mr. Taylor, accompanied by Mr. Smith and guards on duty were headed straight at her and Mr. Sobel and Mr. Boyd. She ducked her head and turned it slightly to the side as she moved to let them pass, hopefully they would just pay her no mind and she could get to her room and wash the tear tracks from her face and change into her nightgown and pull the covers over her head and wish the last part of the day had never happened.
Mr Taylor paused in mid-stride. "Mistress Elnias, are you alright? Where's your hat? Your dress! What happened?"
"Mouse, Sir, just Mouse," she murmured automatically, flattening her back against the wall, wishing it would swallow her whole. Mr. Taylor , the Seeker, had taken note of her this morning. Mr. Taylor, the Seeker with the pretty eyes and gentle voice had taken notice of her this morning when she went out in her blouse and best pinafore -- best Mipese lamb's cashmere in softest gray that she had saved to buy, now hopelessly ruined unless she dyed it black -- her hair carefully done up and her beautiful new bonnet -- that she had also saved for -- pinned in place, all dressed up because she was going to Aggie's wedding. She ducked her head and tried to take a step sideways, hoping Mr. Taylor would let the matter drop, but Mr. Smith's cold green glare snared her, wouldn't let her move. She tried to say something. Her mouth opened. No words came out.
Behind her, Mr. Sobel and Mr. Boyd (who seemed to find the whole thing much funnier than anybody ought) burst into a fresh round of laughter.
"Oh, Mr. Taylor!" Mr. Boyd said when he finally caught his breath. "It was -- she was amazing!" Mr. Boyd clapped her on the back.
"Right." said Mr. Sobel. "So, about two hours ago, Boyd and I are heading for a cable car stop at the edge of Alleyway. It's a kind of sketchy neighborhood, not helped by the fact that the gaslight's not working right on that block. Dim and flickering something fierce --"
Boyd picked up the story again, "So up ahead, we see three toughs circling a woman, and we don't like the looks of it, so we pick up the pace. And right about the time we can see that it's little Mouse here, and she's got her arms full and they're cat-calling her, one of them pushes her --"
"And Mouse drops this box she's holding --"
"Extra cake from my sister Aggie's wedding," Mouse whispered. It was chocolate with cherries and buttercream icing.
"--And whirls and BAM! smashes him square across the face with this bottle she's got in her other hand --" Mr. Sobel mimed the spin while Mr. Boyd rocked back with the force of the blow.
"My mam's raspberry cordial." And mam had made it as a special gift for her, too. Mouse had so been looking forward treating herself to a glass here and there over the coming months, but now? All she had of it was the splatter of stains that ruined her pinafore.
"-- and lays him out cold!" Mr Sobel cackled with glee.
"Well, his mates didn't like that, and one of them comes up behind and grabs her," and here Mr. Boyd came up behind Mr. Sobel "and puts his hand where it had no business being. Quick as a wink, she's got the pin out of her hat and straight through his wrist." Mr. Boyd staggered back clutching his injured arm.
"The wind caught my bonnet," Mouse sighed. "I saw it go sailing over the rooftops."
"And the last of them," Mr. Sobel wheezed with laughter, "just stands there, gawping at his mates, and wee Mousie here kicked him so hard in the cods that he dropped to the ground and spewed into the gutter. Mercy, but it was like --"
"-- like it was coming out of a fountain or something." Mr. Boyd wiped the tears from his eyes.
"And then -- and then --" Mr. Sobel gasped, "when the guards come with the wagon to haul them off to Alleyway, one of them turns to Mouse here and says --"
Mr. Boyd pitched his voice in imitation of the guard's thick eastern drawl. "'You're very lucky, Mistress, that you had these gentlemen here to save you.' "
Mr. Boyd and Mr. Sobel howled with laughter and sagged, jelly kneed, against each other, tears streaming down their faces.
Mr. Taylor, shaking with suppressed laughter, fixed his pretty eyes on her, and tried to say something clever -- Mr. Taylor was always saying clever things, and if he made mock, he was laughing with a person, not at them -- but ended up sagging against the wall in silent hysterics, while his guards chortled with laughter.
Right, then. Enough. (They just wouldn't understand about the dress and the bonnet and how frightened she had been, and the awful things those toughs had said to her about her leg and her lack of womanly curves.) Mouse turned to dart away -- well, as fast as her gimp leg would let her -- but Mr. Smith's arm shot out, seizing her wrist painfully. She squeaked in shock and fear.
His eyes glittered quite strangely in his hood as he studied her for a moment and said, "Is there anything else we should know about your abilities with rag and polish, Mistress Mouse? Or instead of racking prisoners, should I --" his voice broke "-- just send you in with mop and bucket?"
She had no idea where it came from, because this was the High Seeker (and it put bees, not butterflies in her belly just to see him) but she looked him square in his green, green eyes -- still glittering with that strange light -- and said, "Pray, Sir, you never cross me if I have a feather duster to hand."
And with that, Mr. Smith released her hand and did something Mouse (nor any of the guards, not even Mr. Sobel who had worked with him almost as long as Mouse had been alive) had never seen him do: he laughed.