The little rat leads Hermann through the long grass, the trees hang heavy above him and Hermann keeps stopping and sitting up to look around- in case there is a hawk or owl skulking in the branches.
The rat squeaks impatiently, looking back at him. Hermann drops back on all fours and lollops over to him- if the so much smaller rat isn’t afraid, he probably shouldn’t be.
He hears the stream before he see it. A light burbling, soft and soothing. The grass around is short and thick. Hermann nibbles a blade, here and there. It’s delicious, juicy and sweet.
A new smell reaches him- not just the fresh running water and grass, but something richer, heavy and hanging in the air.
The rat slows, backs until he’s almost between Hermann’s front paws. His nose twitches, black liquid eyes darting for a threat.
Hermann pauses, turns his ears to filter out the noise of the stream and- there, he can hear it, a slippery, soft hissing over dry leaves.
The rat squeaks and scuttles behind him. Hermann turns and bares his teeth as the snake rears out of the grass.
It’s a ribbed pale green, too small to hurt him- but terrifying to the rat. Hermann brings his paws down on the snakes head and pins it. He bites it hard on the neck.
The blood is hot and foul, rotting in his mouth. Hermann forces himself to ignore it and bites down harder until something snaps. Hermann spits it out, backs away. The snake does not move.
The rat scuttles forwards, sniffs at the snake, then bounces in delight, squeaking in delight.
Hermann turns away in disgust as he starts on the snake’s eyes and tongue, and goes to the stream to wash the awful taste out of his mouth. He nips at a few strands of weed and chews thoughtfully. It’’s a good place, here. Too rough for foxes, and the branches so dense only sparrows nest there.
There’s a squeak. Hermann turns and sees the rat, who is looking a bit embarrassed, pink around the mouth. He backs away, turns, and looks back at Hermann.
Hermann follows him.
The apple tree is small and stunted under the heavy canopy, but the apple is sweet and ripe, some already rotten, but many still perfectly good.
Hermann lowers his head until it touches the rat’s. “Neeww,” it squeaks.
“Hermann,” Hermann grumbles back. He touches him, nose to nose again in thanks.
Stacker would be delighted with this new place for their warren.