My yordle Norra snores into the pages of my friend, Book. My tail twitches as dozens of moon-moths sail in through the open window like floating lanterns, and I leap joyfully into the air, not caring if I catch one. I bounce higher and higher, batting at the moon-moths as they drift all around me.
One of them bends and turns inside itself, lashing about until it twists into the shape of a mackerel. Around me, the other moon-moths spin in mid-air, all transforming into floating fish. Delicious—until the whole world turns upside down. Books cascade up from the shelves, landing on the ceiling with a dozen thuds. My Norra floats upward, still asleep. The fish flounder in every direction as we all fall up, up, up—
I wake up, blinking sleepily in a wooden box as moonlight shines through the slats. How in a mouse’s house did I get here? Oh yes. The tasty stink of fish fills my nose and I remember prowling the streets of Bilgewater, finding a crate of dried fish, then eating my fill before falling into a deep, belly-full sleep.
Before I can get comfy again, my stomach lurches and I’m knocked onto my side. Dozens of dried fish fall on top of me—just like my dream!—and my stomach purrs.
Book flutters in the corner as it tries to edge away from the falling fish. It’s always hinting that food is bad for its pages. I think dried-up-trees would be much improved with the smell of fish, but Book knows much more about dried-up-trees than I do, so I don’t argue.
I peek through the cracks between the slats. The floor beneath us creaks and shifts while, in the distance, moonlight flickers on the surface of the… ocean!
“Book, whyyy?!” I cry. “Naps never lead to bad things!”
Book opens and closes in exasperation. I don’t do water, and neither does Book.
I start to panic. Book rustles, reminding me not to worry—but it’s too late. I scratch and scramble at the wood in desperation, and I shred some of the dried fish by accident. This ocean is making me destroy my yummiest snack—it’s the worst type of water! I paw at Book’s cover, opening it to a frost-tinged portal that will take us far away from this watery nightmare. We have to escape somewhere, anywhere. Even somewhere cold.
I’m about to jump into Book’s portal when I hear a scream that sounds like tinkling bells and the brightest rainbows. A scream that makes my fur stand on end. A yordle scream.
I peek through the slats in the crate and watch as two human sailors drag a blue-furred yordle to the edge of the bustling ship’s deck. One of them has black chin-whiskers and the other is chubby, and both are smirking. They step over roped stacks of harpoons, fishing poles, spears, and coils of thick fishing wire. Must be deep-sea monster hunters.
“This little ’un is gonna fetch us a prize gulperfish, eh?” the first sailor says.
“I hear the biggest fish love yordle meat,” says the chubbier sailor. “Never tried it before, myself. Not a lot of yordles ’round Bilgewater.”
The blue-furred yordle squeals and struggles against them. “I’m not bait!” he exclaims, squeaking with each word. “I beg you, please release me!” The sailors don’t budge.
The whole ship tilts as a particularly large bump shakes my crate. “Ah, that’ll be the fish now. Time to fill our boat with gulperflesh!” says the first sailor, grinning. I don’t like his grin.
An enormous fin circles our boat, making lion-sized waves that bash the side of our ship. I feel Book tugging at me. I know it wants us to escape through a portal, to get away from the bad water right now before anyone sees us, but I hear the yordle cry out. I stick my paw through the slats in the crate and open the crate’s latch. I won’t leave a yordle alone to die. Not after losing my Norra.
The sailors watch the fin thrash around in the water. They don’t notice me as I leap from my crate like the quietest tiger and stalk them from behind.
The poor yordle is tied to a long fishing pole, which the sailors are dangling over the ocean. The water beneath him is bubbling and frothing. How does water always move in the worst ways?! I jump over the pile of harpoons and Book follows, flying next to me and nervously flapping its pages as it hovers in the air. They see us.
“Is that a purple raccoon—with a flying book?” one of the sailors asks.
“I think it’s a baby bear with a journal,” says another.
“No, you idiots, it’s just a cat,” says a third. “Get it!”
The sailors rush at me, but I dart swiftly between their feet. I unfurl a coil of magic that twists and tangles around their legs. They trip and topple like cups on a table.
I perch on the ship’s railing next to the fishing pole, unsure what to do next. The waves swirl below us, and my hunting instincts kick in—something’s gonna pounce.
“Untie me!” shouts the yordle as he clings to the fishing rod. “I am not a piece of bait. This is quite strange and embarrassing!”
Luckily for him, I am not afraid of fish. Even if I don’t like water.
I bound onto the fishing pole. In the midst of a cat’s leap, sometimes time slows. With my paws splayed out like pancakes and wind rushing through my fur over the terrible water, I am determined to save this yordle with everything I’ve got. Besides, mid-leap, there’s no going back.
“Don’t worry, small blue yordle!” I shout. “I got you!”
The yordle’s fate and mine intertwine as I land on its shoulder, with Book right behind.
The fishing pole wobbles under our weight. The biggest fish I’ve ever seen—a third the size of the boat—bursts from the sea with its mouth gaping open, hundreds of teeth glistening in the moonlight. Its jaws open so wide it could swallow a pair of cows, without even chewing them up. Even in the dark, with my shinylight I can see its skin is made up of pointed razor-sharp scales of silver and violet.
The giant gulperfish swallows us whole—the yordle, Book, me, and even a bit of the fishing pole, with room to spare.
We jostle against the roof of the fish’s mouth as it falls back into the water. It’s pitch-black, and smells like old seafood! Before it can gulp us down, though, I balloon open a magical shield that bubbles around us, lodging us in the fish’s leathery gullet. I blink on my shinylight again, illuminating some seriously rotten teeth that explain the awful smell. The yordle squeals at the sight. The fish lashes about, and the three of us are thrown in every direction, protected by the impermeable bubble.
What a strange way to make new friends!
I try to open Book so the three of us can escape, but the gulperfish leaps into the air once more, and we are tossed into a heap inside the bubble. We fall with a thud—the fish must have landed on the ship’s deck. I hear the sailors shouting as the enormous gulper thrashes back and forth, slapping them with its tail.
I hear a splash, and another, and another. The humans must have been knocked into the water. Still stuck in the throat of the gulperfish, I flip Book open to a portal that shimmers with the dusky green of Bandle City, the green of home.
I grab the small yordle’s shirt with my teeth and dive into the page. The portal widens and we spin into the spirit realm, dizzy and whirling into a jumble of colors.
We emerge, coughing, on the banks of a shallow creek. My lungs fill with the sweet air of Bandle City, thick and lush as in my dream. Sapphire-blue crickets chirp in the twilight as the brook babbles gently, full of fish—normal-sized fish.
Book flaps its pages to dry off. The blue-furred yordle stands up, dripping and shaking. “What was that? How did we… escape?” he asks. “Wasn’t the nearest Bilgewater portal back on the docks?”
“Lucky for us, Book carries our portals around wherever we go,” I say. Book twirls, showing off its dried-up-tree pages, each inscribed with a magical gateway outlined in ink and paint.
“Well, thank you for saving me, both of you,” says the yordle. He looks at Book curiously. “Is this where you’re from, too?”
“Yes, but we don’t live here anymore,” I say. I look at Book, sadly, thinking of master.
Book flutters. I know it thinks it’s time to move on.
“You know how to get home from here?” I ask the yordle.
“Yes, yes, just up the hill past the bowl-moles. I know this meadow well. And I do hope you find your yordle,” he says, before wandering off.
I stay for a moment, watching as the gloaming turns to daybreak. I catch a glimpse of a moon-moth hovering on the horizon and I long to pounce on it, but I remember that Norra is still lost somewhere, perhaps waiting for us to rescue her this very minute.
I pat Book as gently as I can with my paw—I know it misses her too.
Then I open it to a new page, and dive in.