The Search for the Serpent Stone:
Scout Squad Five and Morwyn barely slept a wink the previous night for fear that Cyprus would come back for another try at a midnight snack. Despite the odds against them, they begin a search for the legendary Serpent Stone early that morning with their bellies full from a good breakfast. All six mice collaborate a plan to split up into groups of two’s and search each building of Copperwood Outpost. Bundt and Toryan search the Mess Hall, while Landon and Dina take the Guard Barracks. Darow and Morwyn are left with the Armory.
As Bundt and Scout Captain Toryan investigate the Mess Hall, they have to cover their sensitive mouse noses with cloth; the decaying smell seems to have gotten worse after just one day. A search of the empty dining area results in nothing. One step into the kitchen and both mouse are reeling and on the verge of vomiting but are able to gain back their resolve after a few seconds. Then, they begin sifting through the remains of fellow mice to find any clues about the Serpent Stone’s whereabouts. After a thorough inspection, they can take no more of the sights and smells and decide to leave the Mess Hall. With grim faces, Bundt and Toryan take a seat on the steps just before noontime to wait for any news from the others. Not too long after, they see Landon and Dina exit the Barracks with disheartened looks. Finally, they all decide to head over to see if Darow and Morwyn have found any clues in the Armory.
Upon entering the squat building, the four mice see a strange light coming from Morwyn’s staff. It’s not as bright as the result of last night’s strange invocation but is enough to lighten up the dark and windowless Armory room. Also, they find Darow behind an emptied weapon rack along the right wall. He is using one of the swords to pry at a hidden hatch in the wooden flooring. It takes all of the mice working together to get the heavy darkwood hatch open; the smell of mold and old dust floats up from the unused tunnel beneath the flooring. Each mouse drops down, one after the other, into the secret tunnel. With Darow in the lead and Scout Captain Toryan following close behind, the two mice search for any traps or tricks that may endanger the patrol. None are found even when they reach the end of the secret tunnel. The six mice file into a round anteroom and are confused by the strange knob-less door covered in exotic runes that now stands before them.
Morwyn is the first to take a look at the weird door and runes. He takes a small well-worn book from his small waist pouch and begins reading the runic lettering. He then tells the members of Scout Squad Five that he is certain that the legendary Serpent Stone is held within the chamber behind the door; however, he has no clue how to get the door open. Darow takes the initiative and inspects the door to find that it is trapped. He is able to successfully disable it nonetheless. In doing so, he triggers the door to open, and all six mice feel the ground tremble beneath their feet.
Within the hidden chamber, the wary mice look for any signs of enemies or other traps but find none. Centered in the room, they crowd around the small square pedestal adorned with more exotic runes. Atop the pedestal is none other than the Serpent Stone which is brightly glowing green. The only other objects in the square chamber are six odd sconces set into its walls. Nevertheless, the mice are very leery about touching the stone. Since it is his task to obtain the stone, Morwyn is the first mouse to grab it and tries to lift it from the pedestal—it doesn’t budge. Seeing that the stone doesn’t seem dangerous, the other mice try in pairs to lift the stone but are unsuccessful. Scout Captain Toryan gets an idea when he noticed that a few of the sconces along the wall lit up as the others touched the pedestal while pulling on the round orb. All six mice touch the pedestal at the same time; all of a sudden, the Serpent Stone lost its glow while the sconces are now glowing bright. Morwyn feels his wooden staff being drawn to the stone and uses it to lift it from the pedestal. They hear a crackling sound in the next instant and feel energy flowing through the pedestal. All light goes out from the sconces as the energy completely dissipates. Soon after, the mice are left in the darkness of the ancient chamber.
Scared of what may lurk in the dark, the other mice ask Morwyn to use more of his mystical powers to create light from his staff again. However, he is unsuccessful for some reason; he suspects that the Serpent Stone may have something to do with it. Landon just happens to have some tinder and flint rock, while Darow crafts a makeshift torch from the supplies in his backpack. With a torch in hand, Landon safely navigates the patrol back through the secret tunnel and into the Armory’s weapon room.
Back above ground, all six mice discuss the patrol’s next plan. They are still faced with the dangerous Cyprus the Copperhead, who may strike at any moment. Always thinking about survival, Scout Captain Toryan decides that it’s best to remain at Copperwood Outpost instead of making their stand out in the surrounding forest area. The leaders then direct the tenderpaws and Morwyn to fortify the watch tower and gather any other supplies that can be found before nightfall. Just before sunset, Scout Squad Five and Morwyn complete their tasks to the best of their abilities; Darow begins the first guard shift this night.
Fatigue has taken its toll on all the mice. None of them have gotten much sleep the previous night due to the ever-vigilant snake. The mice not on watch fall asleep quickly and soundly. During the first two shifts, both Darow and Landon think they hear slithering sounds, but nothing happens. So, they attribute it to their sleep-deprived minds playing tricks on them. Bundt was awoken by Landon for the next shift. He remained watchful and on his guard for about the first few minutes. However, he falls asleep due to the abnormal quietness of the night while relaxing against the wood railing of the watch tower’s balcony.
A subtle but continuous pounding noise against the outer wall of Copperwood Outpost wakes Bundt and Morwyn in an instant. They both peer over the edge of the railing and notice the wooden posts of the guard wall shake and vibrate in the ground with every thud. Suddenly, there is an explosion of splintering wood, and chunks of log posts are hurled from across the training grounds into the Mess Hall building. Every mouse is now wide awake and staring wild-eyed over the railing’s edge into the darkness. They spot a scaly body mass and a spade-shaped head just within the breach of the wall. In a split-second, Cyprus the Copperhead slithers in and coils himself around the foot of the watch tower. The mice look on in terror as the rippling, muscular body of the snake constricts the wooden posts that make up the tower’s base; they hear crunching and splintering from below and feel the tower itself begin to wobble and shake. Scout Captain Toryan quickly knocks an arrow in his weathered bow and takes a shot at the snake, while Dina yells for the rest of the them to brace themselves. The arrow scores a hit in the snake but is not enough to deter Cyprus. As the captain readies another arrow, the barely injured snake now constricts with all his might and snaps all the log posts at the tower’s base bringing it toppling down with a resounding crash.
Even though they are dazed, Scout Squad Five and Morwyn are able to extract themselves from the debris and try to escape and hide in the fortified Armory building. Instead, they are blocked by Cyprus the Copperhead and his massive body. Now, they are forced to gather into a meager fighting formation and ready their weaponry for this near impossible conflict. The oppressive snake rears his head back preparing for a swift and deadly strike. In the meantime, Morwyn and Scout Captain Toryan, who are more towards the back of the formation, notice that the Serpent Stone has a bright, green glow again. In the blink of an eye, the copperhead snake strikes forward poisonous fangs bared directly at Bundt. Morwyn points the staff set with the gleaming orb in the face of the snake at the same time. A radiant white beam of light blinds Cyprus the Copperhead causing his strike attack to barely miss Bundt. Yet, one of the poisoned fangs was still able to scrape Bundt’s paw. The powerful orb also caused Morwyn to black out for a brief moment.
The copperhead snake quickly gains his sight back and makes his move towards Landon next. Normally level-headed, Landon is abruptly struck with fear at how swift the snake is and was not quick enough to maneuver away; the snake coils around the mouse and begins to crush the breath out of him. In response, Dina climbs atop the back of the beast and begins stabbing downward with her sword. Scout Captain Toryan knocks and shoots another arrow with his bow at the snake’s head, while Darow hacks at the snake’s side with his sharp axe. Cyprus is now angered and tries to strike out at Dina. Nonetheless, the female mouse has dealt with the likes of snakes before and swiftly dodges the attack. This distraction allows Landon the chance to get out of the snake’s grasp but causes Darow to drop his axe and fall down flat on his front. Finding Darow as an easier and tastier target, Cyprus stares into the wide eyes of the frightened mouse while rearing back for the next strike.
Quick as lightning, the snake’s attack is successful; however, Darow is shoved out of the way by Scout Captain Toryan who had dropped his bow and took the intended victim’s place. All the other mice, including Morwyn, watch in horror as Cyprus’s poisoned fangs dig deep into the captain’s body. As if in slow motion, the snake’s head then snaps back towards its scaly body and coils the mouse in a deadly embrace. Dina commands the young mice to retreat into the Armory and to hide in the secret passage beneath the building. Angered with rage at the loss of Scout Captain Toryan, Dina tries to save him and stabs at the snake’s sides with her sword, but Cyprus the Copperhead just tightens his body’s muscle and takes the hits, not willing to let this meal go. Finally, Dina finds her efforts futile and escapes into the safety of the Armory.
During her fit of anger, Dina did not realize that Bundt had gone unconscious during the conflict from the effects of the copperhead’s poison. Lucky for him, Darow and Landon were able to drag him into the Armory while they were escaping. For fear that Cyprus would try to come after the rest of them, the other mice hide in the small weapons room and barricade themselves in there. Next, they all collapse on the floor and a bleak mood overtakes all but Morwyn. Having no clue how to cure Bundt, Morwyn is determined to find out more about the Serpent Stone’s powers to see if it is possible to use it. He gets up and returns to the ancient chamber and inspect the orb’s pedestal further. He finds a tiny rolled-up scroll in a hidden compartment in the pedestal after much investigating; however, it is written in a language unknown to him and has a strange mystical feeling to it. Morwyn travels back to the others and shows them his find. None of the other mice are able to read the scroll either, so he puts it into his pouch for safe keeping.
After much contemplation, Morwyn decides to use the Serpent Stone on Bundt any ways. He moves the orb closer to the poisoned mouse and realizes that the orb changed from its usual green glow to a blood red hue. Then, he touches the stone against the scrape on Bundt’s paw and thinks that he feels a mystical power working to remove the poison from his body. The other mice are a little frightened and awestruck by the strange powers of the Serpent Stone but are hopeful that Bundt will be saved.
The next morning, Bundt rose early with faint hints of dizziness in his head. He wakes up the rest of the mice who tell him the details of the battle and the grim news of Scout Captain Toryan’s sacrifice. After a meager breakfast of gabcroons and berry juice, Scout Squad Five remove the barricade from the doorway of the weapons room and stealthily check outside the Armory to see if Cyprus the Copperhead is around; there is no sign of the snake except for the deep gouges left in the ground from its body during the battle. Bundt does find Scout Captain Toryan’s bow beneath some debris and intends to keep it in honor of the captain. A little jittery and frazzled from the past few days occurrences, the patrol decides that they want to leave Copperwood Outpost immediately. Morwyn convinces Dina to travel to Lockhaven to report their findings directly to Gwendolyn and also The High Council of Mystics. At first she is not willing to travel so far after all this, but Morwyn takes a small yellow trinket from his pouch and tells her that it will allow them to travel to their destination in an instant. He informs the rest of the mice to gather near him and throws and breaks the trinket at their feet. Afterwards, they all feel a significant jarring effect and see that they are now standing at the entrance gate to Lockhaven.