This is the second part of a story – read Part 1.
The hedgehog winced as he saw Eric’s head bounce off the branch and onto the ground. He gave the woodlice a nudge and they crawled back into their bag and went to sleep. Then he had a good scratch to placate his own host of parasites. After that, he knocked back a few drams of the honey ale that the moles had left for him. He yawned, somewhat tired from his oracular activities.
It had taken several hours to persuade the woodlice to drink enough sloe gin for the hedgehog to mesmerise them. Once he’d done that they were excellent instruments of divination, though they needed some encouragement before they started to roll meaningfully. Some fortune-tellers favoured the old liquorice tea bits, or staring into a puddle, but the hedgehog was no mere paw-reader. He had always found those methods not so much unreliable, but lacking some essential quality. He liked to work with life when it came down to it, and you didn’t get much more lively than woodlice, always crawling around and finding new ways to get into your bed or kitchen drawers. Their kind of aimless curiosity was ideal to harness when you wanted to take a peek into the future.
It was certainly one of the clearest visions he’d ever had, although it would take some interpretation. It’s all very good and well watching an obviously bewildered animal haring around the forest (just wait for next Spring), but the vision hadn’t quite revealed what he was running away from. Certainly the weasel was a stranger to the hedgehog, though he had a familiar sparkle about the eyes… Perhaps he was more important than the events he had aimed for. However, it proved that the moles’ calculations had been as precise as usual – which certainly accounted for the intensity of his vision. If only it had been a sight of something more specific… but the sense of threat that the weasel felt was an indication of something going awry.
So what to tell the moles? For a start, find that weasel – he certainly didn’t live in the forest yet (he could be sure of that without checking), but he seemed like one of theirs. Second, work out where the weasel had been- or was going to be – in the vision, when it happened (this was always difficult to explain); there was no point in arguing with the future, but it often paid to be around when the predictions unfolded – how else could one be sure their sight was sound? Other than that, they were clearly on the right path, so they could direct their partners to do more of the same good work. This was always much easier in hindsight, because then you could just compare what actually happened with what you thought was going to happen. Mind you, far too much was done through hindsight, and there was not enough foresight being used elsewhere in the forest. Add second-sight to the equation and it all became a lot more complicated.
Right-o. The Mystic Hedgehog left his private chambers and ambled onto the Tiled Floor with its intricate mosaic of woodland life. The tiles were cold under his aging paws and made his ankles ache; he looked forwards to crawling back into his nest later on. He rang a small bell and three black-robed acolytes appeared, their pink noses sniffing habitually. He could just about see their little, weak eyes in the depths of their hoods.
One stepped forwards with a handful of manuscript and a tiny quill. To them he dictated his prophecy and instructions. He added a few more of his standard prophecies to bulk it out. ‘Watch the skies’ was always a good, and pertinent one for rodents. He also suggested they arrange another meeting with the Order and kept an eye on the Parliament. He always referred politely to the owls even if others didn’t. There was no harm in being civil, and sometimes it paid off richly.
The moles seemed satisfied, and while making copies of the Mystic Hedgehog’s revelations they went off to archive them appropriately. He would make his formal announcement to all the moles the next night, at the full moon as was traditional. Then it was time for another head splitting yawn, a larger scratch and back to bed for their revered prophet.