Changing of the Guard
The Hidden Wars - 1161 to 1190
In the winter of 1152 a patrol of Mouse Guard were attempting to deliver some supplies when they stumbled upon a previously unknown section of the Darkheather. A section that extended all the way to Lockhaven itself. Gwendolyn was greatly concerned by the news. How far did the Darkheather truly extend and what would happen if another weasel lord decided to use them again? In the following years she started sending her most experienced patrols into the Darkheather to begin mapping it starting from Lockhaven.
It was quickly discovered that the Darkheather extended across the southern half of the Territories in a mess of twisting and winding tunnels. Whats more nearly all of the snake and whistle pig attacks on mice happened near one of these tunnels. Consulting the leaders of the Guard as well as many mice skilled in carpentry and masonry Gwendolyn formulated a plan. For the safety of the Territories the Darkheather had to be cleared and sealed.
Beginning in 1161 the Guard began to clear and seal sections of the Darkheather. This was an unpopular decision within the ranks of the Mouse Guard as many felt that the Darkheather was no threat to the Territories. However the importance of the task soon became clear.
Within the first two months of work a nest of snakes was found under Shaleburrow. The snakes had discovered a way into the towns water supply and were ready to attack mice inside the settlement. The Guard had saved the town without anyone noticing.
Month after month, year after year the patrols working below ground pushed back the monsters. With fire and force they scattered all before them before sealing the passages. It was treacherous work for both Guard and craftsman alike. When the Dry Years struck many working below ground wanted to stop the work but Gwendolyn ordered them to continue saying:
“This war of ours, this hidden war, is the most important work we Guard can do. It will ensure the future of the Territories even if our brethren never know what we have done.”
As it turned out snakes, squires and whistle pigs flocked to the Darkheather seeking both easy access to mice and safety from larger predators. The influx pressed the patrols who struggled to protect the settlements from below.
These skirmishes in the dark tunnels continued well beyond the Dry Years . Pressing ever southward the Guard began to encounter less resistance. The closer they got to the old realm of Lord Rampaul the more abounded the tunnels appeared. It was in the Spring of 1178 that patrols began to go missing. Patrols would come under attack, occasionally someone would die from a falling rock or unseen predator or someone would wander off and get lost, but it was rare for a whole patrol to go missing. Rarer still for 3. The mystery of the missing patrols didn’t last long, it was weasels. Several of the Tunnel Lords under Lord Rampaul had remained behind in the darkest reaches of the Darkheather. When they discovered what the Mouse Guard were up to they lashed out viciously. Attacking patrols and work details swiftly before folding back into the dark.
For two years the Guard suffered under the weasels raids. The Tunnel Lords were cunning tacticians who knew their domain well. The patrols were unable to mount any kind of defense against the raids. As soon as one area would be fortified the weasels would be off cutting a supply line, or reopening a sealed tunnel on the other side of the Territories. They would attack, not to kill, but to destroy supplies with fire, pitch, or the innards of some animal.
These hit and run tactics had even the most veteran of the Guard rattled. The leaders of the Guard urged Gwendolyn to end this conflict. With support from the settlements and recruitment at an all time low they feared the Mouse Guard couldn’t defeat the Tunnel Lords. However Gwendolyn remained indomitable. Casting caution to the wind she gathered the Guard and led them herself. This time instead of moving methodically through the tunnels the mice of the Guard moved swiftly with little light forging further into the darkness then any mouse had ever gone.
The move worked. Gwendolyn managed to catch one of the Tunnel Lords by surprise. The weasels were few in number and fell quickly. The few weasels that escaped must have warned the remaining Tunnel Lords as it was the last time mouse and weasel would fight in the Darkheather.
It took another 10 years before the last of the tunnels were sealed. With the Weasels gone and much of the Darkheather cleared it became uneventful work. When the task finished in the Fall of 1190 all rejoiced. The Hidden Wars had lasted 29 years and cost the Guard much but the Darkheather was no longer a threat to the Territories.