The troupe of squirrels led Louey, Sadie Lynn, and Sam further into the woods. Scurrius and a few others stayed with them on the ground, but most remained in the trees. Gris, the squirrel who had said they’d be sorry they ever found squirrel city, kept especially close to them, his bow at the ready, grumbling under his breath all the way, apparently not happy with the idea of leading strangers right into his home. Louey tried to show his goodwill by engaging the squirrel in conversation, but Gris wasn’t interested. Soon enough though, Louey found himself too awestruck for speech, for they had reached the Lost City of the Squirrels. It was built not on the ground, but in the trees. Castles made of twigs and leaves sat in the branches and were connected to each other by bridges and ladders. Several sat at varying levels in each trees, and the trees themselves were carved like turrets and were, Scurrius informed them, hollowed out and filled with winding staircases so that they could be climbed from within if ever needed.
“But why would you need to?” asked Sam.
“In case of attack on the city,” said Gris in a very pointed manner, eyeing them. “Many times in the centuries past, hunters would come here, seeking our kind for fur and food. Hunters with dogs.”
He emphasized the last word, and in response Sam looked at Louey and Sadie Lynn, then back at Gris and said, “Well, you don’t need to worry about these two. Don’t you know what I am?”
“You are a strange city squirrel,” said Gris. “With odd colors and a bare tail, corrupted by urban living I suppose.”
“Wrong! I’m a rat! And Sadie Lynn here is a dog that was bred to hunt rats!” said Sam. “But we’re friends! She’s looking after me for Miss Blatz, the lady rat who adopted me! And they’re friends too!”
Gris didn’t look like he quite believed her, but he only gestured to Louey, who was still dumbstruck by the sight of the arborial city, and said, “and that one? What is he?”
“He’s a Chihuahua! And they’re practically rats, which are just squirrels with naked tails that are bad at climbing, so you’re almost like cousins!”
“Hey!” said Louey, snapped out of his trance.
“What?” Sam looked innocent. “I’ve heard lots of people say Chihuahuas are more like rats than dogs. Isn’t that a compliment?”
“Er, uh…” Louey didn’t have the heart to tell Sam what most people really thought of rats, so he addressed Scurrius instead, saying, “Your city is amazing! Please, show us more!”
“Oh you’ll have plenty of time for that,” Scurrius replied cheerfully. “After all…you’ll be living here now! Forever!”
All three of the pets gasped: “What?!”
(End of Part 3)
Story and illustration by Mary Grace Mauney