It felt like a lot of time had passed at this point, though Acorn couldn’t be sure if that was true, since no light reached his corner and he dared not venture outward. All he knew was that Marigold had walked away after a while, and she was simply gone.

‘This place is terrible,’ he found himself thinking…

Cornflower finally made itself known again: ‘Still nicer than our old den.’

‘What? It’s gross and humid…’

‘Just like our place,’ it countered. ‘Remember last winter, when it flooded?’

It was right. Sitting in a hot sopping pile of grass in the corner was still better than anything he could remember within the past few years. And he wasn’t being yelled at.

There were footsteps – new ones.

He remained low to the ground, his ears swiveling to listen. They weren’t like any footsteps he had heard before; they weren’t like Marigold’s talons, nor any of the Leaves, nor even Bark. They were somehow heavy and yet light, like a pumpkin on a set of twigs.

And they were coming closer…

Remembering Marigold’s words, he held still, hoping desperately they would pass by him. But they were moving towards him with deliberation! He tried not to shake.

The new creature was above him now, he could tell. There was nothing he could do – he didn’t want to break the rules Marigold gave him. ‘Being killed by her would be worse than anything that could happen,’ he thought.

Now it was sniffing him. He could feel its hot breath on him, and he felt sick. ‘Please don’t kill me,’ he thought as loudly as he could, as if he could project his thoughts outward.

It was moving the grass off of him…