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This is a sequel to Triss (book)
A battered boat drifted on the gentle waves of the sea. The middle-aged squirrel inside it leaned against the tiller and glanced up at the sky, trying to navigate by the stars. She sighed wearily, unable to do so. Not that it mattered, the squirrel did not have the slightest clue as to where she happened to be or how far away land was. Glancing up, her eyes widened and she just barely suppressed a cry of delight. A mountain of bluey-green rock stuck up from the ocean almost invisible because of the rock's color. Land! At long last.
She left the tiller and shinned up the mast to unfurl the sails so they could catch the wind (sorry if this is not the right term, I know almost nothing about boats). As the little craft accelerated, her eyes searched for a beach or cove to land in. She gasped as she saw that the sides of the mountain didn't have one.
A young hogmaid watched the boat come closer to the island. Seeing the squirrel, she ran down a steep path shouting. "Urtica, Bistort, there's a little boat with a squirrel in it speeding toward here! It's going to crash if we don't do something!"
Two hefty male hedgehogs darted out of a cave. The younger one, Urtica, inquired. "Where is it, Welfo?"
"Over that way, quick!"
Bistort, the older hog, gave a relieved sigh. "Good, than she be headed to the hidden cove. Hurry, we need to help the squirrel get in it."
Face grim, the squirrel tried to turn the craft but the winds were blowing too fast. She braced herself for the wreck. Abruptly a voice called out from the massive rock. "Throw us the head rope. Don't worry, we art friends."
She tossed the rope towards the spot the voice had come from. It tauntened than she felt the boat being pulled along slightly south. The mountain towered above her, she began to panic thinking that whoever held the rope planned on making her crash. Closing her eyes tightly, she took a deep breath and held it waiting for the sound of splintering wood and the icy sensation of being thrown into the fathomless depths. Suprisingly it did not come, the middle-aged squirrel opened her eyes.
She gawked at the cleverly hidden cove. The surrounding stones were a lovely blueish-green. Waves lapped softly against them, making a gentle swishing noise. Here and there, strands of seaweed lay. Glancing up she sighted two sturdy hedgehogs with a hogmaid. The maid smiled welcomeingly at the squirrel. "Welcome to Peace Island. I am Welfo, This is my husband, Urtica, and his father, Bistort, Patriarch of Peace Island. Come with us, er..."
"Moonsong Arrem, last of the Arrem family." The squirrel's eyes clouded momentarliy, then she shook her head roughly as if trying to forget some painful memory.
Bistort sized Moonsong up. "Thou lookest like thou hadst not eaten for awhile. Come, we have food aplenty, thou canst break thy fast and tell us about thyself, yes?"
Moonsong nodded. "Sounds good to me. Lead me to the grub!"
They led her to an orchard in which several hogs gathered around a flickering fire. They greeted her and an old hogwife, named Downyrose served her some teacakes, pasties, and apple cider. Moonsong attacked the food having not eaten for who knows how long. Welfo giggled to her husband. "Hahaha. She eats like Scarum."
Urtica agreed. "Aye, so she does, so she does."
When Moonsong had finished, the hedgehogs all sat down and waited for her to begin her tale. She stared into the flames for a few moments than started, speaking. "Twelve seasons ago, some Pure Ferrits and their ratguards attacked my home. All the other squirrels fled and my husband, Rocc Arrem, urged me to take our daughter, Triss, and go with the others." Welfo drew in a sharp breath at the name "Triss". " I did so reluctantly, but his friend, Drufo, stayed behind to help him fight the vermin. After a bit, the shouting died down. So I took Triss and went to see what happened. It was horrible. They had killed Rocc and had Drufo in chains. One of them, King Sarengo I think he was called, looked up and saw me and my baby in the trees. He ordered his vermin to sling stones at us. I don't remember much after that. I felt a pebble hit me on the head and I fell to the ground and passed out. They must have taken me for dead or I would've become a slave too. My little Triss was gone and I never saw her since. After that, I took to roaming and one day found a boat and decided to sail in it. That's how I got here."
She sighed and looked at the ground, feeling drained. Some of the assembled hogs wept openly at her sad story. Bistort wiped a tear from his eye. "Thou art a poor beast to have things like that befall thee."
Welfo prodded Moonsong gently. "Excuse me, marm?"
Moonsong looked at the excited hogmaid. "Yes?"
She burst out. "Triss is alive! She's one of my best friends. We escaped from King Agarnu and Princess Kurda and sailed here. Though Triss and Shogg kept going. There's a huge tale to that. But anyway, Triss is alive!"
The middle-aged squirrel just stared at Welfo, then jumped up as relization of what the hogmaid had said hit her. Moonsong yelled with joy. "Triss is alive! My baby's alive!"
Out on the sea a huge corsair ship sailed south. Captain PoisenIvy leaned against the cabin door. She was smaller than most corsairs but her skill with the longsword made all others respect her. Golden hoop earings hung from tattered ears. Ragged silks and a shell necklet was her choice of clothing. Icy alge green eyes obsvered all about her. Pretty, but cruel.
She thought about the events of the season. They had been stranded on Sampetra with Monitor lizards for a long time. Insteed of killing each other of, the corsairs and the reptiles agreed to live on different sides of the island in peace. One day, searats had attacked the corairs. Outnumbering them by more than three to one, the islanders won easily. They took the searats' ship and sailed off leaving the lizards behind.
A timid rat ran up to the weasel. "Uh... er, Cap'n...Er... "
She yelled at him. "Will you stop "er"ing an' "uh"ing and tell me what's going on, Biskitbrain!"
Biskitbrain trembled. "Well, er, Halfear saw a liddle rock in the distance an' 'e tinks it might be a island, Cap'n."
"Tell him to sail for it. Their might be slaves an' booty too be 'ad."
He ran off. "Aye, aye, Cap'n."
Abbey life goes by fast. Today is Abbot Apodemus' thirtieth jubilee! Friar Gooch, and Sagaxus , who has become rather adept at cooking, are making a large cake. It's been a hassle, keeping the Abbot out of the kitchens. I think he's beginning to suspect something.
Sagax came in. "Have you seen Scarum? The cake that Friar Gooch and I made is gone."
Churk groaned and stood up. "I don't know which is more annoying- that hare or the Dibbuns!"
The afore mentioned gluttonus young hare, meanwhile, was indeed stuffing himself on the remains of the Abbot's cake. "Hmm, jolly good cake- wonder if my pal Sagax'd grace me with the recipe, wot wot!"
"Scaruuuuuum!!" The young badger's tone of voice aswered the question for him.
"No, didn't think so," Scarum muttered to himself, "You'd think they'd show some appreciation for a handsome young hare like meself around h- yowch!"
"Oh, corks, I'm dead!" This statement was enforced with the arrival of Sagax. He took the damage in at a glance, then looked at Memm Flackery.
"And onion peeling," the hare nurse agreed. She wrinkled her nose in disgust at the hare's tunic- stained with meadow cream and cake crumbs. "Add a bath in, as well."
Sagax dragged the greedy hare away, ignoring his screams of protest. "Geeahh! Unhand me, you bulky badger! Here now, you wouldn't drown a handsome hare, now would you . . . . yes, you would. TRISS, HELP!!!!!!!!"
Poisenivy narrowed her eyes. It looked like just a chunk of rock . . . . but then why did she hear music? Voices got her attention.
"Moonsong, I must show you this!" Welfo pulled Moonsong along, and Bistort followed. They arrived at the cove. Moonsong gasped with wonder as she saw the water alight with many glowing baubles.
"What are they?"
"I don't rightly know- but they sure are pr-"
An arrow buried itself in the sand right by Moon's paw. Corsairs streamed into the cove. The trio ran, knowing they'd be massacred without weapons. "How the . . . did they . . . get in?" Welfo panted.
"Not sure . . . But I don't . . . think I'll ask!!" Moonsong gasped back. Being a squirrel, she was faster than the two hegdehogs. She vaulted into the hall. "We're under attack!"
An uproar commenced, but Urtica and Moonsong were the only who kept a level head. They raced into the armory and armed themselves. Moonsong took a bow and arrows and an axe with a pair of daggers. Urtica settled for a huge hammer. They raced back to the cove in time to see Welfo and Bistort, bound and gagged, dragged onto the longboats. A few vermin advanced.
A treerat and a hegdepig. This would rather easy. Moonsong, however, was no tree rat. She hurled herself at the vermin with a bloodcurdling battle call. "Roc Arrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeemm!" The daggers were a windmill of death. All four vermin were slain almost instantly.
Urtica raced past her and hammered in the head of one rat tring to escape in the last long boat. Blood sprayed. Urtica stared in horror at what he had done, the hammer slipping from his paw slick with gore. His blood turned to ice. "What have I done?" he whispered.
Coral looked up as the door flew open and her mate, SeaJack, limped in. Foam was on the edge of his mouth. She put her son down and raced over to him. "Jack- what happened?"
"Adder . . . bit me neck . . . already got Jaccor . . . get out of h . . ." His chest rattled as he exhaled for the last time. She staggered backwards, stunned by the sudden and tragic turn of events. SeaJack dead. Her son Jaccor dead too. That left only herself and her infant son.
"No . . . SeaJack!" She scooped her infant son up- he wasn't even a season old- and raced towards the village. They preferred to live apart, being sea otters, and now she regretted it. If they were in the village with the river otters, maybe they could have saved SeaJack and Jaccor. Maybe the whole thing could have been avoided. She ran.
She burst into the clearing- smack bang in the middle of a massacre. Rats led by a great white ferret with a huge morning star were killing the otters. Another sob came from her throat as he saw Rina, her best friend, fall by the very same mace, her skull split open as she died saving her infant son Shogg.
A group of rats saw her and persued her. She ran, sobbing for the family and friends she had just lost. This couldn't be real. When she woke, everything would be as it should. She gasped in dismay as she realized she had trapped herself against a cliff. Idiot! She gently put her son down, prepared to go down fighting.
The vermin closed in. And then all Dark Forest broke. An adder came into the clearing, hissing. A two headed-adder! The rats were cut down by either the coils or the bite. It shoved her out of the way and struck at the sleeping babe.
She threw herself in the path and felt the poison pump into her. She hit the adder on one of its noses and it broke its grip, hissing with pain. She saw only one chance for her son and took it.
Coral threw herself off the cliff, turning in midair so that her son would have a soft landing.
And then she hit the water and all went black.
The impact woke the sleeping otter babe. He struggled free of his blanket. He shook his dying mother in vain. She opened her eyes and looked up to her son's tear streaked face. Oh, how she wished this was all a dream. Maybe it was. Maybe when she woke up, she would see her child and little Shogg playing together as they always did. What a pair of rascals they were!
She gathered the last of her strength and stroked his face, her last words the name of her only living son:
"Kroova . . . my little Kroova . . ."
Trisscar Swordmaid strode through Great Hall. The young squirrelmaid stopped in front of the Tapestry of Martin the Warrior. She gazed up at the warrior mouse. He had a reckless grin on his face, his eyes were kind and fierce at the same time. On all sides, vermin fled from the strong and noble mouse.
Triss blinked as a ray of light hit her eyes. In the brightness, Martin seemed to step out of the tapestry. The squirrelmaid gasped. Martin spoke, his firm, gentle voice echoed around the silent hall.
"Go across the waves,
To the Isle of Peace,
Thou shall save,
Thy friends in need,
Follow the corsair who knows no fear,
And reunite with the one you hold dear."
Then, the brightness faded and Triss found herself staring at the warrior in the tapestry. She was puzzled, obviously the Isle of Peace was Peac Island, but "Reunite with the one you hold dear"? Her family was dead and she didn't think that it refered to any of her friends. She thought desperatly. Oh, Martin, why don't you ever say exactly what you want? Why all the riddles?
A tattered vermin band of slavers wandered around Mossflower Woods,some slaves that were chained being forced to march in front. Their leader, a tall fat rat named Derrat, shouted at the others irritably. "Come on, get those slaves movin' faster. We've got ter find this Wallred place. There'll be plenty more slaves to be found there. Mange, yew scout ahead and see if yew can spot it."
The female weasel called Mange shifted. "B-but dose creatures at Wallred are fierce fighters. 'Aven't yew 'eard about all the great leaders dat 'ave been defeated by those woodland animals? Graypatch, Ferahgo, Cluny, Slagar-"
Derrat roared at her. "I know all dat! Now, get a move on before I decide to kill yew meself!"
Mange was gone before he finished.
He yelled to another. "Let's stop and rest till she gits back."
A very handsome mouse glared daggers at the band of slavers. They would pay for killing his family and enslaving him. He had only been a slave for oone day, but he had experienced enough to know that all the slaves had to escape or they would die. They got whipped for every little thing. Making the slightest noise, walking slower then the rest, and other reasons. They only got a tiny amount of horrible tasting mush each day.
A pretty mousemaid put her paw on his arm and whispered. "Don't worry, Matthew, we'll find a way to escape. They're just a bunch of bullies."
Matthew gritted his teeth, but when he turned to face to maid his eyes softened a little. "Cumbilino, they are not just bullies. They're slavers that will do anything to weaken us even more. We've got to escape before they kill us, but before we do, I want my revenge."
Cumbilino sighed. "My ancestor, Gonff, would know how to get us out of this. He was an expert at unlocking locks and stuff like that."
He grasped her paw. "Try to get some sleep. Maybe that will help us think of an idea."
She snorted. "Sleep? Get us an idea? Huh, watch out for birds swimming and fishes flying!"
One of the guards silenced them with a crack of his whip. "Shut up, you two or it's double march tomorrer."
Moonsong paced up and down, her eyes growing red every once and a while. She was furious that she hadn't been able to stop the corsairs from capturing Welfo and Bistort. Downyrose watched her anxiously. "Moonsong, thou know that thou did all thy couldst."
The squirrel turned on her. "No, I didn't! If I had, then Welfo and Bistort wouldn't have been captured! Welfo is Triss's friend, I can't let stuff like that happen!"
Downyrose shrank from the squirrel. Moonsong sighed. "I'm sorry for blowing up on you like that, but we have to find a way to free them! We just have to!"
Urtica and his sister, Stareyes, ran into the room. "They put Welfo and Bistort on their ship. There's no why we'll get them now."
Moonsong questioned them. "Did you see what the vermin are?"
Stareyes looked confused. "What doest thou meanest?"
She answered. "Like are they all rats, stoats, ferrets, and the like?"
Urtica shook his head. "Nay. There was a pine marten or two also."
Moonsong smiled, an idea forming in her mind. Stareyes opened her mouth to ask a question, but the squirrel held up a paw for silence. She looked around. "I've got an idea."
Urtica sighed impatiently. "What is it?"
She explained her plan to them. "Squirrels look a bit like pine martens. We both have bushy tails and pointed ears, though my tail is bushier then a pine marten's. Now, we catpure the pine marten, I go on the ship with a cloak to hid my identity, you stay hidden in the shallows to back me up, I pretend that I'm going to guard the slave galley, and free the slaves. It's risky, but it's the only plan I've got. Are you game?"
The hadgehogs exchanged glances. Downyrose asked. "What doeth 'art thou game' mean?"
The squirrel rolled her eyes. "It means 'are you willing to do it'"
"Oh. Alright, we'll doest it."
"Good. We'll leave at sundown for the ship."
PoisonIvy jested with her crew. Everybeast swigged grog, devowered fish, and bragged about the battle, forgetting that they had only fought two creatures.
"Hohohohoh! We took 'em completely by surprise!"
"The fat hedgepigs were all sitting on their fat be'inds!"
"An' we catured deir leader too!"
"Did ya see me lads? I almost got that treemouse but she ran away wiv her buddy."
"Aye. An' I hit that hedgepig 'ard then 'e ran away."
"Cap'n, sing uz won of yore ditties."
The weasel sang out with a will though her voice was horrible.
"Ho, I could dance rings 'round me enemies,
Sail thrice across the high seas,
Slay four dozen in the mornin',
And ten dozen in the evening!
All in the space of a day.
"I'll make the rivers run red,
Make me victims weep salty tears,
For I'm one to dread!
I'll cut an' chop,
Slice and hack,
Till they drop,
An' then beg fer mercy from meeeeeeee!"
The crew laughed and cheered. PoisonIvy bowed then ordered. "Bring those two hedgepigs to me."
Welfo shivered in a cold dark room. She shuddered when she heard PoisonIvy's song. "They're so bloodthirsty."
Bistort agreed. "Aye. Did thou see them in battle?"
The hogmaid nodded. "Aye. Hush! Somebeast's coming."
The door swung open and two rats stepped in. The bigger one sneered. "Cap'n wants ter see ya, hedgepigs."
They forced the hedgehogs to their paws and led them to PoisonIvy's cabin. The big rat knocked on the door. "Here are da hedgepigs, Cap'n."
PoisonIvy's voice sounded out. "Bring 'em in, then go."
Once the rats had left, the weasel took out a dagger and began sharpening it, leaning against the wall. "So tell me, you live on that island, correct?"
Welfo remained silent, knowing what the weasel was doing, but Bistort did not. "Aye."
Welfo glared at him. He looked back, surprised. The hogmaid muttered from between gritted teeth. "Good job. You just gave her information which she shoulden't know!"
PoisonIvy ignored Welfo. "What are your names?"
Bistort closed his mouth. Welfo felt an unexpected burst of courage. "And why do you want to know, seascum?"
PoisonIvy pretended to be hurt. "I just wanted to know so that we could talk properly. Tell me about your home."
Welfo shouted. "No!"
The weasel captain coaxed. "Come on. It looks so peaceful and pretty and-"
The hedgehog maid interrupted. "No matter what you say, we won't tell you and that's that!"
PoisonIvy shrugged. "Then you can spend the rest of the night in the slave galley."
As they were being led away, Welfo called over her shoulder. "You can do what you like, we'll never tell you!"
The weasel turned away. "So you say."
"And that's what Martin said, word for word." Abbot Apodemus stroked his chin, thinking.
"Hmmm . . . Peace Isle . . . isn't that where your friend Welfo lives?"
Triss nodded. "Yes. Martin said
'Go across the waves,
To the Isle of Peace,
Thou shall save,
Thy friends in need,
Follow the corsair who knows no fear,
And reunite with the one you hold dear.' It sounds like Welfo's in trouble. Oh, Father A-"
The Abbot raised his paw. "Say no more. Of course you must go. Indeed, you should probably take Scarum and Sagax with you."
"Of course, and maybe Skipper?" she asked hesistantly.
"If he's willing."
Triss raced out of the room, calling over her shoulder, "Thank you, Father Abbot!"
If he could get this last thread tied, he' have finished it. Even the slightest distraction would be-
The door banged open. "Kroova!" The nets collasped in a tangled web of vine and lead weights. Kroova groaned in frustration, then realized by the expression on Sleeve's face that something was wrong. He leapt to his paws and grabbed his cutlass- a souvenir from bygone battles.
"Adders, Kroova. Or adder- Gaah! It doesn't matter!" She grabbed his paw and pulled him behind her, not noticing the sudden flare of hatred and painful memories in his eyes.
Laughing on the wall top with Memm Flackery, I peer down and see your lifeless body. I race down the stairs, tripping and nearly breaking my arm, nearly impaling myself on my javelin, but I don't care. I stand by your side and feel for a pulse. You are cold and still. Triss grabs my paw with tears in her eyes. "He's gone, Kroova. He saved my life." No. Not you, Shogg. Why did I have to stay here? I should have gone, should have tried to help. But no, I stayed here like a coward. I am not worthy to be called your friend.
The fishing party that had been sent out were all slain. Some were strangled, others crushed, one even killed by his own weapon.
But the majority were poisoned.
"Adders," Kroova muttered, "The filthy beasts! How many were there?"
"We don't know whether there were one or two."
Mokug made a quick choice. "Double guard. No beast goes out alone for anything."
Kroova interrupted the hamster. "Cray's not here."
"Look, here's Dire, Theo, Losef, Marvel, Peeta- everybeast except Cray."
The others looked over the scene and realized the otter was right.
"We have to find him," Kroova said determinedly, "Look, something staggered into the woods that way."
Kroova broke into a run, following the tracks. Sleeve hiked up her skirts and followed.
She caught up with Kroova kneeling by Cray's limp form. It was obvious he had few seconds to live.
"Cray, come on you can't do this to us! Cray!"
He was gone.
Kroova sighed and closed the dead otter's eyes. He got to his feet and took a trembling breath. "Sleeve, we have to handle that adder."
Matthew watched the guards through partially opened eyes. It was night and Mange had yet to return. Cumbilino moaned in her sleep and grasped his paw to assure herself he was still there. He squeezed her paw, then transferred his attention back to the guards. The mouse began to feel like a badger lord was forging weapons in his mind. Banging, banging, banging. Matthew closed his eyes and listen to bugs scuttle across the earth, crickets chirp, and breezes rustle the leaves, and of course the snores of the slavers with the thud of chain mail boots. Thoughts warred within him.
In the morning, when they take some slaves to go get water, I bet I can escape then.
And leave Cumbilino? How will she fare with no one to protect her?
If I escape, there's a better chance I can get help and be of more use. Derrat said Redwall isn't far...
So you want to be tortured?
That's what will happen if you get caught.
I'm not going to get caught. And if I do, I'll just have to grin and bear it. I will never let those vermin see weakness in me.
That may not be such a good thing.
What do you mean? If I don't cry out, I'm not giving them the entertainment they want. But I DO NOT intend to be caught and punished. I'll go to Redwall and get help. Their Warrioress Trisscar Swordmaid was a slave before. She'll understand.
They will not stop until you cry out and that means more and more vicious treatment. And yes, Trisscar would understand, but what about the others? What if they refuse to help you? What then?
Then I try again. And again until I succeed. I will never give up. They will never break me.
Matthew waited with cool patience as he watched the guards patrol the clearing. The mouse allowed himself some pleasure as he noted that their steps were growing sluggish and their stifled yawns. Matthew reckoned it was nigh on two in the morning. Softly, the mouse began working his manacles back and forth, knowing they would cut deeply into his flesh, but once they were over his palms, he was as good as free. All he would have to do then was sneak past the dozing guards and get to Redwall. Plain and simple. Not without flaws of course, but still...It was the best he could do at the moment.
He winced as the iron dug into his skin and felt the warm trickle of blood flow from his wrist. That was fine. As long as he escaped, he could bear some wounds. Matthew pressed his lips into a tight white line as the manacles took off some fur and skin. He could see the dark red life liquid flowing from his arms and paws. It hurt! It really hurt! The youngster suppressed a cry at the self-inflicted agony. Think of freedom, he ordered himself, this will all be worth it once I'm free.
With adrenaline-driven haste, his efforts became more frantic. He had been quietly at this for an hour now. The last watch of the night would be rousing soon. Matthew grunted as the metal finally slid over his palms...One of the vermin snorted loudly and rolled over, dangerously close to the glowing embers. The mouse froze, brown eyes fixed on the ferret. Oh, please...Don't let him wake up. Please please please...
Several agonizing minutes slipped by, which seemed like hours to Matthew, until the ferret's breathing settles back into a deep, heavy rhythm. With a relieved sigh, he silently placed the restricting things on the grass and slowly stood, cautiously eying the rag-tag band of slavers. He lifted a footpaw and set it down carefully on the ground. No response. He took another step. Still nothing.
Matthew allowed a grin to sweep across his features. So, it was working! Not without caution, he walked out of the clearing and glanced back. Not a creature had stirred. Gleefully, the mouse set off at as fast a pace as he dared. Unaware of the pair of menacing blue eyes that had observed his every movement. The eyes blinked once in satisfaction before brightening, then dimming.
Cumbilino awoke to steel being pressed against her throat. Choking slightly, she looked up into Derrat's furious eyes. The rat snarled; "Where is yer liddle boyfrien', mousy?"
He lighted the pressure so that she could speak. Glancing at where Matthew had been chained, her eyebrows shot up in surprise. He had escaped? Wonderful! She just knew he would find help and free them all. Looking back at Derrat, Cumbilino said stoutly. "I don't know, and nor would I tell you if I did!"
One of the weasels called to his leader. "Derrat, dey caught de mouse 'gin."
Shooting a glare at Cumbilino, Derrat stood and glowered at the furiously struggling escapee. He was tied by thick ropes, held by five of the band. The weasel, Splittooth, jerked a thumb at him. "Saw 'im 'scape last night. Figured I'd let 'im t'ink 'e'd 'scaped fer a few min'tes 'fore goin' after 'im wid dem."