Book 1:The March
Prologue: It Begins!
Rackatung the wolverine stared out of his balcony window, marveling at his great horde of all types of vermin, with three wildcat captains and two smaller wolverine captains as the only officers. The sound of spears, javelins,tridents, and all sorts of weapons banging and clanking drowned out all the sounds of the rain. Pufftail, one of his wildcat captains, approached him, breathing heavily after the large climb up the mountain face, and bowed.
"What is it Pufftail, you know I don't like 'ormaities."
"Yes," the wildcat answered. "And the horde is ready to march. But, may I ask, where will we march to?"
"We go south until we reach the mountain of Salamandastron, weaving over the land and picking up troops as we go. By then this horde will have grown much more, including the addition of that infernal toad army. Oh yes, what knews of the wolves?"
"They are still firm as what is left of the Goreleech."
"Then we leave without them. Tell the other captains to get a move on. I want all these ferrets, rats, stoats, and, everyone out by nightfall."
"Your will shall be done sire."
The clanking Pufftail's curved sword made soon could not be heard as he sprinted down the carved stairs outside the chamber. Rackatung lifted a paw to loosen the straps on his black breastplate as, at the same time, his other massive paw grabbed his claymore. He swung the hereditary sword in a overhand, and then swooped it over for a thrust. Then the armor-laden beast lumbered out the side entrance that Pufftail had used, and roared, "Today we march. Onwards to victoryyyyyyyyy!"
Chapter 1: New Methods
Abbot Sazas scurried up an apple tree an plucked several apples, putting them into the haversack slung over his shoulder, then leaping out of the higher branches into the next apple tree in the Redwall orchard, did the same as for the last tree, then did likewise for the rest of the apple trees in the orchard. The young squirrel then climbed down the tree, watching the squirrels who were doing the same with other types of trees. He turned and saw Folgrit the otter coming towards him with his paws still inkstained from recording.
"This went much faster than shaking the trees, I think." The Abbot said as Folgrit stepped closer.
"Yes, but was it as efficient as the traditional methods?" The brawny recorder inquiered.
"Why don't you climb up and see for yourself Folgrit?" Abbot Sazas replied smoothly.
"No, give me a ladle with which to make the hotroot soup for the nameday feast anyday!" the giant yet peaceful otter exclaimed.
"I'll call everyone inside for dinner, oh, Folgrit, would you mind telling Friar Bural that Brother Matthew and Sister Cripnim left a sizeable grayling by Cavern Hole?" Abbot Sazas said as he ran of to the srtawberry fields where a gang of Dibbuns was located, unaware of the energetic squirrel sneaking up on them from behind.
"I'd best get inside to tell the good Friar of the fish afore Mirkgum and his leverets get to it and put away with it."Folgrit muttered to himself as he strode down the path that led to the main abbey building.
Chapter 2: The Addition
Pufftail smiled. He loved it whenever any horde vermin fell on the slick mountain, due to the punishments he could award them with. He now chose to give lashings to a weasel who had slipped, also bringing down an unfortunate fox, who, was going to be whipped for not being more alert in letting a weasel trip him. As he raised his whip to srike, he heard three hisses and three thuds. He couldn't believe his eyes when the two vermin whom he was about to punish and one from the ranks who had been watching lay dead, all transfixed by blue shafted longbow arrows. Pufftail sprinted to to ranks and yelled,"Attack on the eastern side! Archers, longbow archers to be precise, but they can't reload fast enough to take us out! Charge! Rackatunggggggg!" He was right. Thirty more beasts were injured or slain in the initial charge, but a group of foxes pushed out far beyond the main group, hoping to thwart this unknown enemy when all the arrows ceased. They didn't notice. The group of eight lunged over a rise and beheld ten hares desparately fighting against eighty wolves, both shouting warcries left and right trying to get at each other through a thick double line of spears, one layer at waist height and the other at the knees. one old hare still tried to go umder the lower set, but didn't make it. Then the hares saw the foxes dyed red on the rise and knew they'd go down fighting. Then they realized they were hares. They leapt up and over the wall of spears, swinging dirks and kicking out wildly with long, powerful hindlegs, fighting to get away to where ever their tribe was. Once five of the hares breached the outside group, they galloped off to the south. Four of the other five wre dead and one was unconcsious. Pufftail and a relatively small section of the gigantic horde arrived at the top just then.
Pufftail calmy hid surprise as he tread purposefully foward and asked the wolf who was obviosly the leader, "Why are you all hear? Your chief Gracefang-" "Is dead," the wolf interjected. "And, we're here to join you." "Ah, Lord Rackatung will be glad of having threescore wolves at his command as a heavy scout force. Follow me."
Barkback the Avenger, badger lord of Salamandastron peered into the distance, hoping to see the ten long patrol galloper hares he had sent out almost half a season ago running up the sandy shore towards the mountain. "Something must have happened. Ol' Caprolagus would never stay out this long, a least from what my grandpater told me of him afore he died. I wonder what happened?" He looked up one last time before getting ready to go down to breakfast when he saw five weary looking hares ambling toward Salamandastron, obviosly extremly weary. He called out with his loud voice for any available hares to run and get the hares, who, were so thoroghly exausted that one slumped down, unable to travel further. Barkback grabbed his huge mace just in case and sprinted towards the gallopers, with the only eight hares that stopped eating to go with him at his back. When they reached them, the badger lept over them and thundered,"Take them back to the mountain! I'll see if they are being followed! Now go!"
The lord of Salamandastron ran towards the nearest rock that could provide cover and found nothing. He jogged back to the group and took two of the overdo hares in his mighty arms, then set a reasonable pace heading towards the vastness of Salamandastron.
CH3: Get Out, Get Out!
Friar Bural flung up his hands in frustration. "Burr, you dibburns burst stop 'unning round these kitchens or you'll probably catch on foire, vurr." The mole grabbed one of the dibbuns and jogged him out and charged him with Sister Cripnim's arms as she came down from the dormitaries to try her hand at apple tarts and candied chestnuts. "Tark care o' 'im, but don't let 'im noir oi's kitchens. Oi'll 'ust round op more va rarscals."Sister Cripnim moved Sably the vole babe over to her left arm, ready to receive another dibbun with her right.
"What are those dibbuns up to now?" Caroline, the badgermum asked.
"Oh, invading the kitchens and making thouorgh nuisances of themselves."the dormouse answered. "Although, if you helped I'm sure we could round them up quicker."
"I'll assume Friar Bural has put dinner on pause while the dibbuns are in the kitchens. Well, if he is alone in there he will need help if we are to get enough food, or scoff as they call it, to feed Mirkgum, Rosafer, and their two leverets."Caroline voiced as she entered the kitchens.
"Vurr, oi'd thoink vese rarscals 'ill cloin 'ut oi's koitchons noiw, mizz Caroilone."
"He he! Can'y catch usns! We to fast for youse two." Flapp the hedgehog dibbun chanted.
"Dibbuns who say naughty things like that get extra good baths."Caroline stated, her jaw clenched firm. This aroused a chorus of,"No baffs,","Oi'll be baffed to doith," and,"Ahhs". Caroline stood unwavered by the dibbun's complaints. "Now out to the pond ye goes. Now MARCH!"
Mirkgum the hare choose that precise moment to walk in. "I'll say, that was pretty spiffing how you just gave 'em the slip like that. I'd say you might make a bally good Lady of Salamandastron. Oh, how's that scoff comin'? I might nibble a little tonight. I heard the jolly Father Abbot say we'ed hold dinner outside and wotnot."
"Just nibble on some indeed Mr. Mirkgum. You'd be eatin' the whole abbey without our good Friar here preparing some real food for ya. Oh, don't even think about pinching those chestnuts, especcially the candied ones. They're for the Nameday Feast tommorow, so if you want a set o' whiskers to get vittles stuck in, then keep your paws off." Caroline said as Mirkgum reached out to grab a "few" of the candied chestnuts.
"Noiw, if'n you oill can stoip out o' oi's koitchens, oi might get some zoop and scoiners done foir tonight."Friar Bural said, ushering them out with his digging claws.
"Well yah don't need ta be so bally pushy 'bout it, we're going. Oh, could you bake some of the scones with some nutmeg in 'em. I like scones that way, wot wot."
Mirkgum wandered away from Caroline as soon as they reached the abbey grounds, heading towards the strawberry fields, where a group of Redwallers were finishing the harvest. "Hold on now,"Caroline said, grabbing Mirkgum's shoulder and levering him around. "Where do you think you're going? The fields? Abbot Sazas banned you from that place for attempting to devour half the harvest!"
"Be generous, marm, I had a small hunger in me bloomin' scoff pouch! I couldn't let meself die from bally starvation!"
"Why don't you go down to the pond and help Sister Cripnim bathe the dibbuns? She's probably in a pickle, trying to bathe those rascals on her own. I'll get Cellarhog Jugit to help as well. That is, as long as he's not to busy preparing the drinks for the feast tommorow."Caroline suggested, or, rather, ordered.
The horde was marching. Marching straight down the coast. Towards Salamandastron. Rackatung kept pace in the front of the horde of every vermin imaginable. He looked back to where his captains were positioned at the rear of the horde, realizing that while they themselves could not be seen, several metal objects caught the sun and reflected it in his eyes. "''Another dispute!" He thought. That's the third this morning! I wonder what stupid beast started this one.' Unlike some warlords, Rackatung was one who took the front in the charge, and one whom none would conspire against. He strode over, his clamore in its scabbard on his back and his axe-pike slung over his shoulder, and intoned, "What's goin' on this 'ime?"
There was no replie, until Ratal, one of the two wolverine captains piped up and answered, "Sir, it started when we heard a few of these back ranks grumbling that you're 'eading 'em to their deaths what with pike in the fords and that Long whatyuomacallit waiting at the mountain place we're marching to. So we go over there and give what for, and then your mightiness comes along and asks the very question I'm answering right now, Sir."
"Where are the rumorers now?" Rackatung inquired.
"They're being consumed by the ranks, majes'y." Fatfoot, another wildcat captain replied, waving his flamberge in the direction of the ranks, who were dogpiling the area where the rumorers lay.
"Keep up the march at double. They got what they deserved." Rackatung, the wolverine who was a full head taller than Gulo the savage, said as he tread the grassy plain back to the front of his army.
A streambed with blackberry bushes on the edges was all Prickle could see. Then, a badger whom she immediately recognised as Sunstripe, formerly known as Sunflash the mace walked up, a pitchfork in his black paws. He said to her,"Prickle, go to Barkback and tell him of the danger his mountain is in. For surely, this is far worse than when Ungatt Trunn arrived at Salamandastron." He pointed the pitchfork at her and roared,"What are you still doing here in the Dark Forest? I said GO!!!"
Prickle lurched up in her bed and looked around, she saw she was inside the mountain of the fire dragon. Then the pains of her multiple fatal wounds and cuts hit her like an arrow. She managed a gasp of air, her long, slender ears flopping down onto her face. She fell back with a whoosh and returned to unconcsiosness. When next she woke, she found herself staring into the large, brown eyes of Barkback the Avenger. He stood up and muttered to her,"Don't bother answering me if you feel as though you can't, but I must ask; WHAT HAPPENED!"
Prickle cleared her scarred throat and began.
CH5: Runaways and Bloodcrazed
Foremole and Cellarhog Brigflag (who was actually an otter) were leading a small party of dibbuns through Mossflower to find additionally raspberries for the Friar's cake. Sably and Flapp were "quietly" sneaking away from the group, their baskets half full with raspberries and several dark green leaves.
"Betchem gonna go waah when 'oremole and Habbot Sasas and all the 'est find out we're bye-bye!" Sably said.
"Keep youses voice doiwn, do you van them 'o 'iscover os? Those 'ushes should do the twick in a tik." Flapp suggested in what she supposed was a whisper.
Foremole and Brigflag knew full well what was going on, easily hearing the babe's conversation. They went on with their work until the cellarhog could see in his peripheral vision that the two had hidden, then he winked at Foremole. They both called a huddle for a head count, snickering that the "escaped" dibbuns thought themselves the wiser. While the two adults were counting however, Flapp and Sably both crept farther away from the group and broke free of the pathside bushes. Foremole pretended to be horrified at the two dibbuns when the tally showed them to be missing.
"Broigfloig, do you know where thoim two doibbuns be? Oi 'ope you do coude, oi shure doin't."
"Oh, I think we can relax Foremole, their sound will have 'em found ole matey. Let's check those bushes," Brigflag replied, pointing to the bushes where the two dibbuns had been. "I think I heard two giggles from over there."
The giggles actually were from the other side of the path, where a gang of weasels could not believe their luck. When the two chaperones stooped over to look in the raspberry bushes, the ragged weasels brandished their axes and charged.
"Heeeeeeee!" Farb shouted, her long, fluffy tail streaming out like a bush behind her.
"Wha- vermin! Get away from those young 'uns!"Brigflag yelled.
The lead weasel brandished his crude, grisly axe above his head and shouted as his gang stole the small group of Dibbuns into the bushes,"Why, stupid streamdog?"
Brigflag nearly had his mouth open to reply when a piercing shriek came from above.
"Grekahhhhhhhhh!" A huge goshawk hurtled down from above the trees, its vicious beak open and is razor-sharp talons out stretched in front of it. The leader tried to swing his rusty ax at the majestic bird but he had barely started to swing it when the hawk's beak found his chest, and he crumpled to the grass. The gohawk turned and hurled itself at the rest of the gang, tearing into them. One short weasel hurled his ax at the goshawk's face, giving it a thin scar from beak to left eye. This infuriated the ferocious bird even more, and it ripped the vermin apart with a vengeance.
"Whoa, there mate. I reckon yon vermin are dead now." Brigflag announced.
"Kah! No matter, Peregrine hunt zen down!"Peregrine replied, his eyes blazing red with bloodlust.
"'ave soime pity oin thoise vormen, themses goine now. No need tur go on arfter 'em."Foremole said. Oi "Zey kill me mate and egg chick. Peregrine kill all vermin!"the bird hissed, spreading its broad wings.
"Why don't you come back to our abbey, Redwall. Sister Gladiolla is a good healer, she'll fix up the cut you've earned yourself."
"Whoi!" Triffy molebabe had peeked out from her prison-turned refuge bushes. "Thoit be's a hurt huge burder!" " "Yes it is. Now Triffy, could you round up the other Dibbuns?" The cellarhog asked.
"Whoi soire, musture Broigflog."Triffy announced, then turned and disappeared into the bushes.
"Oim, oi thoink's whur forgurting soimethiong. Soibly and Flarpp ore murssing. Oi reckuns ois should goi aboik to the arbbey, vurr." Foremole voiced.
"Grekahhh! If you go back to big house, I go with you. Peregrine then go get more za vermen."
"Okay, come on mates, lets head back to our Redwall."Brigflag announced as he began to tread the path back to the abbey.
CH6: The Tale
Rackatung jumped over a rock that was jutting out of the ground. He stood to the side as his force of wolves moved away from the group, each one waving their swords and singing out lustily:
Oh whoa, That's what they say ta me!
Oh whoa, he's bigger than a wolverine!
Whoever said we're taller's right, but we ain't stouter,
Oh whoa, that's what they say ta me!
Oh whoa, he's bigger than a wolverine!
Ma momma always told me, the way she cooked so nice,
Was by catching a whole lot o' plump mice!
Oh Whoa, that's what they say ta me!
Oh Whoa, he's bigger than a WOLVERINE!
Funny song, though pointless. Rackatung thought as the wolves marched southeast, towards Mossflower. He resisted the urge to laugh in his deep guttural manner. "Alright horde!" His vast horde completely stopped eating and stood to rigid attention. "I'm quite sure you've all heard some mutterings about the camp,things like,'We're gonna get massacred by them rabbits at this Saladstrong place. There must be thousands o' 'em!' and,'They got badgers there, hundreds o' 'em, all expert killers!'. I assure you this is not true. My spy," he announced as a large raven swooped down to his shoulder,"Has told me they only have one-hundred of the 'hares' as they call themselves. And those rumors about badgers, why there's only one of 'em, and he's about the same size as me! You know the fates of Ungatt Trunn, Ferhago, and Swart Sixclaw! Or at least you think you do. Ungatt Trunn died at sea when his old seer washed him out, Ferhago wasn't ripped apart by a huge badger, he died killing his foe. And Swart Sixclaw wasn't even killed near Salamandastron! We have nothing to be afraid of! We outnumber Trunn's blue hordes ten to one! Now let's MARCH!" Rackatung was good at his job of motivating his army. They roared out in bloodlust and started to run down the coast as fast as they dared. Let them have their fun, at least I won't have to to that again.
"We left Salamandastron and headed northeast, then we met a family of watervoles. They fed us, then one tried to steal my dirk, so I reprimanded him, then smacked him jolly well smartly before we left."Prickle related. "We turned and tread straight north. When the great northern mountains came in sight, we met a small horde o' fifty vermin. Their leader looked like some badger type, just his white stripe ran up from his tail to his big forehead. We stayed in the bushes and watched 'im marche his bally weasels and ferrets towards the now distant coast, wot. We heard one o' the jolly old weasels in the back call 'im Ratel, whatever that means. We considered turningback right then, but the major wouldn't have it. 'e said we'd go to the fringes o' the bloomin' mountains afore we jolly well turned back. that was just a week after we left your lordship's mountain. When we reached the base o' the whackin' great mountains the jolly ol' major ordered us ta keep on marchin', said he'd heard a rucus. Somen'like a roar o',"Jackafung!!!!" He reckoned it musta been a mighty big army to make the sound echo round the whole bally mountain! So we pitched camp there and then the next day we went further up the mountain, and we saw a terrible sight!"Prickle cried at this point in her tale.
"Wot was that wretched sight, Prickle?"Barkback enquired.
"It was, a blooming great horde, sah, and headed straight here, to Salamandastron! The jolly ol' corporal said that the Wolverine in the back musta gathered every bally vermin in the world! I myself could see some wild and feral cats splattered in the ranks sah!"
"This is indeed troubling news, Prickle." Barkback concluded. "I must go to the forge chamber to think it over you, however, should go back to sleep."
"But, Sah, there's a lot more!"Prickle cried out.
"I can guess the rest. You got into a scuffle with a small part of that wolverine's horde didn't you. And as I can see, it didn't turn out to well."
"That's exactly right sah!"Prickle replied.
"Now go to sleep, Prickle, you need the rest." Barkback the Avenger said as he gently closed the door. "Now to ask for the general and brigadiers to meet with me." He marched away with purpose in his large stride, towards the mess hall.
CH7: The Scouts
Bong, Bong! The Matthias and Methuselah bells tolled out a message a the noon hour. "Look, Peregrine, there's our abbey up the path!" Brigflag exclaimed.
"I saw the house long before you do, otter. Grekah! Peregrine have eyes like hawk, for Peregrine is hawk! Peregrine see a wot wot long ears on walltops, he looking out west in our direction."
"Boi hokey, zurr Peregroine, oi doidn't evon see the gurt arbbey, Redwarll, til jurst noiw." Triffy stated from the back of the Dibbuns.
"That have two reasons, digger mouse. You no goshawk and you at group's back, Peregrine in group's middle."the fearsome goshawk stated, his pale brown eyes locking with Triffy's black ones.
"Hoi, gudboists sarp thart boikering, et droives oi croizy."Foremole stated.
"We stop, diggermouse."Peregrine replied.
"Good now lets go unto Redwall, our great abbey!" Brigflag exclaimed.
While this made Foremole run (or jog, if you will) with Peregrine up the path, the Dibbuns, excluding Triffy, (who was way up the path and almost to the gates) actually began to walk down the path, back into the beckoning arms of the weeping willows. Cellarhog Brigflag had been caught off guard by this, thinking the abbey babes would be racing back to their beloved home, but he still remembered what the situation called for. "Hey mates, y'all better not go inside Redwall, or else!" He had added the or else because he knew that would set them running up the path to the huge, looming abbey up the path.
He'd been very right. The disobedient Dibbuns immediately sprinted towards the abbey gates. The cellarhog actually found the need to jog to keep up with the little tykes.
Ratal peered south, his hand over his eyes to block out the sunlight. The formidable wolverine raised his double-bladed battle-axe to his waist, then turned southwest, seeing the last of the roughly fourscore wolves move out of sight. Then he turned around and faced two scouts; a strong, young ferret named Zane and a middle aged rat with slight hearing problems who went by Setith. Ratal ordered,"You two, go south fast as ya cairn and see what type o' place it is by them forests near the mountain that the general's bird-friend told us'ns 'bout."
They replied,"Sir yes sir!" and "You want us ta go south til we see a place of mountain wit' tree's up his sides? That don't make no sense."Ratal nearly lost his temper at this and sternly repeated his instructions from Rackatung. The two vermin scampered off in the direction of the barely visible sihloatte of Salamandastron, their trident and lance held firm in their paws. That night, the two had made it to the edge of the grove, and knew what their report would be. It would be good. They had killed a wren upon arrival and found plenty of wood. Aside from the pike-infested ford, it would be an almost fairy-tale report. The two friends, rat and ferret were sitting around their small fire, leisurely enjoying the days profits of vittles.
Zane finished a bite of the wren and voiced aloud,"Mate, that Rackatung ull lead us ta victory, 'e's a mighty fighting beast."
Setith, not having properly heard replied, saying,"What, ya think Rackatung is downright obese? Take that back Zane!"
"That's not what I said Setith, aye said Rackatung be's a mighty fightin' beast!"
"Oh, sorry for trying ta strangle ya matey."
"It be's okay mate, what say you to sleeping now, and headin' back in the mornin'?"
"Ah likes that idea, head back to the pike and sleep inna river. But I'd rather sleep now and go back ta the camp inna mornin'."
Zane muttered a string of oaths under his breath as he turned over on his tan hide to get some sleep.
CH8: Hold it!
Caroline was the first to hear the hefty knocking on the main gate, and the voice calling,"Are ya gonna let us in for tea, cause we got an injured beast, or not at all?" Caroline stifled a smile as she identified the voice as that of Brigflag, senior keeper of the cellars. This life is certainly a better one than my former, she thought. Everyone so happy, no battles or wars, huh, I can remember what my old pa'd say, som'ing like, "You gotta fight, miz Caroline Furystripe. Yure brother left couple seasons back for that mountain place o' 'is dreams. Now yure the only fighting' beast o' your brood, so keep practicing with that mace thingy o' yures." Ah yes, I had. she thought as she unbarred the main gate's solid, thick, oaken doors. I went bloodwrath at the sight of vermin and went a roving. No more fighting for me, not now that I've tasted the good side o' life.
"Gurr, oi woiz woindarin' if yould arll fergarrten 'bout us miz Caroloiner. Oh, this be's the hurt goshurk Perergroin, vurr. 'e showed some voimen the warrior's woiy. Do oi smoill some gudd ol' dopier 'n' oiver toinup and bertroot poi?" Foremole asked as he ambled in towards the orchard with his snout stuck high in the air, sniffing the savory smell of the mole's favorite pie. The rest of the party walked in after him with Peregrine in the back.
"Kahh! Be you the same Caroline Furystripe Peregrine met many seasons back with your pa, Barkarm the Gentle?" Peregrine inquired.
"Yes I am, mister Peregrine now let's get you up to Sister Gladiolla. She's a good young mouse. Hmm, true and blue and never fail as Mirkgum would put. Whats happened to you lately, Peregrine? How's the old mate, Corvidae doin'?" The large badger asked and answered as the two strode down the stone lined pat towards the abbey building.
"You two know each other?" Brigflag commented to no one in particular.
"My mate and egg chicks be killed by vermin you see! That why Peregrine must kill all a vermin!"
"I'm very sorry to hear that old friend." Carloine replied.
"Krah! Who is zis Sisa Gladiollia Peregrine hears of? They say she can fix a me up good!"
"That would be me, Peregrine I'm guessing?"Asked the small, reddish-brown mouse.
"Yousa right mix Galdiolla! Me Peregrine! Now fix up me cut!"
"I will in due time my friend, first we have to go up to the infirmary."
"Okay, Peregine go now!" The goshawk stated as he marched stiffly off in the wrong direction.
"It's this way, you silly bird," the pretty mousemaid said, suppressing an unstoppable giggle, when Mirkgum the hare came waltzing up from the orchard.
"Say, Sista Galdiolla old gel, who's this blighter?"
"Me Peregrine, VerminSlayer!"
"Well, me and you jolly well both, eh, wot wot!"
"Mirkgum, don't you dare wot wot old gel me again, or you might get some of old Sister Marmota's physick to see if it can cure that, that accent!"
"Okay, oh you know the two Cellar'ogs? They're trying ta get the jolly Abbot's attention. Something about two o' the bally dibbuns gone missing on their escapade, wot wot."
"What! Two precious Dibbuns lost in Mossflower and they can't even get to the Abbot? Go see that they do, sir Mirkgum, or plenty o' good, tasty Sister Marmota's physick for you, mister 'laddie buck'!"
"Right you are mark, I'll go now, Bye!" The grass swished and swashed as the hare sped off to the kitchens, where the Abbot was last he'd seen.
"Now, mister Peregrine, let's fix up that cut of yours, now that we know where the infirmary is." Sister Gladiolla exclaimed. Peregrine sensed a mock, though couldn't pin it down.
The Abbot of Redwall was not in the kitchens. He was looking for the two cellar hogs, Brigflag and Jugit, to ask how the preparations for the feast were going, not knowing they too were looking for him. The squirrel entered the orchard and saw Mirkgum panting and out of breathe, leading the two cellar keepers behind him.
"So you two, how's the drinks for the feast com in' along?" asked the Abbot.
"Hold it, hold it Father. The Dibbuns Flapp and Sably are missing, gone in Mossflower!"
"What! How long have they been lost?"
"Since just before noon, Father. What are we going to do?" Brigflag enquired.
"I've gotta find Folgrit, he's the wisest here, though I can say one thing. No feast tonight!"
"What! Ya mean no loads o' bally scoff and ale? I won't survive the night!"
Jugit guffawed,"Of course thee will, sir Mirkgum, cause if you didn't, what would happen if vermin came?"
"Hm, I guess I gotta stay living then."
Ratel marched at the head of his scruffy band of weasels ferrets, numbering two score-and-a-half, whistling to himself. The large badger-creature moved his large axe from his left shoulder to his right, the axe making the sound of a rattle because of the small bones of former enemies that adorned it clanking together that earned him his name. He sniffed the air with his large, gleaming black nose, and fought the urge to recoil. Something wasn't right. On a day like this in mid-autumn, the air should have smelled like oak-bark and aspen leaves, or maybe pine needles, but that was not the dreadful odor which forced its way into Ratel's nostrils. What had was a the terrible scent of unnatural death and filth. He heard some leaves on the ground rustle far to his right, behind the trees that surrounded the dirt path like surreal guardians. If that horrible scent hadn't warned him, this certainly did.
"Halt, troops! Stop, listen and smell. What do you pick up?" he bellowed.
All the gang stopped in their tracks and smelled the air, a half dozen fainted from the overwhelming stench. Others visibly recoiled, then listened. The cracking leaves were even closer now and headed their way.
"Everyone, climb these two oaks on the path side," Ratel roared, loosening his dirk in its sheath and securing his axe on his back. He was quickly obeyed. Ratel never gave unimportant orders, especially since he would die for any one of his men. They all knew the smell that was drifting through the air.
There were two reasons Ratel didn't climb one of the gigantic terrestrial oaks, the first being he was too large to make it up high enough to avoid the cause of the putrid air he had stopped breathing, switching to using his muzzle to breath. The second was that he could kill the rapidly approaching creature with a practiced effectiveness. More leaves crackled under the creature's hefty bulk, just off the path. One second later, the thing came into full view.A huge adder, three times and half as long again as Ratel was tall, emerged, massive body and all. It bared its fangs and gave a bloodcurdling hiss that frightened Ratel's mates even higher up the trees, some even eighty yards in the air, with a view of all the country around them for miles, including a small, distant weather vane on top of the tip of a roof, with a tower top also visible to the southeast. The adder surged forward with amazing speed and attempted to coil around Ratel's legs. Instead, it found itself facing thin air. Ratel was gone, his razor sharp reflexes allowing him to sidestep the snake's scaly embrace. He jumped on its back, clearly identified so because of the diamond-like pattern on it. Ratel tried to suppress the writing coils with his powerful hind legs, but the attempt proved futile. When he put the adder in a suffocating neck-lock, the adder rolled over and nearly crushed him. His beasts all leaned forward from their niches on the two oaks, trying to get a glimpse of the battle being waged far below them. The adder, known to the countryside as Abbadon, bit Ratel twice on his outstretched arm, thinking it would kill the beast easily, and it would have for any other beast. Ratel shoved Abbadon off him and stood up, finding coils around his feet and his arm swelling quickly. Regretting the circumstances, Ratel grabbed his dirk, a sword for most beasts, and plunged it through the viper's skull, killing it instantly. He left the dirk in the adder's head, then sprinted down the path to avoid the snake's death throes. The heavily muscled body writhed several times, then lay still. Ratel returned, his arm four times its normal size, pulled out the dirk and sheathed it, then fell down with limbs stiff and body limp.
Flapp and Sably enjoyed their sense of freedom, until, that is, night. A gale force wind swept through the night, whirling in between the leaves of trees and knocking what ones hadn't already fallen down. Add this to thinner tree's moaning and the flat out howl of the wind, and you'd have been in a very bone-chilling atmosphere. Sably had never been a bad Dibbun, and even this hadn't been of her making, and the true orchestrator, Flapp, was very much regretting her seemingly thought through plan. The hedgehog babe became utterly miserable when a heavy hail began pelting her and Sably. They rushed around in circles and bumped into a solid, enormous oak. They heard a creaking sound as a gap swung open. hey did not know it then, but they had uncovered the again abandoned Brockhall. Had the two any sense, they would have lept inside and shut the door, but they did not. In fact, Sably didn't get up right away, and Flapp wandered slowly off calling out for Sably. She blundered away from he unconscious Sably and then, justas hints seemed to not be able to get any worse, the hail came down so hard that had Sably been awake, she would not have seen Brockhall three feet (one meter) in front of her. Flapp fell over, disoriented by the new loss of sight, the howling wind, and the loss of her tiny friend, Sably. She felt her smock and found it torn and ruined by lashing branches and small bushes. She slowly got back up, and began in a new direction, setting her farther and farther away from the other Dibbun. She began to sob, a high-pitched sob with no tears.
Meanwhile, at Redwall, the kitchens were near empty, except for Friar Bural, making the next day's breakfast of scones, honey, and salad. The sturdy mole piled together cabbages and began to cut in random spots, making the pieces appear as if torn. Then he reached up and got a couple beets from the top cupboard and began to dice them with the speed and skill of an experienced cook. When done, Bural scraped up the lot and spread it carefully upon the huge bowl that already contained masses of cabbage and lettuce.
Next, he stooped low to grab some radishes from the bottom cupboard, then remembered they were gone. "Vurr, oiv goit her gert the good Arbbey Gardoiner, Moitthew, her get me some mer roidishes." the mole cook mumbled. Then he substituted them with raspberries. He lifted the enormous bowl up and placed it near the ovens for the following morning. The Great Hall was empty, everyone being in bed, and he found himself whistling an old tune while he made his way to the dormitories.
He refused to yield,
Then drew his sword to wield,
The foe never stood 'gainst him
When he shun both spear and shield.
Then the mouse named Martin,
Saw the foe beasts departin',
Martin was a mouse,
Who made this homely house.
He was a warrior bold,
Who came in days of old,
His life to mold.
The mole Friar reached his room and daintily took off his apron, as an apron is a Friar's treasure, and plopped down on his bed. He got under the covers, then slept.
Abbot Sazas was doing like as Friar Bural, and was dreaming he was in the abbey orchard in summertime. Then quite suddenly, a resolute mouse carrying a sword and packing a shield with the insignia M on came into view. The the mouse spoke to Sazas.
Seek you the Budibns,
Send two untrue hogs,
And pen paw plus macemaid.
Send these I've said,
The path of mountain to tread.
Watch for the sevlow
And also the killer
Of Asmodeus's litter,
Let in the the latter,
Destroy the other matter.
Think on these words,
And trust the great birds.
The mouse floated away through a green mist, and Abbot Sazas awoke.
Erminea turned to her mate, Halfnose, who was named for part of his snout missing, and exclaimed,"Ratel is living! See, his arm has returned to normal, and if you put your hand here-" she positioned Halfnose's hand on Ratel's big wrist,"then you can easily feel his pulse! I don't know how he can survive four adder encounters, be bitten in three of 'em, kill 'em all, yet still survive! It is an unbeastly feat, this un is."
Halfnose nodded. He wasn't near the healer his mate was, or as peaceful, but he knew that his commander Ratel was certainly a wondrous beast. Especially now, since a local family of mice had come to them and told them Abbadon was a descendant of Baliss's, whose ancestor in turn was the mighty Asmodeus. This, paired with Ratel being able to seek out all the non-bloodthirsty 'vermin' in Mossflower, a number much higher than any good beast would have hoped. He also knew that Ratel was leading them to the abbey of Redwall, the reason being a dream about a bold warrior mouse telling the big beast to do so.
"Do you remember when we first joined this band, mate? When Commander Ratel had just saved us from another poison tooth snake? Then when 'e smelled some o' that 'obey stuff, then followed that nose of 'is till we were at that big beehive? Do you remember what happened next?"
Before Halfnose could answer, a big ferret named Furo strode up,"Aye Erminea, I amember that day 's as good as if'n it happened terday. Ratel dug 'is claws in the hive, and while we was running from the bees, giants they were, he was feeding his gullet on their honey and comb! Do you know the name we gave 'I'm after that?"
Halfnose answered this question. "The Honey Badger."
Furo nodded,"Ya got a better memory then I remember, Halfnose. Yes, we called him the honey badger until he told us there was a lot more of his kind, then we had to call him a honey badger. So while we're ferrets or weasels and what not, his brethren be called now the Ratel, or honey badger. Adderbanes they are. In fact, I hear Ratel's newest prize was one of old Asmodeus's litter, bet that old guy wouldn't like known' Ratel was a killer like that."
Halfnose opened his mouth to answer, but before he could, a small shrew dressed entirely in balck except for a bare patch that exposed cold, blue eyes hurtled out from behind a tree, the shrews legs taking Halfnose full in in the chest. Halfnose was a strong weasel, but this shrew's legs sent him hurtling through the air for several feet, before hitting one of the two oaks they had been up in. Halfnose went limp with unconsuicness, and before the two friends could react, the dark-clad shrew was on Halfnose and had a small, curved sword at his throat pressing against the weasel's neck, causing a small bead of blood to drip down the big weasel's neck and shoulder to the leaf covered ground. Once Erminea and Furo recovered from surprise, they grabbed the shrew and heaved him off Halfnose. The feisty shrew switched the short sword to his left hand and drew a bigger sword from across his back and held it threatingly out at the two.
Then the shrew spoke,"Why do you vermin pull me away from the slayer of my father? He must pay! I can see you are not evil, but this one is!"
Erminea intervened,"No he ain't. That's Halfnose, and he's only ever harmed anybeast in self defense, ya lout!"
"Don't bandy words with me, weasel. Do you not think there is only one weasel with half a nose in all Mossflower?"
"Actually," Furo began. "There most certainly is more than one weasel like that in Mossflower Country. Besides, if Halnose was the scum you've said 'e is, then why are we all alive?" He then gestured to the other ferrets and weasels hastily climbing down the trees to see the outcome and the commotion.
"Oh. I hadn't thought of that. Me name be's Shinobi, Ninja Shrew and loner. Some call me a death seeker or a beserker, but I still manage stealth in spite of the boodwrath."
Erminea ventued to enquire something,"That's all well and good, Shinobi, but why are you not with the Gousim?"
"My father, was Log a Log. He was murdered one night so I left, never to return until my father was avenged. Since I left, the new Log a Log is of a different lineage, that of the ancient ferry shrews."
"Ah. Will you help us? We're trying' to get ta Redwall Abbey, but we don't know the way, 'cep tin' for it being close by." Furo asked.
"Sure." The shrew answered.
Ratel woke up then, and moaned,"I'm getting to old for this, I'm twenty two seasons old."
"No you ain't, Ratel. You're a honey badger, and they don't get old." This replier was Vulpes, a tall male ferret.
Ch12:Hordes and Swords
Zane groaned as he woke up into the bright sunlight of mid morning. "Ughhh. Ahhhh." he said as he stretched his arm and heard several small cracks from his joints, resisting the movement. Zane slowly got up and cracked his knuckles, a sound which woke Setith.
"C'mon. We gotta get moving." Zane did not wait for a reply and strode off with his small tent packed under his arm. Setith hurried after him, the form of Salamandastron still distant, but at a four days horde march's distance from the scout's camp.
In Salamandastron, lookouts at the crater were just able to make out a black mass of land moving towards them slowly. Word flew around the mountain, and most of the Long Patrol had begun preparing for war unbidden, as even at this range the mass being a vermin horde of extensive size was evident. Any to young to fight began fletching and sharpening arrows. Also, once told so, the younger hares of the mountain were called to choose the weapon to be their main one. All knew how to use all of them, as it would be foolish not to know how. One young hare in particular, Prescutt, was not looking forward to the choice. He knew he wanted a sword, but there was so many not chosen yet. When it was his turn, the hare stepped in the room and the older hare escorting him to it left. He looked around, with many swords to choose from, and , above them, there hung a badger lord's sword and shield. He tried each sword, then decided on the second to the left edge. He picked it off the hangers, whirled it, feeling its perfect balance and tucked it into his belt, stalking out of the room with a new air of confidence. As he left, another hare walked in and came out a short time later.
"Huh, just let any vermin try to get in this bally mountain, then they'll see the true warriors!" Prescutt muttered.
Rackaung spied the two runners sprinting towards them from far away, kicking up a minor dust cloud as they forged on. He turned to Ratal and said,"So Ratal, are those the two you sent out yesterday?"
"Yes they are, your lordship."
"Quit it with the titles, I'm jus Rackatung or sir to you, Ratal. What is it Bieti?" Rackatung snapped at the female captain strode up, sabre in hand.
"Lord Rackatung," She said as she bowed. "The wolves have reached the water meadows. They should reach their objective by the morrow's noon." Her chain mail ceased clinking as she stopped to talk, then she slid her sabre on her back to face it's twin.
"Would you QUIT IT WITH THE BOWING ALREADY! I'm JUST Rackatung! Oh, by the way, you can tell Mellivora to stop trailing them now. We'll need all our captains to fight that mountain. Despite what I told the horde, there are seven hundred hares total, plus a badger. From what my raven Corvidaen told me, this badger is large in muscle and wields a large wooden mace. Let's get the horde moving double time! I want to be at Salamandastron's gates tomorrow evening!"
The captains scrambled about, giving the orders for double time march. The horde sped up in total unison, roaring a marching song.
Whoa, we gotta march!
here ain't no time ta be parched!
So march march march
To Our destination
And bring our foes to obliteration!
Cause we gotta march march march
At double time,
No space for admirin' columbine!
So march march the day away,
No picking up those thyme!
Left right, left right,
We gotta march to our enemies obliteration!
The horde sped off, Rackatung in the lead with three of the five captains in the far away back, Bieti gone to return with Mellivora, the second wolverine captain, a female.
Rackatung smiled evilly as he thought of the mountain awaiting his conquest, then considered the possibility of defeat for the umpteenth time. It would mean disgrace, and probable death, if he knew anything about these beasts. But then remembered the more likely alternative. Better to think of positive things he said in his head, the sped up as to not be tripped by the bloodthirsty legions of vermin behind him.
Book 2: Action
CH13: The Message Revealed
Abbot Sazas jolted out of his dormitory bed, woken suddenly by Martin the Warrior. He strode out of his room and hurried down the hall, nightcap waving from his un-dignified speed. Sazas was heading for Recorder Folgrit's headquarters in the gatehouse, hoping to get there and relate the tale before he forgot, for while he was young, he was by no means dumb. He opened he door to the main abbey building, and stepped out into the light drizzle outside, then continued to charge onwards to the gatehouse.
He burst in the door to see Folgrit up, at his desk recording the day's events. The otter looked up at him and said,"Well don't just stand there, come in, come in. Now why did you come to me so late?"
Abbot Sazas replied,"Because Folgrit, I've had a dream."
"A dream you say? What about?"
"Well, it was Martin the Warrior."
"How do you know?" Folgrit asked.
"What other mouse carries around a shield marked with M?" Sazas replied flatly.
"Well, could be Matthias." Folgrit retorted.
"Who was Matthias again?" Sazas enquired.
Folgrit recoiled in shock at the Father Abbot's forgetfulness. "You mean you cannot remember who the mouse Matthias, the savior of Redwall in the season of the Late Rose was!"
"Uhhh, y-y-yes!" Abbot Sazas croaked.
"I'll tell you who Matthias was!" Folgrit the recorder yelled. "He's the very mouse that kiled Cluny the Scourge!"
At that moment, a squirrel babe wandered in, sucking her paw. "Humm, what be's you two doing up so late?"
Folgrit was hardly cooled off. "Why shouldn't we ask you the same question, miss Cetus?"
"Wull, Oi was sleeping you know, being a good Dibbun, when I gets woken up by some turrible racket, so I followed it and came 'ere."
"Cetus, could you be an even better dibbun and go to bed. We have important business to discuss." politely asked Sazas.
Cetus left into the rain, and they could hear tiny pitter padders until Cetus returned to the main Abbey Building.
"Now before I forget Folgrit, Martin or Matthias, whichever one it was, said this to me. 'Seek you the Budibns,
Send two untrue hogs,
And Pen Paw plus mace maid.
Send these I've said,
The path of mountain to tread.
Watch for the Sevlow,
And also the killer,
Of Asmoedeus's litter,
Let in the latter,
Destroy the other matter.
Think on these words,
And trust the great birds.' And that was all he said. Then he left. Just like that."
"Hmm. Interesting. Now would Budibns be spelled b-u-d-i-b-n-s?" the otter asked, over his frustration.
"Yes, and Sevlow would be spelled s-e-v-l-o-w." The Squirrel answered.
"How do you know, young friend? I'm sorry for getting mad there, happens with historians, y'know."
"It's okay, Folgrit. And I have no idea how I know, I just do, it's kind of weird."
"Is that all Father Abbot? I don't think we should even begin to try to solve it yet, best thing would be to wait until tomorrow to try anything, to late right now you know." Folgrit advised, lifting his pen once finished recording the puzzle they'd received from that mouse, Martin or Matthias? Now he was confused!
Sazas then smartly said,"Good night," and left, walking confidently to the main abbey building, as the slight rain had ended.
Cetus was in the Dibbuns dormitory, surrounded by mole babes, fellows squirrel babes, and mice babes. All the other dibbuns were sleeping, mostly the voles and hedgehogs, although a couple others peacefully slumbered on. A small mouse climbed on to his bed, grabbed his pillow, and smacked a particularly loud mole with it. Then he spoke in a shrill clear voice. "Let the DAB meetin' cime ta ordre!" Most of the movement in the large room ceased. "Cetos, I bilieve you have naws from your foutin' expoditionin' to da gatehouse?" The mouse, Adim, asked.
"Yes Oi do. Faver H'abbot and 'Olgrit hav imphornant 'uisnois to being discussering. Someing abut Tritthas da Worriar!" The squirrelbabe replied.
A few other 'important' matters were discussed, before Caroline snuck into the dormitory room and sternly scolded them for staying up. Adim scolded them before they slept as well for letting themselves get caught. But then they all fell asleep.
Chapter 14: Arrival
Barkback the Avenger was in his forge, hammering new spear, javelin, and arrowheads out of chunks of iron and steel. His second in command, General June, stood several meters behind him. "How many arrows have the young ones made?" The Badger inquired.
"About 900 arrows, sir." The general replied.
"Go down and tell them to stop only for meals and sleeping periods. Tell everyone else to make ready their weapons, then help make arrows. Say that each hare must make at least ten arrows, then sleep til meals. Got all that, June?"
"Yes, Lord Barkback." She left the forge and hurried down to the mess hall where the youngest hares were making arrows. She put a paw on her long claymore, stopping it from clanking in its scabbard on her back.
Rackatung and his massive horde had arrived! The small area Setith and Zane had used the day before was now an area of trampled grass. The mountain was clear against the noonday sky, and Rackatung could even make out a hare or to pulling in a small amount of crops that had fully grown a week or two early. He looked at the place with the eye of a warrior, estimating distances and judging the defenses of the place. He was almost certain that there would be traps along the way, probably in the last hundred meters of beach or so. He also knew any military commander in this situation would make his men mass produce arrows and other missile weapons. He made a mental note to tell the vanguard to make large shields for the attack. Rackatung walked over to a log twenty foxes were attempting to move to make a basis for the command tent, which needed to be very large because of Rackatung's enormous size. He put one large paw around half of the trunk and easily hefted it onto his armored shoulder. He carried it over to the spot where the tent would be located, a glade behind the nearby forest. He saw hundreds of tents up and going up, and also vermin hours away, so vast were his forces. A third had made ships halfway down the coast and would arrive within the day. His bird, Corvidaen, was flying all around the countryside rounding up troops, anything from crows to snakes to newts or magpies. Rackatung had decided to send out three hundred stoats and two hundred ferrets to see what they could round up from the countryside in the way of supplies, or more troops. He saw Pufftail coming up, not panting though,"Must have been the stroll down the countryside" Rackatung thought.
"Rackatung, the other captains are wondering when we will speak to the foe." Pufftail said.
"What do you mean we won't?"
"I mean that we will NOT engage the enemy diplomatically." Rackatung sniped.
"The other captains say its traditional, and you that must."
"Look what happened to the others, Pufftail, they all lost. And since when did you become a messenger boys for the other captains?"
"Mab-" Pufftail began.
"That wasn't meant to be a question Pufftail."
"Oh," the cat replied.
"One thing, Pufftail. You and the other captains are now colonels. Get twenty good fighters and make them the new captains. Yes-" Rackatung said, stalling the quetion on Pufftail's lips. "You do have authority over them. Tell them to get fifty friends and make them lieutenants."
"Yes sir." Pufftail sounded elated, as was expected from his promotion. He scrambled away, leaving Rackatung to his own devices, of sleep.
He was dreaming. He must have been dreaming, for he could think of no explanation other than that. He had just watched as his entire army was destroyed by four different beasts, each a superpower in its own right. He was running from them now, and when he looked back, he saw two badgers, running towards him, eyes red and gigantic maces in hand. As they gained on him, the weapons lit on fire, one a metal mace with orange flames, the other wood, in ruby red. That was the only difference in the badgers, now picking up momentum, speeding towards him. The land grabbed his legs and weighed each step down as if he was towing the forest with him. The badgers raised their arms in unison, and yelled, "EUUULLAAALLIIIIAAAAA!" Rackatung saw motion, felt a white pain, then nothing.
Chapter 15: Unraveling
It was just before breafast at Redwall Abbey, and Folgrit had gathered almost all of the inhabitants of Redwall into the small clearing in between the orchard and the gate. The recorder himself stood on the steps to the battlements, close to the ground. "Attention, fellow Redwallers," he began, ceasing all chatter. "Last night our Abbot was sent a dream by Martin the Warrior. (then, in a lower tone he added, we presume) The dream contained a riddle, which I have many copies of here." As Folgrit said this he raised one paw, gripping in it many sheets of parchment. "Whoever solves the riddle first shall be rewarded by Friar Bural with the dish of their choice. And you may work in groups, but keep in mind, you only get one dish. The contest begins, NOW!" The recorder scrambled up to the battlements to avoid being caught in the surge of beasts rushing to get the copies of the riddle.
A short time later, Caroline, Sazas, and Mirkgum were working in a group when Folgrit decided to join them. "Well I think we should take it from the top." Caroline started.
"Ah, yes, that is how many riddles are solved." Folgrit added.
"Okay, so it says, 'Send two untrue hogs, and pen paw plus mace maid'. Let's start with two untrue hogs. What does that even mean?" Mirkgum inquired.
The Abbot chuckled. "It might be nothing, but I might have an answer."
"Well, what is it?" Asked Caroline.
"Think about it," Sazas said. "Two untrue hogs. That doesn't mean lying hogs, it means fake hogs." He paused, letting his comment settle in with the others.
Folgrit made the connection first. "It's you, Mirkgum you're one of the hogs!"
"And how do you bally well figure out that one, eh chap?"
"Well, some beasts call one who has a ravenous appetite and who doesn't starve it a hogger, or, simply, hog." Folgrit answered, with a sort of superior tone.
"Excactly Folgrit." Abbot Sazas said. "And as for the other hog, I think it is quite obviously Brigflag, our 'cellarhog'."
"Quite right, I see now. Anyho, what about pen paw plus macemaid, that seems to be a problem. After all, I don't see anyone walking around with a bally pen for a paw!" Mirkgum stated.
"Don't take it so literally, Mirkgum," Caroline said. "And I don't think it's a doozy at all." She paused, awaiting further response.
Folgrit broke the silence. "Are you saying you know the answer, Caroline?"
"Why yes, and you know it too, pen paw."
Everyone looked puzzled. "What do you mean, eh wot?" the hare asked.
"Folgrit is the recorder here, a sort of pen paw in itself, as it's all he seems to do." Caroline answered. "As for mace maid, the beast is me."
"How?" Mirkgum, like most currently at Redwall, knew little of Caroline's warrior past. Folgrit, sensing a story, grabbed his ever present pen and parchment.
"Well, I used to use a mace, and I am a maid." Caroline stated flatly, knowing Mirkgum wanted more.
"No, We want the whole bally thing, wot! Right?" He looked at Folgrit and Sazas, who nodded agreement.
"Very well," Caroline began,"It started when I was about fifteen seasons old. I had just returned to our brick and thatch house from wrestling with my brother nearby. We had returned just before dark, and father was pulling a plum tart from the large oven that dominated the house. He already had a large salmon fried with spices on it. But the meal wasn't important. What was was that my brother then decided to leave for the mountain Salamandastron as soon as possible, with supplies anyhow. And so it came that a week later, he gave me his best mace and left, carrying a longbow, dagger, and his second-best mace."
"Sorry to interrupt," said Sister Cripnim, "But breakfast is here on the trolley. Serve yourselves."
Mirkgum needed no further urging. He swept up a honeyed scone and popped it down his gullet. He then, like the others, heartily dug in to the salad Friar Bural had created. After a 'scoff' break, Caroline continued her story.
"So after he left, I went to train with the otter holt about a day's march away. They accepted me as a fighter, and I'm probably still talked about for launching a javelin through an oak and it still traveling an arrowshot's length afterwards. Ha, the best even the chief could do was an oak and an otter's body' length before it touched down. After about a season there, I left because they had taught me enough and I ate to much food. I returned home in a crisis." She nabbed a candied chestnut as she paused, and ate it slowly, completely ignoring the cliffhanger she'd delivered.
Chapter 16: MellivoraBieti sped away from the large body of Rackatung's army, heading towards the northern coast. Soon later, the wildcat heard the sounds of a fight, and knew she had arrived at her destination. She eased her speed, and looked upon the final stages of a massacre. A huge female beast roared as a thrown dagger sank into her shoulder, then ripped it out and snapped it in half. The poor rat who'd thrown it ran, only to be shot down by a large, squirrel-like creature armed with a small crossbow. The ragtag force of rats and ferrets all ran, and all fell to the same bolts as the dagger thrower. Bieti took in the victorious force, about 20 troops from Rackatung's army, as well as nearly two-hundred of the squirrel-like archers. Bieti found them curious. Each had two small crossbows, a hip mounted quiver, and a spiked club. She stood there until the commander, clearly a wolverine, noticed her.
"So, Mellivora," Bieti began. "You're still not above killing potential allies, are you?"
"Our lord Rackatung would've found no use in dem," the wolverine replied.
"Maybe, but do you relish the chance to tell him you lost four-score of his finest scouts?"
"Ah, but look what I got in return! Nine and a half score expert archers." Mellivora drew closer to Bieti as she said this, shouldering her halberd.
Bieti strode to Mellivora and reached up to pat her back. "Aye, that you did. But tell me, what are these beasts called?"
One of the beasts stepped forward, dressed in a brown jerkin with a short green cape as well. He was clearly the captain. "We are called marmots, and have long been terrorized by the rabbits of yonder mountain, and so relish any possible chance of revenge."
"I see," Bieti slowly said, a smile spreading across her face. "Anyway, Mellivora, Rackatung says the first assault is to take place in a month's time, with your newly recruited troops."
"Well then, we'd better head to the mountain. I assume he's already made camp?"
"Oh, yes. Any thoughts of deserting were dispelled when he uprooted a tree that was in the way of a tent."
"That sounds like Rackatung. Bobak, get them moving!"
"Yes ma'am." The marmot leader barked orders. "Narnen, get a marching song going. We're in an army now!"
The force of vermin set out towards Salamandastron, marching to the tune Narnen sung. In the back, Bieti leaned over to Mellivora and whispered, "I don't trust dem marmots, day seem to glad ta fight."
"I know what you mean, Bieti, but that's why Rackatung's smart 'nough ta put them in as da vanguard, so they can't slaughter us from behind."
Her comment noted, Bieti pursued the conversation no further, and instead concentrated on keeping the marmots jogging at a brisk pace.
Chapter 17: Birdscratch
"Caroline, I order you as the abbot to continue your story!"
"Very well father. After I left the holt, I jogged home, determined to return home before dinner. This was when I met Peregrin, who was on patrol for the king of the birds, a great golden eagle by the name of Spilornis. Anyway, Peregrin touched down and alerted me of vermin presence nearby, and pompously said to hide while he took care of it. I ignored his advice, but not the warning. I knew the vermin would smell my father's cooking, he really is quite good at it, so I doubled my pace, and soon saw my home beset by a small band of ten or so water rats, who were poking my peaceful father with their spears. I roared and charged them just after Peregrin dive-bombed them, and we scattered them. That definitely altered Peregrin's snobbish view of other beasts. My father was overjoyed to see me, and a few hours later at supper, Peregrin told stories his father had told him about the northern mountain hares, who were said to possess the power of twenty rats each. He hadn't believed it until now. The next day, Peregrin had to report back to his king, but assured us he would get our homestead on the patrol routes. A season later, he returned and requested my presence at Spilornis' court. I knew not to refuse, and so met the king, who sent me to the great hare city of Raromy, which was under attack by a force of vermin led by a fox, whose name I can't recall. Long story short, I helped the hares win, gained their debt, and journeyed south till I came here, meeting a hedgehog tribe and the gousim on the way."
"Thank you, Caroline." Folgrit continued, resting his pen. "Hopefully you can elaborate later. For now, lets all focus on the riddle."
"Good idea old chap! Lemme see here, solved this, and this, here we go! The path of mountain to tread. Anyone else think it means good old Salamandastron?"
Abbot Sazas agreed, "I think so too Mirkgum. Good job!"
Peregrin walked over from the walls. "What be you doing?"
"We're trying to solve a riddle."
"Let Peregrin see, otter."
Folgrit showed Peregrin the riddle. After a minute of looking, Peregrin shrieked and grabbed Folgrit's pen and began to write below the riddle. Caroline opened her mouth to inquire what part he'd solved, but didn't get the chance. Peregrin finish writing, then flew off to the north.
The rest of the group stood dumbfounded. After a while, Mirkgum spoke, "Well, what did the bloomin' bird write?"
Folgrit answered. "I have no idea. The script is unlike any I've ever seen."
"I know what it is," Caroline boldly said. "Peregrin was in such a hurry he wrote in bird scratch.
Chapter 17: Backstabbers and Beachwaders
Rackatung looked at the marmot warriors, observing closely their crossbows and vast numbers of bolts, as well as their fearsome looking clubs. "And you say these beasties 'ere came on their own?"
Mellivora answered, "Yes, they say they have been terrorized by the rabbets for as long as anyone can remember."
"Well then, I believe it may be time to try them in battle."
"Yes, my lord."
Before any orders could be given, Bieti ran almost into Mellivora, but sreeched to a halt just in time. "Lord," she panted "corsairs are on the horizon, five ships."
"Well then, it would seem my messenger crows got through."
"I know they did, but not in de way you desired. Our sentries were killed by large arrows, each with one of yer birds attached."
"WHAT!" Rackatung shouted. "Corsairs have been after this place from the start of time, and now that victory is at hand they want to save it!"
Mellivora quietly spoke, "Rackatung, they may be opposed to it because of your message, 'Join us or be slain or enslaved, along with the rest of the coast.' It wasn't exactly tactful, was it?"
"It didn't need to be! Everyone knows sea rats is stupid."
Longnose, a weasel captain, came running up. "Me lord, another rarer came in, but did a note attached. It hard to make out from our own beasts blood, but it seems ta say they won't go away, and they'll just use their crossbows her shot holes in us till we can't enslave or slay them. They seem to hate you few saying' we could. The note also says they have many ships coming from other places, all to slay the mighty Rackatung."
"It's Longnose, right? Tell our carpenters to begin contraction on a sea wall to shelter us. They can shoot all they like at us!"
"Yes sir!" Longnose then left.
"Now then Mellivora, lets send these marmots, along wid, oh, 'bout a thousand horde beasts to assault the mountain."
Barkback the Avenger lined up his bow, sighting on one of the horde beasts charging towards the wall. He fired, and his target fell without a sound. "June, get to those gates. Prepare to let the scum in."
"Oh, I see, I'll line pike beasts along the entrance. They'll run into death!"
"Yes, those that haven't died through our traps."
Longnose was leading the charge, but from the back. As they neared the gates he saw them swing open. He tried to stop his force, but as most were stupid beasts, they ran right in, and he found himself pushed in by the marmots behind him. "What are ya coin' you idjits! Can't you see it's a trap!"
The marmot leader answered him, "'course we do!" This answer gave Longnose just enough time to look puzzled before the captain slew him with a blow from his cudgel. "Right marmots, cut off any escapees!"
The hare pikemen did their job well, helped by the marmots. Not one weasel, rat, or stoat escaped death. General June barely managed to stop the hares from killing the marmots, screaming. "Can't you bally recruits tell the difference between a ball rat and a marmot! Lay down your arms, and greet our reinforcements!"
"Thank you," spoke the captain of the marmots. "They almost slew us too."
"My immense pleasure, but how did you trick the blighters into not killin' you. That rabble wouldn't let any good beasts come through!"
"That's the trick mate! We killed a few sea rats what wouldn't join the great army there and got accepted as mates. It was then a simple matter to come to your aid. We still have some marmots in the ranks, waiting till tonight to smuggle in some food and drink."
"Well, bless me. I'll never stop vein' amazed at yore bally values, wot. I mean, who else would come to near certain death just because we're friends! Lord Barkback will be pleased to hear of your arrival."
CH19: The Puzzle Solved
"What is birdsctratch?"
Caroline answered the Abbot. "Birdscratch is a form of writing, as you now know. Before they came south from their mountain homes and adapted our language and form of writing the great birds: hawks, eagles, and the like, had their own language, called bird scratch by other beasts. This is some sort of note saying, ah let me see, oh! Peregrine has solved the last line of the riddle! He says it means to receive his kin warmly. He has gone to get the birds. Soon we shall have hawks and falcons, and maybe an eagle or two at our gates."
"But why," Sazas asked. "We have no need of their help."
Folgrit interjected, "Not yet. I believe I've solved another line of the riddle. I was thinking back to the history of the abbey, and I remembered a time when a certain Sister confounded a later generation with her puzzles, in which her words were anagrams. Then I applied the same principle to these senseless words: Sevlow and Budibns. I quickly realized Budibns means Dibbuns, but I can't quite figure out Sevlow."
Mirkgum finally gave voice again. "Well me good chap, that shouldn't be to hard! It means wolves. Nasty blighters, taller than a badger, though not quite as strong, or as smart, wot."
Sazas came alive with a look of urgency. "If Martin spoke the truth, and he always has, we will need the great birds, for wolves will attack our abbey!"
"Indeed. That is why we must find the dibbuns and send myself, Caroline, Mirkgum, and Brigflag to Salamondastron right away."
"Indeed, wot. We can get some bally reinforcements from there!"
As the discussion went on, the front gates burst open, and a large group of creatures flooded the abbey grounds. The gatekeeper, a sturdy hedgehog known as Grimtup Prickspikes, apologized. "I'm sorry, Father. The darn gousim wouldn't wait on procedure." Taking a second look, Abbot Sazas found the creatures were indeed the gousim. Even as he looked, their Log a Log came up to him, straightening his green cap in the process, and dusting off his scarlet jerkin.
"My apologies, Abbot. The gousim have been rushing to get here, ever since they spotted a huge badger-like creature leading a small horde of vermin in this direction. Even though we might have won a contest of strength, we knew that we'd have a better chance of defending Mossflower from the abbey. I hope you are all right."
"Ahem," the Abbot began, clearing his throat. "I hope you remember you are always welcome here at Redwall." Turning to Caroline, Sazas said, "Please tell the friar to add a smudge of food to the menu tonight. The gousim are here!" Turning back to Log a Log, Sazas began again. "Now, was this beast anything like a large fox?"
"No. He was a badger, but not quite. He was larger than Lord Barkback the Avenger, and had slightly different fur coloring. Also, he wore an adder's skin as a cloak. That was another reason why we came here. We wanted to know we had a defensible position if we were to fight an adder slayer. Wait a minute. Why did you ask if he was foxlike.?"
Folgrit answered for Sazas. "We received a message from Martin the Warrior, and were decoding it when you arrived. We know that there are also wolves about in Mossflower, and that we must let in your badgerish beast."
Sazas looked appalled. "Let vermin in, why would we do such a foolish thing?"
Folgrit had seen Mirkgum's gasp of realization, and let him answer, "Well my good Abbot, this badger thingymabobber is a slayer of adders, generally referred to in Mossflower as Asmodeus' cursed litter. Therefore, he is the one the riddle spoke of, that we should embrace with open arms."
"I see. We'll be safe with the gousim here. Caroline, Mirkgum, Folgrit, and Brigflag, you need to leave as soon as possible."
Log a Log jumped in, "Not alone of course. With the abbey's walls and the creatures from Mossflower that will come here when asked, some of my shrews can accompany you. I will lead them of course, and no, Abbot, you cannot stop me.
THe next morning, after trail for had been made, the Sword of Martin had been packed, and armor was fitted, they left.
Rackatung paced in front of his troops. "So what? The marmots betrayed us. We still outnumber those hares by a tramendoos f'ctor. We will crush them!" Turning aside, he spoke to Mellivora. "Take them now. Many of them will die, but you can crush the hares."
"As you command, Rackatung." Raising her sword, she ran to the mountain a kilometer away, followed by nearly ten thousand vermin, which was itself only a unit in an army of a hundred.