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Rising From the Ashes

This is a fan fiction story by Arvanna the Rogue. It is not considered canon, nor is it a policy or guideline.

A/N: This multi-chapter fic is a crossover of my two loves: CSI:NY and Redwall. It is not necessary to watch the show in order to understand the story, but since I am a big fan I recommend it. As I took the NY characters' names and made them anagrams, they are my creations. Please do not take them without asking.

All mistakes are mine. Reviews are always appreciated. I will not accept flames.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to message me. Enjoy!

Chapter 1

Blowing a piece of fruit that was sticking to his whiskers, Semser grudgingly made his way to Great Hall, stepping over random food strewn all over the floor of Cavern Hole. All around him other Redwallers shook their heads in annoyance as they cleaned themselves and their children. Remnants of dinner were everywhere: stuck to the pillars and tables, and not to mention on the fur and habits of the Abbey residents. Semser was about to have a stern lecture about proper manners during supper. In other words, the Abbot's Report.

He scoffed at the notion. The Abbot's Report was a form of punishment used by the elders where a troublemaker or rule-violator met with the Abbot or Abbess to discuss their crime. In this particular case, the sit-down was to be with Abbot Torlay about the food fight that had broken out.

It wasn't all Semser's fault. His best friend Alddon was partly responsible for starting the whole thing, which was why the squirrel was following right behind him.

Alddon gently prodded him in the back. "You have to admit, it was rather fun. Certainly brought a bit of life to dull ol' dinner eh?"

Semser ignored him, although he had a point: minus the glare and small speech from the Friar, it had been an enjoyable moment. Unfortunately, their recklessness had landed them in hot water. Semser knew all too well about being lectured by the Abbot; it was becoming a familiar recurrence to see the young otter and middle-seasoned hare side-by-side, the latter doing much of the talking.

They continued their walk to Great Hall. Alddon plucked a particle of cheese that was clinging to his bushy tail and fell silent, mentally preparing for his meeting with the Abbot.

Redwall Abbey was a tremendous sight to behold. The ancient structure rested comfortably in the middle of Mossflower Wood, a gigantic forest rich with various species of trees and, like Redwall, a wondrous history. The actual Abbey was surrounded on all sides by four walls that seemed to shoot straight into the sky above. Inside the walls was a vibrant community, home to all sorts of woodlanders. Mice, moles, squirrels, otters, voles, hares, and shrews called Redwall their home. They were a peaceful lot who focused their attention on the daily Abbey chores as they had much work to do throughout the day: tending to the orchards and gardens, creating and mixing the wines and drinks (this was the Cellarhog's duty, who was usually a hedgehog), preparing the food – the Friar's responsibility – and caring for families, as most of the inhabitants had husbands, wives, and children. There was also the Abbey pond, which provided the residents with fresh drinking and bathing water. The Abbey, built hundreds of seasons before the ancestors of any living creature were born, was a famous landmark in Mossflower, and creatures would often flock to it for whatever reason. It was known as a haven for those who seeked a peaceful and good life amidst friends.

In its very long history there had never been a hare Abbot or Abbess. However, nobeast could deny that Torlay was well-suited for the job. He was an older hare, well into his middle seasons but regarded as incredibly wise. Several wrinkles creased his homely face, and despite being older than most of the Redwallers he was quite active and in good physical condition. He was a retired General of the fabled Long Patrol, the hare army who had served the Badger Lord or Lady of Salamandastron for countless seasons. He had visited Redwall once in his youth and loved the atmosphere, so he decided to spend the remainder of his days at the Abbey.

"Those two have been trouble ever since they were Dibbuns. I'm not surprised they're still causing mischief."

Torlay turned his grey eyes to the speaker standing beside him. "Aye, but I'm sure they'll grow out of it. One day they'll wake up an' realize they have responsibilities."

Tsella flashed a smile. "You know me well."

"I should, considering you're my best friend an' strong right paw."

The female hare bent down and gave him a swift kiss on the cheek. Torlay's face immediately flushed with red. He and Tsella were very close, and the inhabitants considered her a strong candidate as his successor. She was younger by about five seasons and very pretty. Unlike the rest of their species, they did not talk in harespeech.

"It's not Alddon I'm worried about," she spoke her thoughts aloud. "He may cause mischief from time to time, but it's usually because he's with Semser. That otter is far too reckless, just like his brother Eloiu."

Torlay gave her one of his rare smiles. "Eloiu may be a bit foolish at times, but he looks out for Semser an' protects him. If only he had stayed at Redwall instead of moving to Noonvale."

Approaching pawsteps interrupted their conversation, the noise bouncing off the ancient stones of Great Hall and lifting up into the high ceiling. Sitting at the table that always rested underneath the tapestry, Torlay and Tsella watched as the two young Redwallers strode up and hung their heads in shame.

The Abbot cleared his throat. Semser was the first to raise his eyes. "Apologizes, Father Abbot. We didn't mean any harm."

Torlay nodded. "I'm sure you didn't. However, as much as I dislike handing out punishments, you two made quite the mess in Cavern Hole. I want both of you to clean up everything; I don't expect the Friar to make such a delicious meal an' then clean both the dishes an' your mess. There are buckets an' cloths down there that you can use. When you are finished, go straight to your dormitories. Is that clear?"

Squirrel and otter nodded fiercely, and Torlay waved them off with a paw. "Go on then."

Tsella watched them depart. "I must say, that was rather quick."

Her friend rose from his seat and walked around to the opposite side of the table, where Semser and Alddon had been standing. "Sometimes I think I'm too harsh on them, especially that young otter. He may be hotheaded from time to time, but I can see him accomplishing great things."

He fell silent then, focusing his gaze on the ancient tapestry that hung from the wall. Tsella stood beside him and followed his eyes. The masterpiece was one of two prized possessions in the Abbey. It depicted Redwall's greatest hero and co-founder, Martin the Warrior. The brave mouse leaned on his magnificent sword whilst vermin behind him fled in terror. The tapestry was as old as Redwall itself, but it showed no signs of age. Perhaps the most mysterious part was the Warrior's face. He had a gentle smile, the kind that made anybeast feel protected. His eyes, the irises a soft brown hue, never seemed to move yet always appeared to follow.

The other prized object rested on two hangers above Martin's picture. This was his sword, an ancient weapon of great power. The two-pawed hilt was nothing special and ordained with a red pommelstone. The blade, however, shone like fire on ice, and a blood channel ran from hilt to tip. Despite its age there were no nicks or scars on the metal - which was made from a fallen meteorite by a long-dead Badger Lord – nor was there any evidence of rust or wear. Legend said the sword was indestructible.

Continuing to gaze at the tapestry, the Abbot returned Martin's smile. "Perhaps one day young Semser will find somebeast who changes him."

Semser and Alddon's punishment did not end at just cleaning the mess; the Friar had asked them to also wash and dry the dishes as an extra penalty for their insolence. Pans and cutlery lined the entire kitchen – which was anything but small – as if patiently waiting to be cleaned. However, the two young Redwallers were not alone. As soon as the Friar left, three others materialized from a dimly-lit corridor. Filling buckets with warm soapy water, they started to help their friends with the big job of scrubbing and washing down all the tables, chairs, and whatever else had food stuck to it.

Adine, a feisty young mousemaid, was busy scrubbing a chair when she suddenly jumped back in alarm. "Askhew! Watch where you're puttin' that beak of yours; it nearly got my paw."

The red-tailed hawk reared his head back and swallowed a chunk of fish he had spotted lying on the seat. He had come to Redwall five seasons ago after being severely injured by a gang of rats. The gentle Infirmary Keeper, a badger named Mahdis Camberk, had nursed him back to health.

"Sorry," Askhew's tongue flicked out from his mouth to lick any remnants left on his beak. "But it's still helpin'."

Adine could not argue with that statement. She chuckled and patted the bird's wicked talons before getting back to work. "Least it won't take long to clean with all of us pitchin' in."

Beside her, another mouse called Dasmaros dunked his cloth into the bucket, rang it out, and wiped away at the oak table. "The faster we get this done, the faster we can go in the pond for a swim. 'Tis rather hot outside."

"Good idea Dasmaros!" Semser's cheery voice suddenly boomed out. "Let's sing a ditty to speed things up."

'Tell everybeast I'm on my way,

I just can't wait to be there,
No rain or wind will stop me,
I'll be home soon my love.
Keep an eye on the dusty path,
For I'm comin' back to blue skies an' sunny days.
Every step I take brings me closer
To a roarin' fire an' cold drink,
Yes I'm on my way back to you.
No matter how far apart,
Nor the distance that separates us
Can keep me from reachin' you.
Wait for my wondrous stories,
Oh those heart-warmin' tales,
So tell everybeast I'm on my way.
I've seen new things, made new friends,
But now 'tis time for me,
To return back to you.
I'll be home soon,

I'm on my way.'

Dasmaros was correct in his statement; the evening was a rather warm one. Mossflower was currently in the midst of a scorching summer, one of the hottest it had ever seen. Every night for the past while most of the Abbey windows were open to allow a constant flowing breeze to cool the dormitories. It was welcoming and made the nights easier to bear.

Sunset was settling over Mossflower when the five inseparable friends finished their duties and headed for the Abbey pond, a sizeable body of water that rested comfortably on the lawn not far from the doors that led to Great Hall and Cavern Hole. Being an otter, Semser was a much better swimmer than his friends. He was also able to hold his breath for a longer period of time, and he often caught them by surprise by grabbing them underwater and pulling them down. Askhew would sit on the bank and dunk his talons in the cool water, often lying alongside Adine who was not fond of swimming. Alddon and Semser, however, were constantly splashing one another and fooling around. Dasmaros found comfort in simply stretching out near the water's edge, his footpaws submerged, and allowed a school of tiny fish to nibble at his paws. Whenever he moved they darted away like miniature arrows, but moments later they would return and tickle his fur.

Although he was unsure why, a curious question popped into Semser's mind. "You think we'll ever find mates?"

Everybeast halted their activities. What the young otter said was a valid point, and although all were still some seasons away from adulthood, it certainly got them thinking.

Wading over to Semser, Alddon threw an arm around his shoulders. "I'm sure there's a mate out there for all of us. Who knows, maybe you'll find one someday."

The young otter scoffed and splashed the water's surface with a webbed paw. Even though he had posed the question, he was skeptical about ever finding a mate. The idea even scared him a little bit, though he would never admit it to his friends.

A quick flick of his paw sent some water hurling in the squirrel's direction. "Don't say such nonsense."

Everybeast laughed and continued chatting with one another. Askhew preened himself whilst Semser and Alddon dove under the water and performed tricks, much to the delight of Adine and Dasmaros. Before long it was time to go inside, and the five young friends dried themselves off before retiring to their dormitories. The sun had long since vanished beneath the horizon, and remnants of its magnificent colours still lingered in the sky.

As Semser threw on his tunic – he had never been one for the traditional Redwall habit – and climbed into bed, he was completely unaware that Alddon was right.

Night had cast its velvetly blanket over Mossflower, the sky randomly spotted with stars of various sizes. Some were easy to see whilst others were so minute they were nearly invisible to anybeast with even the sharpest of eyesight. A soft breeze made the warm night more bearable, the air rustling the leaves on Mossflower's trees and making them perform a little dance as if swaying to a tune. A full moon added to the serenity of the forest's calmness, sections of its light broken by the thick canopy. The majority of creatures were slumbering peacefully, awaiting the arrival of a new day and excited to see what it would hold. Not all, however, had fallen under the spell of sleep's mysterious power.

Finishing up her evening exercises, Emroon waded out from the small tributary of the River Moss, shaking herself dry and blowing droplets from her whiskers. The young ottermaid was currently camped out on the bank, stopping for some rest before continuing her journey. Although she was not the tallest of otters, she was slim and quite powerful. Not an inch of spare flesh was to be seen on her body, which was covered in light brown fur. Her throat and chest were creamy in colour, and she had magnificent chocolate eyes that held a tragic past.

Her fur quickly drying, Emroon pulled her blue tunic over her head and fixed the pouch that always hung at her right hip. This held provisions and any other necessary items. Satisfied, she crawled into the abandoned cave she had discovered and started to wipe the blade of her dirk. As she cleaned it, haunting recollections suddenly came to the forefront of her brain like some evil shadows. Closing her eyes, the young ottermaid forced herself to focus on other matters. It seemed to work as the memories receded into the corridors of her mind, but she knew they would soon reappear. Memories such as the ones she held could never vanish.

As she continued to clean the blade, her thoughts strayed to her new future. She was on her way to Redwall Abbey to begin a new life. Everybeast had heard of the giant structure that towered over Mossflower's canopy. It was famous throughout the land as a haven of peace and happiness. Her parents had visited there once before, and when she was a youngster they had often told her of its enchantment, of how it held an ancient but comforting power. Their tales were what kept Emroon going through the tough memory-filled journey, and she was determined to reach the Abbey and start over.

Raising the dirk so it was at eye level, she swiftly checked it over and nodded with approval. The weapon was a prized possession of hers, a gift her parents had given her only a season before. Although it painfully reminded her of her past, it had served her well. It was a beautiful piece, longer than a dagger and shorter than a sword. The black hilt was ordained with markings much like that of flowing water, and the sheath was covered in small blue jewels. She dared not run a webbed paw along the edge of the blade, for she would surely receive a deep cut. All in all it was a formidable weapon.

Stashing the weapon nearby in case of emergency, Emroon lay on the cool ground and stared outside at the still night, wondering what Redwall would be like. She had no doubt it was everything like her parents had said it was and more. The Abbey was a legend in Mossflower, and tomorrow she would see it with her own eyes.

Sleep quickly stole up on the unsuspecting ottermaid, causing her eyelids to close. She fell into a deep slumber, unaware that on the horizon awaited an incredible journey.

Chapter 2

The new day was welcomed by the cheery songs of various woodland birds, their voices echoing through the trees and alerting everybeast that the morning had arrived. Like a golden scone dipped in honey, the sun rose steadily into the sky, chasing away the moon and shining its wondrous light down upon Mossflower. As always the canopy broke the rays into many sections, illuminating the earth in random places. The fresh summer air was such a delight to inhale, it could make a smile appear on the lips of even the grumpiest beasts.

Emroon's ears flicked as a bird's song bounced off the walls in the small but cozy cave. Slowly opening her eyes, the young ottermaid sat up and stretched her weary limbs. Never one to idle, she was always up at dawn or shortly after. Crawling out from the cave, she shielded her gaze with a paw and glanced upwards at the colourful ribbons that streamed through the heavens. She loved watching the sun rise and set each day, as it often gave her time to either reflect on the day or prepare for a new one. Wasting no time, Emroon dove expertly into the adjacent river, its cool water a welcoming sensation on such a warm morning. As otters go, they are one of the most playful creatures. Emroon was no exception to this as she launched herself into the air like a dolphin. She chortled joyfully and continued to perform spectacular leaps. Her sleek form, webbed paws, and rudder-like tail were valuable tools for exploring underwater, and like all her species she was an expert swimmer. However, much as she wanted to play, she knew she had to continue on her journey.

After finished her morning exercises, the young ottermaid packed up her provisions, made sure the dirk was in the sword belt she wore around her waist, and started on her destination. She was not all that far from the Abbey, and with luck she would make it in an hour's time. With a smile on her pretty features and her head held up proudly, Emroon inhaled the sweet morning air and made her way to her new life.

The derivation behind the name Redwall came from the fact that when the stones were cast in sunlight, they gave off a rosy hue. Clematis clung to the ancient walls from top to bottom, their delicate white petals shimmering in the golden light that steadily rose with each passing minute. A stream of sunlight bounced off the Belltower, causing the twin bells inside to sparkle much like water did when light hits its surface. These were the Matthias and Methuselah Bells, named after two long-dead mice. If there was an emergency of any kind, the bells would be tolled. They would also ring out to signal meals, weddings, and deaths.

A small mole clambered up the steps in the tower, eager to perform her duties as Bellringer. A hedgehog waddled behind her. Upon reaching the twin ropes that were attached to the bells, they grasped one each between their paws and, grinning at each other, pulled hard. The mole was lifted into the air by the weight of the Matthias bell, clinging to the rope with all four paws. Up and down she went as the massive object tolled its morning song. Her companion giggled and helped her down, as moles were not very fond of heights. The two bells were a familiar sound in Mossflower, a gentle tune that warmed the hearts of all woodlanders. Their songs stretched out for miles, reaching the farthest points of the land. Still on the North Path, Emroon could hear the music, almost as if it was leading her right to the Abbey.

Rubbing sleep from his eyes, Semser wearily made his way down to Cavern Hole. He eventually found out that he and Alddon had to sit beside Mahdis Camberk for the duration of breakfast. This wasn't a bad thing, but it meant their punishment from yesterday was not over.

As he aided in preparing a batch of raisin scones, Semser took in the impressive sight. It was extremely rare to see a male badger living at the Abbey as they would normally just visit. Traditionally it had always been females who resided at Redwall, but Mahdis Camberk was the exception. He was born and bred in Mossflower and not destined to rule Salamandastron. In truth he had never seen the ancient mountain, though he often spoke of visiting it before his seasons drew to an end. Like most male badgers he had quite a large stature and the normal headstripes. His eyes were a homely shade of brown that held many seasons of wisdom, and he was incredibly skilled in the knowledge of herbs and remedies. For this reason he was the Infirmary Keeper, liked and respected by all.

Everybeast performed some sort of job to help the Friar prepare the meals, which were always set out buffet-style on the numerous tables that lined Cavern Hole. At each corner of the large room, resting on the ancient stone, were sconces. There were a type of light fixture that allowed torches to be placed inside them, and they could be seen all around the Abbey. Skipper was responsible for lighting and extinguising them. Using an already lit torch from Great Hall, the burly otter leader merely brought his torch close to the one stuck in the sconce, and a crackling flame was instantly born. He repeated this procedure three more times before sitting down at a table with his crew.

Rising from his chair – which was always situated at the head of the column behind a massive oak table – Abbot Torlay lifted his paws in the air, effectively silencing the morning gossip. All eyes turned to the hare. He clasped his paws together, slightly bowed his head, and recited the Abbey grace.

'Seasons of plenty at Redwall,

Yield their bounty to us all,
From the good earth's fertile soil,
We who bent our backs in toil,
Reaped Mother Nature's rich reward,
To bring unto this festive board,
This food which we have laboured for,
What honest beast could ask for more,
Save that kind seasons never cease,

And hope to live long lives in peace!'

Just as everybeast sat down and prepared to eat, Askhew burst through the doors of Cavern Hole. He rarely joined the inhabitants for breakfast, choosing to hunt the woodlands for more appropriate food. His huge eyes, the pupils so dilated the green irises was hardly noticeable, fixed themselves on Torlay. "Pardon the interruption, Abbot, but there is an ottermaid at the front gates who wishes to enter."

Forgetting their meal, curious Redwallers lined the grounds outside the main building, eager to catch a glimpse of the new visitor. Abbot Torlay, Tsella, and Mahdis Camberk headed the front, patiently waiting as Skipper and two of his crew memberd opened the massive gates.

Semser too was intrigued as to the traveller's identity. He stood alongside his friends and was murmuring something to Adine when the creature materialized from the gates and appeared on the stone path that led from the front to the main structure. He found himself staring at a beautiful young ottermaid of about the same age. She was well-built and carried nothing more than a pouch and a curious-looking weapon. Semser was not knowledgeable in the art of weaponry; he made a mental note to inquire her of it later.

The ottermaid stopped some ways before the Abbot and bowed, respectfully holding her silence. Torlay took a few pawsteps forward and returned the gesture. "'Tis always a blessing to be in the presence of such a pretty creature. Welcome to Redwall Abbey, friend. I am Abbot Torlay. If I may ask, what is your name and purpose here?"

Her voice was soft and gentle. "Good morning, Father Abbot. I am called Emroon, and I have come to your Abbey after a long journey. My parents visited here when I was nought but a babe; they told me many stories about your home. I'm a traveler and wanted to see Redwall for myself."

Torlay smiled at her kindness. "Any creature with a good heart is welcome at Redwall Abbey. You may stay as long as you wish. Come, you must be hungry; we're about to have breakfast."

As the Abbot simultaneously motioned for her to follow and turned heel, Semser took the opportunity to tease the newcomer. He strode up beside her and winked broadly. "Traveler eh? You look more like a country bumpkin t'me."

Behind them Emroon could hear the others snickering. Figuring this otter was nothing more than an insolent rogue feebly attempting to irritate her, she merely shrugged carelessly. "You'll be thinking different thoughts when I cut off your whiskers in your sleep."

Semser, however, was not to be outdone. He winked again and leaned in to whisper so the Abbot would not hear. "Just be sure t'call him Father."

The sleeves on Torlay's brown habit dangled as he spread his arms wide, treating the inhabitants to a rare smile. "Friends, we have a new beast among us this morning. Please join me in welcoming Emroon the ottermaid. She is from the far Westlands and has traveled many a day to reach our Abbey. She has asked me if she could become a permanent resident at Redwall. What do you think?"

As Emroon walked around the tables, she was overcome by a sense of acceptance. The Redwall inhabitants were certainly very welcoming of guests, and they displayed it by shaking her paws and introducing themselves. Upon sitting at one of the tables she was immediately swarmed by several Redwallers, all of whom were young male otters.

"'Ere, try this strawberry an' rhubarb turno'er, 'tis delicious!"

"Don't eat that! 'Ave some o' my wheat an' blueberry pancakes with 'oney."

"Don't listen to 'im, marm. My mum's famous fer 'er scones. Why don't ye try one?"

Abbot Torlay shooed them away with a flick of his paws. "Go on now, leave the poor maid alone. She just arrived and you're already bombarding her."

Emroon could not hide a chuckle. "At least I got a warm reception."

The hare smiled and patted her paw fondly. "You will always find a jovial welcome here at Redwall. After you are finished breakfast, my good friend Tsella will give you a tour of the Abbey. Your dormitory is already prepared, and a habit is on your bed if you wish to wear it. I only ask that you leave your dirk at your bedside, as we do not allow weapons to be worn here."

Emroon was disappointed but knew she had to comply. "I understand Father."

As Torlay smiled and turned to head back to his seat, he felt her paw on his arm. "One last thing. See that young otter over there? What's his name?"

The Abbot's eyes followed to where she was pointing. "That would be Semser. He's a rascal of an otter and can be a bit hotheaded at times. Oh, and if I may ask one more thing of you, I prefer not to be called Father."

Realizing that Semser had played a trick on her, Emroon simply nodded and returned the smile. "My mistake, Abbot."

He gave her a cheerful wink and returned to his seat. A blast of air shot from Emroon's nostrils in annoyance as she glared at Semser's back, but she decided to wait before speaking with the cheeky otter. She was not about to cause a scene upon just arriving. Pushing the thought aside for the time being, she started a conversation with the creature next to her – a young but large hedgehog – and ate breakfast with her new friends.

Once the meal was finished and everything was cleaned up, the Redwallers went about their business. Emroon quickly saw that they were all very efficient in their work, and within minutes Cavern Hole became deserted. Torlay remained good on his promise, and before long she found herself walking Great Hall with Tsella.

"So," the female hare's voice echoed off the stones of the massive Hall. "Abbot Torlay says you're from the Westlands?"

Upon meeting her Emroon felt an immediate friendship with Tsella. The haremaid was a kind and pretty creature who seemed to be very close with the Abbot. "Born and bred there."

"You mentioned your parents have been here before?"

As they walked Emroon marveled at the magnificent beauty of the tapestry that hung from the wall. She sensed a powerful but secure feeling around them. "Aye, they heard about it from a member of our village. Said the Abbey was a wondrous place full of magic."

Tsella chuckled. "It certainly is magical, that's for sure. So this family friend of yours, they're what made you come here?"

Emroon hesitated. Although she greatly enjoyed the elder's company, she was not yet prepared to tell her the real reason why she was at the Abbey. "I wanted to see Redwall for myself. My parents often spoke about it, and they decided to come here for a few days when I was an infant. They told me they wanted to stay, but my father was the village's leader, so we had to return."

"Sounds like quite the nice village."

The young ottermaid's heart ached at this innocent comment. If only that were true. "I wanted to see Mossflower, explore unknown paths."

Tsella threw a friendly arm around her shoulders. "Well you've come to the right place."

They reached the end of the Hall and stood before Martin's picture. Emroon was immediately entranced by the Warrior's image, and once again she felt the strange aura surround her. It was the same as before: commanding yet gentle. "Who is that?"

"Martin the Warrior. He founded our Order and built the Abbey."

Emroon decided not to question her about the odd feeling. "He cuts quite the impressive figure."

A wide smile crept across the lips of Tsella. "Redwall Abbey is a magnificent place, Emroon. C'mon, there's lots more to see. Let me show you around."

The young ottermaid gave one last glance at Martin's picture before returning his smile and following the older hare to a door about halfway down the Hall. Neither of them saw the twinkle of the eyes of the Warrior nor the smile on his face that seemed to expand.

As they traversed the massive Abbey, Emroon came to realize that Tsella was right: Redwall was indeed an elegant place. Everything about it was beautiful: fresh, ripe fruit patiently waiting to be picked in the orchard, bees lazily buzzing around their hives, Dibbuns – this was the term used for all Abbey babes – splashing playfully in the shallows of the pond under the watchful eye of a group of elders, and an old fat hedgehog - the spines around his face turning grey - teaching archery to a group of youngsters.

Emroon nibbled on the last remains of her apple, which she had picked from one of the many trees in the orchard. "How old did you say this Abbey is?"

Tsella swallowed a big chunk of strawberry before replying. "As old as Mossflower itself."

"Yet I've seen no signs of aging."

The haremaid licked her paws. "Oh there's aging, believe me. But Foremole and his crew do an excellent job of keeping the Abbey in good condition."

"Foremole?" The term was foreign to Emroon.

Tsella patiently explained. "The leader of Redwall moles is always called Foremole, similar to Skipper of Otters. Don't worry, you'll quickly learn the way of life here. Now let's get you settled in."

The Redwall dormitories were separated into different sections, each room holding about twenty beds. Emroon found herself situated in a large bed about halfway down one of the rooms. It was a cozy-looking thing, with a small table resting beside it. Atop this was an unlit candle. Sighing blissfully, the young ottermaid loosened her pouch and placed it on the sheets.

She did not hear the approaching pawsteps until he was right behind her. "Need some help?"

Emroon refrained from rolling her eyes. "That's quite alright, you already helped me this morning."

Noting the sarcasm in her voice, Semser leapt onto the bed and slapped the sheets with his rudder. "So you'll be staying here from now on?"

She halted what she was doing and glared at him. "Is this normally the way you behave with guests?"

He ignored her question and instead focused his attention on her dirk. "I've never seen a weapon like that. What is it?"

Emroon was tempted to show him what the dirk could do, but she could tell he was truly intrigued. Extracting it from its sheath, she held it out so he could get a better view. "It's called a dirk. My mother and father gave it to me a season ago. See how it's somewhat between a dagger and sword?"

Although she wasn't sure why, she allowed him to hold it. He looked over it several times, clearly fascinated by it. "I've seen swords and the like, but never a dirk. It's beautiful."

His tone told her he was speaking the truth. "Thank you."

Still holding the dirk, Semser reached for the sheath that was resting on the bed. Emroon simultaneously went for it, and their paws touched. For a second the ottermaid thought she felt the tiniest spark of electricity on her claws.

"Sorry." Semser mumbled as he took his paw away. "Here, it's yours after all." He handed her the weapon, turned heel, and left the dormitory, pretending to find his bed even though it was across from Emroon.

She watched him leave. The young otter was certainly a mysterious creature. He was cute in a ruggish sort of way – although she would never admit that to him – and even though he had purposely annoyed her, she could not deny there was something about him. What it was she had yet to find out. But one thing she knew for certain: the air between them had swiftly changed direction.

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