Note: This story is not canon, but it is a sequel to High Rhulain.
Salamandastron was silent on the outside, with the exception of a single barnacle goose and myself. Storm clouds were forming. I hurried inside, longing for a bit more of peace and quiet. My hopes shattered when I was met by a rowdy gang of young hares. “Brantalis has arrived!” they shouted. “He has brought a letter from Abbess Lycian, and Brother Girry’s chronicle!” They handed me the scroll. I opened it, and this is what I found…
Book 1 : The Homecoming
Redwall Abbey was full of excited beasts. Tomorrow the High Queen Rhulain Tiria Wildlough was coming home to Redwall! The otter ruler of Green Isle was originally a Redwall beast. But nobeast was more excited or more anxious than Asria Ripplestream Wildlough. She had reason to be, for she was Tiria’s adopted sister, though they had never met before.
“What if she doesn’t like me? What if she doesn’t think I’m a good enough warrior?” she wondered nervously.
“Now, now, Asria. You’re just as good a slingbeast as Tiria, if not better. Don’t tell her I said that, or you’ll be on Abbess’ Report, and believe me, I’m not going to make it easy for you.” Abbess Lycian said, with a twinkle in her eye. The pretty mouse was one of the youngest creatures ever to become Ruler of Redwall.
“But I prefer to use a blade or arrow!” Asria said, but she was feeling much better. Meanwhile in the kitchens of Redwall Abbey, Friar Bibble was busily directing helpers and setting up for the great homecoming feast.
“Take that damson pudden out of the oven before it burns, Sister Doral! Here, Burbee, will ye keep an eye on these Dibbuns while I go see how those flans that are cooling in Tiria’s old room are doing? Especially Yuffy. That little mouse is a big nuisance, to say the least.” Dibbun is the name conferred on all Abbeybabes.
“Burr hurr, oi surr will.” Molemum Burbee replied in rustic molespeech.
“Hey, Percal hogbabe, where do you think you’re going?!”
“Jus’ go to check flan. You sta’ here an’ kee’ eye on Yuff’!”
“Oh no you don’t, Percal! Ye stay here. I’ll go check on them.” Friar Bibble almost crashed into Recorder Girry, who was so busy writing that he didn’t see where he was going.
“In the name of seasons, Girry! Ye have to stop writing while walking!”
“You really shouldn’t do that, Girry. How many times do I have to tell you! I wonder what Old Quelt would say…But I dearly hope he’ll be awake in time to see Tiria come back tomorrow!” cried a shrill voice. Bibble turned around, discovering Sister Snowdrop the librarian. He threw up his paws in exasperation.
“Why am I running into everybeast today? It seems like all I have to do is walk out of the kitchen and somebeast comes. At this rate, the feast will never be fully prepared for!” the shrewcook said. The good Sister put a sympathetic paw on Bibble’s shoulder.
“I know what you mean. We, or should I say I, am sorry that we stopped you. I have a idea. To make up for it, why don’t we help you in the kitchens?” The Friar laughed. All goodbeasts knew that the jobs in the kitchens, the cellars, and out on the Abbey pond were the most fun.
“No, ye don’t have to. I already have more than enough pore beasts working their paws off in the kitchen. Why don’t you go help Brink Greyspoke and Skipper Banjon pair cheese and drinks? Or, ye could help set up dinner out on the lawn. It’s the middle of summer, so it will be nice.”
Asria wandered about the grounds alone. She had nothing to do, because everybeast had excused her from any tasks, for tomorrow was her special day. Asria saw a stone on the ground and kicked it. Suddenly she got an idea.
“I’ll practice slinging! And swordfighting, if Dobra Westbrook or his dad Log a Log Urfa is free.” She ran off to find her shrew friends. As it turned out, neither of them were free to help Asria practice. Dobra was helping Friar Bibble, and Log a Log was setting up dinner. The ottermaid kicked another stone dejectedly.
“Even if I practice my paws off, Tiria will still be better than me. And I need somebeast to fight with if I’m going to do my swordfighting. Oh well, I guess I’ll practice my archery then.” She ran off to get her longbow and arrows. Asria walked into Mossflower Woods. She had a target in a hidden clearing known only to her. Or so she thought. Sinister eyes were watching her every move.
Heetic Marshun was mad. The villianous searat had many creatures to do his bidding, but none with a brain of their own. Heetic had seen to that. Sometimes he regretted killing everybeast with original ideas. He let out a long sigh and told his General, Jawtail the stoat, to get his Seer, Girva. When Girva was in Heetic’s cabin, Heetic commanded the old fox to foretell his future.
“O Mighty Lord, my eye is unseeing. I cannot do what you ask me to.” Heetic flew into a rage. He went out of his luxurious cabin and killed the nearest creature. It was a weasel.
“Wot are yew all starin’ at? Go back to yer work!” The corsairs hurried back to their tasks, too shaken to speak. Seeva the weasel was simmering with rage. The weasel that Heetic had killed was her mate.
“Who does he think he is, killin’ Frunktail like that.” She was startled to hear a reply.
“He’s Heetic Marshun, of course. He can do anythink he want, mate.” This was coming from the searat working next to her. Seeva clenched her fists. “Not for long. Wot do yew say to quittin’ the crew and livin off the land?”
“It’s not gonna work, weasel. Heetic can see anythink he’s a mind to see.”
Asria was practicing her archery. Arrow after arrow thudded into the knot of the tree. She was about to put down her quiver and practice slinging her dagger when she heard a voice calling her.
“Asria, it’s time for dinner! Hurry up or I’ll scoff up your portion and leave none for ye.” It turned out to be Dobra Westbrook.
“Dobra, ye old rascal! Don’t you dare eat all the… I mean anything until I get there! Anyways, how did you know that I was there?”
“I didn’t. I could figure out your general area from the sound of the arrows, and I called ye and hoped ye would come out.” The two friends walked off, paw in paw. Although this dinner was before the feast, it was still as hearty as ever, which meant a LOT of food. Asria dug into a leek and mushroom pasty, and her favorite, watershrimp and hotroot soup. Dobra favored some Woodland Trifle and fresh-baked shrewcakes. Great Hall was filled with the chatter of the Redwallers.
On the shore by the mountain fortress of Salamandastron, Lord Mandoral was talking earnestly with his adviser and most trusted confederate, Colonel O’Cragg.
“Who could we send? We can’t spare more than 3 hares because of the constant sightings of vermin ships. I don’t know who is able to both fulfill my dream and also protect Redwall Abbey.”
“I can only think of one hare, m’Lord.”
“And who might that be?”
“You don’t mean Sergant Starsky Blossomscut Bobbscut Curlscut? But we need her here.”
“Still, isn’t Redwall more important? As far as I know, there are only 2 otters in residence there. Brother Girry and Foremole Tribsy could be warriors if roused, but that’s really all I know of. Oh yes, Tiria, her warriors, and Captain Quartle and his crew are going there. They’re gonna get there tommorrow, according to Brantalis.” Brantalis was a barnacle goose, acting as correspondence carrier to Green Isle, Redwall, and Salamandastron. After a long talk, Mandoral decided to send Starsky and Captain Portan to Redwall Abbey. He summoned the two up to his chambers right after dinner ended.
“Yes, m’Lord? What do you want from us?” said Starsky, acting as spokeshare for them both.
“I want you both to go to Redwall Abbey on a special mission.”
“M’Lord? Did I hear you right?” was Starsky’s calm response.
“Ohmyflippinblinkin aunt’s pinny! I’ll do it, m’Lord, I’m absoballylutely I will! You can count on me. When do we go, wot wot?” said Porters.
“I want you to go right after breakfast tomorrow morning. Oh yes, and also look for this badger.” The aging badger recited this verse:
He who walks with outlaws,
Also will walk with you.
He who has a light,
Let his enemies be few.
He who holds an ancient,
Let his enemies flee.
He who studies feather marks,
Let his enemies plead.
He who carries no blade,
Let his enemies be awed.
He who farms the land,
Will be the next Badger Lord!
“So the next Badger Lord is going to walk with outlaws, have a light, hold an ancient, study feather marks, not carry a blade, and farm the land? Most of that can be anybeast. I mean, doesn’t almost everybody at Redwall not carry a blade, farm the land, and have a light?” said Starsky. Porters interrupted.
“I think I jolly well know what ‘walk with bally outlaws’ means. The otters of Green Isle were either outlaws or slaves, so maybe this bloomin’ badger got picked up by Tiria an’ her crew. Also I know ‘studies blinkin’ feather marks’ means that he’s a scholar. I learned that from Tiria when she told me about her dream.”
General Jawtail knocked on Heetic’s cabin door. He received no answer. Timidly, and ready to pull back if he needed to, he opened the door. His Chief was lying on the bed and muttering,
“I already killed yew, stripedog! Yew can’t harm me. Yer dead!” Not knowing what to do, Jawtail closed the door slowly and quietly. He would have to listen to the scouts’ reports himself. Rusttail was the leader of the expedition. He was immensly proud of himself.
“Guess what I found, General! Guess!”
“I’ll make you guess what I’m going to do to you if you don’t get on with your report!” Rusttail gulped.
“There was this big building. There were all these smells comin’ from it. The beasts inside it were all peaceful. We could take it easy, General, an’ then Chief would promote yew to Supreme General and me to General. How does that sound?” Jawtail said nothing, though he was fancying the idea. Then he had a sudden thought.
“I think that’s the place they call Wallred, or Redwalls. ‘Ll be suicide to take that place. Some say the place is cursed to all searats, corsairs, or conquerors. We shouldn’t even try, Rusttail. Yew can if yew want to get killed.”
It was early in the morning, but all of Redwall was awake. Abbess Lycian sent Brantalis to see where the ship was. He soon arrived back with the news that they would arrive by noon. Last minute preperations for the feast were made, and everybeast got into their best outfits. The preperations were barely finished when a loud banging on the gate startled everybeast. The harvest mouse gatekeepers, Hillyah and Oreal, hurried to the gates. As is customary, Hillyah shouted, “Who are you? State who you are and why you come to Redwall.” A voice that everybeast reconigzed answered back.
“The High Queen Rhulain Tiria Wildlough and her companions, come for a visit to Redwall!” Hillyah and Oreal swiftly unbarred the gates and let everybeast in. Tiria made straight for Skipper, her father. She was pulling back from her hug when she noticed the tall, strong ottermaid standing next to her father.
“Skip, who is that ottermaid?”
“Are you serious? Hi, Asria! I feel like we’re going to be great friends! Skip, you never told me how you came by her.” Then Asria spoke for the first time.
“Come, let’s go sit down. I’ll tell you my story while we eat.” They went to the lawn and sat down on a blanket.
“Asria, first, before you tell me your story, tell me what you like.”
“Well, first off, I prefer a sword or dagger or bow to a sling. Second, my best friend is Dobra Westbrook. Third, I can eat almost as fast and as much as the best of the hares.”
“Wow. Now tell me how you came to live at Redwall.”
“When I was a little baby, a horde of searats and corsairs attacked my family. Luckily, I was floating in my cradle in the stream. The corsairs beat my parents and left them for dead. After a while, Skipper heard my cries. He found me and adopted me.
“Skipper named me Asria because he said he had always wanted another ottermaid named Asria. Unfortunatly, your mother had died before they had a chance.
“My parents had been found by another holt. They nursed my parents back to health. My parents’ names are Oceanbreeze and Toyurn Galedeep. My name was Ripplestream Galedeep.
“My parents thought that I was killed by the searats. Still, they never gave up searching for me. One day, when I was about eight seasons old, they showed up here. When they told Skipper my description, he brightened up and brought me to them. They were overjoyed.
“After a lot of talking, they came to an arrangement. I was to stay here at Redwall with Skipper, and my name was to be Asria Ripplestream Wildlough. My parents are here right now, perhaps you’d like to meet them?”
“Oh, of course! I’d love to meet them!” Tiria exclaimed. So the two ottermaids went to find Asria’s parents. When they found them, Asria introduced Tiria to her parents. They were overjoyed to meet her and greeted Tiria warmly.
“We’ve heard all about you, Tiria! I can’t believe we’re finally meeting you!” This was coming from Oceanbreeze, Asria’s mother. She was a slim otter, graying but undeniably beautiful.
“I can see where your good looks come from, Asria!” joked Tiria. Toyurn stood up and made a bow.
“Indeed, thank you miss. I greatly appreciate your compliment!” Everybeast laughed. Friar Bibble stood up. “Will everybeast please be seated for a minute? Abbess Lycian is going to say grace.” Tiria and Asria returned to their blanket. After Lycian had said grace, everybeast dug into the delicious food. Redwall has never has been known to stint on food, and this applied to the feast as well.
“Mmmmm! I would gladly trade all the fruits of Green Isle for one pot of Friar Bibble’s watershrimp and hotroot soup!” Tiria exclaimed.
“Mmmm! Looks like dose Abbeycreatures are enjoying themselves!”said Hangfur, a weasel. His companion, a rat named Fanggut nodded.
“Don’t yew wish we was in there too?”
Porters was stuffing himself with all the food that came to paw.
“Why are you eating so much?” Starsky asked.
“Because on the jolly old mission, mmmf scrrmh, we won’t have much to eat, mmmmch!” replied Porters, his mouth full. Porters shouldn’t have said that, for as soon as the words left his mouth, Starsky and Porters were being mobbed by hares. Starsky directed all the attention onto Porters, and sighing, she picked up her tray and went to her own chambers. As she finished her dinner and went to bed, a wave of lethargy washed over her, and she was soon asleep. In her dream, she saw a mouse in armor with a wondrous sword, and he spoke to her.
“You must accomplish this quest, for the fate of all Mossflower depends on it!” Starsky could not sleep after that, and she tossed and turned for the rest of the night.
Asria woke up to the sounds of somebeast pounding on the door of the Abbey. Hillyah rushed to the gates.
“Say who you are and why you come to our Abbey!” she shouted. The reply back was suprising.
“We are the troops of Heetic Marshun and have come to ask of you something!” Jawtail shouted. When no reply came, Jawtail told his troops to keep an eye on the walltops. Skipper, aroused by this reply, went up to the battlements and shouted,
“What do ye ugly vermin want?”
“If you surrender this Abbey, we will spare your lives. “
“An’ wot happens if we don’t?”
“We will besiege your Abbey until you surrender.” Skipper did not give the courtesy of a reply, but instead started slinging stones like a madbeast.
“Redwaaaaaaaaaaaaallllllllllllllll!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” The corsairs were taken aback by the onslaught and ran into the cover of the woods.
Jawtail slunk back behind his troops, hoping to not bring his Chief’s wrath upon him. But as soon as he arrived, he heard Heetic’s call.
“So, I see you captured the Abbey, my brave General.” Heetic’s voice dripped sarcasm. “Where are the hordes of Abbeydwellers awaiting my pleasure? You did not carry out my orders. Instead, you lost ten loyal beasts, and half of the remaining have wounds. Why is this?” Jawtail did not answer, only lowered his head.
“Because you let a waterdog attack you!” Heetic ranted.
“Because you let dose bumpkins defeat you!” He lowered his voice to a converstational tone.
“Tell me now, is that how Heetic Marshun’s General should behave?” he asked like an old mousewife.
“Nn-nno, Chief.” Jawtail stammered. He was startled by the sudden outburst.
“Of course not! How am I supposed to conquer Redwall Abbey if all my beasts are cowards? You, Jawtail, go stand in the River Moss for the night. If you even try to get out, you will be killed.” Miserably, Jawtail nodded.
Abbess Lycian was surprised when Skipper, Asria, and Tiria made their report.
“So now we have a horde of vermin trying to conquer the Abbey?” Skipper nodded.
“If only we had more hares! But Quarters’ crew is in Green Isle, taking the place of the Green Clan Regiment.” He said.
“Maybe Brantalis could fly over and request half a score of regular hares or the equivalent?” Asria suggested tentatively.
“Great idea!” exclaimed the abbess. “Brantalis, over here!” The barnacle goose waddled over.
“I am thinking you have a job for me?”
“As a matter of fact, I do. Will you fly over to Salamandastron and request half a score of hares?”
“I am thinking that if you want me to, do it I will!” Without another word, he waddled outside and soared off. Soon he was lost to view.
“Typical Brantalis! He doesn’t even ask why we need hares, and he was in bed while it happened!” Tiria huffed. A sudden sound behind her caused her to whirl around. She found herself being enveloped in a great big hug.
“Tiria! Oh, welcome back!”
“Old Quelt? I thought you went to the gates of Dark Forest a long time ago! I’m so happy to see you still in the land of the living!” Tiria joyfully shouted.
Starsky and Porters were ready to leave Salamandastron. They went thourgh one last item check, and set off.
“I wonder how we’re going to find that badger?” asked Starsky. “What I mean is, how does a badger, or any other creature, hold an ancient? And how is holding a light so special?”
“Why are you jolly asking me? I don’t know anything about bloomin’ … I don’t know!” After a while, they sat down to eat lunch. They were about to take a nap when they saw a dust cloud coming towards them. Porters was about to leap up when Starsky cautioned him,
“Don’t let them see us run away.” Noticing Porters’ shocked expression, she continued,
“We’ll never be able to defeat a horde that has a dust cloud. We’ll crawl off out of it’s path and maybe we can take some off the back, as long as they don’t cry out.” They crawled off on their bellies out of the path. Luckily, the horde didn’t notice them. While the horde was passing by, Starsky noted with horror that there was at least fourscore vermin that were heading towards Salamandastron. She remarked on this to Porters. Porters asked,
“Should we go back and report to the bally mountain, wot wot?”
“I don’t think we should, becaues Lord Mandoral told us to go to Redwall. When we get there, we can send Brantalis to go and tell Mandoral.”
“But won’t that be too bloomin’ late? Wot I mean is, the jolly old mountain is only a half-day’s journey away, and the blinkin’ Abbey is a week away.” No sooner had the words left his mouth when Brantalis arrived, plopping down almost on Porters’ head.
“I am thinking you will want to hear my requests!”
“Yes, what is it, Brantalis?”
“The Redwall Abbess has send me to Salamandastron to request the equivalent of 10 hares. From the looks of you, I assume you two fit the requirements?” Starsky was indignant.
“Wot, you don’t mean that you think we’re only good enough to be equal to 10 hares? If you must know, I’M equal to ten hares myself, and Porters here is five. Can you still go to Salamandastron and warn Mandoral that a horde of vermin will be there in a day? Quickly now. Go!” Without another word, the two hares rose and continued on their trek.
A loud banging on the gate startled everybeast. Again, Hillyah rushed to the gate. She shouted the message. The answer was so quiet that Hillyah had to strain to hear it.
“Please open up, I have a little baby badger here, we are in desperate need of help.” Hillyah and Oreal rushed to open the gate. They let in a female badger in her mid-seasons holding a young badger. The badger seemed on the verge of collapse. Brother Perant, the infirmary keeper, rushed to help them. She was covered with terrible lacerations from head to tailtip. Brother Perant hurried to stitch and bandage her wounds up, while Tiria and Asria took the Dibbun. He was a male badger, and his headstripe was yellow instead of white. Seeing them notice this, the female badger weakly told them,
“His name is Sunflash.” Asria gasped.
“I just noticed somethin’. He looks exactly like the pictures of Sunflash the Mace in our Abbey Records!” Just then, the little badger said,
“I hungy. Me wants strawbee fizz.” The two ottermaids hurried down to the kitchens with Sunflash. The other little ones looked at Sunflash with curiostity, except for Yuffy, the little mousebabe. He ran up to Sunflash and said,
“I bee’s Yuffy. Who bee’s you?” The badger replied,
“I bee’s Sunglash, and also bee’s hungy!” The two babes walked off, paw in paw.
“Well, at least Sunflash has a pal around here, Tiria.” Asria annouced with relief.
“Why don’t we go up and see how the other one is doing?” Tiria asked. Asria agreed. When they got to the Infirmary, the badger was sitting up in bed. Asria now noticed that this badger had no headstripe, and was all black. The badger smiled weakly and said
“Hello, friends. I am Midnight. We came from the Northern Shores. We were the only survivors of a vermin attack on our home. When they were sailing away, I heard the vermin chanting, ‘Heetic! Heetic! Marshun! Marshun! Kill kill kill!’” Asria gasped.
“Heetic Marshun?! That’s the name of the one who wants to conquer this Abbey!” She was surprised when Midnight growled.
“I have a score to settle with that rat. He killed my family and friends. The only living relation I have now is little Sunflash. He was my sister’s son.” Asria interrupted.
“Midnight, have you heard of the mountain fortress of Salamandastron?” Midnight shook her head.
“No, I haven’t, could you please tell me about it?”
Heetic Marshun was proud of himself. He had split his horde in half, and set Fatchop, one of the minor generals, in charge of one. He reasoned that eightscore well-trained fighters were more than enough to conquer Salamandastron. He would use the rest and soon would command Redwall Abbey. He summoned Girva, his Seer. She took out her bag of stones and chanted a spell in a language he did not understand. Girva tossed the stones up. When they landed, Girva explained.
“You see, this piece of sandstone is the Abbey. These small pebbles are your horde, marching towards Redwall. This cone-shaped piece is Salamandastron, and see, the pebbles are covering it. These sticks have fallen in the shape of a 3, which means you will conquer at least Salamandastron, if not the Abbey, in three days.” She gulped as Heetic seized her by the throat.
“You better be right, cos if’n yer not, you’ll be running for your life, fox!” Girva nodded.
Starsky and Porters had put a lot of distance behind them by nightfall.
“When d’you think we’ll get there?” Starsky asked.
“Oh, around suppertime, I hope, wot wot!” Porters replied.
“At least you’re just an average hare, and don’t eat more than the average hare…” Starsky replied.
“Should we camp out here in the open or forge onwards till we find a cave?”
“I think we should keep on going. Find some bally good shelter so I can rest my handsome head.” After a while, they found a good cave. Starsky lit a small fire, and that night they had candied chestnut trifle and a loaf of bread with leeks baked into it. Soon they were fast asleep. Luckily, they were still not without deefense. Right after they fell asleep, a tribe of otters silently set themselves as sentries at the mouth of the cave.
Lord Mandoral was in his forge when Brantalis arrived with the news. He immediantly shouted,
“Everybeast, get a good night’s rest! We have a horde of vermin marching towards us . They’ll be here tomorrow. Make sure your weapons are at their fighting beast. O’Cragg, up here.” As the night wore on, Lord Mandoral and Colonel O’Cragg were deep in converstation. A barnacle goose was winging its way east at the same time.
The next morning was cold. It was getting closer and closer to winter. The morning found Brother Girry in the gatehouse. The Autumn of the Returning Warriormaid is drawing to a close. Soon, Mother Abbess will name the season. The end of this season was very eventful. Just yesterday, a middle-aged badger with a Dibbun showed up at our Abbey. She was covered with terrible lacerations and was very weak. Her name is Midnight. The Dibbun’s name is Sunflash, and he looks remarkably like the pictures of Sunflash the Mace. Recorder Girry stood up and stretched. He was about to sit back down when he heard a commotion coming from the Abbey steps.
“Oh, where have they gotten to? A pair of Dibbuns can’t have gone far…” It was Tiria’s voice. Girry hurried outside.
“It’s Yuffy again, right. But I heard you say a pair of Dibbuns, so who’s the other one?” he asked.
“It’s Yuffy and Sunflash, or ‘Sunglash’ as he calles himself. That Yuffy is a nuisance. Sunflash was a good little badgerbabe, until he became friends with Yuffy. Come on, let’s search for them.” Tiria replied.
The two Dibbuns in question were hiding in a cupboard in the domitories. Sharing a strawberry trifle and a flagon of strawbery fizz purloined from Brink Greyspoke’s cellars and the windowsills, they giggled.
“They bee’s looking for us and saying ‘Oh, where bee’s they? Pair o’ dibins not go far.’" Sunflash said. Yuffy chuckled at what he thought was a good impersonation of Tiria. Soon, they fell asleep, their chubby arms around each other. Asria finally found the two Dibbuns. She woke them up and scolded them severely. Asria made them take a bath and then sent them up to bed with no dinner. The two Dibbuns were mad. They hatched a plan to leave Redwall when everybeast was sleeping. That night, when it was dark, the two youngsters stole down to the kitchens and took some food. Then they went over to the wicker gate and opened it.
Starsky and Porters were almost at Redwall. They sighted it while standing on top of a hill.
“You reckon we should go to Redwall? Or should we rest?” Starsky asked.
“Let’s stay here until morning. I’m really tired.” Porters replied. Suddenly, they heard a shriek. Starsky whispered,
“You stay here. I’m going over to investigate.” A couple minutes later, she came back.
“It’s a horde of vermin. They’ve got two Redwall Dibbuns. We’ve got to rescue them!” There was a unmistakable note of urgency in her voice. Silently, Starsky and Porters crept off.
Yuffy and Sunflash were very frightened. They clung to each other as Heetic came up to the cage they were in. He bared his teeth.
“So, my dear little Redwallers, how do you like my hospitality?” He had just turned back when he heard a loud warcry,
“EEEEEEEUUUUUUUUULLLLLLLLLLAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Frightened, the horde scattered in all directions. Heetic was about to rush and find who was shouting when suddenly, two hares bounded into the camp. One was whirling a slind, and the other was slashing with her sword. Heetic ran too, frightened by the look of real warriors.
“Well, that’s a job well done. Let’s go release those Dibbuns!” Starsky announced. They soon cut the Dibbuns down from their cage. Porters gasped.
“Hey, Starsky! Look at this bally badger! He’s the spittin’ bloomin’ image of Sunflash the Mace!” Just then, Sunflash said,
“My name bee’s Sunglash, and this bee’s Yuffy.” Starsky shouted,
“Ohmybloominflippinblinkingosh! I just realized what ‘holds an ancient’ and ‘has a light’ means. You see, he carries the image of Sunflash the Mace, and the name too. Look at his headstripe! It shines, even in the darkness. I think we might have found the next Badger Lord!”
“Heheheh, Starsky. I’ve never heard you talk like a hare before.” Porters realized.
“I only do it when I’m really surprised.” Just then, she heard a sound in the trees. She whirled around, angry with herself.
“Who goes there? Come out and fight, if you’re against us!” she shouted. Three otters walked out of the foilage. The tallest one introduced himself.
“I’m Skipper Treltor of the inland Galedeeps. This is my daughter, Syla.” The tall slim ottermaid bowed.
“And this is our best warrior, with the exception of me and Syla. His name is Haran.” The other otter nodded.
“Please, follow us.” Treltor said. Porters was about to agree when Starsky said,
“Thank you for your generous offer, but we have to get to Redwall tonight. “ Unruffled, Treltor replied,
“Then let us go with you to the Abbey, mateys. I haven’t tasted Abbey vittles in a badger’s age!” Porters jumped.
“Abbey food? I forgot all about that! I’ve only tasted it once, but I’m sure I’ll like it!
Again, a loud banging was heard thourghout the Abbey. Hillyah got up, but she was heard grumbling,
“Why can’t Oreal do it? Why do I always have to open the gate?” Hillyah went and opened the gate. Two hares and three otters walked in. Tiria went straight to one of the hares.
“Hi, Porters! How did you get here in such a short time?”
“Oh, we were already a quarter of the way here when Brantalis saw us.” Meanwhile, Starsky and Quarters were having a joyous reunion. They had been the best of friends when they were young, but Starsky had not been picked to go to Green Isle with Tiria. They had not been able to correspond as much anymore. Starsky had some questions for Midnight, the female badger who was Sunflash’s aunt.
“Are you farmers? Are you scholars?” Midnight just nodded.
“Did you arrive around the time Tiria arrived?” Midnight nodded again.
“Does Sunflash ever pretend to have a sword?” Midnight shook her massive head. Sunflash trotted into the room.
“So, what we have here, goodbeasts, is the next Badger Lord!” Starsky swooped up the baby badger into her arms.
“Problem is, we need him soon, but he’s too young! Right before I left Salamandastron, Martin the Warrior spoke to me. He said, ‘You must accomplish this quest, for the fate of all Mossflower depends on it!’ How are we supposed to do that?” Abbess Lycian answered.
“We can treat him like we did Russano, let him grow up and then go to Salamandastron. Since we found the successor, we’re safe.”
“I just hope that Mandoral won’t die before Sunflash is of age.” Starsky said.
“Oh, I almost forgot! Lycian, Tiria, and Asria, this is Treltor, Skipper of the inland Galedeeps.” Treltor stepped forward.
“Pleased to make yer aquaintances, ma’ams.”
“Seriously, Treltor? These Redwallers aren’t serious at all when it comes to friends! Oh, and by the way, this pretty otter is Syla. Don’t let her looks fool you, she’s as good a warrior as anybeast!” Syla stepped forward and acknowledged the Abbess with a grin.
“This is Haran. Treltor says that more of his holt are coming soon, he just needs to tell them to come here.” Haran nodded. Treltor told him,
“Why don’t ye go out and find the crew? The sooner they’re here, the better.” Abbess Lycian said,
“We need to hold a Council of War. Tiria, please go get the hares, Kolun, Leatho, and your father. Asria, Treltor and Syla, please come into Cavern Hole.“ They went off, deep in converstation.
Jawtail decided that he could not bear Heetic’s insults any longer. He was going to run away, but he wasn’t sure if he could pull it off. During the night, he pulled himself, dripping, out of the river. Jawtail had deserted his Chief!
Heetic was enraged, but decided that he would take his revenge later. He needed a new General, so he promoted Rusttail to the position of General. Rusttail was pleased at first, but when he heard Heetic calling for him, he was afraid.
“Y-y-y-ye-e-e-s-s-s, c-c-c-h-h-i-i-e-e-f-f-f? W-w-w-h-h-a-a-t-t d-d-o you want from me, c-c-c-h-h-i-i-e-e-f-f-f?” Heetic answered,
“Stop stuttering, fool! Come in!” Rusttail walked in, afraid of what he might encounter.
“I need you to go and take over Redwall! We should have it in at the most, seven days. Go now!” Rusttail hurried out.
Lord Mandoral was marching out at the head of the Long Patrol. He and Colonel O’Cragg had decided that instead of waiting for the horde, they would march out on them. He had left three-quarters of the Patrol back at Salamandastron, with O’Cragg in command.
“M’Lord, I see them! Look at that dust cloud…There must be at least eightscore! We only have threescore…Will we make it?” It was Subaltern Rythwaite.
“Oh, of course we’ll make it. We’ll only have to take out three or four each!” Mandoral smiled.
Fatchop wasn’t worried at all. There was less than half of his force coming out of Salamandastron. It would be less than a morning’s work taking care of them. Soon, he would hold Salamadastron, or rather, have it for the Chief. Just then, he saw the warriors. They were pretty far off, but he could tell that everybeast was battle-hardened. Fatchop was still not all that worried.
Mandoral could see the leader now, a stoat. He wasn’t unduly worried, as that vermin only fight out of fear of their leader, not out of loyalty. They just had to “cut off the snake’s head, and the body will die”. That stoat didn’t look all that commanding or warriorlike.
Both armies raced towards each other, confident they would win.
“Hurr, they bee’s attackin’, Muvver Abbess!” A breathless Burbee burst into Cavern Hole. Lycian, Tiria, Asria, Leatho Shellhound, Big Kolun Galedeep, Starsky, Skipper, Quarters, Porters, Treltor, Syla, and Haran were deep in converstation. Nobeast paid any attention to the flustered molemum, so she tried again.
“The vurmints bee’s attackin’!” This time, Leatho, who was the head of the Green Clan Regiment, noticed.
“All ye goodbeasts, will ye listen to this mole!” Nodding her thanks, Burbee countinued with her tale.
“Oi was moindin’ Yuff’ when a arrer came an’ almos’ hi’ me. When it landed, more arrers came. Oi brought Yuff’ insoide, but oi got hit by a arrer here.” She indicated her left shoulder. The arrow had grazed it, and there was a shallow cut.
“Burbee, go up to Brother Perant. He’ll take care of your shoulder. The rest of you, go up to the walls immediantly. We need everybeast who is able!” Lycian said. Right after she finished, everybeast disassembled, each going to get their own weapon. Asria sook out Dobra and his dad, Log-a-log. Then she went to get her bow. Tiria unbelted her sling, and went to get the rest of the Green Clan Regiment with Leatho and Kolun. The three hares got their swords and went off to supervise the walltops. Treltor, Syla, and Haran got the rest of the holt. They went to get their javelins. Up on the walltops, the hares, Asria, and Tiria were assembling the fighting beasts. There were about half a score of archers, including Starsky, Porters, Asria, and a couple otters. Tiria was the leader of the slingbeasts, which numbered about half a score also. All the rest of the Abbey’s young creatures were up there too, with the exception of the moles. Moles do not like high places. Some of the braver ones, however, brought loads of rubble up to the ramparts. This was an old trick that had been used thourghout the seasons. The moles loaded it into anything at paw and brought it up. Soon there were loads upon loads upon loads of dirt and stones up on the ramparts. Everybeast helped load it onto a large old sheet.
Rusttail had carried out his Chief’s orders. Most of the horde was on their way to Redwall, but ten were back guarding the camp. He was thinking about what honors he would get when he saw the Redwallers on the rooftop.
“General, many of them have bows or slings!” he heard a weasel say. He was not worried at all, until he reached the Abbey. There he saw that many of the creatures were warriors. Just when it seemed like they would make it, the Abbeydwellers tipped a huge load of rubble down unto them. Rusttail lost half his force plus half his ear!
“We did it, we did it!” There were joyous shouts from all over the Abbey. One Dibbun walked right up to the Abbess and asked,
“Muvver Abbess, can we’s have a partyfeast?” The Abbess couldn’t help smiling as she said,
“Of course we can. Such a big event deserves a feast!” She patted the Dibbun’s head. Asria was talking to the tapestry of Martin the Warrior. She said,
“Martin, sometimes I don’t like the feeling of killing otherbeasts. Did you ever feel this way?” Was it just the breeze, or did Martin wink at her? She couldn’t tell. All of a sudden, she fell asleep in front of the tapestry. Asria could see Martin the Warrior coming towards her thourgh the mists of the dream.
“You are right, it is never a good feeling. But you will need to do it again to rescue the slaves.” Martin faded away, and Asria woke up.
“Why were you asleep there? Did you faint or something?” It was Dobra Westbrook. He helped Asria up.
“Dobra, I dreamed of Martin the Warrior. He told me that I will need to kill morebeasts in order to rescue the slaves. The slaves are probably being held by Heetic Marshun.” Dobra nodded.
“Should we tell anybeast that we’re going? They might try to stop us.” he noted worriedly.
“Well, first off, we have to take Tiria and Syla with us. Second, I think we should tell Leatho and Skipper.” Dobra pulled a wry face and said,
“Why are they all otters? Why am I the only shrew, or for that matter, the onlybeast who’s not an otter?” They both laughed, then Asria became serious.
“Come on, let’s go get Tiria and Syla. Or rather, I’ll go get them. You go tell Skip and Leatho what we’re gonna do.” Each of them went off to do what they needed to do. As it happened, they were allowed to go out and rescue Heetic’s slaves.
“Just don’t get into too much trouble, mates. Ye better come back safely.” Skipper had said. Tiria and Syla had agreed to go with them. Haran had wanted to go too, but Treltor said that Redwall needed him. Reluctantly, Haran agreed.
The two armies had met at Salamandastron.
“So, I see you have yer army of rabbets, stripedog. We will surely conquer.” Fatchop sneered.
“We shall see about that, stoat.” The two armies came together, each under their own leader’s command.
Jawtail had been running the whole day. He stopped to rest, and suddenly saw Heetic! Jawtail pleaded with him,
“Please, Chief, I was only going to scout out the area around the Abbey! Please, Chief, spare my life!” Seeing that Heetic gave no answer, he rose up and ran again. When he looked back, Heetic was gone!
At that exact moment, Heetic was sleeping. In his dreams he saw a huge badger. Heetic had killed, or so he thought, this badger many seasons ago. The badger lifted a massive paw and pointed to Heetic.
“You may think I am dead, but I am not. Soon we will meet in battle.” The dream faded, and Heetic slept feverishly for the rest of the night.
Deep down in the galleys of the Whiplash, Heetic’s ship, the slaves were trying to free themselves with weapons they had stolen from the searats. Their leader, a squirrel named Parac, was already free, and he was helping the smallest slave, a hogbabe about six seasons old.
“Everybeast listen up! Those who are already free, help de ones closest to ye. If anybeast comes, quickly slide back onto yer bench an’ wrap the chains around yer paws. If everybeast close to ye is already free, don’ help de others. I knows ye will want to, but if ye are caught up an’ about, it’ll probably mean dat Heetic won’ ever leave us unguarded ever agin.” As he was speaking, the door burst open. A stoat and rat marched in.
“So, tehoughts of esacapin’, eh? Yew sehee, yew won’ ever esacape. I gots yer leader, sehee?” the stoat said. The rat, taking the hint, slowly edged over and grabbed Parac. The stoat was Killflag, the slavemaster. The rat was Daggerear, his assistant.
“Tehrow him in the hold, Dahaggerear!” As they marched Parac off, he shouted,
“Take every chance yer get, friends! Don’ worry bou' me, I’ll take care of meself!” The slaves returned to their benches, muttering,
“Oh, I won’t. Like it or not, we are goin’ to escape this ship!”
“Ole slavemaster, he thinks he talks like a gennelbeast but he talks like a vermin, cos he is one!”
“If only some warriorbeast would come and kill those two. That’s all I need. All I need!”
Tiria, Asria, Syla, and Dobra had found the ship without difficulty. They had gone first to Heetic’s camp, but the slaves were nowhere to be seen. Dobra had suggested the ship, and they all agreed.
“The Whiplash, huh? I bet that’s where all the slaves are. Ye could tell just by the name!” Dobra said.
“Shhhhh, everybeast. There’s probably somebeasts on the ship!” Syla cautioned. She was right. As they entered the ship, Asria suddenly ran a rat through.
“One down, plenny more to go…” she said. Tiria could tell she was shaken.
“It’s all right, Asria. I had the same feeling when I first killed.” Asria shook herself.
“I’ve done it at least five times, and I STILL don’t like it. Oh well, let’s go find those slaves, mateys!” They didn’t run into any more rats or corsairs, but when they reached the galleys, Syla said,
“There’s bound to be at least one in there. Be on guard, mateys!” She opened the door. There were rows and rows of slaves. Each one was chained to an oar. They were all in a pitiful state. Even Tiria gasped, and she had seen many a slavemaster abuse a slave. Strangely, there was nobeast there to guard them. Or was there? Was that big hulking shadow really a shadow, or a slavemaster? Suddenly, it turned around. It was a stoat, brandishing a whip.
“Wahat is yew dohooing hahere?” He charged at the friends. Asria didn’t spare a second. She had the sword of Martin out and ready to go. Asria charged at the stoat, and they met with a clang at the middle of the galleys. The stoat, who was Killflag, had taken out his cutlass. Asria made a swift thrust at his heart, but Killflag had deflected it, sending the sword deep into his arm. Killflag yowled.
“Arrrrrrrggggggggggggghhhhhhh!” He hesitated. That moment was all Asria needed. She swung her sword high above her head, and it cleaved Killflag’s head apart, killing him. Asria walked to the nearest slave.
“Redwwwaaaaaallllllll!” she shouted, shearing off the chains. Immediantly, Tiria, Syla, and Dobra rushed to free the rest of the slaves. A weasel, who had been wakened by the commotion, opened the door.
“What’s goin’ on here?” he said, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. Tiria thwacked him over the head with her sling.
“Well, that’s three down, I wonder how much more?” She went back to freeing the slaves.
“Hey, Syla, can I borrow one of your javelin tips?” Otter javelins are pointed at both ends.
“Ye can take the javelin, Asria’s lent me one of her daggers.” They worked in silence for quite a while until one of the slaves, a squirrelmaid named Solange said,
“Our leader was taken away. He’s in the hold. Could you please free him? His name is Parac and he’s my older brother.” Asria nodded and said,
“You stay here. I’ll take Syla with me.” She and Syla walked off, looking for the hold.
Subaltern Rythwaite, known as Rythie to his friends, was terrified. But he soon forgot that when the two armies met. Suddenly he was thrusting here, slashing there, striking here. Even with all his action, he was soon overwhelmed by foebeasts. Rythie was about to go down when the Badger Lord Mandoral came to his aid.
“Just don’t get yeself into trouble again, young’un.” Rythie smiled his thanks. All of a sudden, the horde of vermin retreated. Rythie could see that more than half had been killed. Only ten of Salamandstron had died, however. Many had sustained injuries. Rythie had gotten half his right ear chopped off, but he had just realized it.
“M’lud, what are they doing?” he asked Mandoral.
“Retreating, like the scum they are!” Mandoral replied. The foebeasts seemed to be having a meeting. Suddenly, a weasel marched out, bearing a spearpole with a piece of white cloth tied to it.
“They wants to parley. Rythwaite, stay focused. Look for loopholes that they might want to use.” Mandoral murmured to Rythie.
"My chief Fatchop would parley with yew!” the weasel announced. This caused giggles among many Long Patrollers.
“Fatchop? The old lad certainly looks like a fat flippin’ chop, wot!”
“Maybe we should call him Fatty. That’ll suit the chap fine!”
“Fat blinkin’ chop, eh? Makes a chap want to chew off his leg, wot wot!” The weasel interrupted.
“If yer rabbets don’t stop chunnerin’, we will continue fightin’!”The Badger Lord cooly replied,
“Go on, be my guest. I swear to you, before the day is done, all of your vermin would be dead or gone.” The weasel gulped at the hardness in the badger’s voice. Suddenly, Fatchop shouted,
“Everybeast, fall on them!” The hordebeasts charged at the hares.
“Stand tall, everybeast! Don’t falter!” Mandoral shouted. The hares from Salamandastron were holding their own, but slowly they began to retreat. Exultantly, Fatchop yelled,
“Don’t let them escape! Cut them off! Salamadastron is ours!” As the vermin began to close around them, Rythie suddenly ran to the back and started hewing ceaselessly at the hordebeasts.
“Rythwaite! Come back here, ye young rip!” Mandoral shouted, but it was no use. He ran like lightning to where Rythie was. The Badger Lord gasped. Looking into Rythie’s eyes, he could see a blood red tinge. Rythie was affected by the Bloodwrath, something that normally only affected badgers. Creatures with Bloodwrath could not reason. They would keep fighting, regardless of danger or injuries.
“RYTHIE!” Mandoral yelled into his ear. Suddenly, the young hare came to his senses. He noticed the bodies of foebeasts strewn around him. “ Huh? Wh-what? What happened?” Suddenly Mandoral noticed that they were at the entrance to Salamandastron.
“I think you and me better have a talk.” he said, putting an paw around Rythie’s shoulders.
Redwall was in a state of chaos. Asria had made Skipper and Leatho promise not to tell the Abbess where they had gone. Now Lycian was of the mind that the otters and Dobra had deserted them. Log-a-log Urfa was panicking, because the Guosim were leaving Redwall soon and they couldn’t leave without the Chieftain’s son.
“If they’ve left, we’ve no hope at all!” was the outcry. Lycian was frantically waving her paws, trying to get order. Skipper knew he had to break his promise.
“Mates, I knows where they are. Asria told me not to tell, but I can see from wha’ yer doin’ that ye needs my information. Asria had a dream of Martin, and he tol’ her to rescue some slaves that Heetic was holding. That’s where they ares, mateys.” Everybeast calmed down.
“Skipper, if Asria ever blames you, tell her that’s it’s my fault.” Lycian said thankfully.
Asria and Syla were nearing the hold. As they approached the door, a hoarse cry rang out.
“Get me out o’ here, mates!” Asria dashed to the hold and swiftly unbolted it. A gaunt squirrel, still in his young seasons, walked out.
“Thank ye kindly, mates. I’m Parac.” Asria replied,
“Nice to meet ye, Parac. I’m Asria, and this is Syla. C’mon, let’s get out of here!” They ran back to the hold. Dobra was standing on a bench, trying to get order. Syla hoped up next to him and shouted,
“Everybeast, be quiet! Give yer attention to this goodbeast!” Dobra nodded thanks and launched into his speech.
“Everybeast, we are going to Redwall!” He was interrupted by a rousing cheer. Dobra waited for the ex-slaves to quiet down.
“Wot I need for you to do is follow our directions. No questioning. We’ve slain more vermin than you’ve eaten suppers, so we know best.” They set off towards Redwall Abbey.
Rythie and Mandoral knew that the foebeasts were right outside the door. Mandoral was worried about Rythie.
“Rythwaite, you have the Bloodwrath. I know it’s hard for you, especially since you’re a hare and not a badger.” Rythie sat there, stunned.
“You were roaring like a madbeast! Face it like a Long Patroller would!” Mandoral roared in his face. Suddenly, a huge commotion broke out at the base of the mountain. Mandoral had to fight to keep Rythie from jumping out.
“You’re unarmed! They’d rip ye to pieces before you could say ‘scoff’!”
Rowina Aspenbough was a runner, the very best. As she was approaching Salamandastron, she saw a horde of vermin. Preparing her report for the Badger Lord, she saw that the hordebeasts were clustered around the entrance. Seeing Mandoral and Subaltern Rythwaite at the forge window, she hollered,
“M’Lord, what is going on?” Suddenly, the vermin turned and looked at her. Rowina understood.
“M’lord, I’ll go find help!” The siege of Salamandastron was on.
Book 2 : The Siege of Salamandastron
Jawtail had sucessfully escaped Heetic Marshun. However, every time he stopped running, Heetic was behind him! Jawtail reasoned that this confirmed the vermin rumors that Heetic could see everything he wanted to see.
As Syla helped the slaves off the ship, she noticed that they were ill-fed and weak. She remarked on this to Dobra, and added,
“I’m not sure if they can walk all the way to Redwall. D’you think we should feed them an’ camp here f’the night?” Dobra answered,
“If’n ye think so, Syla. Hoi, Asria, whaddya you think?” Asria replied,
“Maybe. I think we should just wait until they feel tired, and then stop there for the night. They probably want to get to Redwall as soon as possible.” Just then, Asria heard a rustling in the bushes. She whirled around, and whipped out the sword of Martin. Two vermin, a stoat and a fox, were grinning wickedly.
“Now lookit what we’ve got here! Four riverdogs, a watermousey, and a load of slaves! Cummere, my dearies. Marshun’ll be very happy to have you back!” the fox snarled. He got no further before Syla’s neatly thrown javelin pinned him in the throat. The stoat rushed forward.
“I’ll kill youse for that!” He thurst his cutlass forward at Syla’s chest, only to be met by a block from Dobra’s rapier. Pushing the blade aside, Dobra counterthursted at the stoat’s belly. With a gurgle, the stoat fell backwards, stone dead.
The slaves were huddling in a circle, afraid of the vermin. Tiria comforted them.
“It’s all right, mateys. Are you tired? We can stop for the night here if ye wants.” Gratefully, the slaves nodded. The otters and Dobra fed the slaves out of their packs: pear’n’chestnut flans, cheese and leek bake (made by Tiria) and pear cordial.The starved slaves fell on the food like beasts who had lived through a ten-season famine.
“Easy there, mates. Don’t gorge yourselves too much!” Asria cautioned. As they were eating, Syla edged closer to Asria. The sturdy Galedeep maid had something to say to Asria.
“I got something to say to you, mate. In my tribe, we have a traditional leader, the Skipper. My tribe, however, elects the new Skipper after the old one dies or resigns.” Asria was confused.
“Why do I need to know this?” Unfazed, Syla continued.
“Keep your fur on and don’t interrupt! Another thing is that females can also be Skippers. From what I’ve seen, the tribe really likes you, Asria, with a few exceptions.” Asria finally realized what Syla was getting at.
“So you’re saying that I have a chance to be Skipper? But I barely know most of the holt!” Syla gently calmed her down.
“So? Treltor only knew ten of us. He was a great leader though, and still is. If, however, he dies, you are the most likely to become the Skipper Queen. “
“Skipper Queen?” Asria echoed the strange phrase.
“Aye, Skipper Queen. There are so few female Skippers that there is a special name for them. The first Skipper Queen, Halle Galedeep, was so remarkable that many creatures gave her gifts. Her most treasured one was a wine-red cloak with a pink flower pin. This became known as the Skipper Queen’s mantle. It is very useful, but nobeast has seen it for seasons, since the last Skipper Queen, Makerna, died. It is said that only the Skipper Queen can find it. Makerna left a riddle for that lucky ottermaid. I’ve memorized it, because when I was a little ‘un, I was sure I was the Skipper Queen. Let me recite it for you:
Let my, find my,
And add a nam
The first clue is in a zann.” Asria puzzled over this for a while, when everybeast else had gone to sleep.
Back at Redwall, Lycian and the others were worrying again. This time, it wasn’t about Asria and her friends. It was about Yuffy and Sunflash again. This time, the two rascally Dibbuns had smeared honey on Friar Bibble’s stovetop.
“And I thought that Sunflash was a good badgerbabe! I think he still ‘tis, but that Yuffy’s leading him astray!” Lycian exclaimed. One of the Infirmary helpers, a young hogmaid named Orchid, came running up.
“We’ve found them, the two babes! They had unlocked t’ south wicker gate and were about to run away again when Big Kolun grabbed them. Sunflash an’ Yuffy are in the gatehouse right now, with the hares guarding them. They’re awaiting your verdict!” Lycian had the two miscreants come up to her room.
“Now what do you two have to say for yourselves?” Eyes downcast, the mousebabe replied,
“We saw miz Asrry cummin’ back wiv a lot of uthers, so we wants to go to them.” He was startled when the Abbess leaped up and rushed to the south wicker gate in a most undignified manner.
“Asria! You’re back!”
Rowina had been running all day. Even though she was the best runner in all of Mossflower country, she was getting tired. She had no food left and she had not drunk any water for half a day. The sturdy haremaid stopped for a rest. She soon dropped off into a light sleep. Rowina was wakened rudely by a rabble of hedgehogs who tied her to the tree that she was leaning against. The leader, a big female, waved a floppy sword in her paw.
“Now who d’ye think ye are, stoppin’ to rest agin our tree?” The haremaid stuttered as she was overcome with anger.
“I’m a hare of Salamandastron! Who d’ye think YOU are, wot?” The hedgehog was taken aback at the insolent manner Rowina spoke to her.
“We’re the Treehogs, and that’s our oak yer restin’ agin!” She was interrupted by a short male.
“Ah, tell the truth for once, Cassa!” Cassa shot a murderous glance at that hedgehog before speaking.
“Alright, I’ll tell yew the truth. We’re part of the Hither’n’Thither Troupe. I’ll take yew to the cart, and by the way, this tree isn’t even a oak. That’s our test to see who’s suitable for our troupe, or rather, one of them.” The cart was in a clearing in the woods. The short male hedgehog had struck up a friendship with Rowina. His name was Javip, and he was Cassa’s brother.
“You’ll like our leader. He’s a hare just like you. Oh, look, here we are! There’s Kanplian! Hey, Kanplian! We’ve brought a visitorrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!” A lanky hare came bounding up to them.
“Kanplian Horthingfor Aspenbough at your service, miz! Wot’s your moniker, wot wot?”
“I’m Rowina Aspenbough. Kanplian, wot? Aren’t you my second cousin twice removed, or something like that?
“Rowina? Yep, yew are. Come, have some jolly thing to eat, wot! A chap’s gotta nourish his flippin’ body, wot wot?” He wiltered under Rowina’s icy stare.
“Or hers. Yahhhhhhhh! Don’t blame a chap for nothing!” The rest of the troupe chuckled.
Mandoral was resting in his chamber. In his dreams, he saw a large rat coming towards him. The aging badger gasped. He recognized this rat! It was Heetic Marshun, the searat who had driven him from his home when he was but a babe, killed all his family, and left him for dead. Mandoral felt something in his paws. It was a magnificent sword, black-bound with a red pommel stone. Suddenly, there were many creatures surrounding him, vermin. The Badger Lord hewed ceaselessly, chanting as he fought,
“Come to me, Heetic! Come to me, Lord Mandoral of Salamandastron! Come to your death!” Unexpectedly, all the creatures disappeared! Mandoral found himself floating thourgh a red-stoned building. He knew instantly that it was Redwall Abbey. A mouse and a ottermaid came drifting towards him. Right away, the Badger Lord knew that the mouse was Martin the Warrior. The ottermaid looked like one he had once met: Tiria Wildlough. His thoughts were cut off as Martin spoke into his mind.
“Go to this maid, the Skipper Queen. She will rescue you from the throes of death.” The ottermaid spoke also.
“I know you think I am Tiria Wildlough, but I am not. I am Makerna Galedeep, Skipper Queen of the Inland Galedeeps. Watch for my sucessor, and go to her.” She was cut off also as Mandoral woke up.
Heetic Marshun was scared. Thrice now the badger had appeared to him in his dreams, every time with the same message. He summoned his Seer, Girva, but she was nowhere to be seen. The searat finally ordered Rusttail to pick a halfscore of beasts and go find her. Among the ten that Rusttail picked was the rebellious weasel, Seeva, and her friend Charback the searat. They were heard muttering among themselves when the stoat Rusttail chose them.
“D’yew see wot I means, Charback? He orders us around, but he must’ve started out like us. We could probaly be Chiefs if’n we tried.”
“I knows, Seeva, but Heetic’s git all these beasts servin’ him. We’d be dead before we tried!” He got no further when Rusttail spun around and stabbed him through the heart. Seeva was a true vermin at heart, hardened to cruelty. She wasted no time decapitating the stoat. The other eight vermin stared at the two bodies and the weasel dumbly. Seeva leapt up onto a log and proclaimed,
“From now on we are no longer part o’ Heetic Marshun’s horde. We’ll rove this land called Mossflower, collectin’ morebeasts, takin’ creatures from his horde, an’ addin’ them onta ours. Anybeast who’s agin this, speak up now.” None of the vermin dared to speak, still staring at the corpses. Heetic Marshun had just lost more of his horde.
Asria had figured out most of the rhyme. She had told the Abbess about it, and now the ottermaid called Lycian, Syla, Girry, Dobra and Tiria to her room.
“Listen, mates. I think I figured out some of it. ‘Find my’ probably just means ‘find my mantle’. If you add the words ‘let’ and ‘nam’…” Syla interrupted.
“But wot does letnam mean?” Asria calmed her.
“Like you said last night, don’t ruffle your fur. ‘Letnam’ is just a…what’s that word, Girry?” Recorder Girry promptly replied,
“An anagram, Asria. Please, go on.”
“Yes, thank ye, Girry. An anagram. Letnam is an anagram for the word ‘mantle’. I think that the words ‘Quickly, quickly’ just means that we want to get it as soon as we can. The only part I’m not sure of is the last line: ‘The first clue is in a zann.’ What’s a zann?” None of those present were sure.
Meanwhile, the freed slaves were sampling the delights of Redwall’s kitchens. Friar Bibble and his assistants, the molemaid Gurdee and Thalia the squirrelmaid, were loading Parac and Solange’s plates.
“Thuss here bee’s deeper'n'ever turnip'n'tater'n'beetroot pie. It’s moi fayverite food!”
“Here’s some Nofish stew, made by Tiria. Hope you like it, mister Parac!” A huge grin crossed the squirrel’s face.
“Please, don’t calla me mister. Jus’ Parac will do, miz.”
Rythie was resting in the barracks, when the vermin army came up to the entrance to Salamandastron. Fighting the urge to jump out and do battle, the subaltern ran to Mandoral’s chambers.
“M’Lord, they’re here with a battering ram!” The badger silenced him.
“Tell me, Rythwaite, d’ye really think that they can knock down Salamandastron’s doors? “ He smiled.
“Still, m’Lud, will ye allow me to jolly stay here? I’m worried that I’m gonna jump outta the winder, wot wot!” The badger smiled again.
“I was going to ask you to stay. Still, great minds think alike, don’t they, Rythie?’
Down below, the vermin battering the solid wooden door were getting tired. Fatchop was flailing about with a willow switch. Where he got it, nobeast knew.
“Put yer thin backs into it! C’mon! Yew, a good load o’ corsairs, an’ yew can’t even knock down a dore?” Suddenly, a boulder came crashing down and knocked him out. The corsairs fled amid raucous guffaws from the hares.
Up in the dining hall of Salamandastron, the hares were congratulating themselves on a successful scheme, and also arguing about who would get the credit.
“Blast y’all, it’s MY jolly old idea! I should get the blinkin’ credit!”
“Hold on a minute there, old chap. It was my wheeze, wot!”
“Both of you are wrong; it was all my flippin’ idea!” Suddenly, Mandoral strode into the dining hall.
“SILENCE!” Everybody in the dining hall froze. Mandoral nodded.
“Thank you. First of all, that was a wonderful ruse. Second, I want you to know that the vermin will not retreat. We will have to defeat them or be defeated. I know we will succeed. Even if we don’t, storytellers will have a tale to tell about the heroic and tragic end of Salamandastron!” He was cut off by a rousing warcry.
Outside Salamandastron, the vermin were terrified. One weasel, named Slitear, had appointed himself leader of the remnant, and now strode through the camp, trying to improve the horde’s morale. This was pointless because he himself was visibly shaken.
“Now, mateys. We’re not scared of some rabbits, aren’t we?”
“Like yew weren’t, weasel. Dose rabbits are gonna be hard to defeat. Yer scared too. Don’ hide it, it’s obvious!” snarled a fox. Slitear hurried away from the camp, but he was confronted by a young hare.
“I think it’s time to settle this once and for all, vermin. I am Subaltern Rythwaite, the only hare to ever have the Bloodwrath of the Badgers. But what would Lord Mandoral say if he heard me bandying words with a weasel? On guard, vermin!” Slitear reacted to the situation with remarkable alacrity. Drawing out his saber, he took up a fighting stance, grinning evilly. Suddenly, he heard a whoosh of air, and moved just in time. It was lucky for him he did, because if he didn’t, he would have been slain. As it was, the strike caught him on his shoulder, leaving a deep gash. Slitear winced, but recovered enough to leave a shallow nick in Rythie’s ear. That nick was enough to set Rythie off like a fuse. His eyes grew red, and he charged Slitear with a blood-chilling warcry.
Girry had done some research and found something that he thought Asria might be able to use.
“Long ago, back in the time of Badgermum Cregga, there was a certain otter by the name of Deyna. He was not always known as Deyna, because as a babe he was kidnapped by the Juskarath vermin tribe. He was named Zann Juskarath Taggerung by the vermin…” His voice trailed off as Asria realized what he said.
“Zann! So the mantle must be related to him in some way! Girry, have you found anything else?” She turned to the squirrel Recorder, but he had already found something.
“Here, here! It says that the mantle was given to Abbess Mhera by Makerna, who was her best friend. Mhera hid it, and the clues are really cryptic.”
“Oh, not more riddles!” moaned Asria.
“Oh, yes, more riddles, you should be saying. If Mhera said it directly, somebeast would have discovered it long before now. Okay, here it is.
Where the daft minor rows cut the beam There hides a sea gems. Find this sconce duel, And you will be well on your way.”
It was no time at all from when Girry stopped reading to when Syla leaped up.
“These are all anagrams! Daft minor rows, sea gems, sconce duel…But what are they?”
“Well, it might have something to do with pearls or sapphires, as they are gems from the sea.” replied Girry.
“But it says ‘a sea gems’! There must be a mistake.” said Asria. Girry was deep in concentration and didn’t hear her. He suddenly yelled,
“I got it! ‘Sea gems’ is actually an anagram for ‘message.” He scribbled the new message onto a piece of parchment.
“We still don’t know what ‘daft minor rows’ or ‘sconce duel’ are, but I think ‘cut the beam’ is a clue. Wait a second, don’t you remember Sister Celosia teaching us about Matthias and Cluny the Scourge?” asked the Abbess.
“Well, Sister Celosia was way before I was born, but yes, I remember Matthias. What’s that got to do with the riddle, Abbess?” said Tiria.
“When Cluny and Matthias met in combat, Matthias ran up the belltower stairs and cut the rope holding the bell. Mhera found a scrap of cloth wedged in the cut that the sword made. I think that’s what we’re looking for.”
“The cloth? But that’s long gone!” said Asria.
“No, not the cloth. The cut! Oh! I think ‘daft minor rows’ is an anagram for ‘Sword of Martin’. Let me check.” Sure enough, it was. The party trooped up the belltower stairs to find the cut. There was a message carved into the wood. Girry read it out loud.
“Right, here goes, mates.
Look for the tomb of a regiment, Lose the cross and find a clue, Stare into her eyes of stone, The third clue I give under you.”
“Wait a second, shouldn’t it be ‘The third clue I give unto you?” remarked a very confused Dobra.
“No, I don’t think so. It probably means that we have to look under our footpaws. Though I’m not sure if that’s what Mhera meant.
Rowina found traveling with the troupe very pleasant. She had become close friends with an ottermaid by the name of Laria Wavedeep. Laria was a warrior, but she also contributed to the show with her sling. She was unbelievably accurate with it, and could “hit a blinkin’ butterfly on its flippin’ wing, wot!” according to Kanplain.
“So, Laria, d’ye know where we’re going?” asked Rowina.
“To the Abbey of Redwall! We have to warn them about the vermin, if they haven’t already found them. Can’t wait until we get there, matey! Heard the food’s the best in the land!“ replied Laria. She was wearing a green short sleeved tunic with a brown belt and a yellow bracelet on her right paw. Laria was a traveling warrior, but she had been brought up in Redwall Abbey. She didn’t reveal much about her past to Rowina, or to anybeast else for that matter. Rowina let it go. Laria could have her secrets, as long as it didn’t hurt their mission.
Her reverie was broken when a shout rang out from the path ahead of them
“Ahoy the troupe! ‘Tis the Guosim, and we have news for you. Where are you headed? Never mind, it doesn’t matter now. Redwall needs defending, and from the looks of it, you can do a decent job defending it!”
“Actually, my little spikebonce, we were going to Redwall, wot! No need to tell us where we’re flippin’ going!” shouted Kanplain. The shrew, for that’s who it was, stiffened up.
“Well, you’re one to talk, flopears! Can’t you do anythink without getting the last word? Now move along!” He retreated back into the woods.
Little shrewtypes, never know what the word 'courtesy' means. Whatever. Let’s just hurry on so we can actually get some flippin’ where!” Laria stifled a giggle as she whispered to Rowina,
“Do hares always talk like that?” Rowina set her jaw grimly as she replied,
“Yes, they do. Hares don’t understand how to be quiet. It’s ruined many an otherwise successful campaign. I think we need to gag Kanplain!” Laria agreed.
“Come on, let’s go find some cloth.”
Once they reached Redwall, greetings were to be made. Laria was heartily welcomed by her father, who just happened to be in Redwall at the same time she was. Her father, Grall, was also a wandering warrior. Rowina hadn’t ever been to Redwall, however.
“If I had known that food could taste this good, I would have been a cook!” exclaimed Rowina. Laria just nodded, her mouth to full to say anything. When they were done eating, Abbess Lycian called them to Cavern Hole to tell them the latest news. Laria was worried about her adopted home, but the Abbess and Grall reassured her.
“You know, Asria Wildlough is here. Maybe you should go find her.” As soon as he finished speaking Laria jumped up to find Asria. She dashed out of the room without looking back. Lycian sighed.
“We had so much more to tell her!” Grall laughed.
“Don’t worry, we didn’t tell where Asria was. She’ll soon be back.”
Heetic was walking through the camp inspecting his vermin when he saw a fox that looked suspiciously like Girva. He grabbed her by the throat and ordered the other hordebeasts to march her to his tent. Inside the tent, Heetic’s temper had improved somewhat. Sitting down, he motioned for Girva to begin.
“My lord, what is it that troubles you now?” Heetic didn’t answer, just stared at the fire. Girva tried again.
“My lord, I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what is bothering you!” Still Heetic remained silent. Suddenly he leapt up.
“Stop followin’ me, stripedog! Yer dead! Arrgh!” His mood changed and he huddled on the ground.
“Please don’t kill me, I’ll do anythin’! Just don’t kill me!” Girva knew that this was not the time to stay. She stood and walked out of the tent. Behind her she could hear the rat’s cries.
The vermin that had escaped Heetic Marshun had grown in number. They were about a score now, some wandering vermin, some from Heetic’s horde. Seeva had become the leader, but she herself didn’t know what their true purpose was. Some suggested that they attack the Abbey themselves, but Seeva was smart enough to realize that if Heetic’s vermin couldn’t take it over, why would they be able? Finally, Charback came up with a plan.
“Why don’t we just live off the land? We can take it easy. Maybe rob the occasional hermit or passing traveler, but other than that, no work for us at all!” This idea was warmly received by everybeast, even Seeva, who had to admit that keeping Charback had paid off.
Slitear realized that he was fighting a swordbeast more skilled than himself. Now he was fighting for his life. Parrying each stroke, up, down, and up again, he tried a quick thrust. Rythie quickly jumped back. If he hadn’t, he would have been skewered by the weasel’s saber. As it was, the brave hare suffered a deep wound. Encouraged, Slitear started to go on the offensive, but his slashes and thrusts were blocked so hard that he felt his paws throbbing. Now Rythie was back on the offensive. His slices were parried most of the time, but suddenly, Slitear felt a sharp pain. Rythie had sliced off his damaged ear! Snarling, the weasel launched a barrage of attacks. These partially succeeded, as Rythie fell under the blows. His sword fell a short distance away. Slitear stood over him, grinning cruelly and preparing to strike when he suddenly collapsed. Rythie was surprised until he saw the shaft in the weasel’s back. Looking towards Salamandastron, he saw one of the younger hares, Ripplefur, standing in the window with a bow in her paws. Nodding his thanks, he retrieved his sword and ran back to the mountain.
Cassa and the rest of the troupe were easily adapting to the Redwall life. Javip had eagerly started learning the job of a cellarbeast, while Cassa found out that she was a superb cook. She never knew that before, as Kanplain always insisted on being in charge of the food. Friar Bibble, Gurdee, and Thalia had a job on their paws keeping the hungry hare out of the kitchens.
“Out, you hare! Out!”
“Gurr, get out, y’villyun!”
“Pray allow me to pass, sir and ladies. I merely want a morsel of scoff!”
“A morsel? Really, mister Kanplain, d’you really expect us to believe that?” Laria, who had not found Asria, came to their aid. Grabbing the hare’s long ears, she dragged him back, much to the Friar and his assistants’ relief. It was short-lived, however.
“Gerroff my ears, you riverdog, wot! I need my tucker!” Laria hauled him off to the cellars, where he could be overseen by Javip, Brink, and Banjon. While she was there, she was told that Asria was in the Abbess’ study. When she burst in through the door, Asria leapt up and furiously hugged Laria, glad to have a distraction from the puzzle, which was giving them some serious trouble.
“Laria! I didn’t know you were coming to Redwall!”
“We weren’t. Until I met up with Rowina. She said there were vermin at Salamandastron and she had to warn the others in the Mossflower area. That’s why we came.”
“Laria, we already knew! Where do you think Parac and Solange and all those other thin creatures came from? Heetic’s ship, of course! Who else would starve poorbeasts like them?” Laria pushed Asria away.
“So what have you been up to?” Asria filled her in on the puzzle. Laria had an idea right away.
“I’m not sure what most of it means, but I think I know what ‘lose the cross and find a clue’ means. ‘The cross’ must mean a letter of the alphabet, though which one?” Asria responded,
“Maybe, just maybe, it’s a ‘T’. It does look like a cross, after all. Let’s try it!”