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Along the southern coast, no creature or beast could stand against her. The slave-ship thundered through the oceans, leaving destruction and mayhem in her wake. Great waves pounded her sides until she was fit to burst asunder, her crew hung to whatever they could grasp. Below deck, the slaves rowed with all their might, drowning in seawater and filth, while the whip-masters beat and lashed until their whips tore apart. Plunder ached out of the sides of the great ship, and her sails strung taut.
- Captain Bluddo Feareyes was in a bad mood, as usual. Every now and then, an unruly slave was brought before him. At that moment, Muggil the rat entered with a rough-looking mongoose.
- "Wot is it this time, Muggil?" asked Bluddo, sounding almost bored.
- "Cap'n, I caught dis one chewin' through 'is ropes!" answered the thin rat, knocking the mongoose to his knees with his spearbutt.
Bluddo leaned close to the mongoose's face. "Do ya know wot I do to escapees and rioters on my ship, fool? Speak!"
- "Raka rakai! Soon you will die. Raggiza doesn't be call fool by ratface! Raako wakio! You shall die!"
- "Tsk, tsk, tsk- when do you savages learn?" sighed the evil Captain, turning away. "Shryll Slyntar will deal with you when I reach the Extreme South. Is that clear?"
- It was Muggil who spoke first, a note of fear on his voice. "Sh-Shryll S-Slyntar, Cap'n?"
- "Aye, that's wot I said. Slyntar. Now take that rebel below and chain him to his oar. Okay?"
- "Y-Yarr, Cap'n!" The Searat called Muggil fled the room, motioning for some guards outside to take the mongoose below. "Wot's wrong wid Muggil?" wondered one of the rats.
- "I dunno, messmate," replied his companion, "but I sure wudden' want ter know!Now let's git movin'."
- "Aye, I'm wid yer, mate. Let's go!" The two then went out onto the rain-lashed deck, unaware of the danger before them and the crew of the ship Nightfang!
Lieutenant Scarbury Blaggens, a hare of Salamandastron, was up before dawn, preparing for the day ahead of him and the Long Patrol, the mountain's famed and fearsome hare fighters. He knew the Lord of Salamandastron was up and around before he even descended the stairway to the Mess Hall: It had become the badger ruler's habit over the seasons. At that moment, Lord Azoran, known in his younger days as Azoran the Red or Azoran Redstripes for his bloodred stripes and his bloody battles, padded into Mess Hall, dressed in an immense nightgown and cap and carrying a small, lighted candle in his massive, striped paw. "Good morn to you, Lieutenant," said Azoran, gingerly setting the candle down on the rough tabletop of one of several long tables in the room to accommodate the large number of hares in the mountain, who, likelier than not, had enormous appetites waiting to be sated. He sat down in a chair much larger than the others, carved from stone for the badger-lords to sit at during gatherings or meals.
- "G'morn to you as well, m'Lord," replied Blaggens, situating himself in one of the smaller chairs meant for members of the Long Patrol like the Lieutenant. "Yestahday, I've heard sah, th' Shore Watch P'trol, led by young Darlow, espied wot seemed to be a seagoing vessel in th' storm. O' course, it c'd've been a cloud o' blinkin' fog or a bit o' flotsam'n'jetsam float'n' on th' bally breeze, but- " he paused. "Raiders, m'Ludd?"
- Azoran was like a carving of stone as he confirmed the Lieutenant's fears. "Yes. No merchantbeast or woodlander has ever sailed these waters since the Summer of Lasting Peace. It must have been- "
- The two leapt from their chairs and ran to the mountain entrance, to be greeted by the strangest sight either had ever seen.
- Before them was the oddest group, a ragtag bunch dressed in ragged silks and finery, all stained and torn, huddled 'round a gaily-colored yellow-and-blue striped cart. A few hedgehogs, an immense, muscled otter wearing a longsword on his belt, two mice wearing yellow damask waistcoats, and a mousemaid wearing a bright spring dress were all the group consisted of, besides the leader, a pure white hare with a tail tipped with black. Except, this hare had enormous footpaws, wore a bright-red velvet captain's coat several times too large for him, and a silken jabbot with lace edges was tied about his neck. Also upon his head he sported a huge tricornered hat with gold trim, and a sapphire-blue waistsash, through which was thrust a long rapier with a silver handguard. In the hare's paw was a saucepan, with which he was making the annoying din. He stopped as soon as he saw the badger emerge from the mountain entrance, saying boldly, "I wish to speak with the ruler of this fortress, Sir, and you're him, I presume. Am I correct?"
- "You are," replied Azoran. "What do you wish to say to me?"
- "Only that we wish to stay the night and have food enough for our humble group, Sir," answered the hare.
- "Who are you, may I ask?" interrupted Blaggens.
- "Only a poor creature who has lost his castle to a band of marauding vermin, Corsairs, Sir. I am Lord Artrinneo of Inganwick. At your service, kind Sir.
- "And by what name are you called?"
- "I am Lieutenant Scarbury Blaggens of the Long Patrol, the 4th Boxing and Foot-Fighting Force Patrol, to be exact. Obliged to make y' acquaintance, sah."