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Halt! (Read Pearls of Lutra before proceeding! The events in the following story occur after the before-mentioned book.)
Book 1: The Rise of a Ruler
Two seasons had passed on Sampetra since the death of its tyrannical pine marten ruler, Ublaz Mad Eyes. The Trident-rats, after finding out that their leader, Sagitar Sawfang, had perished in the paws of Rasconza the fox, broke away once more from the Wave Brethren and, allying themselves with the score of remaining Monitor lizards, took the palace once belonging to Mad Eyes for their own. The Wave Brethren had hence been attacking the palace, but Sarrog Triblade, Chief Trident-rat after Sagitar's death, had taken over, ruling with an iron paw the small cluster of taverns surrounding the jetty of Sampetra. Thus ended he the Wave Brethren's control of the jetty and waterfront, and he even slightly lightened the sniping parties sent by the Commitee of Captains, the group of seavermin that ruled the mob of landsick crews known as the Wave Brethren. At that very moment, Sarrog Triblade was in a furious mood. Bulling past the Monitor that guarded the entrance to the palace, he stocked into the courtyard, where his Trident-rats were repairing the collapsed wall. "Sharkblade, Livroth, Forktip," he barked, "get into my throneroom, I must discuss with yew a matter o' great import'nce. C'mon, ye scurvy dogs!" He turned to a Monitor, "You too, slimescales!"
- "Yarr, Lord Zarrog, yer Mightinezz!" answered the fearsome lizard, leading the three Trident-rats in as well.
- Once they had arrived at the throneroom, a Monitor admitted them.
- Sarrog situated himself on the massive cedar throne at the far end of the vast, splendorous room. "Now," he began, "you an' I both know about those uncivilized fiends' attacks on this palace. Correct?"
- This time it was Forktip who answered. "That is so, yer Mightiness!"
- "Aye, I thought you'd remember, 'cos if y' 'addn't, I would 'ave taken th' 'ole lot o' yew fer a bunch of fools and thrown yer in the sea for sharkfood," replied Sarrog, a slow smile spreading across his face. "Anyways, we've got ter stop 'em, or we'll soon all end up fishbait. What would you suggest, Livroth? Yew 'aven't so much as breathed a single breath!"
- Livroth, a normally silent Trident-rat, had been coming up with an idea the entire time. She voiced her scheme. "I've been thinking, King Sarrog, that a score or so Trident-rats, with a 'alf dozen Monitors, could destroy the taverns that lie surrounding the jetty, then use the wood from the buildings to construct a ship, a large one, with enough room for at least fourscore beasts. With it, we could lay waste to the Wave Brethren's hideout, the eastern cove of this island. The remainin' creatures under your command, Mightiness, would attack by land. The wave rabble wouldn't be expecting an attack from the sea, and they'll be entirely vanquished. How sounds my plan to you, Mighty King Sarrog?"
- Sarrog paused a second, then said, "An excellent plan. Well said. Who will captain the vessel?"
- The female Trident-rat quivered with pride. "I, Lord?" Sarrog turned round to face a servant bringing him something. He whirled around again, lightning-quick. The glittering dagger he threw slew her instantly.
- "No, you won't," Sarrog turned to Glassle, the Monitor lizard he had summoned with the Trident-rats, "Glassle will. Begin building preparations now! Get out, go on! My ship must be finished before the season's end. Now go!"
Somewhere the birds chirruped and sang their songs, and somewhere all was peaceful; not on Sampetra, which would soon be plunged in its second war, in which all Hellgates would brake loose between the Wave Brethren and the scheming ruler of the Trident-rats: Sarrog Triblade!
The following day the sun beat down on the island of Sampetra, its furious rays wilting the plantlife all round the great isle. Buckla the stoat, self-proclaimed leader of the Commitee of Captains and the Wave Brethren, was holding a meeting with the other self-promoted captains under an awning to protect them from the glaring heat of the sun.
- Buckla took a look round the gathered beasts.
- There was Baltur, Guja, Gancho, Groojaw and Gowja, then there were the others, the weasel Bludjaw, Cudjo the rat and Graggog his brother, there was Ferchid the ferret and Kiljoo the stoat and, last but not least, Grialger the weasel. A large group, but quite unhappy.
- "So, Gowja says 'e an' 'is p'trol saw those scaly slopmouths breakin' down th' taverns!" shouted Gancho angrily.
- "Yep, I did! They were burnin' th' grog an' takin' all the wood-" Gowja halted a moment. "They were takin' th' wood..." The Searat scratched his chin. "...Why were they takin' the blasted wood?"
- "We'll jus' 'ave ter find out, bucko," answered Buckla, "an' I intends ter do just that. Gancho, Ferchid, an' you, Kiljoo, you beasts take five scouts apiece; we'll find out wot dis fishy business is about. Cummon wid me!"
- It was late afternoon when the scouting parties arrived. Buckla had taken only two wave vermin to scout out the west wall of the palace.
Meanwhile, Kiljoo the stoat had managed to creep through the collapsed area in the wall with his five vermin, slaying the Trident-rat guard before it could even scream. The stoat paused in the middle of the courtyard with his patrol, uncertain of which way to go next. Suddenly Rogbat, a weasel in the group, gave a gurgle and fell to a trident. Kiljoo turned too late to see a half dozen Trident-rats and Glassle the Monitor General advancing on them from all sides. He gave a small scream and perished to Glassle's long lance. The remaining seavermin cried out before being quickly slain by the oncoming ranks of ruthless Trident-rats.
- Back at the western wall of the palace, Buckla had met up with the Searat Gancho and Ferchid the ferret.
- "Wot's takin' Kiljoo so long's wot I wants ter know," said Ferchid impatiently.
- "Who in 'ellgates knows? that weasel wuz allus gettin' inter trouble as I recall," replied gancho with a shrug.
- "I knows 'ow we'll find 'im," said Buckla. "You two git back to der cove, gather up a few more beasts an' cum back up 'ere wid 'em. Yore patrols c'n then join up wid me an' th' crew yew've mustered, an' we'll see inter dis!"
- "Right, Cap'n Buckla, yew c'n coun' on us!" the two chorused, then, together, they dashed off down the slope.
- "'Tis a good thing, 'avin' maties like those 'uns, a beast c'n really trust 'em on a mission," then the stoat ended to himself, "But not wid a keg o' grog, hahararharr!"
- "Halt!" The stoat whirled round at the voice. "Lay down your weaponz or be zlain, Corzairz!"
- Then he found himself looking into the unmerciful eyes of Glassle the Monitor General.
- Out on the restless seas, leagues and leagues from the tropical island of Sampetra, a seagull wheeled and gave a fearful caw as an arrow whizzed by its body, barely an inch from it. A corsair vessel, laiden with treasure and riches from distant lands, plunged over a wave, sending seaspray and watery mist flying into the air. The Corsair who had shot the arrow, a stoat, sat down on the for'ard deck and pulled the cork out of a bottle of rum. He began guzzling until he was satisfied, then he stumped off of the forcastle and onto main deck. "Ahoy there, ye lily-livered, landlubbin', lazy beer-guzzlers! Yew rotten, filthy lot o' blazin' sons o' th' devil 'isself! Git this craft movin' fer Sampetra, or our bloomin' topgallant won't be repaired by the Emperor, curse 'is name!Bring 'er round, Kerolja!"
- Aye aye, Cap'n Rotfang!" replied the ferret steersbeast.
- The two-masted barque was turned in a westward direction and it plowed through a wave, then fell, then rose up on a wave again, then fell again, repeating the process over and over as it sailed west.
- Sampetra would be having visitors soon.
- Blorrige the Searat was bosun to Grialger the weasel captain, and Rilja was his mate. Long seasons had he waited for a son, a successor in the trade of sailing the seas and plundering, and now he was getting what he wanted: a son. The old ships' doctor of Bloodkeel had attended, and now the female Searat came out,a grim expression on her face.
- "Tell me," pleaded Blorrige, "tell me she's alive, Brillga- tell me she's livin'!"
- "It'd be lyin' to a fellow mate if I told yer that. Yer son pulled through though, quite 'ealthy, too. Wot'll ye name 'im?"
- "Rilja allus wanted 'im ter be named Blurrag, so dat's wot I'll call 'im," said Blorrige. Taking the bundled babe into his paws, he said the name again: "Blurrag."
- Baltur, Grialger, Guja, Gowja, Groojaw, Bludjaw, Cudjo and Graggog, the self-appointed captains over the Wave Brethren, had been waiting impatiently for the return of Buckla, Gancho, Ferchid and Kiljoo when, out of the darkness came Gancho and Ferchid. "Left d' patrols wid Buckla," rasped out the ferret, breathless from running all the way from the palace wall to the eastern cove. "Th' Trid'nt-rats must 'ave gotten Kiljoo, so they're prob'ly preddy close ter Buckla an' th' patrols!" gasped Gancho, as breathless as his partner. "Muster a fightin' force- tonight's th' night we 'ttacked that ol' palace, mates!"
- "Alright let's go, me buckoes!" suggested Grialger the weasel, backed up by Baltur, Gancho, Ferchid and Groojaw's forces.
- Within moments, a full fighting group of forty or so wave vermin came charging up the slope to the palace. Whooping shouts went up from the massed rabble.
- "Carve their guts fer garters, mates!" shouted a weasel, waving a chipped shortsword in the air.
- "Slit their scrawny t'roats, buckoes!" called a Searat.
- "Slay 'em good- then slay 'em agin!"
- "Press yer daggers 'twixt their flea-ridden ribs!"
- "Haharharharr, that's th' spirit, me lucky buckoes!" encouraged Gancho, sword in paw, as the ranks of murderous Corsairs and seavermin surged by him in droves and hordes. Grialger saw Glassle the Monitor General and made his way straight towards the massive, scaly lizard, who had not seen him yet because he and a half score of Trident-rats still had their paws full subduing Buckla's patrols, who had been reduced to only five Searats guarding Buckla. Buckla was busy battling a Trident-rat when Gancho, Grialger and Baltur came running to his aid, but they were too late. Buckla looked up and saw them coming, then fell to a trident thrust. Glassle spotted them leading a score of vermin straight for his far smaller force, and said, "Zlay them, zlay- " his reptilian eyes swiveled wildly and he fell dead to the ground, impaled by three different swords. His remaining Trident-rats fled the scene, but were cut down by arrows. Ferchid the ferret came running along the slope towards them, saying, "Gancho, Baltur, take five apiece an' use grapplin' 'ooks t' git over der walls- Grialger, me 'n' Groojaw'll keep 'em all busy at th' west an' north walls, while you'll be scalin' th' east an' south walls, where they least expect an attack. Gillag and Vurlugg've spotted a Monitor on each o' th' back walls, but two beasts shuddn' cause no problems, eh, mates?"
- "A'right, cummon," called Gancho and Baltur to the ten vermin chosen for the job. Vurlugg and Gillag, two lean ferrets, scouted ahead for the two parties.
- Once at the east wall, Gancho found no trouble in scaling the tall stone barrier and dispatching the Monitor, who had been sleeping at his post. He looked across to the south wall and, to his relief, saw the last of Baltur's crew climb up the rope attached to the heavy, three-pronged hook and haul himself over the battlements. Gancho signalled to Baltur, and the other Searat signaled back. The two parties then began their descents of the wallsteps on either side.
- Baltur was in the lead of his small crew when he felt a tug on his footpaw. Peering down through the nighttime darkness, he saw an evil reptilian head and brought the grappling hook, which he was carrying, down hard on the scaly face. It gave a short hiss, then fell backward off the wallsteps, hitting a second later the hard ground of the courtyard below with a thud. They made it down into the courtyard and met up once more with Gancho's crew, and together the small force began their hardest task yet: the ascent of the main building.
- Tossing his grappling hook high, Gancho waited until he heard a soft clank of steel. Then he tugged, testing the rope to see how stuck it was. Once satisfied, he climbed paw-over-paw up the thick line. After a while of ascending the rope, he reached a window-ledge. Scrabbling onto it, he looked around. From here he could see the backs of the heads of Trident-rats and Monitor lizards defending from the walltops, and then also the secret project: a ship! He gave a sharp tug on the rope, the signal that he was up. He felt the line go taut again as another crew member began the climb. He peered in the window. Darkness. He peered harder. Darkness- no, light! A creature bearing a torch entered the room before him. The creature, a Trident-rat Captain, was arguing with another rat- Sarrog Triblade! The cruel ruler of Sampetra was buttoning up his emerald-green satin bedrobe whilst giving orders to the two Monitor guards at his flanks. "You, Fezzle, go and marshal my full Monitor guard- what do you want now?" he barked at the Chief Trident-rat who hounded him constantly.
- "Sire, I beg of you at least- at least one squad of Monitors. My rats are trying to defend the walls with a few of those Monitors, but we can't go on forever! There's a full army of wavescum at our door!"
- The "King" of Sampetra whirled on the Trident-rat, blaring in his face, "You'll hold them off as long as I want you too, slimebrain!"
- A snicker erupted from the ugly mouth of Fezzle the Monitor lizard, heard only by the Trident-rat Captain. "His Mightinezz carez nothing for Trident-rat foolz, only Monitorz!"
- "Oh?" retorted the rat. "Wot makes yew think 'e adores yew, scaleface?"
- "Zire," whined the Monitor, "thiz ztupid ratface callz me 'scaleface'!"
- "'E called me a fool, Lord!"
- Gancho snickered, then laughed out loud, shaking uncontrollably until he fell over, face-first, into the thin stained glass of the window. The glass exploded into a thousand shining shards and rained down on the marble floor of the room with a soft tinkling noise.
- Sarrog and his Monitor guards whirled around at the intrusion.
- "So, unexpected visitors?" asked Sarrog, his voice dripping with mock surprise. "Well, we can't have that, now can we? Guards, seize him! Oh, and also, keep an eye out for any other "visitors" on that rope!" The two Monitors leapt on the surprised Gancho, cudgeling him with the butts of their long lances until the darkness of unconsciousness swallowed the Searat. The last thing he heard before the blackness overtook him was the almost laughing voice of Sarrog Triblade: "Sleep well, my sneaky friend! Goodnight..."
The jetty was silent. Not even a twig rustled in the night and Jissul the Trident-rat had finished his rounds with Corluj, his companion. "Corluj, mate, d' yer 'ear that?"
- "No, did you 'ear somethin'?" came the reply.
- "Ya, I wuz sure I 'eard somethin'!"
- "Gaah, prob'ly jus' yer 'mag'nation, messmate."
- "I'm sure I 'eard it! Like ship or th' like, sailin' o'er- Now did y' 'ear it?" Corluj was sure he'd heard something now. His eyes wide, he replied quickly, "Y-yarr, I did 'ear it now!"
- "L-let's gi-gittout o' 'ere, m-mate!"
The two rats ran screaming and crying from the jetty, only to see five Wave Brethren running in their direction, followed by a score of others. Jissul gave a gurgle and fell to the ground, an arrow in his throat.
- "Aagh!" screamed Corluj, speeding back to the jetty area, where he hid in the remnants of a demolished tavern. Over twenty-five Seabeasts stormed onto the the jetty and surrounded the burnt taverns.
- Then they began searching.
- Captain Truvillus Rotfang sat on the bowsprit of his vessel, eying the cove before him. He had already sailed past the jetty, and then, after seeing no ships about, he decided to check the east cove. He saw something in the light of early dawn: the tip of a mast, sticking out of the water! He noticed the assembly of vermin on the beaches- desperate, hungry types, in motley groups of twenty or less. He hailed them. "Ahoy there! Where's Barranca an' the other seadogs? Cummon, yew've got somethin' t' say fer an answer, yer scurvy sons o' ratwives!"
- "Truvillus Rotfang, is it really yew? Hoho, come ashore- we got news fer yew!" cried Guja, followed by a swarm of Wave Brethren.
- "Haharharharr, Guja, wot're yew all doin' 'ere like ducks in a pond? An' where's Barranca, an' Rocpaw, an' Conva, and- "
- "Wot d'yer think?"
- "Why that murd'rin' Ublaz, once I gits me paws on 'is throat..." growled the stoat, but Guja once again cut him off. "There's no need ter slay that ol' marten...'E's already croaked 'is last!"
- "Wot? Ublaz? Dead?" Truvillus Rotfang was a sight to see, dancing about gaily and clicking his heels. "Cummon board, Guja, a
n' 'ave a beaker o' grog, or a rum, p'ra ps? Heeheehee!!!"
- Then Guja
told him the news. The bad news, to be exact.
- Corluj knew he had to act quickly. Torches flared all around the dilapidated tavern, and savage faces could be seen peering into the nooks and crannies of the harbor area. Suddenly, a weasel with a blood-red kerchief tied over his head poked his face into the tavern which was housing Corluj. Before the creature could blink an eye, however, Corluj thrust his trident forcibly into its face, slaying it instantly. Four Searats came bounding in, cutlasses and spears thrusting and poking into any flour sacks or barrels that could hold a Trident-rat. But Corluj was already gone.
- Outside the tavern, he spotted a pair of stoats dipping their mugs in one of the leftover flasks of grog after the Monitors had burned most of the highly flammable liquid. One saw him and whirled on Corluj, sticking his torch in the Trident-rat's face.
"'Ey, Groobog, lookit wot I found!" he shouted, and the other stoat slashed his sword across Corluj's back. With a will, the Trident-rat ran the stoat through with his trident, grabbing the fallen beast's sword and slaying its fellow in a trice. Taking the torch, Corluj ran back to the tavern area, which was teeming with the searchers now. He took a mug of grog and the torch with him and strode to the front doors, which were wide open. "Lookin' for me, eh? Thats not very nice," he said loudly, and as they whirled on him he threw the torch and grog into the open doorway, retreating quickly. The entire harbor of taverns and inns set alight behind him as the clever rat fled up the hill to the palace. Surprisingly, the gates were wide open, but Corluj thought no more of it until he entered the grounds.
- Around him was total chaos, vermin and Monitors driving back swarms of Wave Brethren, who continually attacked with a seemingly endless vigor. A Monitor fell to several brawny Searats, and seconds later two Trident-rats were slain. A second squad of Trident-rats came charging down from the doors of the inner palace, slaying all in their way as they plowed through the unorganized Wave Brethren. Even after this, the battle was still looking towards the worse for the forces of Sarrog Triblade. Taking his trident, Corluj joined the squad guarding the doors of the palace.
- The battle then took another unexpected turn.
- At the head of a crew of Searats and pirates, Captain Truvillus Rotfang came roaring through the open gates, steel flashing in the firelight of their torches. Evil faces and rotten teeth showed in the glow, and murderous weapons bristled among the array. The Wave Brethren were confused for a moment, then recognized who it was at the lead of the crew.
- "Rotfang!" exclaimed a surprised corsair.
- "What?!?" roared an angry Sarrog, bursting out of the palace in his satin robe. "I-it can't be!"