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Certainly today is a day to remember; the last day of the Autumn of the Flying Boulder. I am writing today about a strange event that has taken the mind of every Redwaller to figure out, and we are still racking our brains for clues on this. Yesterday we found a cold, sickly-looking creature at our gate, and we took him in. He could not speak, we found, so he had to write down his secret. What he wrote says it involves the whole of Mossflower, yet he still won't tell us what 'it' is! What he wrote down seems to be a riddle, though I must confess that all I can make of it is jumbles and scrawls of charcoal. Nevermind, I wasn't ever one for solving riddles and puzzles, anyways. Well, I guess I've got Foremole and his moles at work on it, the good old beasts! See what you can make of it! Here 'tis:
'When winter doth come, a secret 'twill bring,
When hills are vales and stones will sing,
A song of the sea: my secret to thee.
Zeblu's wrath is like a swordpoint,
And Idiaz's alike the same,
But true warriors can fight the evil,
Good forever to Mossflow'r gain.'
Thank you for your help, friend, and if you are traveling in Mossflower sometime, you may visit our redstone Abbey.
Book the First: Zeblu Steerlang
Zeblu Steerlang sat in the cabin of Darkhunter, his lead ship, which was painted a devilish pitch-black with blood-red sails, looking over the bleak eastern shores of Mossflower Country.
- The very sight of the sable was impressive, from his strong, clawed paws to his rows of shining fangs set in strong jaws. Beside his stronger aspects, he was deceptively quick and was known to be able to kill the fastest of beasts in the twinkle of an eye with his throwing daggers, of which he had a great collection. Draped in a black cloak with a crimson underside, he often crept about his ship without notice of his crew, who were made up of mostly pure-black ferrets and weasels, but with a small group of silver foxes, his captains, armed each with a steel sabre.
- It was almost midnight, and his forces were at work. The weasels and ferrets took a battleaxe and an unlighted torch apiece, then dropped into the three longboats waiting beside Darkhunter without a sound. A silver fox named Zirril opened the door of Zeblu's cabin for the sable's exit. Zeblu came out onto the deck and waved a paw at Captain Gerviz, another silver fox. At this signal, Gerviz lit a torch and threw it into the air and let it spin in a full circle before catching it by the handle. On the other ship, called Darkseeker, an exact copy of Darkhunter, a silver fox performed the signal back to Darkhunter, telling Zeblu that all was going as planned. Two longboats were lowered from Darkseeker, each loaded with black weasels and ferrets.
- Zeblu turned to Captain Zirril. "Ye, keep my Darkhunter safe whilst I lead my forces to this 'Redwall' place, of which so many tales have been told. I shall leave with thee a dozen of my Hunters, and when I return victorious, ye, too, shall share in the riches of Mossflower. We must find Zethrinn and his traitors and slay them before they canst warn the inhabitants of Mossflower. Idiaz and her army shall meet me on the shores of this land and, together, we shall take Redwall!"
- "It is as thou sayest, Lord Zeblu!"
- About an hour later, seven leagues inland of Zeblu's landing point, a small cottage stood. Jingalo the shrew and his older friend Firj, another shrew, were preparing sword-fighting lessons in a glade several arrowflights away. "To yore left, Jingalo!" shouted Firj, poking the inexperienced shrew lightly with his rapier.
- "If ye want t' join th' Guosim, Jingalo, you'll need better fightin' skills," said Firj. "Most of all, y' need to parry my attack, an' use it t' yore advantage!"
Jingalo still wasn't used to swordfighting, even though he'd been learning it from Firj for nearly half a season!
- Cummon, Jingalo, use yore brain! thought the shrew, suddenly twirling around and nimbly leaping behind his friend and, just as he was about to poke him, he heard a crackling sound, like a fire burning. "Firj, look!"
- There, swirling through the trees was a dark column of smoke. Together they ran back towards the cottage, Firj halting suddenly behind a bush. "Vermin!"
- Hordes of black weasels and ferrets charged about, tossing more torches onto the burning cottage. A sinister-looking creature that looked like a huge weasel stood in their midst, urging them on.
"This is what happens to the enemies of Zeblu Steerlang!" cackled the creature, enveloped in folds of swirling black and red silk cloak. Suddenly a silvery, dazzling vixen, far larger than the dozen fox capt ains under Zeblu, joined the malevolent sable. "Ah, Idiaz, are ye ready for our conquests?" asked Zeblu of the vixen, who kept silence amid the burning, pillaging and chaos caused by the vermin about her. At long last, she spoke. "O Dark One, One who Seekest, my visions art clear!"
- "What dost thou see, Teller of Darkness and right paw to Vulpuz, the greatest and most powerful of thine ancestors?" asked Zeblu, looking all the world like a beast from the depths of Hellgates as he spoke.
- Idiaz looked like one in a vision as she howled. "Vulpuz, my great, great grandsire, what sayest thou to me? Ahh, yes!!!"
- Flames were all around the vixen as her eyes, fiery red with the firelight reflecting in them, looked skyward at the cloudless night that looked like a big, black blanket with little glistening jewels of stars. Every one of the vermin stopped their torch throwing and burning, and stood in a silent circle, Idiaz at the center. The silvery vixen twirled round and round, then, with a quick trick of her black cloak, she pulled it over. In the dark, it seemed she had disappeared. Firj nudged Jingalo. "Get out o' 'ere, Jingalo, quick!" he whispered urgently.
- "I'm stayin' right 'ere, Firj- I won't leave ye!" Jingalo whispered defiantly back, only to see the vixen "appear" again behind the bush, looking right at them.
- "Get out o' 'ere, right now- I'll hold 'er off!"
- Jingalo at last obeyed, but not soon enough. He felt the horde close over him, then felt a hard, wooden torch handle strike his skull, then he collapsed, pain flooding through his head.
- The crazed vixen threw back her head and gave an earsplitting howl.
- "Vulpuz tells me that our destiny is...victory!"
- All was still at Redwall Abbey, save for the call of a lone nightjar as it carried on its flight above the treetops of Mossflower Wood.
- Inside the Infirmary, Abbess Maerla and two young Sisters tended the dying Zethrinn, a fox of late seasons. His small crew of good vermin, about a dozen in all, watched closely for their leader's last breath.
- "Oi wunner whoi they'm's are lookin' at yon' fosser loike that, oi gurtly do," announced Foremole Frugle, coming up the steps to the Infirmary door.
- Suddenly a black ferret stood up, answering the mole. "We must slay ourselves as soon as Zethrinn departs, and join him at the gates of Darkness."
- "We must stop them, Mother Abbess!" cried Sister Seyala. "They mean to kill themselves!"
- Abbess Maerla, a young squirrel who had taken the place of Abbess when, recently, Old Abbot Grayle had died, replied calmly, "Zethrinn isn't going to die, Sister, not if I have a say in it!"
- Firj knew the moment he sat up, rubbing his head, that he'd been unconscious for a while. He shook Jingalo, who sat up as well. "Jing, I think we're alone," he said.
- "But where?" asked the younger shrew in bewilderment.
- "That, I dunno, but I do know one thing. We gots to tell th' Redwallers abou- "
- "No sooner said than done, old chap! I say, you look like you've been in quite a blinkin' tizzy, wot! Well, first, we must, as you put it in your barbarous tongue, 'Gots to tell th' Redwallers'. Righto, cummon, I'm not goin' t' sit 'round all day an' wait! Ta-ta!"!"