Codax the King by Brock Barnes
Key: 10 dashes indicate the begin/end of a chapter or book
- * * * indicates a pass in time within the chapter
It was a dark and stormy night. The Abbot was having a peaceful dream about his prior week; thinking of sitting beneath wonderful, blooming apple trees in the orchards. Despite all the calm serenity, there was a large crash behind him. The ancient Abbot turned his head. It was the one and only Martin the Warrior of his beloved Abbey. Without speaking the Father Abbot rose slowly and cautiously. Martin seemed to glide towards him. The mouse abbot was curious. Martin had just stood still, staring. Suddenly the warrior mouse had grown to an enormous height.
"Save the King on your doorstep!" he had yelled.
"What? Who do you.." the abbot was cut short by another booming yell from Martin.
"Make haste, old one. The King will arrive and you shall be there to greet him."
Martin disappeared. The abbot was thoroughly confused. He had awoken with a puzzled, and somewhat frightened look upon his face. The darkness engulfed his entire room. The abbot looked outside. This was no time for a beast of royal stature to be arriving. Martin must have been mistaken. The oldest mouse in the abbey returned to his slumber.
"Father Joseph," a small mouse nudged her abbot, "there are two squirrels outside, and one doesn't look so well."
The mouse abbot sleepily rubbed his eyes.
"What did you say, my child?"
"There are squirrels outside, Father Joseph."
Joseph leaped out his bed with surprising agility and nimbleness for such an old mouse. Martin was right. But then, when was he ever wrong?
Book One: The Fellowship of the King
This is taken from the annals of Redwall's gatekeeper and recorder, John Churchmouse II.
It's hard to beleive it has been so long since my wife and Abbot Joseph found little Codax and his mother on the doorstep of our humble abode. It's a shame Codax never knew his mother. From what my dear Mary told me she was such a sweetheart, even in her dying hours. I was pleased to take Codax in because Mary had just born my son, William. I'm very proud to say that his uncle was none other than our very own warrior, Martin II. Even though Martin was ancient by the time William was born, he could already tell who his successor was to be. Well, Codax and William became inseperable friends. I can see them just outside the window now; wrestling in the ground with delight. Codax enjoys using his tail to his advantage it's quite comical actually. Our old abbot only gets older as his birthday is rapidly approaching. He will throw a feast and all are welcome to join. Oh! I almost forgot. Log-a-log Riso passed his leadership of Guosim to his son, Musaraa. His first act as Log-a-log will be to bring his shrews to Redwall for the feast. Well that's all for me today, if you're ever around Mossflower, please visit!
John Churchmouse II rose from his seat and stretched his paws over his head. He then belched rather viciously. Unfortunately for him his wife heard.
"Johnathan Churchmouse!" she cried, "you will never do that again in this cottage!" She materialized right behind him and conked him on the head.
John turned rapidly round and grabbed his wife. He put her in a fireman's carry. "Never again me dearie!"
He put her down and they walked outside laughing. It was sweltering hot outside on the grounds of the Abbey, for the sun was at it's zenith. Codax and William came tumbling in in front if them. They landed at the feet of their mother. Both sprang up and faced each other again. As William lunged at Codax, Codax jumped aside to the right, and sent him sprawling with his bushy tail. William looked up heaving for air. He then grabbed Codax's leg and pulled so he fell down. John felt this a good time to intervene: he promptly sat on both of them.
"I win," John said. Both his on and foster son looked and laughed. Mary looked away trying to hide her smile. She did not approve of this behaviour; however, it was hard not to be proud that she had raised two wonderful boys.
"Foremole wants to see both of you hooligans. Says he's got a job for you to do," Mary said once she had smiled her fill. Both boys leaped up. They had wanted to hang out with Formole, or any mole for that matter once they had heard one talk. Besides, they might get to meet Foremole's son, who was about their age. They would have loved him.
"Betcha I can beat you there!" yelled Codax.
"Not without climbing you can't!" William had yelled back. After all Codax had a huge head start.
As Codax scampered along the ground way ahead of William, he decided to investigate the freshly grown strawberry patch. He sat down and sampled one, two three, four of the plumpest berries he found. A bird perched in the nearby tree called to him, "Bushytailworm, why you eat Sparra's berries?"
"I told you a million times, Yellowbeak, my friends in the abbey grew them. You can have some if you like, though," Codax replied.
"Bahhhh, I no want them now, I only like when worm inside berry." Yellowbeak sneered at Codax. "Hey where you big axe? You have big axe hen you come here. Why I never see squirrely with axe? I see squirrely worm many times, but no axe?" Yellowbeak inqueried.
"You must be mistaken, sparrow, I don't own an axe," Codax said as the solitary Sparrra warrior flew away; but he wondered...
William finally caught up to Codax and saw his back turned to him in the orchard. He caught him unawares and got his cummepets. Codax playfully wrestled with him for a short moment but ended up pushing him off. "Willie," he said with sincerity in his voice, "do ya..?" he was cut off by his best friend and foster brother.
"Not now Codax, m'friend. We need to get to Foremole. Can it wait?"
"Umm, sure," Codax sounded a little disappointed. William sensed this disappointment and lightened the mood.
"Tell you what. First to Foremole gets the candied chestnuts from the other's plate at dinner tonight. Deal?"
"You bet!" And the brothers ran off. But Codax was still curious.
Abbot Joseph was sitting down listening to the ramblings of Foremole and his son, Burly. He softly chuckled to himself as the mole's dialect became more and more incomprehensible. The abbot actually had no idea what the mole needed two strong, young animals for.
"Yiss, and oi'll loikly shift that rubble yurr, but oi'm needen a cloimber loike. You know zurr abbot?" Foremole asked.
"Yes the ones coming are very athletically gifted. One is a squirrel (naturally good at climbing, you know), and the other is Martin II's nephew."
"'Owz im related to zurr Martin?" Burly asked tugging on his snout uncomfortably. He obviously had no idea what uncle meant.
"My apologies, Burly, for not explaining," Joseph said elegantly, "Martin's mother had a brother, who didn't have a child until very late in his life. That was our current gatekeeper and recorder John Churchmouse. William is his son. Since Martin and John's parents were brother and sister, that makes them cousins. And the offspring of one cousin is called a nephew to the other. Last of all the child would call his father's cousin 'uncle'."
"Oi unnerstann' now, zurr. You'm ver gud at 'splainin things," Burly said with actual admiration for the ancient mouse.
"Yiss, that abbot 'sa 'telligenn won, ee is," Foremole declared.
The abbot smiled and waited for the boys. He was always pleased to enlighten people. The door swung open and William rushed in, panting. He was followed closely by his best friend and fellow racer. They both leaned over, paws on their knees. William was quietly cackling to himself. He had just won an extra handful of candied chestnuts for dinner.
"William and Codax, reporting for duty, Foremole sir," William managed to squeeze out.
"What's wrong with you two?" the abbot asked, "Did you run all the way from Salamandastron?" the abbot thought himself very sarcastic at that moment.
The young animals looked at each other sheepishly. They said they raced to Foremole, but had no idea where he was, and had to ask for directions many times. William had only asked twice, while Codax stopped five times. William contemplated telling the old mouse about their bet, but thought better of it, as he might try to stop it.
"Roight you'm two beasts. Come 'long with me," Foremole got straight to the point.
"'Ow dee doo dee zurrs. Oi'm Burly. Oi'. 'is son. An yurr Martin's nephew!" Burly beamed at the abbot. He had been anxious to show off his knowledge.
Codax thought this hilarious and burst out laughing. It may have been rude to laugh at the mole, but he had barely heard one talk before. Luckily Burly and Foremole knew this and took no offense and even joined in on the contagious laughter. The only one not laughing was William. Although very proud of his uncle, he didn't like to flaunt it, as he was somewhat humble. The laughter had died down before William said anything. He was going to correct Burly, because Martin and he were actually second cousins, but that was going to be too hard to explain.
"Roight let's get goin'," Foremole said as he wiped his snout.
- * * *
Foremole had needed help from a fast runner and a climber. He found that in William and Codax, respectively. He needed the climber to go up a tree and test if it were light enough to fell by digging. He needed the runner to go back and forth from the site to Redwall in order to relay information to Bingo the vole, who was looking to build a farm and house there. Foremole, Burly and the rest of the crew would then commence digging out the tree.
On the way to the worksite Codax and William had taken a liking to the funny mole. The walk was full of funny jokes and comical expressions made by the new 'triple threat', as Burly liked to say.
"We'm loiken a tripol threat. Oi can dig, you'm can climb, an you'm can run!" Burly was very excited about the new nickname for the friends.
"Awroight! Codax get up that thar tree an speak if it can come down boi diggin'!" Foremole ordered Codax.
"Yes zurr!" Codax said and quickly scrambled up the tree. Formole thought the imitation of his speak was very honoring.
Codax had got only about halfway up when the tree started to wobble. He still felt comfortable, however and decided to venture up just a little bit farther up to see if the moles could dig it out. A little farther up he started to wobble even more.
"Be careful Codax!" William shouted. He was genuineoy worried for his foster brother firend's life.
"He'm won fall willee?" Burly asked anxiously.
"No, Burly that's not like him.
Codax had decided. The tree was light enough to be dug out. He was on his way down, carefully placing his foot on the widest boughs he could see. But, one of the bracnhes was rotten, and it slightly snapped. The noise was within earshot of the spectators down below.
"Don't use that one, buddy! It's gonna fall!" William shouted nervously.
The response from above came: "It's the widest one, I'll chance it!"
There was an even louder snap. The branch had broken.
Far away from Redwall Abbey, on the shores of Albero Island, where the mighty Redwood trees grew, the elder badger in the clan was waking up. The huge badger arose and looked up at the top of the enormous trees surrounding the clearing in which his clan had chosen to rest. He had hoped it had not happened again.
"Strypefang? Are you out there?" the elder yelled. There was no response. The old fighter ventured out to where his sentry's post was to be, right between two massive oaks. The old one poked his snout through them. He slowly looked around. Down was the last direction it was. Strypefang was on the ground in a pool of blood. There were multiple spears stuck in him. Behind the old leader came a yell.
"My children! They've taken my children," The badgermaid wailed, "surely you'll do something this time, Bloodgharm?"
The leader turned his massive body. "Yes. Next time triple the sentries. Those god damn rats want a war. We'll give them a war."
The badger lifted a huge paw over his head and screamed: "You hear that rat! We'll give you a war!"
Far off in the woods of Albero Island, the Rat gang heard the yell. The group of bilge rats were slavers to a nearby stoat stronghold. The came to islands and kidnapped children. The child badgers of Albero were ideal workers for the stoat.
"I guess we'll have to have a war then, lads! No doubt that big ol' badger will have one by the looks of things," a brawny looking rat exclaimed. The rat turned to his chief. "Eh, that big feller, Bloodwotsisname, I could take him, you think Chief?"
"Bloodgharm would eat you for breakfast," came a cry from the crowd of slaves. A young badger stepped out of the group, paws still chained, legs still weighted down by a ball and chain. "And I could too if you cowards took these chains off of me."
Needless to say all the rats were shocked. The leader was the only one that said anything. "I don't doubt your strength little boy, but to challenge one of my crew's strongest rats...you think you are that capable? I'll tell you what, if you can best ol' Dubba here in a wrasslin' match, no weapons, you can go free with one other creature, savvy? That is if it's okay with Dubba here?"
The brawny rat rose to his highest stature. He jumped into the slaves and made a face, and then growled at the badger. He didn't flinch. Dubba laughed and strode back to his leader. "Aye, I'll take him on."
"Right then. Off with the young lad's chains."
Two rats of medium size took off the badger's chains. He started to survey his opponent. Dubba was the biggest rat, next to the Chief. He had huge forepaws, and muscular thighs. He was a head taller than the badger. The badger started to crack his knuckles and was staring a hole in his opponent.
Dubba was very confident he would thoroughly defeat his opponent. "Get on with it," the Chief said impatiently. Dubba sprang at the badger. The next thing he knew, he was on his back. The young badger had knocked him out of the air with one swipe. He got up snarling. Must've been a fluke. Dubba launched himself at the young creature again, but found himself staring at the sky once more. At this point Dubba wasn't so sure he'd win this fight. He switched strategies, deciding on waiting for the badger to attack.
And attack he did.
The badger slowly moved his way towards Dubba until he was just outside pawslength. Suddenly the young one was upon the older, stronger rat. He knocked him in the gut with so much force, the rat flew backwards. On his back again. But he didn't see sky this time; he saw the face of a young badger pummelling his body and head. Dubba couldn't take the rest of the beating. He blacked out. All the crew watched, astonished. The young badger rose from his victim, triumphant.
"And Bloodgharm beats me like that every time we spar. Any other takers in this filthy, vermin crew?" No one said a word. The badger turned to a younger badger. This was a peculiar looking thing. All black, pink nose. But definitely a badger. "Let's go, Pazzo," he said to the creature. He started to walk over to his brother, the black badger. But Dubba had gotten up. He held a knife in his hand. He threw it with supreme accuracy. It lodged itself in the young badger. He collapsed. Dubba limped casually over to the still writhing body, pulled his knife out, and turned the body of the martially gifted badgerchild. He gazed into the almost glossy eyes.
"I bet your dear Bloodgharm couldn't have stopped that though." He cackled so evilly that even the exalted chief was a little scared. He had no clue that Dubba was capable of such trickery. Even to him, that was hellish. And he enslaved young, innocent creatures.
But the badger had one more thing to say, "You're going to be the first one he kills..." and as his last act as a living beast, the badger unceremoniously spat into the face of his assasin.
"He won't get his paws on me," Dubba said as he wiped the blood from his face. The rest of the crew were staring at him. The Chief thought only one thing to himself. Who's going To kill Dubba? he the said his thought aloud.
Dubba looked at him and said, "'Sobvious, innit Chief? That rascal Bloodgharm. He ain't gonna git me without a fight though."
"He has to have killed someone before, eejit. You won't be the first one he kills."
"I know who it is," came a timid cry from the slaves, "he meant me." It was the all black badger talking.
Dubba looked at him and laughed. He shrugged off the so called threat and returned to his idle work, talking up his victory to the freshly relieved guards.
The Chief looked at the badger. Small and timid as he was, he still had a ferocious quality about him. Like he could take a wolverine at the present stage in his life. Later that night, The Chief secretly had his crew mates old chains bound to him for double protection.
It was morning time at Redwall Abbey. The doctors gathered around the still unconscious Codax. His foster mother was in the room weeping. JOhn had his arms wrapped round her so tightly you would have thought they were one being. The clean white sheets were the only bright thing in the room, still being dark and dreary. It was raining very hard, and had been since Codax had been confined to the infirmary. William was ranting to himself in the corner. without Codax, he would have no idea what he would do. He didn't even want to think about it.
The five mice looked on over the young squirrel, worrying. The doctor told his assistant to force feed him more medicine. William looked on with fright. Nothing had been broken, but he had some very badly bruised bones. However, this medicine would help his bruises disappear. If or when he awoke from his coma, only minor pains would be left. Foremole and Burly felt that they were all to blame. Of course the family told them that it was in no way, shape or form, their fault. Foremole offered to tend to him, but the doctor just ignored his call of assistance.
"I think we best leave him be for now," the doctor mouse said. John Curchmouse nodded in agreement. Only William and Burly stayed behind. once the adults left, the animals were left to their own devices.
"Urr, oi don know much bouta doctorin an whatnot, but uh," Burly fumbled for his words. William chuckled.
"Nothing like listening to a mole talk."
"Aye, we'm the best speakers out thurr. Oi bet even hares arena better than oi!"
"Yeah I've never heard one talk, you?"
"Nay, nay zurr."
"Well, come on let's go ask someone"
- * * *
Codax was alone in a dark forest. But this wasn't the forest of Mossflower, with its leafy, deciduous trees. These were abnormally large, sparatically branched trees.
"Woah," Codax breathed the words out in admiration. He wanted oh so badly to climb one. When he attempted to scamper off, and up one, it disappeared. He fell a short distance. It didn't hurt. When he gazed back where the tree was, a mighty looking mouse took its place. Codax recognized his face instantly.
"Martin?" Codax asked.
The great Warrior mouse bowed down to the young squirrel. "Why are you bowing to me, sir?" Codax was awfully surprised.
The great mouse rose and said: "You are the king. You wield the axe. You can prevent the war. Make haste my friend; find your kingdom."
And with that he vanished. Codax realized he was dreaming and tried to get himself to wake up. He sat down crosslegged and shut his eyes tight and thought about waking up in the gatehouse next to his brother. He looked up, with no hope left. Just then he was staring right into the eyes of Burly.
"Zurr! You'm woken! Oi'll go fetch the parents!"
"Wait, Burly," I need to got to the abbot. Do you know where he is?"
"Yiss, he be in 'is studyu, oi bleeve" Codax bowled over the mole in the doorway, and was at an all out sprint to Father Joseph.
"Sorry, Burly," Codax called over his shoulder while he bolted down stairs.
"He'm woken up crazy, 'e did."
- * * *
Father Joseph was in his study quietly reading a book about past abbots of Redwall, and what they were famous for. He was reading an especially entertaining piece on Abbot Cedric, Mortimer's predecessor, and how he was particularly apt at juggling. Joseph's slightly ajar door burst open. There was Codax dripping with sweat. Joseph turned around and surveyed his constituent of the Abbey. "What seems to be the problem, Codax?" he inquired.
"Where's my axe?" he demanded in response to the question. "and I know its real; Yellowbeak and Martin told me about it."
"Ah, yes. Well, you must sit down. It's a very long story. I knew this time would be coming soon when I would have to tell you this. Let's start out with the basics. YOu are destined to become king of an island, as William is destined to become Champion of Redwall. Yes it's all true. Martin, the second of course, told me that after he died, and when William was old enough, he was to be passed on Championship of our Abbey. And your very own birthmother was the one to tell me who you really were."
Codax looked at Father Joseph with suspicious eyes. He didn't believe he was a king. The abbot sensed his doubt, then got up and went to his bookcase. He pulled out a volume of books and revealed a secret compartment behind the case.
"You better go pull out the package."
Codax got up from his chair, and reached his arm through the hole in the wall, his armpit was almost against the wall when he felt the crate. Codax felt around for the handle. He found it then grasped hold of it. He slid the crate out and placed on the floor. The abbot looked at him. It was implied he wanted him to open it. Codax shut his eyes and slowly opened crate. Eyes still shut firmly tight, he grabbed something. As he pulled out the mystery item, he already knew what it was. It was his axe. The handle was a little longer than Codax's forearm. The weapon was short enough to be handled with just one hand, but long enough to be wielded two-handed, without a shield.
"This... this...is mine?"
"All yours. Now, we've got to listen to my story."
The ancient mouse sighed, crossed his legs, and folded his paws on his knee. Codax noted that he looked very dignified. He was proud to call him his abbot.
"A long time ago, I met your birth mother, courtesy of a dream from Martin. He informed me that a king would be arriving. Now, I didn't believe him thinking that a dignified, royal beast would be travelling in such a storm. But, there she was, alone, at death's door. Your foster mother brought her in to me. I set her down in a bed, and talked with her. She told me the story of how she came upon our Abbey. Back on her home island, she was one of a council making up the governing body of the kingdom. She spoke of six squirrel nations, each made up of around twenty or thirty tribes. Each of these nations nominated one squirrel each to advise the king, a brown squirrel, like you. Your mother spent so much time with the king, your father: Rex, that she fell in love with him." Joseph abruptly stopped in the middle of the tale. Codax was anxious. He looked around nervously. There was an awkward silence.
"But, she was on the council, and she couldn't love him. Your mother defied all the rules and went to the king. These secret meetings went on, and they were eventually married at one of them. All was well, no one knew of the romance, until she had you. Needless to say the nations were very upset. There was going to be a major civil war. So, your father, fearing you or your mother would be harmed sent her away with this axe, in the hopes you would return and restore order. But, on her way out, your mother was severely injured. It's a miracle that she survived that long to get here. There is a map of your home in the crate as well. When you are ready, I suppose you will have to leave."
Codax was astounded. A king? He never thought of himself as more than just an orphan living with a great family. This was something else. If he was destined to go to his homeland, would anyone go with him? He hoped William would go, but he wasn't going to force him to travel with him. Codax must have waited 2 minutes in silence with the abbot.
"I'll go after your feast," and he walked out the door.
Codax was silently striding down the hallway. He had a determined look upon his face. The hall was swamped with creatures preparing for Abbot Joseph's birthday feast. Codax dodged left and right until he collided with a creature of his own size. It was a spiky looking mouse. Codax realized it wasn't a mouse, it was a shrew.
"Watch where you're going, squirrel!" the shrew yelled at Codax.
"You better watch who you're talking to, shrew," Codax said with the same malicious tone the shrew had spoken with earlier, "you're speaking to royalty."
"Same to you. I'm as good as royalty. LOGALOGALOOOOOOOOOG!!!" the shrew screamed. Within seconds a dozen shrews were behind him. "Step aside, yer majesty."
"Ahh, so you're Musaraa. New Log-a-log of the Guosim? I heard about you, but I betcha can't take me at wrestl..." Codax's words trailed off as the shrew jumped him.
It was vicious, Musaraa was fighting dirty, clawing biting every chance he got. Codax still was able to fend him off with his tail and paws. But in the midst of this bout, a few other skirmishes broke out. Several shrews were being ploughed over by Burly, and William was behind the other. Codax last saw him bash two shrew's heads together. Finally, Musaraa pulled himself away from Codax, got up and declared the fight over. All the shrews stopped and were patting each other on the back. Musaraa turned to Codax and shook his hand.
"Brilliant scrap, eh? It was a little harsh at the begining though. I'll think we'll be friends though. You're really a king? In Mossflower?"
Codax was astonished. How could these creatures go from hostilities to peacemaking so quickly. He was a little slow to Musaraa, who jokingly said; "You're wanting another fight then?"
Codax awkwardly joined in on his laughter until William and Burly found there ways over to Codax. Burly was sporting a few gashes and cuts, while William was, for the most part, unscathed. William questioningly looked at Codax, who just shrugged.
Musaraa had finished laughing and asked again about Codax's royalty.
"You're royalty?" William asked incredulously.
"'Sa big annuncment, zurr."
"Yeah, I found out today. The abbot told me of how I got here, and where I came from. After Martin visited me in a dream. Pretty intriguing, I'll tell you the whole story later."
Musaraa had looked suspiciously at Codax. "Martin told yee? He's the one, from a dream, who tole me to bring the shrews to Redwall."
"Well, everyone's having dreams about Martin," William sighed.
"'Ceptin me zurr, you'm ad won, wif lotsa moice," Burly forced out.
"What? You had a dream with Martin, too?"
"An' lotsa other moice."
"Yeah, thanks Burly; but, yes! I'll tell you. lets go to our room. You'd probably, want to come as well," he signaled to Burly and Musaraa.
The quartet ventured out onto the grounds.
"Spill the beans, William," Codax said eagerly, "what happened in yours?"
"Well, while you were in a coma, I had a dream. I was sleeping, then suddenly, I was awake. But I really wasn't. The room had disappeared, and a white nothingness had taken it's place. But, I wasn't alone. There were six mice standing around me, all holding one sword."
"Yurr, the sword o' Mar'in!"
"Yes, the blade of legend. Guosim helped recover it from Asmodeous, the giant adder, y'know," Musaraa was speaking proudly.
"The very one. Four of the mice I recognized, being related to three of them, and Martin, well, he's impossible to not recognize," William continued, "so I'm guessing, the other two were the famous Martin's father and grandfather. Luke and Martin the elder. Read about them in a book from the gatehouse, not important. They spoke all at once; 'William, accompany the king.' I said, 'with what? how?' and then they said 'find the blade'."
The four young animals sat in silence for a few minutes. Dead silent.
"Well where is it?" Musaraa asked.
"No one in the abbey knows, it was hidden by his cousin," Codax said "maybe Yellowbeak knows where it is, he's a nosey bird, he'd help us, right?"
"Not likely, the only clue Martin left was 'I am that is found me 'twixt Cavern Hole and Great Hall.'" William said.
"What's oi am tha is?" Burly questioned.
"You know who'd know? Our dad." William got up and ran out of the room. Codax and the others followed as best they could, but this was as fast as William had ever run.
William got to his destination and waited for the rest of his pals. He knew his father would be helping out in the kitchen so close to the feasting. When his comrades approached, he opened the door, and motioned for them to go in. All four young creatures spread out looking for John Churchmouse. Musaraa found him first. Burly was the next one there who proceeded to shout: "Oi foond 'im, oi did!" repeatably, much to Musaraa's delight, and the embarrassment of the recorder. When all the younger ones arrived, the questions started pouring in.
"Who was 'I am that is'? Was it a who? Is it a where? yeah, it's a where. Where is 'twixt Cavern hole and Great hall?"
"Thas just stairs tween um, zurr. Wha' does it mean, zurr?"
"Easy, lads. Calm down. Sound like a bunch of dibbuns," John said as he shhok his head. His gaze fell upon Codax. "When did you get up? You're mother's been worried sick for you. What's going on? Now I'm the one with crazy questions."
"Who was I am that is, dad?" William finally said clearly enough for his father to understand.
"Huh, that's yer own ancestor, Matthias. Go see your mother, boys. You're friends can go along, too. Now!" the boys saw that he was serious and ventured through the abbey, off to find William and Codax's mother. The conversation continued as they walked.
"Matthias was known for recovering Martin's armour and shield for the first time in ages," Codax said
"We know the story of Bull Sparra, and Asmodeous, so the sword won't be on the weathervane, Martin was smarter than that," William also exclaimed.
"We could check the abbey's records for some mention of his finding," Musaraa contributed.
"Nay, nay, we'd 'ave to nurrow it doon, zurr? Who'm was recorder when Matthoias was roond?" Burly proposed a legitimate question; but, the search would have to wait, for the friends were approaching Mary. Burly, and Musaraa left once William gave them a nod of approval.
"Codax!" his foster mother ran forward and embraced him. "I've been worried sick, especially when we didn't find you in bed, only Burly whimpering about being tackled by you."
"well, lots has happened in that time. Codax is a king on some island, and I'm going to be Champion of Redwall," William admitted. Their mother obviously thought this a joke and started guffawing in a very unladylike fashion. She was embarrassed and stopped once she heard herself.
"Very funny, help me with these plates," Mary handed her children an armful of platters stacked high with delicious treats, "and don't even think about it."
"No, it's true. We had dreams from Martin, and the abbot confirmed it," Codax said. He omitted the part about his journey to this island, for the sake of breaking his foster mother's heart.
"Well, I'll have to speak to the abbot," That was all she said, and the subject was dropped. "You boys are excited for the feast. I hear there having a wrestling tournament and a race. It'll be a blast,"
"Yeah, it'll be great," Codax said, with an air of dread to his voice. He could only think of what was to come after the feast, and the dangers laid before him.
The gang of bilge rats had designated a few to go to the stoats and ask for reinforcements. They three rats that left returned with 700 trained stoat soldiers. The combined force of the gang numbered almost a thousand now. They were preparing for war.
"I reckon we'll see them sometime in the near future. Mebbe a week or so. They usually come by this path, nomads, they are," the Chief anxiously addressed the stoat-in-charge, Commander Cragg.
"We'll wait for them. The ambush will be swift, and they will be forced to submit, or face an untimely death," Cragg spoke with confidence.
Dubba watched the Chief very closely. He could take him on, he could be gang leader. But, Dubba didn't want to cause even more trouble in this mess already. The situation called for loyal troops now, but later, he could kill the Chief. And the stoat. He fancied his chances against this Cragg fella. It wouldn't but take a few minutes to spill his blood with the knife. He saw as the Commander motioned to two stoats and positioned them between two trees. No one else was watching, but Dubba was. Since no one was paying attention, the two stoats fell quickly to the ground, dead and unnoticed. The attack had come from above. Dubba started to sound the alarm.
Rats and Stoats alike had fallen, but many more had taken their battle positions. Dubba grabbed his sling and flung a stone with supreme accuracy to the spot where the first attack had come from. Out of the tree fell a wounded squirrel. He was the first to the body and grabbed the squirrel. Their assault had stopped. When Dubba finally studied his opponent, he saw it was a woman squirrel, of the kingdom on the other side of the island. She was a soldier from the fox squirrel nation, he could tell from her fox-like, almost fox identical, tail.
"How many were with ye?" Dubba hastily interrogated his hostage. She screamed in pain. Dubba repeated his question, tightening his grip on her.
"Only forty...we were out gathering... we saw you... my tribe's leader, he wanted to attaAHHHHH!" she let out a blood-curdling scream as Dubba's long knife went through her back. He tossed her body on the pile of dead. He smartly reported the information to the Chief. The Chief relayed the information to Commander Cragg.
"Right, then. Only five casualties, one rat, four stoats. But for some very valuable information. Reward the fellow that squeezed it out of her, Dubba, was it?" Cragg said, pleased with the skirmish.
"I don't doubt we'll be seeing some more squirrels from that kingdom, though, sir. We dinnae mess with 'em, see. Lots of 'em. Always crawling round the trees. Real dangerous, sir." the Chief was obviously expecting another attack, for he kept looking to the trees during his speech.
"No worries. We'll be ready for them next time. Here, I have an idea. Slaughter a few of those slaves. The weak ones though. Preferably squirrels. Teach them a lesson, eh?" Cragg was pleased with the idea. He had a nearby rat go to the slaves and pick out three of them. She returned with an old black squirrel, an infant gray squirrel, and another ancient creature. This time it was a dormouse.
"Get on with it," Cragg said off-handedly.
The rat rose her cutlass, and brought it down upon the black squirrel. She impaled the bawling gray squirrel, and beheaded the dormouse. The chief instructed her to leave the bodies in the clearing. As the contingent marched onwards, thirty-nine pairs of eyes watched from the trees.
"How could they do that? Killing three innocent beings, that had nothing to do with the attack?" asked one fox squirrel, incredulously.
"They're evil scum. I hope those badgers massacre every last one of them," the tribal leader said, "come now, let's get home."
The fox squirrels leaped through the treetops, all the way back home.
The festivities at Redwall had begun. After countless hours preparing for Abbot Joseph's anniversary, the feast, the activities, and the joyful integration of abbey creatures and woodlanders were finally underway. The day started with an eating contest, fishing was another event, followed by the race around the walls, the wrestling tournament, the to top off the day: the feast.
Codax was going to meet up with his new friends, accompianied by William.
"I can't wait to take you down in wrestling, man I'm going to beat you down," William was bragging again.
"No chance, I'll take you down before you take me down," Codax replied with as much confidence he received, "I'll take the crown." He thought this a clever joke, because he was royalty after all. Anyway, the thought disappointed him because he just wanted to focus on the fun of today, rather than the sorrow of tomorrow. Then he remembered, "The sword! During the Eating contest, we can look for it," Codax was anxious to get it. Once they found it (he had a hunch they'd find it today) he'd tell his pals about the journey he was destined to take.
William's face lit up at the suggestion. he was excited as well. They found themselves almost on top of Burly and Musaraa in a few paces. William was ecstatic to rely the news to the shrew and mole. Both had thought of doing that, too.
"We'm needen be back boi the wraslin' tounromen. Oi'm competein. Oi hear there'm thirty two competein." Burly claimed he would win, just like William and Codax.
"So all of us are in that, eh? Thought you'd be racin', Willie," Musarra said.
"Nah, that's for dibbuns mostly, anyway, I already know I'm the fastest in Mossflower, so it doesn't matter to me," William replied to the question.
"Let's go get breakfast then we'll go to the gatehouse to figure more about Matthias," Codax suggested. All his friends agreed.
- * * *
After a refreshing breakfast with John and Mary, former Log-a-log Riso, and Foremole, the lads convened to the house.
"So, I asked my dad who the recorders were when Matthias was around, and he said it was some fella named Methuselah, and his very own namesake, the first John Churchmouse," William had done a little research at breakfast, and the rest of the quartet was impressed, "apparently, Methuselah had played a part in the discovery of Martin's equipment, so I think it may have been in there."
"But whas between Cavern Hole and the Great Hall? That be jus be a set o stairs, yurr," Burly added.
"Well, lets start looking lads," Musaraa said as he pulled a book marked 'Summer of the Laterose', "last one marked by Methuselah."
The rest of the guys started to pull Methuselah and the first John Churchmouse's records.
Sometime had passed since anyone found anything. Burly had found an interesting piece about a squirrel that talked, but it was of no use. They had gone through all the official records before William remembered. The past recorders of Redwall hadn't just written every season, many of them had taken personal accounts in various journals and diaries.
"I'm so stupid, guys. really, how could I have not thought of it before?" William sounded very disgusted with himself.
"Cheer up, mate. It's no big deal. Tell us about it," Musaraa encouraged him.
"My dad said Methuselah had helped Matthias, right? So, he had to have written it in his person journal. Let's see if we can scrounge his up," William said this and then scampered off into the bookshelf, "and I suppose we have plenty of time until the tournament."
It took some digging into the loaded bookshelf, many books with yellowing pages were tossed on the floor, useless to the boys' quest.
Codax pulled one out marked: 'I am that is.'
"Guys, this looks very promising," Codax said as he waved the leather-bound book in the air. He waited for his friends to come to him before he opened it. They all piled onto the sofa, leaning in, looking over Codax's shoulder.
Codax scanned through the pages until he found something he liked.
"It says 'I have had the pleasure of accompanying young Matthias around the abbey looking for the sword of Martin the Warrior. I always thought Matthias to be special, but to be chosen by Martin, hundreds of seasons in advance? It certainly helped that I am so clever and solved the riddle behind Martin's picture on the tapestry.' A riddle behind the tapestry?" Codax paused from the entry to ask his question.
"Get on wi tha' thurr story, zurr, or oi'm loikly to loose it," Burly commented in good humour.
"Codax laughed and continued. "'So far we have figured that 'twixt Cavern hole and Great Hall is just a stairway, but Foremole and his crew took off the stair under the 'W' on the wall, and it revealed a dark passage. And inside it was Martin's tomb!'" Codax's voice trailed off.
"I didnae know Martin was butied here," Musaraa said.
"No one did, 'cept the ones who buried him, and Methuselah and Matthias," William said.
"Burly looked out the window into the clear, bright sunny day. "Looks loike the festvities is startin, zurrs. Hurr, lets get thurr."
No one disagreed. Martin could wait, the lads had agreed to save the expedition for when they could slink away from the crowd. Anyway, each was eager to show the others up in the contest.
The fox squirrels were on there way to their tribal territory when they ran into trouble. A party of black squirrels were roaming that part of the forest. Instead of confronting the rival nation, the fox squirrels avoided them and took the long way around. They got to their territory, and settled in. It was a huge settlement, all built on the branches of the mighty redwood trees. Many more settlements were like this, but there were quite a few on the ground, as well. The tribal leader motioned for his two right paw men, to accompany him to his hut in the tree.
"Send word to the other tribes of our nation," he told his underlings, "you: tell them of the rats and stoats, and you: of the black squirrels getting closer to our lands."
The two trusty squirrels saluted and walked out. The leader leaned back into his hammock, and sighed. When will the civil wars end? he thought to himself. The war had begun when Rex's son was discovered, and would surely only end when he was dead. But each nation wanted one of their leaders as king, and the brown squirrels still held unwavering support to Rex, even though he didn't have the axe.
A woman squirrel came into his hut. "Angus, sir? Are you awake?"
The leader lifted his head. "Yeah, I'm up."
"Word has come from another tribe, they say they were ambushed by red squirrels," the woman squirrel sounded horrified. Angus threw his legs over the side of the hammock, and sat still, staring into the ground. He let out another audible sigh. He was disappointed. He didn't feel like dealing with the red squirrels again, both sides would surely have many casualties.
"Well, lets tell them if it happens again, they can stay here, and we'll work out a counter attack," the response was cool, with no hint of doubt or disappointment.
The squirrelmaid rushed out of the leader's quarters and off to the attacked tribe with the message.
A pity all this happened on such a nice night. Angus slumped back into his hammock, sighed for the last time, and went to sleep.