Watch this space!
When you bore yourself writing (one of) your own stories, it's time to think of a new one. I'll need some characters, watch this page and post in the comments!
Ask if you wish to be on the update list! We'll contact you when there's a big update, which hopefully, will be every 2 or 3 days.
They'll be going to Noonvale, maybe Redwall, but most likely not Salamandastron.
They say names can forcast a being's personality, and with all my heart, I hope they're wrong.
--Menace of Solanum.
This is a story about good friends of mine, ones I met on my travels, with whom I was ferreted away to the farthest points of the quiet glades, only to follow them again to liberate his home. Hope I've done well.
Part 1: Menace and Prippagoda
The community of Solanum was situated in a plain. To the east, there was a large cliff, where the three children sat on top. The pretty black sable tossed a pebble down.
"Look, Othell's pickin' carrots an' leeks'n'stuff." She said "I hopes so very much he makes his turnover for the Autumn Welcome Feast!"
The hedgehog spoke up, "That'd be great! Oh, Look over in the orchard! There's shaking trees!" Another hedgehog walked out of the thicket, flanked by others. "Oh," he frowned, "Just Prippa."
The mouse was looking behind them, where out in the distance, there were more cliffs, and supposedly, a deep gorge. He turned back to the others.
"Santaru, I know she's your sis an' all, but why's she so mean?" he asked.
"Better question," said the sable, "Why can't grownups see that she is? They think she's perfect. Perfection isn't callin' people names, or chuckin' apple pips at 'em."
A yell from the bottom startled them, and they looked down. Someone was hailing them for supper. The mouse sighed.
"Well, bein' away from that was nice for a moment. Torru will be waiting for me to heat the pot, and walk him to the open halls." He started down the cliffside, his friends following.
Kalkaza the sable, Santaru the hedgehog, and the orphan Menace headed down to their town of Solanum.
Kalkaza was lucky enough to live with her parents, Santalu with his sister (Not so lucky) and his aunt. Menace lived with an old shrew named Torru. Torru made Menace sweep the hut and prepare supper, but in return, he told the most wonderful stories about far off places. Redwall, Salamandastron, Southsward--they were all nice, but nothing held a candle in the young mouse's mind like Noonvale did. It seemed like such a lovely place, a place where one could find a proper family. One that would be willing to let old Torru in as well.
A family who would genuinely love him. In a community that wouldn't think him such a bother, such a troublemaker, such a menace.
When you reach the age of 12 seasons in Solanum, you are in line for an Apprenticeship. Menace had heard Kalkaza and Santalu speak and imagine about their new roles in the community, defense and offense for her, cooking for him.
Menace hadn't the faintest idea. For quite a bit of the time, Apprenticeship was based off of your family, and Menace only had Torru, who was an elder--one retired from the 'workforce' of Solanum--when Menace was found and adopted. So, he had volunteered everywhere, helping whomever he could in hopes for a recommendation. If he didn't receive one...well, he wasn't sure what would happen.
"Don't be too worried, Menn." Kalkaza squinted an eye and threw her knife, pinning the carrot Santaru was holding to the tree. "There'll be something, there is for everyone."
"Yes, don't you worry, Menace, I'm sure someone will need to wash the dishes, take out the scraps...well, you understand!"
Kalkaza pulled a face, "Santaru! Don't say that!"
"'Twasn't him, you stupid stoat, it was me!" A female hedghog appeared in the clearing, in front of a group of four other girls. She had a mean look on her face that belied the orchid stuck decoratively in her spines.
"I'm most certain Lady Sangrine could use a floor or chimeny sweep boy in Sola Tower." She looked at the sliced vegtables and the throwing knives, "Kalkaza will be a guardmaid, and this brother of mine a cook, so you'll still see each other! Unless you do such a terrible job they clap you in the dungeons forever!"
"Go away, Prippa, you and your horde!" said Santaru, and Menace held him back.
"You can't harm me with a carrot, boy." A otter stepped in front of Prippagoda with a sizable stick. "But Clanda can hurt you! Isn't that nice how that works?"
Kalkaza held two more knives and handed one to Menace, "I'd rather not cut anyone--as long as I don't get in trouble--but she crossed the line now."
Both sets of children were glaring at each other, until some nearby bushes shook, and a old watervole stumbled out, glasses falling from his nose.
"Ah, ahem! What is this, now?"
Prippa gave off an innocent smile, "Just playing, sir. There was a nasty bit of wasps flying about, sir. Clanda was swinging them away, even though they wanted them here."
The vole squinted around, "Eh, eh, who's they, Prippagoda?"
"Our friends Menace, Kalkaza, and my dearest brother." Prippa made a motion, and Clanda stepped back. The elder animal looked at the three.
"Well, why on earth would you wish to play with wasps? Be grateful Miss Prippa and her friends were here to help ye." He spied the chopped vegetables beneath the tree. "She even was so kind as to chop up some veggibles for soup! Up now, you three, if she can pull her weight, ya'lls can pull yours too. Pick those up and take 'em to the kitchen. I'll see you get a special treat, young 'un." When he turned away and stomped back through the grass, all of Prippagoda's group stuck their tongue out at the others, and flounced away.
"Don't be too worried." It was supper of the next day.
Santaru looked at Menace in amazement, "We got no reason to be worried, that's you!"
"It's the beginning of the rest of our lives. Well, beginning at night." Kalkaza
"To be honest, we're in for a dull life if we stay here, I think." something hit Menace on the back of the head, but he didn't react. Being a bit shy, and with little friends or cohorts, he couldn't very well retaliate against Prippagoda and her group.
"We're in for Hellgates on earth if we stay here." said Santaru. "They've got bad blood."
"Er, that's your sister...you've got bad blood too?"
"No!" The hedgehog protested, and they all started to laugh. A bell rang, and a voice called out "Future Apprentices, order here now!"
The laughter died out; All the young animals stood up and walked slowly to the side door of the eating hall. "Hang back a mo'." whispered Santaru, grabbing the back of their tunics, "Let's get as far away from her as we can..."
His plan was a good one, but his sister figured it out. When they arrived in the room, they stood in a line in front of the village workers. Prippa had sidled over and pushed her way between Menace and Kalkaza.
Marsaltn--A pine martin, the Town Crier--clicked his heels together and began to shout. "Show respect for the Masters of the Village! With luck, hard work, and skill, I'll be shouting this at other children while you watch!"
There were giggles from a few people; even the Masters.
"Presenting...Sir Cochin the Scribemaster, Valtalla the Cartographer, Reinr Doshir, Head of Guards! Clouks Ravar, Head Chef! Luce Torro, Master of Trades! Saybica, Historian!" When Marsaltn finished, a quiet knock sounded on the door behind him. He opened it a fraction, whispered (loudly) "Just a moment, you must be introduced. Proper protocol, Lady.", turned back to the crowd and shouted at the top of his lungs, "Annnnd finally, our Lady Sangrine herself!"
A red-and-gold furred squirrellady entered the room with a serene smile, putting the nervous children at ease.
"Every year, we at Solanum see even better opportunities in our young ones than the years before!" She walked down the row, stopping in front of Menace, Prippagoda, Santaru, and Kalkaza. Prippa tried to look taller, like a member of a royal court; Lady Sangrine smiled and said, "'Tis good to see you, Menace." and he blushed.
"I've seen you taking more of an interest on what you'd like to do." Lady Sangrine had walked back up to the front of the room. "Mind, I don't have much of anything to do with who chooses you. That's their doing." She waved a paw to the Masters.
"Now, who's first?"
Marsaltn shook his paper out and said, "Cheerkit, Lady!" A short, fat otter with a headband of gulls' feathers stepped forward and saluted.
Sangrine smiled, "Good evening, Cheerkit. Now, what would you like to do?"
"Masta' o' Trades! I do it all the time, mere biscuits for pasties, watere'd broth for shrimp stew...I jus' tell 'em it's magacal!"
Luce Torro spoke up, "Well, if 'Kit can wheedle the traders that way, I'll be happy to have him along!"
"Wonderful, wonderful...next!" More names were called. Menace was so antsy that he crept his way to the back of the line, and no one paid any mind.
"Next..Kalkaza!" The tall black sable took a step forward and bowed.
"Renir Doshir, sir, I'd like to be a guard."
"Stand up, girl. Guards don't take their eyes off the enemy." and in a kinder tone, "What makes you think you can?" Kalkaza quickly stood up and fired off three throwing knives. One stuck over the window, another over the handle of the door, and the third on the wall behind Renir.
"...You don't want to throw away good weapons like that." He said, when Kal had withdrew a short sword.
"Oh, I know, sir. 'Tis only for far targets, who have really got to be stopped. I'd usually just chop 'em up."
The hare nodded, "Well, don't be tryin' to impress during training sessions, lass. With a bit of practice, you'll be a fine guard. Report to the fields behind Sola Tower an hour after sunrise tomorrow."
A grin broke out over her face. She bowed, and said, "Yes sir!", stepping back in line.
"Santaru and Prippagoda!" They both stepped up, glaring at each other until Marsaltn snapped, "Well?"
"Well, sir, I simply can't imagine what to do." said Prippa, with a curtsy, "Perhaps someone would have a suggestion?"
Since the hogmaid helped so many adults, no one could be really sure what job she would be suited for.
"I think she could be a lovely ambassador. Travel to other communities with our blessing, make allies and friends whenever something nasty comes around." Lady Sangrine nodded at Prippa, who seemed very surprised.
"Why, I'm a tad too young to go traveling alone, Lady!"
"'deed y'are, missy." interrupted Saybica, which was highly unlike her, "But you will probably be a very good lady in waiting, while receiving direction from Valtalla and I, and even Lady Sangrine."
The Lady nodded, barely smiling, "I'll agree. As for Santaru...well, what would you like to do?"
"I'd like to cook, please, Lady." He looked over at Clouks Ravar.
The stoat pulled a face, "Were you the one 'oo made that shrimp an' potato stew?"
"Thought so. I put it in storage, to feed to any vermin who might be a passin' through." When he saw the young hog's face fall, he shook his head, "Arr, now, don't be too upset, Santaru. We could use a good, fast recorder to jot down our idea. You'll hang 'round the kitchens, mebbe, who knows, help us out a bit?"
He nodded, and stepped back into line, smiling slightly.
"And now...our Menace. What job do you think you'd like?"
Every eye was upon him now. He looked at the Masters, who either turned away or looked with a blank or sympathetic look; It was clear none of them wanted to take him as an Apprentice.
After a moment of uncomfortable quiet, Lady Sangrine said "I see. Right now, everyone else, you are dismissed." She put a paw on Menace's shoulder, "Hold on now, dear, stay here for just a moment." Prippagoada gave a nasty smirk, while Kalkaza and Santaru both gave him an uncertain look as they were ushered out.
When everyone besides Marsaltn had left, Sangrine asked the question again, "Come now, there's no need to be shy, everyone's dream and desire is perfectly fine..."
"There's...really nothing. Nothing I wouldn't do, but...I can't say I've ever tried to do things like write neatly, or cook, let alone did such things while some other beast was watching." He found his eyes filling with tears and looked out the window.
Marsaltn came over, and said in a quiet voice, "You don't wish to be a farmer, do you? There's nothing wrong with the area, of course, but..."
"No sir...I don't know what I want to do." To his surprise, the ruler of Solanum reached down and gave him a hug.
"You go on and head home. We'll sort this out tomorrow. Torru is probably waiting for his stew, if I know him."
Menace bowed with a small smile and left the room, trying not to wipe at his eyes.
"Ha! He's just going to be a farmer!"
Menace had been so intent on simply heading home that in the dark, he hadn't seen Prippagoada and her crew lurking around the door. Sola Tower sat eerily in the background, a black pillar against the moon.
"Usually, only those who choose to be are farmers. How sad for you to be condemned at such a young age, while the rest of us are doing real things!"
Menace found himself getting more angry than sad, "You be quiet!" he snapped, "Lady Sangrine only wanted you to be a diplomat just so you could go away from Solanum!"
His adversary actually stamped her foot, "Nuh-uh! It's because I'm smart and pretty, I am what represents Solanum--!"
"You'd give Solanum a bad name!"
"--And I am in the tower! You are just some misfit orphan, found because nobody wanted you then, and nobody wants you now!"
Menace took off down the lane, headed for the grasslands facing the west. He heard something scuffling, and a "Menace! Wait!", but didn't stop running.
When he finally arrived at a compilation of large rocks, Menace climbed up and sat on top of them, looking at the sea, and remembering a story Toruu had told him.
Cavin lifted the shovel, preparing to strike the hot earth. He looked at the spot he aimed for, swung it down, and fell off balance as he tried to avoid the bundle in his way.
"Weren't here before--hey!" The grass behind the object was ruffling;someone was running away, quickly. "Come back here, get this!" shouted Cavin, but the being had gone.
"Huh, well..." He lifted the bundle and was startled to feel it wiggle and give a cry. A tiny, dark-furred mouse was looking around, eyes bright. Cavin hurried back to the community, leaving the planting behind.
Cavin had knocked on the door of Sola Tower until a guard had come out. "I found 'im in the field," he gasped, "Someone left 'im!"
Lady Sangrine had been called. She was much younger than the present day, newly appointed. Unsure of herself, she stammered, "Find someone to keep him, raise him."
Many were asked, and many disagreed, saying that there own were enough for now.Some even said, "If his own kin don't want him, why should I?". Eventually, Cavin was back at the tower, where the guard shook his head.
"Been a bit of a menace," he growled, "Findin' him a guardian. Ask Torru, he's getting old. Could use company."
Cavin finally approached the shrew, who was struggling to chop a log for firewood. "What's that?" He sighed, looking at the bundle, "An' can it help me with this log?" "In due time, sir." Cavin lifted the bundle, to show him the mousebabe "This is..."
"Is what, now?"
"Menace. This is Menace, and he needs someone to raise him, and I'm asking you." To his surprise, Torru nodded, and even smiled a bit. "Why not...company ain't hard to come by, but good company is." He dropped the axe, and picked up the babe.
"You come on, young sir. No horseplay for you! Work hard, see, and listen to the stories I'll tell..."
"Menace?" called Santaru. The mouse turned to find his friends on the rock beside him, and felt Kalkaza giving him a hug. He put an arm around her shoulders.
"Your right, San. I've got nothing here in this town. Between you two, the Lady, and Torru, I've not a friend in Solanum."
"Well...let's go!" The little hog began to jump around, kicking up dust.
"Go?" Asked Menace, seeing Kalkaza nod her head in agreement.
"Leave here, leave Solanum." She replied, "It's boring. It's...just a town. Didn't we hope to be something extraordinary?"
"But you're going to be a guard." Menace pointed out, "And Santaru a scribe-cook...thing."
"We'll learn all those talents better, away from here. Where's there's real danger, and a real need to cook." Santaru stopped hopping about, "I mean, Lady Sangrine doesn't need no guardin'. An' any passing rouge could memorize a menu."
"An' we can't stand Prippagoada any more than you can." Kalkaza said this so quietly, Menace almost missed it, "She'll be a bother to us until we die, if we stay here. Are we going or not?"
Menace didn't need to think about it. "Just...let me say goodbye to Torru."
"Ask him to tell our folks we'll be gone too, we'll get the food an' weapons." Kal once again put Menace in a vice-grip of a hug, "I know, 'tis hard. But the funnest things usually are, y'know?"
"Of course." Menace pointed his paw to the sky, moving it a few degrees to the right, "We leave when the moon reaches there." Quietly, the three friends dispatched to their final chores in Solanum.
Menace had arrived home, and told his guardian (in a rather uncertain manner) about his plans to leave Solanum. To his surprise, Toruu smiled, and helped him pack.
"Who wants to stay in a simple little community like this?" he said, packing flour, biscuits, and dried fruit. "If I were younger, I'd have left long ago." He stopped suddenly, and picked up a long spear, propped against the wall.
"I used this long ago, so long, the point here may not be in so good condition. I had planned to give it to any son I may have had, but you're better than any run of the mill offspring."
Menace nodded, and embraced him, "Whoever my father was, he couldn't have been better than you." He took the spear and haversack, shouldering it, "Don't forget to tell Kalkaza and Santaru's kin! Thanks for everything!"
Torru didn't stop waving until he couldn't see Menace anymore.
The three met back at the rocks. "I got lots of hard things, stuff that wouldn't be squishin' and stuff while we walk." Santaru also took out three bundles, "Got us each a cloak."
Menace nodded, "We can make a tent with my spear if we've got to."
Kalkaza looked guiltily at the ground. "Beyond my knives, and some herbs, I did manage to snatch a map from Saybica's open window." she waved it around, "I hope she won't be mad."
"Not like she can catch ya! Shouldn't we wait until morning, so we can read that map?"
Menace shook his head, "No, they'll try to stop us. Well, they'll try to stop you two." He hefted his pack, "Walk with the moon ahead of us. Agreed?"
"Yah, let's go!" Santaru hopped ahead, and the others followed him, grinning.
Part 2: Menace and the World
Here to save the weary travelers
And lead us to the havens of the Warrior and his love...
Daybreak broke over the sea and over land. Last night's rain caused a layer of fog to blanket the shores 4 leagues inland. The three friends found themselves weary, hungry, but still in fairly good spirits.
"I think this is far enough for now." Kalkaza slumped onto the mossy ground beneath a sandbar. "We can't see much in this fog, anyway."
"Ya, I'm hungry!" Santaru began piling twigs, "Even if we can't make a fire," he said, "We don't want our food gettin' dirty."
They all had a serving of dried fruit, tucked into an empty pasty shell.
"It'd be nice if it were heated." said Menace, "I'm still a bit hungry, though."
"Me too...let me see if I can find something!" Santaru was prepared to jump up and go running, but Menace held him back, "We can hardly see a foot in front of us," he gave Santaru the pointed end of the spear, "Hold onto that, and don't go farther than a spearslength away."
Despite the weather, Kalkaza had managed to whip up a small blaze, "Go on!" she said, "We don't want to eat up all our food!"
It didn't take him long to find something. Still holding onto the spear point, he cradled three eggs in his arm.
"I dunno what kind of eggs they are," he said, "but we can see!". He picked up an egg and shook it. It jerked in his hand, and rolled away from the fire. He stood up, and ran after it, "Wait!"
A hissing noise filled the air, and Santaru was back shortly, faced pulled in terror. "Sand snake!" he shouted, "C'mon, run!"
Kalkaza dropped the kindling sticks and ran, knives out. Menace followed her, scooping up her fallen pack of supplies on the point of the spear. They kept running north, the hissing still loud around them.
After some hours of running, taking quick breaks, and running some more, it was midmorning. The fog had gone, and the form of the Land of Ice and Snow sat distantly on the horizon. They stopped for a while, listening closely.
"It's gone." said Menace, and his friends slumped their shoulders, sitting heavily on the ground.
"As well as our food!" cried Kalkaza, "Santaru!" she added angrily. He hung his head, mumbling "I didn't know." Menace wondered how he could not notice such a large snake such a short distance away as well.
The grass rustled, and a voice spoke out, "Don't be so troubled. You didn't know either!" a pair of ears were visible over the grass, and Santaru gave a shout and ran behind the others. A hare with a white undershirt, dusty green, red, and yellow kilt, and a bright red cap pushed her way out of the grass. She put a paw to her belt, where two long dirks were.
"Ooh, look, we all have frogstickers here!" She said brightly, motioning toward Kalkaza's knives and Menace's spear. He held said spear, pointed at the newcomer.
"Who are you?" He said, louder and fiercer than he would have liked. The hare's ears drooped a bit.
"Aw, don't do that, there's no need for threats. I'm only Clockwith." Her ears straightened out again, "C.Harawbailed. P'raps hear of me, if you've ever been to King Suncol's Court."
"Afraid not." Menace put down the spear now, "I'm Menace, this is Kalkaza and Santaru." Clockwith hopped in the air.
"Oh, just spiffin'! Where be you bound?"
Kalkaza shrugged, "Nowhere in particular...we came from Solanum. Somewhere in that direction." She pointed foolishly toward the coast.
She nodded, "Righto, then, we'll find somewhere to go together. Any idea where?"
Menace shifted uneasily; "Ever heard of Noonvale?" Up until now, Noonvale seemed like a precious and private dream. Clockwith reached into her belt, and unrolled an old piece of parchment, pointing it so that everyone could see.
"Why, I see we'd have to go west to Redwall, and even more southwest, until we reach that there stream. We'll figure it from there. Shall we go?"
Menace turned to the other two, "If you agree, then sure." and they nodded.
"Right! Our first step in adventure..." he sat down on the ground, "Is to get some sleep..."
Clockwith was the most energetic of them all, taking first watched while the others slept peacefully for the first time since before their apprenticeship ceremony. When they all had sufficient rest, it was near mid afternoon.
"Night's not too far off...shall we still be walking then?" Asked Kalkaza with a yawn. "I didn't mind it last night, it was fairly nice."
"We should be out of the snakepit by then...no reason why not." And with that, she set off west, with the others in tow.
For a long time, they marched, until they reached the fringe of the woodlands with the sky darkening.
"'Tis only about a days' more marching, but if we get there too fast, there won't be time for any adventure." Menace mentioned to Clockwith about their skant supplies, and she frowned.
"In that case, I think we should be heading toward the river." Santaru gave a little sigh, and flopped onto the ground.
"I be's tired, guys!" he said, face buried in his pack. Clockwith nodded.
"I understand, mate. Menace, Kalkaza, have any spare rope on ye? I suppose we can just tie a piece of 'em to him, drag 'im along the forest. Surely, with all those spikes, he can't get too badly hurt!"
Santaru was up in the blink of an eye, "You b'ain't dragging me, oh no! I'll find that river before all of yous, watch!" He stood up tall, and marched into the forest, the others following and laughing.
Menace found the forest a drastic change from the flatlands. The trees were spacious, even somewhat protective of whoever was in this forest, forming a canopy overhead. Though with the setting sun, shadows flickered and danced between the foliage, as though they were hiding something. The river wasn't too far inward, and upon reaching it, all four of them stopped and drank from it, eventually dipping their footpaws in.
"Haha, this isn't so bad!" said Menace joyfully, splashing the water, "Feels really good!"
"Why, I'm sure it does. Now if you four would care to step out of it, please, we have to drink that."
They turned around to see an elderly female ferret, with a faded lilac apron and deep purple bonnet. She adjusted the glasses on her nose, holding onto her wooden cane. "Yore lucky I saw ye first, Arrkwing would have simply swooped down, picked yous up, and dropped ye somewhere far away!"
Clockwith was the first one standing up, "Our 'pologies, marm, we didn't know. To repay you, perhaps we could do the dishes after you serve us a scrumptious spot of supper, wot?"
The ferret was laughing quietly, "You follow old Frindella, she'll feed y'all till you float down this river!" And in the darkness of the forest, the young animals followed.
Frindella lived in a large, hollowed out tree, the exposed branches of the top showing the night sky. Santaru pointed out the weather flaw.
"Marm, that ain't too save when it starts raining, is it?" He asked, and Frindella shook her head.
"Arrkwing pulls over the little canvas, onto those hooks. I'll have to wait until he returns from hunting." A shadow fell over the opening, and a short eared owl flapped down into the opening. In the moonlight, it was hard to separate it from the wooden wall behind him. He began to speak in a short, choppy manner.
"Frindel, you can't just allow anyone to enter our home!" Arrkwing snapped his short beak, and the ferretmarm shook a rusted knife at him.
"Don't ye be startin' that, ye feathered bother! Clearly, these kids ain't mean no harm. Lucky I found 'em, you'd sooner let them shrews an' otters mistake 'em for vermin--!" She grabbed Kalkaza by the forarm and pulled her a few feet, "They'd kill 'er, an' ask question later!"
The owl shook his head, but agreed, "'Tis true, Frindel. They've no choice though to stay." Frindella picked up four wooden bowls, and pressed pastry dough into them, against the rim. She handed them each a bowl, saying "Go, look in this cupboard now, pick your fruits an' jams, I'll bake everything up for you four."
Soon, the room became warm, and the nice smells of homemade food filled the air. "Miss Frindella," asked Santaru after a while of sitting, "How did you end up inna tree?"
The old ferret was slowly rocking in a chair, and she looked at Kalkaza, "You'll know this better than most dear, but there's a notion all 'round the world, that if you ain't a mouse, badger, squirrel, otter, shrew, hedgehog, dormouse, or vole, that you're a vermin, an' you intend to steal an' murder for no reason at all."
"Way west, far west, further than the plains, even, I lived there, recruited in a small horde. Simply put, I ran away one day, into Mossflower, when I ran into a group of otters, I expected them to help me, but instead, one attacked me, and I ran the way I came. Eventually, the two groups met and fought, I being long forgotten. From what I can remember..." She pressed a paw to her head, "Salstorm...kidnapped, was stranded on an island in the Great Sea for awhile, until I boarded a corsair ship. Would have probably been first mate if I hadn't accidentally kill the cap'n and dive over board when I saw sight of this coast again. Rest o' life's a bit of a blur..."
Arrkwing took over "Found Frindel, looked for safe home for many seasons. Found nothing until here, and here we are."
"Why didn't you go to Redwall?" pressed Menace, "I thought they were suppose to be open an' welcoming of all sorts."
Frindella rose from her chair and went to the oven, taking out the bowls. "Too many years o'real vermin in Mossflower have left them scared and prejudiced, my boy. That's why we've been hiding in this tree for seasons instead o' living there. Don' want to handle more rejection and bad feelings."
Clockwith, who had been writing the ferret's narrative, set aside her writings and spooned at her bowl, "That's one bally ole risk we'll be taking, since Noonvale is beyond it."
Menace sampled his portion and complimented it, hoping that Torru's stories had not been too far off base.
The next morning, Arrkwing flew straight above the stump house. His head swiveled around, then he flew off down the river. Menace, Santaru, Kalkaza, and Clockwith were sitting on the bank, tossing pebbles into the running water. Before the morning was over, the owl flew back overhead and landed beside them.
"First and most, you need to get on the other side of the bank. Then, follow the river. When the tree you find has a door in the middle, then follow onto that path and go north. There's a long situated about a league down the river. It's across the river, serves as a bridge."
Frindella came out, dragging the four small haversacks of food behind her. "This," she said, "Should last ye to Redwall." She then gave them all a hug. "If'n any of you should ever come this way again," she continued, voice breaking, "Remember yore old granmum Frindel. Oh, I can't let ye go off by yourselves, Arrkwing, fly on o'er 'em until they reach the treedoor. I'll be's fine, I always am."
Without another word, Frindella limped back to her home. The owl took off, with a sharp "Keep up, you lot!" and headed down the river, the other four in pursuit.
After a while of walking through the forest, constant babble of the river beside them, Clockwith began to sing a song.
"Who's woods are these, well, I dunno,
Mossflower's the name they go by, though.
I hope I'll be around one day, to see these woods fill up with snow."
Santaru started in the next verse, lyrics made up on the spot.
"Water's 'side me, nice and clear,
Why, I could spend me whole life here!
As long as there is stuff to see,
and best of all, good things to eat!"
"These woods are beautiful, bright and neat, sang Menace.
But I've places I've got to be."
"And miles to go before we see," ended Kalkaza,
"and miles to go before we see."
At around midday, after alternating the lines in their song, they came to the log bridge. Arrkwing collected the food packs and flew easily across to the other side and sat in a tree. "Don't be worrying! Water's not quite deep!"
Kalkaza jumped onto the long, and quickly went onto all fours. "Good thinkin' Kal, you'm the...tallest, if you can make it over, we can too." Santaru was right behind the sable as she crept along slowly. When reaching the other side, she jumped onto the bank gratefully.
Santaru waved from the log top, "C'mon you two! It's real fun!" Menace gestured toward the log, "Ladies first." he said to Clockwith, who promptly took out her two dirks and stabbed the log, climbing across it as though she were climbing a wall.
A harsh laugh sounded, and a pebble flew out of the forest, "Ooh, lookit, beasts usin' our bridge, ain't even ask first!" A thin, mean looking rat hopped out of the forest, and sent another stone at Clockwith's paw, stinging it, and making her miss the grab of the dirk handle.
"Yowtch!" She shook her paw and turned around, where a weasel was pushing the log off the bank, so it would float down the river. Menace took his spear and whacked it against the weasel's back, making him drop his hold on the log and fall over. The hare was beside him in an instant, weapons drawn out of the log.
"See dat, Ezura?" shouted the fallen vermin. "First, 'ee steal passage, then 'e shallabrangwhackomped me!" Ezura clapped a nearby rock and smacked a tree with it, and five more vermin came out, with short, rusty swords drawn.
"Gut the hare an' skin the mouse!" Ezura shouted, and a rat swung his blade. Clockwith stabbed him in the wrist and twisted the weapon away, shouting "Get goin', you three! This skirmish doesn't hold a candle to some scrapes I've seen!"
"Yes!" Menace saw that a stoat was climbing across the long to Kalkaza, Santaru, and Arrkwing on the other bank. The mouse kicked the log, and it floated down the river, with the stoat making a clumsy jump and landing in the water. "We'll be just fine!"
Something flashed by his face, taking a rat in the throat, "Take that knife, Menn!" Kal had thrown one of her knives, while Santaru shouted "We ain't going anywheres!" while gathering rocks and throwing them at the enemy. Arrkwing had gave a hoot of "Just a moment, we need to whack those rats around a bit!" and took off up the river.
Eventually, the number of vermin overwhelmed the two. Menace's spear was snapped, and Clockwith's blades flung away and snatched by their assailants. Ezura smiled evilly, withdrawing Kalkaza's knife and licking the blade. "Tie these treasoners' up, an' march 'em back to camp." He was distracted by a plop from the river, and gestured to Santaru and Kalkaza on the opposite bank, "An' get those two as well!"
The two young ones ran into the forest at that, scared, and leaving their captured friends behind.
Menace and Clockwith were pulled and marched through the forest, paws bound. A few times, the even heard "Around that tree, now."
"But we already passed that tree! Twice!" In which the unfortunate speaker would be flogged with the flat of Ezura's hilt. "Ya go's 'round the tree!" "Best part it, though," said Clockwith, barely audible, "They're leavin' a clear trail."
Menace nodded, a bit angry to see the woods treated in such a manner. But he thought he should be more concerned with him and his friend's immediate safety first. Eventually, they were dragged to a clearing, where a smoldering fire lay, and were roughly tied to a tree on the far edge of camp.
"I'm first watch, Sengnees, get cookin' and you'll take next watch. But I don't t'ink anybeast can save these two." Ezura stationed himself in from of the two captors, watching closely.
"Think we'll descend into hysterics, rat?" Sneered Clockwith.
"You'll d'sent into death if ye don't shaddup!" She shrugged, and by the third watch, Menace and Clockwith had fallen asleep against the tree.
Santaru and Kalkaza ran haphazardly through the forest, paying little attention. After awhile, Santaru fell flat on the ground.
"I think we far enough now, Kal. But--"
"I know," The sable leaned heavily against a tree, "We need help. I haven't the foggiest idea where Arrkwing has gone, and he probably can't find us now." Overwhelmed with terror over the first real vermin any of the three had ever seen, she gave a cry of despair, "Can anyone help us?"
"And, just like in The Tale of Barcham, a heroic figure swoops down to assist!" Suddenly, a otter swung down from the tree, doing his best to hang from his tail, but with a big grin on his face and a patterned bandanna on his head.
"An' you are?" sighed Santaru; he was getting a little overwhelmed of all the eccentrics joining their trip. The otter did a flip and landed on the ground, bow and arrows across his back, arms outspread.
"Introducing Stormgale of Noonvale! No rhyme intended! Can shoot like dickens and outrun a gale! When there's evil afoot, this hero shall prevaiiiillll!" This last part ended in a shout.
"N-nice to meet you, Gale. Can you help us rescue our friends?" Inquired Kalkaza, and the newcomer frowned.
"Oh, I'see that rat fellow finally caught someone 'round heres! No problem...have ye got any weapon a tweenst ya?"
Santaru smiled grimly, "A pair of throwing knives, which we won't throw away here!" And Stormgale nodded vigorously.
"I should hope not!" He said, then looking at the ground, "Your trail seems pretty clear, for beasts in a hurry. We'll follow it back to the area of your first encounter of the vermin kind, and see where they've gone! Onward!" Before the other two could gather themselves, Stormgale had marched away, following their hasty trail.
Santaru stared levelly at Kalkaza, who sighed and said, "Help comes in all forms, San. An' when he saves Menace and Clockwith, why, him and that hare will get along sweller than any being in Mossflower!"
Night had fallen over the vermin camp, and a fresh sentry posted over the prisoners, who had woken up.
"Pardon me there, sentryfellow," said Clockwith in a whisper to the fox overwatching them, "Could we perhaps get a bit of water?"
He shook his head, "Deadbeasts don't need nothin' t'drink. I'm sure Ezura's plannin' to skin an' kill ye afore long."
While this terrified Menace, the hare seemed unperturbed, "The boss would probably be angrier if he had to skin shriveled, wrinkly beasts."
"Yep indeed, don't get enough water in a bod, why, you'll shrink and get all small. Not ideal for skinnin', I'm sure."
"Huh, I don't believe you! Antor!" To their surprise, a grimy looking mouse came over. Perhaps Mossflower was not the place they had thought. "This 'un seems t'think that if'n they ain't get water, they'll shrivvel!"
The vermin mouse (Hard to imagine thought Menace, though he had no trouble imagining Prippagoada in his place.) Shook his head, stating that--in a tone suggesting he had learned to read and write, and spoke accordingly--no, no evidence shows that would happen.
"But you're just like me!" Menace blurted out. He felt the stares of the resting vermin look at him now, and still continued. "What if it t'was your own son, captured by vermin--"
He got no further after Antor struck him against the head with the hilt of his weapon, knocking him unconscious with more force than necessary.
Stormgale and the others were crouched outside of the camp. "Remember what I said, now," he said in a low undertone, "About Ramsir Csydale."
"Huh?" said Santaru.
"Reverse Psychology, then. It's code! Take your positions!" Placing multiple arrows on his bow, the otter pulled back and launched, missing the enemy by a few inches on purpose to scare them.
"Yaharr! Shall we parley, or shall we murder?" He roared, stepping out. Ezura quickly stepped up and looked at the newcomer, voicing his thoughts aloud.
"Murder? Riverdog tribe's gone this season, who yore parley'n with, a bunch of cubs?" The leader sneered. Stormgale raised a paw and shouted a few words.
"Holijop! Risantn, Spaces deuce, deuce apart!" Arrows and stones suddenly flew down from the trees in mass numbers, although in a sloppy manner.
"Your hostages are from Redwall Abbey--" clearly a lie, but--"An' we're offering a hefty reward. Return 'em, at noon tomorrow, unharmed. Or we'll be back, bigger, an' badder than ever, an' well even raise up Hellgates!" He shot another quick arrow through the fire, and catching a nearby rat wrapped in a bedroll ablaze, leaving quickly with Ezura's attention diverted.
"That was just...Stormgale!" Kalkaza, usually so well composed, was in a shocked state now, "Why, you could have set the woods ablaze!"
"Teach me how to use that big bow, Storm!" said Santaru, reverting back to his usual hopping state. Stormgale had a huge grin on his face, which faded when he realize the largeness of their upcoming task.
"Not so soon, friend. We've got to figure out how to get to Redwall before it gets much darker. Shouldn't be too hard, you were on the right path runnin' away..."
"But what about the ransom? We haven't a thing to offer." Kalkaza reminded him, and he waved the matter aside.
"No Redwallers I know will indulge such fools with a ransom, certainly not Badgermum Soleyes! If we can get their fast enough, I'm sure Skipper's backup crew will lend us a helping paw." With that, he raced away, the others following quickly.
The fire eliminated, and the dead rat disposed of, Ezura turned to his crew, "'Tis plain as day there's a trap watin' for us." He said, "We ain't goin' to the redstone house unless she an' her big words are behind us!"
This doesn't sound too top-hole Thought Clockwith.
"They'll be lot less likely t'play tricks on us then!" Shouted a weasel, "Do we pack up an' head back t'bases?"
"Aye, that'ndeed. Them watey meadows ain't too far from the house. She said she'd have sentries watchin' for us, so nobeasts shoots. Jus' think," he chuckled, motioning towards "We gave these two our best hospitality, on'y t'prepare 'em for..." The laughter was louder now, and Clockwith had to shout to be heard.
"Who's this lady?"
A passing shrew shook his head as he gathered his bedroll, "Lady Jadeline!", and she snorted.
"I don't think I need to be afraid of a lady named after a blinkin' mineral!"
"Yeh, well, can't say I didn't warn 'ee..."
Menace was till slumped in unconsciousness. Suddenly, a bright light seemed to fill his eyes, and in his mind's eye, saw a heroic looking mouse, with a beautiful sword sheathed away. There was a sudden desire to have this mouse's approval, and to hear him speak.
"You wanted adventure,
well, your adventure is found!
Don't worry much about the Lady,
the real evil is back around."
Silently, the apparition dissapeared.
"Brother Amphore? Lucifits? ANYBEAST!" Stormgale pounded on the huge gates of Redwall Abbey. When he realized he was striking in rhythm, he began to chant in time at the top of his voice, "Let me in, and I bought friends, an' I'll bring the enemy too, at noon!" When the other two joined in, a distant door slammed and a growl of, "Hold on, hold on! Supper's not started, no need t'rush!" One of the doors was pushed open, & Kalkaza and Santaru saw a badger for the very first time. While the claws were blunt, they were still wide enough to crush Santaru, and feel little pain from one of Kalkaza's knives. Her amber eyes, seemed to have a misty quality to them.
"Soleyes, this is...well, time for that later, we have a slight problem on our paws, inside now, quickly!" Stormgale went by in a rush. Lady Soleyes blinked at the sun for a moment, shook her head, and bade the hedgehog and sable to enter the abbey.
"Welcome to Redwall, you two. Supper's cooking, I'm sure Gale has already finished telling your story."
Sure enough, in Great Hall, Stormgale was standing on the vacant thronelike chair, reserved for the ruler of Redwall.
"An' so!" He waved his paws around, "We fired off rocks an' arrows, an' just about anything!--An' gave 'em until noon nextday, for 'em to deliver their friends!" He pointed at Kalkaza and Santaru. Upon seeing them, some Redwallers shot the sablemaid dirty, distrusting looks, and scooted further down the table. Soleyes noted the responses and frowned.
"Now now, Miss..."
"Miss Kalkaza doesn't mean us any harm, I'm sure. Now, how did our young warrior over here offer to help you out?"
"He said something about an' ottercrew!" said Santaru, and Soleyes pulled a face.
"Gale, you know, your sister's clan isn't here, not until the end of fall!...What I wouldn't give for a Abbot or Abbess right now..." She wiped a paw across her eyes, continuing.
"You two, eat up, rest up, and tomorrow, at noon, we'll be out in full force, holding whatever weapons we may have." She walked over to the huge chair, lifted Stormgale out, and set him on the ground, saying "Take off that bandanna when we're eating!"
Menace snapped back to consciousness by the constant shaking of being held on a pole between two big stoats, and the horrible smell of sulfur. Focusing his eyes as best as he could, he could make out...trees...nothing anymore extraordiary than the trees by the river.
"Psst, Menn, see this ground?" The mouse looked over his shoulder, and saw Clockwith bobbing along on the other side of the pole. Since all he saw was trees, all she saw was the ground.
"Loads more little pebbles here. Bits o' shale, too. Ground's even steamin' a bit..." The pole was roughly shaken, and the two fell silent. Between a headache--and the smell, topped with not knowing where they were headed--Menace was starting to feel ill.
Soon, they were at the mouth of a deep, long cave, the smell even stronger. The group walked in, down a stone hallway, into a large area. Bigger than the town of Solanum itself, the clearing had stalactites hanging from the ceiling, a white substance crusted on them. Occasionally, a piece of rock would fall from the ceiling into the enormous lake of sulfuric acid below. There was a large, circular piece of land in the middle, with five smaller bits connecting the edge of the lake to the island. Something was on the island while two vermin held large leaves over it.
Menace and Clockwith were hoisted over the circular pathways, and he could hear her gasp in amazement at the acid lake. How is that interesting?! He thought. Dying in a pool of stuff isn't interesting!
Soon, they were placed in front of the being in the middle, upright, but still tied and bound. There was a disdainful sniff, and a voice sounded, sounding off the cave walls until its sound was magnified.
"Untie them." Hurriedly, the two large stoats sliced the bonds and pushed them forth.
The speaker was so dark, if Menace hadn't seen a pair of bright green eyes staring him down hungrily, he wouldn't have been aware anything was there.
"What bad form, Captain Yellan!" She purred, "If some beast is going to help you, you don't tie them up, isn't that right, Clockwith Harawbailed?"
"What? Clock?" The hare seemed confused, and said to Menace, "I haven't any idea what she's on about. Affiliate with vermin? Not a chance!"
"Don't patronize me, girl!" The figure stood up swiftly, and towered over the pair. Lady Jadeline had a dark green cape to (almost) match her eyes, which were glaring hatefully at the haremaid.
"I should have enslaved you when I had the chance. Broke your spirit!" Screamed the panther, tail swishing in anger. "Do you remember me now? You don't?" She continued slowly. Then she nodded, "Understandable. Back on Kolastas, I was Jadinga, under my father, Lord Onyrix. Why, I see you recall me now!"
Sure enough, Clockwith's eyes grew wide, and the panther lady continued, "Well now, mouse, I'll explain this. I captured your friend here, and instead of slavery, I enlisted her to write the entire history of our family, the Pandoraths. Still slept in the slave encampment, but she didn't have to do hard labor, and had slightly better food than the others--scraps from our own table!"
Clockwith looked at Menace, embarrassed, and he shook his head, silently saying 'Tis nothing to be ashamed of.
"One day, she got too full of herself and stood against me and my father when we were issuing out a suitible punishment--"
"Taking someone's child and preparing to eat them is no suitable punishment!"
"--No, certainly, we should have eaten you! After engaging in a bladefight with my father, she was brought down and told to be disposed of. Sawyer took her on his ship, swearing to kill her when they landed on the first island for raiding they found. Clearly, he didn't do his job!" She swooped back around to sit on the stone throne.
"But now, you're back under my control, girl. And, if what the runners have told me is true about this ransom, you'll not be a part of that. I'm sure we can exchange your friend here for a hefty price. As for my revenge..." Jadeline started to laugh in a hysterical, screeching manner, and the two prisoners were bound and dragged off again, this time to separate prison holes.
Breakfast at Redwall was a tense affair. Most of the residents could remember the last time vermin saw their walls, let alone participating in a hostage situation.
Who says this isn't a trap? Some asked. Since few sables were seen at Redwall, no one alive had no idea what harm they might do. Soleyes had to reprimand more than one older beasts about manners and hospitality, with Kalkaza visiting.
Unable to stand the atmosphere much longer, she went outside and climbed the wall to the battlements. Stormgale was already pacing the tops of them, occasionally throwing himself to the ground, rolling a short distance, and pretending to throw an arrow.
"Hi." she said, marching in time beside him.
"Ahoy there, mate!" He replied cheerfully, "Ready for today? What'cha doin' out here"
"Those Redwallers...loads of them look at me funny, like I'll steal their supper. I can't take that right now, with..." She shuffled her tail across the stone, "this hostage thing. How does it work, anyways?"
"We give them something, they give us your friends! Think they'd enjoy some Redwall cooking?"
"Probably. They're just a small bunch of smelly vermin, after all!" The two continued their hopping, ducking, and 'arrow shooting' on the walltop, happy in spite of the situation.
Menace was pushed in front of the group on their way to Redwall Abbey. In his cell, he had lots of conflicting thoughts about Jadeline's speech about Clockwith. Why didn't she tell us? he thought, In the company of one who served vermin.... Then he remembered that even though she had done so, yes, she was still a slave, and that she had defended the ones less fortunate than her and risked her life. He wanted to tell her he harbored no ill feelings because of it, but he had not seen her all morning.
Jadeline's instructions were clear and simple; "We kill her in front of the Redwallers." The panther had said. She grabbed a ferret by the neck and shook him, "And make sure she is actually killed this time!" The victim nodded, and hobbled off as she swatted a cloud of gnats away, "Ugh! How can one tolerate these bugs and humidity? I can't stand this forest..."
The shaken ferret--Vierk--stumbled his way to the back of the vermin procession. It was a fairly short walk, considering there were only twoscore of them. Back here, Clockwith was in a cage with four small wheels beneath it, bumping over the rocky ground. The mouse Antor was pulling, with two others pushing behind. Vierk stopped the procession with a wave of his paw, and quietly relayed the instructions to Antor.
He tugged on a tarnished brass earring, "That's all well an' dandy, but with what? We'll need something a little stronger than the spear we've got atwixt us.", and Vierk slapped something into his paw.
"Kill 'er with this dirk she had. On'y fittin, eh?" He grinned nastily, and headed back to the front. With a sigh, the weapon was thrust into his belt.
The haremaid had been thinking. The bars of the cage were simply made of wood. It'd take her a lot of chewing to break one, and she was too far from them. With both sets of paws tied, she did nothing but vaguely try to headbutt the sides, and received a hard rap on the head.
"Stoppit, hopper. We's right in front o'that Abbey!"
She looked up at the sky, and then straight ahead, not knowing what was in store.
Most of Redwall was out in force, others attending to the Dibbuns inside. Soleyes was standing right over the double doors, and saw the precession first.
Surrounded only by the group who had caught the two before, Ezura shouted up, shaking the rope that was tied to Menace. "We here t'parley!".
Soleyes brought Santaru and Kalkaza beside her, "That your friend, young 'uns?" she asked, and Kal gasped and nodded, giving a grim little wave. Santaru shouted "Menace!"
"What we gettin' for this one?"
"Where's Clockwith?" Mumbled Kal, and Soleyes said "What was that?"
"WHERE'S CLOCKWITH? They took two o'our friends, Clockwith isn't there!" She said angrily, looking at the group below.
"Where's our hare?!" Shouted Santaru, and Soleyes held out a paw to stop them.
"Stormgale did say there were two! Where is the other hostage?" The badger roared, and before Ezura could speak, Jadeline's voice sounded.
"What hare? There is no hare." She had stepped out, eyes glaring at those on the wall, "And if there is, she is a personal prisoner of mine, so, I'll keep her, and just be tolerable enough to hand over this one, for a price."
After a moment of silence, she turned to face the forest and shouted "Bring her!"
Nothing happened. A low growl sounded in Jadeline's throat, and she screamed again, "Bring that hare!"
Finally, two stumbling rats brought out an empty cage. After staring at the cage blankly, the panther snarled and began to attack the cage with her claws, kicking and stamping in fury.
When the surrounding vermin backed up fearfully--Ezura using Menace as a shield--there was a long cry from the foliage-covered ditch to their right.
Antor had killed the surrounding guards and cut Clockwith free. Slapping his paws clean, he looked around them.
"The only decent thing I've done in this group!" He said, with a grin. He stabbed the blade in the dirt, wiping it clean, "This belongs to you. An' now, I'm off to find my family again. I've felt terrible ever since I left 'em. Thinking that this was the life, the way to go!"
"Let me tell you, maid, it isn't. Jadeline's got a host of woodlanders willing to serve her now, though, so she won't be stopped as easily as opposed to a group of Freebooters...but, I forget you know how it feels. Come on, now!" Antor suddenly began to job, "I've been t'Redwall, I know a sidedoor. Best hope someone is there!"
Stormgale, over excited as he was, was sent to the West wall, overlooking the gate. "You could anger those vermin so much with your tomfoolery," reprimanded Soleyes, "That they shoot us. Don't let me see you on this front wall!"
So he complied with orders, angry at first, but feeling grown up after a while. This was a way of putting him in charge, if only over a wall. He looked down and saw Clockwith running to the wall, Antor a ways off. "Don't you take a step closer!" He announced, fumbling with his bow and arrows.
"Shhh, ya loudmouth! They'll hear you!" When she was closer, she said "I was one of the captives! Besides, I'm a hare, why would I be vermin?"
"Fair point. Kalkaza would be called vermin, just because of her species. But you're a hare, automatically inclined to eat loads, and serve any badger you find. She's a paradox, why can't you be?"
"Because that's not a parado--Oh, there's no time for this! Let me in, we can talk about it later!" Stormgale looked at her fleetingly once again, and went down to unlock the small door.
"Finally!" She turned around, and saw Antor waving. She waved back, saying "Thanks again and forever, friend!", and the reformed mouse ran into the tall grass.
"'Thanks again and forever friend'." Storm had opened the gate silently, and nodded at the haremaid's words, "That's pretty wordy. Well, wordy and catchy-like."
"Thanks much. I'll show you how I come up with such wordisms, but there's a hostage trade goin' on right now, poor timing. I'm Clockwith!"
"Wonderful. And now I think my pal Menace needs our help!"
(A.N; Jadeline is pronounced Jade-deh-line. Like Madeline.)
Menace heard thundering paws, and was quickly swept away by a crowd of Guosim, a particularly big shrew acting as a shield against Jadeline's group. "Once around the Abbey, son! C'mon!" The mouse was hustled along the outer wall and back again, hearing the sounds of a skirmish die down. Upon appearing back at the front, the panther's vermin were gone."
The big shrew pointed to another one and shouted "Report on, Illicale!"
The shrew tightened it's little headband and saluted, "Vermin fired a round o'arrows an' took off! A few gave chase!"
"Who are they?"
"No clue, Log-a-Log, nobeasts' seen 'em before!"
"Balderdash! How can a group of vermin be undetected in Mossflower? Did they make any move to attack, or take over Redwall?"
"Not at all! Just wanted ransom, and their leader was screamin' about some escaped hare!"
"Huh!" Exclaimed the Chieftain, but Menace was running toward the door, "It's safe, it's okay! Kal, Santaru, I'm fine, open up!"
The huge gates opened up, and the two ran out, nearly tackling their friend with strong hugs.
"That's it, never separating again!"
After assuring them that he was okay, Kalkaza asked, "But...where's Clockwith?", and he shook his head.
"I don't know...or, wait, she's right on that wall!" Sure enough, she and Stormgale were waving from the walltops, and the others raced through the openway to see them, passing Lady Soleyes on the way, who stopped to talk to the Log-a-Log.
"Log-a-Log Shockler, I must invite you and your tribe in for the great service you have done for our young ones. Now, see here, I'm not taking no for an answer!"
"Don't worry, marm," Insisted a passing shrew, "We won't let 'im refuse!"
"Up on the walltop,
every beast here!
Forget the vermin,
Eat with cheer!"
After introductions had been made, Stormgale looked over Mossflower. "If 'tis as ye say, Menace, then that's some way ye've been hauled! The only record of anyplace like that was the cave o'the Doomwytes, and it was destroyed by Redwallers. I suppose that cave was bigger than estimated."
"Ah, let's put Jadeline and her crew out of our minds, and go try some o'that famous Redwall scoff! Last one there is a scalded toad!" Clockwith hopped down the stairs, the others following, though not even trying, to race a hare to the dinner table.
Upon entering the Great Hall, the Tapestry of Martin the Warrior took hold of Menace's attention. He went over to the artwork, never taking his eyes off of it.
"I saw him!"
"Saw him?" Asked Soleyes sharply, "Saw our Warrior?" A good deal of inhabitants were looking curiously at him now.
"Well--"He felt embarrassed now, "He was in a dream I had. Carrying that sword!"
"Did he say something?" A squirrel shouted, and Soleyes shout the speaker a stern look.
"Was he supposed to? If so...I don't remember what it was." Menace sense the audience's attention collectively shift back to their food and conversations.
"Nevermind, then." The badger directed him and the others to empty seats around her. "So, tell me, why are you here? Don't tell me you angered that cat somehow."
"Oh, not at all!" So again, with the help of Kalkaza and Santaru, Menace told their story, beginning condensed, and going into more detail when in Mossflower, including Frindella and Arrkwing and their thoughts about Redwallers. He left out Clockwith's involvement with Jadeline, however.
When he concluded the tale, Soleyes nodded, "I'll be the first to say that Redwallers have always had a stigma to certain species, but one can hardly blame us. There's even a story about such a backwards incident."
"Y'know, that owl left us, an' never came back t'find us." grumbled Santaru.
"Ohh, yes, that's right. An owl flew by and asked about 'the sablegirl and the pointy one'. I told him we had everything under control, and he said he was going to go back and tell his friend to be even more watchful. Sorry, forgot all about it until now." Stormgale flashed a grin and devoted his attention to his pasty.
"So, where will you be off to now, and how soon?"
"We thank you for all the hospitality, marm, but I think we should leave as soon as possible." Replied Menace.
"B-but why?" Asked Santaru, though Kalkaza explained.
"Well, Clockwith told us how she escaped, and that cat is going to assume that the Redwallers had something to do with it, so she's going to want to come after them."
"It'd not shock me at all if she tore down each brick to find me." Clockwith spoke up. When the others (except Menace) looked confused, she continued with "History, y'know."
"She'd attack Redwall even if you were gone." Pointed out Soleyes.
"That's true. But we'd be doing ourselves a load of good if we got away from her while she's distracted."
Unexpectedly, Soleyes turned and looked at the Tapestry of Martin for a while, and replied, "There's some old sense on young shoulders, here. Eat, rest, and I'll secure supplies for you four."
"Five!" When she looked at Stormgale inquiringly, he raised his paw and said "Five! Me too! I'm from Noonvale, y'know. They won't be stumblin' cross the country with me!"
Soleyes nodded, a slightly sad expression on her face, and said "Five it is, then."
Part 3: Menace and Noonvale
Everything is possible in Noonvale
Tranquility, friendship, and love.
Log-a-Log Shockler had guaranteed them the use of the best log boat in the fleet. "I'll even paddle ye myself!"
"Because you don't want to lose your boat, sah?"
"That an' I've got to see the Log-a-Log in those parts, Thundabul."
Soleyes had packed them all with three days' marching rations, "Pity you couldn't stay longer, dears. We'll do what we can to keep that nasty cat away from your group." She embraced Stormgale and said, "Give my regards to your parents, now."
There was a league to camp to the Westerly Stream, which lead to the Broadstream, and Shockler was was drilling them in the way of the Guosim.
"Left, right, left, right, leftrightleftrightleftrightleft! Weapons check?"
"Aye, Log-a-Log!" Menace and Santaru had each been fitted with one of Kalkaza's knives, Clockwith managed to hold on to one of her original dirks that Antor had saved for her, and Stormgale had his large longbow.
"Hush, now, shh! Hear that?" The young ones stood still, in fear of another attack. Until Santaru spoke up with a whispered, "Hear what?"
Shockler took a few steps forward, and swept away a few plants for camoflauge, "'Tis the river, boy! An' here is the boat best fit to deal with it, The Gallows! Hop aboard the craft that can sail ye to kingdom come!"
On board, he appointed certain positions to the ones on board; everyone except Clockwith was a paddler, while she checked her map, that had been deemed accurate by the Chieftain.
"Good of ya, missy! Keep a sharp eye out for the split poplar!" The morning was passed with the splashing of paddles and cheerful songs intended to keep the beat. Near early afternoon, and after a lot of squinting, Clockwith shouted from the back of the boat "'hoy there, Captain! Poplar ahead!" Quickly, the boat was skimmed closer to the right bank.
"Left side on three! One....two...three! Three, ya dozy kids!" To their surprise, when they turned, the logboat was quickly caught up in vines of ivy, a barrier between them and Westerly Stream.
"Not these tricks again!" Growled Shockler, "Who's in charge of Thundabul's little gateway now?!"
Another shrew came out, "Out that logboat oldtimer, you and those kids, clearly landwhompers!"
He investigated the speaker closely, "Well, Tetro, I'll be durned if the river run's dry! They runnin' some sort o' pompousness course or somethin'? Tell me ole brother I'd like a word with 'im! I'm sick of having to prove myself to get down this river!"
Deflated, Tetro stammered "We're to protect Noonvale, sir, certainly your brother may have bandied words with you?"
"He knows if any vermin were to come down this way, they either wouldn't see this entrance, or be daft, an' barge on through!"
While the two shrews stood, keeping up the species pastime of great arguers, Stormgale quietly slipped into the river. Checking to see that he found no defenders in hiding, he quietly motioned for Clockwith to jump in the river.
The haremaid saw him, and quickly got the idea. The current was fast enough to move them along quickly, and quietly relayed the idea to the others. Slowly, and one by one, they all made their way into the cold water, and Santaru couldn't help exclaiming.
"Whoaa!" The others quickly stopped fighting the current, and were starting to be rushed along. Shockler had stopped arguing long enough to see the boat was empty, and look at the river for a fleeting glimpse of Menace before they went around a turn.
They all hear the Chieftan shout, "Hahahaww, good on ye, cullies! Brave idea of ye! Hurry on, now, before Sir Upright an' his crew latch onto ye!"
The group cheered and shouted with delight as they went rushing by the surrounding woodside, which seemed to be more and more undisturbed by others the further they went. They passed through a glade in silence, marveling at the serenity and scenery.
"I hate to interrupt this lovely tour, but..." Clockwith had pulled both paws above water and unrolled the map again, "according to this...blot, and this...run of the ink, there should be a quite noticeable bit of land with flowers that sticks into the river. We'll hop on that, and see where it goes.
It didn't take long for them to come across the adjacent bit of land. Menace saw a figure sitting a bit beyond the piece of land. Clearly, it couldn't see them, back turned. Stormgale hopped out the river and shook his fur, helping Kalkaza and Santaru, the latter of whom began to hop about and pick flowers. When everybeast was on land, the figure began to sing , in a voice that suggested they--she--had a lot of training.
You will find me at Noonvale on the side of a hill
When the summer is peaceful and high
Then where streamlets me-ander, the valley is still,
'Neath the blue of a calm cloudless sky...
She kept repeating the same stanza over and over, until finally, Menace slowly approached her and cleared his throat.
"Um, sorry for interrupting, but..." Suddenly, she was facing him, a mousemaid a head shorter than he, looking up at him with sparkling brown eyes.
"It was sung in the past that you would come someday." She said solemnly. "Well, not quite specifically you. And them. Come on!" She walked across the field
"Meli, wait!" Stormgale rushed toward her, and she gave a delight laugh and hug, "Gale! I was beginning to think you'd never come back, you young schemer." They all walked toward a grove of trees, and shortly, the mousemaid stopped them, and started laughing, sounding very much like the river they just paddled in.
"Seems my manners flowed away just as quick as the river. My name is Melieterna, and welcome to Noonvale!"
They stepped out of the fringes and looked into the valley, where the small buildings were seated in a semi circle around a long table, continued in slightly ramshackle rows. Animals walked about, completing chores and greeting each other. Moles and hedgehogs hammered away on something, and a delicious smell was coming from a giant cooking area, where several cooking pots stood, with joking and laughing going on.
It was better than Menace ever imagined.
"Aw, Melieterna, can't we have a bite to eat first?" Clockwith asked. The maid rushed them right by the cooking food.
"Not quite yet. Custom dictates I introduce you to the Chief, my father. See if you pass the test. And please, call me Melia."
For reasons unknown to him, Menace began to worry. "Will it be hard? Backflips, some written test?" He inquired, staring at her pointedly. Her face was an unreadable mask as she answered.
"Oh, whatever he feels like today."
She led them around the large, rectangular table, to a wooden building. She barged in, "Dad, dad! Will you look at what I've found?"
To their surprise, a tall, powerfully built otter stepped out from a hidden door behind a pair of ornate wooden chairs. With a stern face, he asked "What is it, Meli of mine?"
"A son called Stormgale, and he bought friends, too!" The chieftan's face broke out in a smile, and he rushed forward to embrace the otter.
"I thought you wouldn't make it back."
"You're lucky I'm in the company of those who wanted to come, Jardin Eros." Was the stiff reply.
"Yes yes, who are your friends?" One by one, the group bowed and introduced themselves. "Enough of the bowing now, has my daughter offered you any hospitality since you've arrived?"
Kalkaza had placed both of her knives on the ground, still in a bow, "No, sir, she insisted we rush straight to you."
"Well, now since that is all clear and done, you can eat and sleep. Who knows, there's still enough sunlight for you to see all of Noonvale. But I ask that you please hand over your weapons. There is only peace here, and therefore no need of steel." They all complied with the request, Clockwith and Kal hesitating a moment, and Jardin nodded gratefully. "Thank you all. Now, Melia, go and show your friends about."
"Yes, sir!" She was out of the door in an instant, and soon, they were all back in the sunlight, Stormgale still talking with Jardin in a rather cool manner.
"I know what you're thinking, Santaru." Sang Kal, "So go and spit it out!"
"What? 'Cause I don't know what I'm thinking!"
"'How is a mouse the daughter of an otter?' That's what you were thinking."
"You may not have been fellow, but I certainly was." Interjected Clockwith, "Mind explaining, Mellie?"
"I was adopted. I haven't any idea what happened to my parents. Leafana, Jardin's wife, found me sitting in the field where you found me today. She calls it Eterna field. But, anyway, it doesn't matter, does it? They love me, I love them. We're family." She added defensively.
"Don't worry, my situation is nearly identical." said Menace quietly, "But no one wanted me except Torru."
"Where is he?"
"Still in Solanum. He's a bit too old to travel." He glanced away momentarily, and when he looked back at Melia, she was smiling at him.
"That's lovely. Really. Show us the kind of spread Noonvalers can whip up, Mellie!" Exclaimed Clockwith, and Melia gave a short, mock bow.
"Sure thing, Clocky!" And they all laughed, waltzing about in the sunshine of the late afternoon.
The food was delicious, and the inhabitants of Noonvale extremely kind. They kept refilling the plates, insisting that the newcomers could help themselves. The only plate they couldn't fill fast enough was the haremaid's.
"Who thought of puttin' blueberries, raspberries, and mushrooms in this little fruity puff?" She asked, taking a large bite out of one, "Show me the beast who did it!"
A small squirrel walked up timidly beside her, wringing an apron in his paws. "'Twas me, marm. Is it okay? Nothin' over cooked? 'Twas just an idea..."
She clapped an arm around his shoulders, "You keep up the great ideas for delectables, an' I'll be your fan for life!"
"Jus' picked!" Said a mole, "Luckee yon friends got 'ere tuday, river may'has frusted o'e soon."
"Which would be no problem for me, certainly!" Stormgale had slipped in, and pushed his way between Menace and Melia. "Oops. Sorry, fellow." He ducked back down under the table and appeared on the other side, pushing between Kalkaza and Santaru. "Now, pass that there tart!"
The otter's face grew taut, "Let's just say, you're lucky Melia is here, or I wouldn't have come within an inch of Noonvale, not that I don't love it, it's just...just another story for another day! Isn't it almost time for the Welcoming Winter talent show?" He asked the table at large, and a few nodded confirmation, cheering.
"Sure is Stormy, at sundown--" Melia leaned over the table and poked him in the shoulder "You or your friends got any idea?"
Santaru mumbled something, and when asked to speak up, he said "I've an' idea! 'Tis a surprise, though. You'll see!" He proceeded to nod a lot. Menace had no idea that his friend even had a remote talent, though he said "Can't wait, San!"
"We can't start until night falls and we head over to the stage Gurrtil's group was repairing!" Melia stood up. "Oh, c'mon, Clockwith, you can bring the food too!"
"Spiffin' idea, Mellie, just swell." She handed a platter of the berry-mushroom pasties to the chef, and piled up a salad plate, "Righto, then."
Under the evening sky and a few lamps, the Welcome Winter talent show began. Melia and Menace were sitting beside Stormgale and his parents in the front, on logs serving as row seating. A group played a lively tune with a myriad of instruments that Menace had never seen. An owl and mole did magic tricks, there was a skit with infants, an unburned candle, and a large broom, and then it was time for Melia to sing.
"Good luck." Whispered Menace, and she flashed a quiet smile, nodding as she made her way onto the stage. Without further delay, she signaled the fiddle player, a Highlander, and after a few bars of music, started her song.
I've seen the path less traveled, and it takes me to the stars!
My parents always told me,
"Take the path that you know best,
why take chances on the rest?"
And I said, "Why not?"
"You don't know what'd be lurking there,
to take you someplace far away,
a slavepen, cave, or even death!"
An' I agreed, and said "'Tis true."
"But what if I find something lovely there,
A river, cool and clear?
It will lead me back to here,
"Or a wonderful friend that I won't leave,
I'll even bring them here with me!
But we don't know even where the place will be."
I've seen the path less traveled,
and it takes me to the stars!
The friend I've met, so merrily,
went along on a walk with me,
on the path until we saw the end of the world
"If you want to, then we can go back" he said, but I shook my head no.
"There will be no problem at all if we both go!"
We jumped and flew among the stars, for many days, and then
I looked back at the world below and began to miss my friends.
So we fell back down, back into place,
and saw Noonvale again,
And now we're all together now,
My home, my path, my friends.
I've seen the path less traveled, and it takes us to the stars!"
After a brief moment of stunned silence at the powerful performance, the audience cheered for Melia of Noonvale, who grinned and ran back into the audience, past paws clapping her on the back to see Menace clapping hardest of all.
"That was wonderful!" He exclaimed, but she waved away his applause.
"Let's see what Santaru can do!" She said. When he walked onto the stage, he was accompanied by Clockwith and her plate of food. "What on...?" Melia began, when she saw Kalkaza appear with another plate of food. The audience had the same reaction, and were looking at each other with confused expressions.
After awhile, the act began. "So!" Santaru said to the audience in a carrying voice, "I see you have a winter showthingy here. Have you a winter King?" While the audience was mumbling, he turned around for a few moments, then turned back, "Tadazaaa!"
There was meadowcream smeared on his headspikes, and blueberry in two stripes over his eyes. There were crushed raspberry under them to complete the illusion of being nipped at by frost.
"I am the Winter King!" He said in a mock-spooky manner, and after getting the joke, the Noonvalers tittered with laughter. He waved a 'scepter', a stick with a round pastry dripping with a dark preserve.
"But wait!" He turned around again, and this time, he had put bits of salad in his spikes, with the occasional cherry tomato, looking a bit like a bush. There were two leeks standing straight behind his ears.
"I be's Mother Spring, dears!" He shouted again. He took a rose and began to flounce around the stage, waving it around. Melia leaned over to whisper to Menace, "Y'know, he really does have quite the eye for disguise. If it weren't for the....salad and...tomatoes, and if he stood very still in the grass, I probably wouldn't see him!"
After putting on apples for Summer ("What's so different from Spring?" He had said later), and carrots plus corn husks for fall, he had reached the end of his show--
"Which is clearly a good thing!" He said, beaming at the audience, besides themselves with laughter "'Cause I don't think you all can take much more!" He gestured toward the second plate of fresh food, "But what to do with all this?"
"Are you kidding?" Clockwith picked up the plate, saying as she walked away, "I don't remember volunteerin' my food for this show, and I'll take it back now, thanks!" Which cracked the audience up even more. Jardin Eros now walked on stage, holding a thin crown made of birch bark.
"I think we all know who deserves the title of the Winter King this season," he announced, and after brushing spare food from Santaru's head, placed the crown on top, "Santaru of the Seasons!" Everyone clapped and cheered as the hedgehog stepped around the stage, waving to his friends.
"You can board in our hall tonight," said Lady Leafana, "You and your friends, there are plenty of spare beds. Unless Santaru would feel better sleeping outside!" She laughed.
"But not now! See what else our Noonvale has!" Melia pulled Menace up again, off into the nighttime.
Time seemed to fly in Noonvale, where everyone was kind, could stand the sight of you, and where there's a real family for a little mouse. There were so many things to do and see, so many stories and legends to be heard, and Melia showed and told him all, from After lodging at Noonvale for the remainder of Autumn and half of winter, Menace finally thought it appropriate to tell Jardin Eros and Leafana his story, and they wasted no time in offering him and the others a home at Noonvale.
"Durtole, Brittem, Sanner...they can spare you all some grass and wood for a dwelling. I'm sure there's plenty of folks who'd help you plant a garden, or learn to brew ale."
"Oh boy, ale! Auntie wouldn't let me drink ale in Solaum...!I love it here! I want to live as close to the forest as possible!" Santaru was in a dither, hopping about.
"Thank you so much, it's just perfect here." Kalkaza was overjoyed, "If I could have my knife back, only to chop and gather food, of course...!" And Jardin approved the return of her blade.
Clockwith smiled sadly, and shook her head, "I'd love to, and appreciate the gesture you've made to me and my friends beyond words." She said, speaking in the dialect of a scribe and less like a mad March hare. "But I've got questionable animals out for my head. I couldn't stand t'live if I saw them come here and ransack your home. I'll stay for winter, but I'll have to be gone by Springtime."
"I'll follow ye, Clock. Ends o'the earth." Stated Stormgale quietly, who had been fishing in the Broadstream River and Jardin's whiskers set in a hard line.
Happy as he was, Menace still felt that bit of longing in his heart."I came here for a family...is anyone willing to adopt me?" Too late, he realized how foolish he sounded. To his surprise, Melia came up and tackled him in a hug.
"All of Noonvale is family," she said, "and I'll be your favorite sister." He was noticing how much she smelt like damsons, a slightly sweet smell, until he suddenly noticed the smell of wet otter.
"An' I'll be the wandering brother who interrupts an inopportune moments!" Sang Stormgale, "Now, let's hitch up those supplies!"
With the appropriate material and construction animals gathered, the plans began for all three homes. Santaru wanted one attached to a large oak trunk, slightly behind the rest of the community, while Menace and Kalkaza tolerated simple homes with the customary thatched roofs.
The squirrelmaid was very lucky she remembered the way.
Her home was in ruins, it's inhabitants slain or enslaved. Her first thought was to seek the help of the Badger Lord, but the entire coast had been covered by vermin--these of a different horde leader. The one that had assaulted her home were from her home. It had been a silent and efficient job, so efficient, that the maid hadn't noticed until all her colleagues were mysteriously put out of action. She had to fight for her life when the hedgehog had viciously attacked her with a curved sword. Between seeing the terrible bloodlust in her opponent's eyes, she had noticed spikes bent into the edge of the blade.
"You'll listen next time, won't you? But how lucky for us that you didn't!" She heard, as she ran on all fours through the scorched grass, a deep gash over her right eye, and the sleeves of her garment cut to ribbons, less ladylike, more fearful.
That was near the beginning of Winter, almost half a season ago. Now, she was making her way wearily alongside the Broadstream, barely eating and sleeping, just looking for anyone's help.
Through the deep snow, she saw a pair of pawprints and began to follow them, hopeful for the first time in a while. They led into a deep valley with trees covered with a lighter dusting of snow. She would have passed by if not for the large building, for she hadn't seen the smaller homes. The maid began to run down the hillside and tripped, tumbling down the rest of the way.
It had taken two weeks to even start the homes, a week to sketch out a plan, and another to began building the frame. "Where would you like your pantry, Menn?" Melia asked, poring over the plans at the worksite, "Right on the back wall, you said? Menace?"
But he was paying his close friend no attention, as his eyes were focused on the figure tumbling down the side of the basin, too weakened to even try and stop her descent. He began running toward her and after a moment, Melia followed.
When they reached the fallen squirrel, she was almost unconscious. Menace took off his cloak, and quickly wrapped her in it. She felt the motion and blinked rapidly, squinting at him.
"Menace!" She gasped, "Is that you?"
It took awhile for him to recognize the voice, that once was full of kindness and warmth, now feeble and weak.
"Lady Sangrine!" He exclaimed; She nodded, and Melia caught her as she passed out.
Sangrine came to in a warm bed. Out of sight, something low to the ground was moving about,and Menace pushed a bowl of stew into her paws.
"Slow bites, lady. What happened?" He asked, and Santaru gave a little titter of empty laughter.
"You don't tell someone to eat slowlyer and then press 'em for stories!" He said.
After a while, she had enough energy to speak in short bits, "For a while, during harvest...some of the Masters and Elders began having accidents....getting sick...I know Yirrel died...Glassa too-So sorry...Santaru-Mineplo...."
"She singled...out Torru...to spite you, Menace...killed him herself...her friends had been selected as...the apprentices...now, Solanum is theirs." She coughed, and settled back into sleep.
They were all silent for a while, until Kalkaza whispered, "Menace...we can have a memorial for him here--"
"No." Just when he thought he was finally free from Prippagoada...he realized that he wouldn't be until she was gone off the earth. "We're going back to Solanum. I am." He stormed out of the room and into the frigid air. The others followed.
"You heard what she said, it's over. Theirs."
Menace rounded on Santaru "She said it was theirs, yes. But they would need some people to rule over. Besides, Kal, she said nothing about your parents being killed!"
"Me aunt's gone, an' I don't have any overwhelmin' desire to go back there." Mumbled Santaru.
"My point is, San, that there are animals there who need to be saved. And animals who need to be eliminated." He now directed his words to Melia, Clockwith, and Stormgale, "I can't ask you guys to come. You don't know the story. No need to die for something you don't know."
"But the wonderful thing is--youu can't stop usss." Clockwith sang, and Stormgale and Melia began to hop around in a circle.
"Yes, well--" Menace couldn't see how he would stop them, "Well, tell Jardin and Leafana that we've gone. We'll be back, though, I'm sure. Time to head back...home." He added, with distaste.
Part 4: "There's a Cost for that, Menace."
The five of them had made their way through Mossflower, as Menace wanted to set off as soon as possible. They all questioned his motives; The way he talked about Solanum would think that he was glad to see it burn.
He would be, if it wasn't burning at the hands of his enemy.
They didn't pass Frindella's loghouse this time, and kept a wide berth from the sulfur caves, not sure where Jadinga could be.
Soon, they were in a familiar spot; "Remember this place?" Said Santaru, "I guess the snake could help us save the town." He scrunched his nose, "D'you smell smoke?"
Stormgale looked in the sky and pointed over the horizon, "That way!" Oily smoke curled into the air, and they hurried in the direction. On the fringe of the town, they were overwhelmed by a smell of burning--
"Food." Mumbled Santaru.
"Wood." Added Kalkaza.
"And so help us if that's burning flesh I smell." said Clockwith, looking pale. The group quickly hid among rubble.
"Where could they be?"
"Now, this is coming from a mere visitor," whispered Melia, as she pointed to something, "But perhaps she's in the big tower, with the flames behind it?" Menace followed her paw and saw Sola Tower, blackened, and with tall flames behind it that didn't seem to be burning anything.
"That's our place, then." And before a suitable plan could be thought up, Menace ran through the ruins to the structure.
They followed him to the very to of the tower. The fire was in a ditch behind them, being stoked by dry grass and wood pieces.
"See, I told you. We didn't have to do a thing!" Something shifted--animals in dark, hooded cloaks withwith a single flower on the hood-- and Prippagoada was visible, waving a pale pink sword around.
"Mallasite!" She screeched, "Either you, Menace, are my personal slave, or you can see how sharp this is!"
"No way!" The tyrant stepped forward and followed with a swing.
"No!" Stormgale rushed low at Menace and knocked him out of the way. Santaru turned to his sister, "You can't do that--!"
The sword slashed through him. With a pained noise, he fell limp onto the floor. Prippagoada stood over him, "I'll have no bodies around my kingdom. Makes people sick!" She made to kick her brother's body into the firey pit below, when she was struck by something heavy.
"Yah, boo, sucks!" Clockwith, Melia, and Kalkaza had started throwing numerous items at her. The black cloaked figures quickly rushed to stop them, one long sleeve ironically catching on a burning candle. The cloak caught fire, with the figure shouting, "Argghh! Help me!" They grabbed another of the black cloaked figures, who quickly pushed them onto the table. The mallasite s word was quickly slammed on the table, but the fire had began to spread. Furious, she aimed the blade at Melia and rushed her.
The mousemaid stuck out her footpaw, saying "Your honors, Menace!" and her assailant fell. The table flames had caught that part of the already weakened floorboard and it snapped, causing both of them to fall.
"No!" Menace was roughly grabbed by the shoulder and pushed towards the door by Kalkaza, who screamed. "We have to get out!"
The remaining cloaked guards had fled already. In the stairway, smoke filled the air, with hangings ruined on the ground, which they trampled over in their haste. At the bottom of the tower, they burst out to find a soot covered Melia, coughing as she crawled toward them. "It was the force of her running." she coughed, "I fell a few steps away from the edge of the pit, but that hedgehog...she fell right in."
"Just what she deserved." They heard rumbling, and darted away as Sola Tower collapsed, kicking up mountains of dust. While crouching in the grass, they heard the murmurs of townsfolk as they approached the ruin.
"Does this mean that the terror is gone?" Spoke a shrewife.
"Who did this?"
"We did." Menace, Kal, Stormgale, Clockwith, and Melia walked over, and stood in front of the rubble.
There were shouts of "Why, it's Menace!" and a few rubbed their eyes and looked dazedly at them.
"She attacked us. We defended ourselves, she fell...into the fire." He gestured uncertainly to the burning pit, and Clockwith whispered, "The very entrance to Hellgates."
"You saved us, boy! But how did you know we were in trouble? No one had seen you for seasons..." The mouse shook his head, "Nevertheless, I crown you ruler of Solanum!"
Menace thought about it for a second before replying. "No. No!" He said louder at the shocked bystanders, "Most of you have done nothing but kick me from under your feet since I've arrived, worse than the dirt and scraps! I'll have nothing more to do here..." He looked at the pile of smoldering ashes; There was no chance of finding Santaru's body. "In fact, I don't even want to stay the night." He stalked away, back out to the plains, and after a short time, his friends followed.
"Do you hear that?" Whispered Melia, as they saw the coastline in sight. Even a league away, they could hear the residents of Solanum chanting "Menace! Menace! Menace!"
After we went to the coastline, we headed straight to Noonvale, where, in the spring, Melia and Menace were married (please, say that thrice fast, wot.). Later, she had a son, named Santaru after our dear friend. That was the season that Stormgale and I left Noonvale, no warning to anyone. I'm certain Jadeline is still after my blood, and a peaceful life isn't quite for me.
In Mossflower, I was looking at my maps one day and thinking, "Certainly, the world is bigger than this. This looks to be only one side.", and I told Stormgale. He pointed to each edge of the map and said, "That's what we'll do. We'll go to the other side of the world."
I already had knowledge of the southern lands, but I wondered what was beyond the Lands of Ice and Snow. Another Noonvale? Solanum? Redwall?
And, so, that be's our plan, from here to there, and from there to eternity.
There's a scrawled note beneath...
I tried to tell Clock that sounded too ominous and corny at the same time. She didn't listen.