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Do not expect much for awhile. Just read the poem and be happy!
for this peace is a dull and deadly bore,
these words I write from stolen ash
straight out of the brazier.
to serve and build is all we do,
a bore--again, I say.
Could I fight with the best once upon a time?
My mind says--I think so.
If these tears of mine could wash the blood
turn his mistake around again,
and turn the stones pale red once more,then I wont have been returned in vain.
Many Seasons Before
The fires were raging alongside the borders of her Mossflower. Riverwater had helped to extinguish smaller ones, until the smoke tainted the waters, and nobeast would go near it.
"It needs a sacrifice!" The Chief had shouted.
"No! I don't believe that." The Peacers firmly believe that every rock was the spirit of a dull personality, ever lightning strike someone's verbal blow in an argument. They believed Mossflower Forest was alive and conscious.
"Mother forest does not feel appreciated, otherwise these ashes and death would not touch her borders, Synthe!"
Synthe loved the forest. She really did. But she knew that if it came to sacrifices, she'd be the one, the one who valued and treasured the forest more than anybeast alive. The one with flowers twisted in her fur.
The one with green tinted fur, that made her look constantly like she was ill. That was the only part she didn't like.
As everyone looked at her, she took a deep breath and said "Alright. I'm ready--I guess." At only 14 seasons, it would be the greatest achievement of her life--or a life cut drastically short.
As a large, apprehensive group, they made their way to the edge of the forest, with the fires burning half a league away. The chief went to a seemingly ordinary tree, dug his claws into the bark, and pulled it open carefully. It was hollow on the inside.
"Synthe." That was it. No Goodbye , Nice knowing you , or Thanks for your life! from anyone. The squirrelmaid lowered her head and stepped in.
"How will I know if it worked?" Her voice bounced back at her, and she wasn't sure if the group outside could hear her. Half of them couldn't, considering they were slinking away.
"The disaster will be gone. If you're spirited enough to stop it, then you can also get yourself out."
"W-Wait!" She slammed on the door with her fists, but they were gone. Sobbing, she held herself and began a chant, coughing in between.
"Mother nature, good to me,
Get me from inside this tree."
After several more days, a heavy rain unleashed a downpour, quenching the fires. A good portion of the land was scorched, including the wheat fields, including a league into Mossflower.
When The Peacers went back to the tree, it was blackened. The bark door was wrenched open, to show that Synthe had disappeared.
The wildcat's footpaw stopped just short of the blade. Using it as a mount, she kicked off of it and spun around. The otter took a quick step back as claws raked across where he had just been, still grazing the front of his armor. He held his sword straight up, but she had started a second rotation, and the blade was caught up in her paws. She twisted, and it spun away out of his reach.
The beast towered over him. The otter was now staring into a pair of black eyes. She touched his head with a single claw and went "Dead. Dead! If this were a real battle, you'd be a goner!"
He stood up, beaming, "Fantastic, Calypso, you finally mastered that overwrist turn--But, bear in mind that in a real battle, your opponent's sword will hardly ever be idle."
Calypso stepped back and looked at the sky and laughed. "Not a cloud in sight, so stop rainin' on my parade!" She snapped to attention. "I only say that if were finished with trainin' for today, sir."
"Yes, we're done. I'm Whirl for another two days." He retrieved his sword, and they headed back across the grassland and back into the trees. Fort Warpelt was two day's travel north from Salamandastron, and tucked away into the forest. Guards saluted when they came through, and they saw a slave run back to the compound to alert the household.
Lord Atland nodded as the same slave brought him a roasted fish, just as Calypso and Whirl walked in. "And how was the lesson today, Swordmaster?"
He bowed. "Sir, to give your daughter a blade would do naught but hinder her. She is most accomplished with only her claws and strength--"
"I disarmed him!" Overexcited, she did the arm-twisting motion again for her father, until Atland had to crack a smile and remind her to not interrupt.
"She sure did, sir. Threw my blade a good eight feet from me." Whirl rose again. "Permission to breathe easy?"
Atland granted his request. "Swordmaster, I'll ask you to do an inventory of the armory soon, but take leisure for now."
He nodded, and took a side door out of the room. Atland's attention turned to Calypso.
"Well done my dear. Go tell your mother what you've done."
Bounding down the hall and toward the center of the compound, Calypso felt herself hit something and go tumbling down. Brushing off her light blue tunic, she looked around for the being on the receiving end and found a young slave amid a spilled pitcher and dockleaves.
"Gosh, I'm sorry!" She helped the trembling young mouse to his footpaws. His eyes were closed tightly.
"M-my a-ap-pologies, Lord Atland, o-or Lady Zaenna--" He opened his eyes and saw that he was being held up by a bright yellow arm as opposed to being heaved up by a calico one calmed him down. "Calypso! Thank goodness--I, I mean--my apologies."
"No, no, Tocklin, I ran into you. Here, let me help you." They picked up the leaves together. Pitcher firmly in hand, he nodded his head toward the pavilion he had just left. "She's in there. I'll return shortly." He shrugged his ratty cloth more securely onto his shoulders and left. Calypso found her mother lounging on a cushion while attendants waved palm leaves up and down.
"Finished your playfighting, have you?" Zaenna didn't like the idea of Calypso fighting, but there wasn't much else to do.
"Don't say it like that, Ma. It'll help one day, I'm sure! I disarmed Whirl...!" She went through the motions for her slightly interested mother. When she finished, Zaenna nodded.
"Wonderful, dear. And I mean that, you'll be a fine fighter one day. I need you to check in on the slave compound--"
Calypso was already bounding off when her mother shouted after her; "I said check on them. Not liberate them."
Chapter 1; Present Day Mossflower
Just give me that pathetic, worthless charm necklace, and she'll be fine.
Blitzmia opened her eyes.
She was staring at the floor in the Infirmary, paws clapped over her ears, curled in a ball. She heard someone speaking.
"Cummon now, rabbit, break's over. His Lord won't take kindly to slackers." She was pulled up by the arm and led out into the hall.
Redwall Abbey still looked the same upstairs, except the rooms were a little more disorderly. The beds, Zangavar's crew had complained, were too still and soft, so they had drunk most of the fizzy beverages and used the large barrels for makeshift beds similar to those of rocking ships.
Mia was so small, she could have been carried to the room where the unweaving was taking place. But it was Sneggle pulling her along, not Breloose, the vixen.
"Did I miss lunch?" She asked, and Sneggle laughed.
"Hoho, we all did, beauty. Boggins and Hithero started brawlin' in the kitchens o'er sumthin' or other...that fat Friar took a cass'role dish to the head."
Mia frowned. "Then who's to make supper, meals, teatime?"
"Well, there's more than one cooker in this place--" The rat was interrupted by a grating snarl.
Both of them paled; Mia because the voice sounded sly and evil, creeping up the stairs; Sneggle because it was the sound of a boss unhappy with one of his employees.
"...Captain, didn't I ask ye to check on my meal for teatime?" There was the scraping of a blade on stone.
"So we do get tea!" Against everything, the haremaid hopped once and stopped.
"Who is that?" The voice stopped slithering and was now pointed and direct.
"N-n-nobeast at all, milord Zangavar of Bloodstone House. Git goin'!" He said in a lower voice, pushing her down the hall. "An' woe betide you if'n you don't git in that room!" He hurried down the stairs.
Well, someone had been hitting the books. Standing on tippaw, she climbed onto the windowsill and looked out.
The sun was setting, giving Mossflower the appearance of being cast in some post-apocalyptic world. That sums it up pretty well. Mia wondered; Were there still pockets of resistance in the woods, or were they being cut down, one by one, like the trees for some mysterious construction project?
Sighing, she hopped back down and made her way to the room where the Tapestry of Martin was being unraveled.
Chapter 1.5; The Past
Salmith jerked the ropes; the twin bells of Redwall pealed and clanged loud enough for all of Mossflower to hear. It was an open discussion. Abbot Mauvais greeted each family and individual who passed through.
“Nutkid, glad you could come.”
“Basph, Tierthie, hello—Jarrer, can you assist Mister Basph with that corn, please?”
Brother Jarrer, as he was then, picked up the bushel of corn the harvest mouse had brought. “Unf, this will certainly make for a lovely corn pudding, sir. Thank you.”
When everyone was seated in Great Hall, Mauvais stood in front of them, looking old and kind. “Friends of Redwall, I’ve known what you’ve gone through. Woodlanders and plainsbeasts alike. Risimer waged destruction on our country. Only thanks to Tallaspring is he gone."
The maid bowed her head. She still didn’t like to kill, even though her only murder had done a great justice. It was an accident. She hoped Mauvais wouldn’t go on about her, a squirrelmaid with no real place at the Abbey.
“If you know even a smidgen of our history, you’ll know about the problems we’ve encountered. Cluny. Zwilt. Longtooth. In short, vermin.” He stepped to the side, and Jarrer took his place, eyes looking at everyone in the room for a fraction of a second before he began.
“We’re tired of it!” He said suddenly; Some gave a start.
“Redwall is tired of being defenseless, helpless, always waiting for Guosim, the otters, or the one warrior of the season to come rescue us.” Here, he nodded to Tallaspring. “That’s not to say we don’t appreciate the tribes’ help; It’s just that when it comes to small bands, we have to run and hide behind you. Why can’t we handle ourselves? The forest needs your protection more than us!”
“I know; ‘What about the Order, and the vows of peace we took’? How can we live in peace if passerby take us for mats to be stepped on, annoying bugs to be swatted away at the flick of a paw? Redwallers are peaceable until attacked—but we put up a pathetic fight. I’m not suggesting that we forget the foundations on which our Abbey was built and turn into a military stronghold like Salamandastron. I’m saying that we simply improve our defenses, learn a bit of fighting, and forge a few more weapons than Martin’s great sword to help us. We can’t all wield it at once. Just so we don’t have to come running to our friends each instance a small-time threat comes along.”
For a long time, everything was quiet.
“There be’s metal chunkers in our Mole’ole Quarry, zurr.” Said Foremole Burzy.
“An’ who wouldn’t like me to teach ‘em to chuck javelins?” Ravern had jumped up, newly elected Skipper of Otters.
Log-A-Log Aswold jumped in. “An’ fight swiftlike?”
Jarrer bowed before Mauvais. “If you agree to it, Father, I shall lead the way to ensure Redwall’s continued survival.”
“You may, my son.”
He rose, and the Abbot dismissed the meeting, inviting everyone to stay for supper. “We can talk after supper, gentlebeasts?”
All of the leaders nodded to Jarrer, and he gave a small nod and smile to both them and a mousemaid, Armintha, standing in a shadowed corner.
Calypso went back outside Fort Warpelt, and to a small wooden encampment to the right. There was an orchard half a league behind it, and on a whim, she ran over there. The young wildcat prepared herself, got ready, and ran at a apple tree, leaping up and catching her nails in the bark.
"Haha!" She climbed up and plucked off several apples. Calypso didn't know if the field tending slaves noticed her, but if they did, no one said anything. She let them roll to the ground and jumped out after them, gathering the fruit and going back to the slave compound.
She checked who the guards were, and rolled her eyes. A fat stoat and thin weasel were standing at attention, spears ready. Sauntering up to the gate, she said "Hello Barfur, Iglos." With a smile.
Barfur bared his teeth. "Now, I can't let ye in here wid those, but..." He asked, poking an apple.
She investigated one closely and tossed it to him.
"I get one too, don't I?"
"Of course Iglos." As an apple was handed off, the door opened, leading to a pen with a low, wooden roof. Sunshine shone through the slats, upon the dirt and mounds of hay.
As if by magic, animals began to appear, as if melting from the stone they were camouflaged, or popping up from piles of hay and dirt.
Dispirited, Calypso looked around. "When was this last rearranged? It looks...well, like a slophouse. I know my father permitted some colorful rugs and, hey, even some pillows..."
A little hedgehog took an apple. "We 'aven't gotten the m'terials t'make the rugs wit yet, Caly, an' we use the pillows t'make miss Enamura feel more conforbal."
"And where is Enamura, Bizzy?" More animals were taking the fruit gratefully.
Bizzy took the wildcat by her paw and lead her to a corner of the room. Pillows were on the ground. A mousemaid was looking out of the barred window, where there was a small crevice between the main living area and the slave room.
"It was over there, y'know." She said, as Calypso sat nearby on her knees. "Where Koylin suited up to fight that weasel." Risimer Gadtritch had come through the area. He was an old enemy of Atland, and he had decided to attack the compound, consumed by ideas of revenge. "He looked through this window at me, smiled, and--well, I couldn't hear his voice, but I know what he said--It'll be alright."
She didn't appear to have heard. "That was the last time I ever saw him. Who knows if he's alive?" Enamura continued in a louder voice, "And his child may never know him." Rubbing at her swollen stomach, she looked at Bizzy and started as she saw Calypso. "Cal, I didn't even see ya there."
"Here." She passed her final apple to the depressed maid. "Maybe that'll get 'im out. You're fine, right? Need more blankets, or anything?"
"Fine, fine, just...thinking."
"We had to defend ourselves, y'know. I wish just as hard as ye that we never had t'fight--"
"You're bred for fighting, made for fighting. You can't say that."
Calypso clenched a paw in thought and continued. "True. What I mean is, I wish we never had to fight on our land, sacrificing our friends--"
Enamura shifted to look at her. "Friends? Our friends? Calypso, you're our only friend in that house! The army, maids, your parents--they all contribute to our enslavement!"
There was a little squeal, and they both saw Bizzy curled into a ball. "Miss Enamura" His words were muffled. "Please, don't yell. You be upsettin' the baby, an' besides, all the smartwords make me head hurt."
She sighed, and looked ashamed of herself. "And I'm also taking out my anger on my friends. I'm sorry you two."
Taking care not to be pricked too much, Calypso picked up Bizzy. "I...understand. You need your rest. We'll leave now--an' eat that apple!"
Back near the center, she unstuck herself from the little hedgehog and after bidding everybeast goodbye, went back out onto the grounds and made her way to the sword field. It was situated on the other side of the patio area--still in the center of the compound, but with a side that opened to the outside world.
She went in to see Whirl going through a series of complicated maneuvers. He held the sword in front of him in one paw, and then flicked it up. He swung in circles, howling a war cry. He came to rest slamming the blade in the dirt and stepping back.
Even an arena for war games was more cheerful than a housing encampment! They all worked so hard, even Enamura scrubbed linens in Fort Warpelt. They weren't beaten, but they lived in squalid conditions with little nourishing food. Why did the guards and army--who slacked off and avoided work get better treatment?
The Swordmaster walked toward her unsteadily. "Huh. Must be gettin' old, that makes me a lot dizzier." He clutched the fence and focused his eyes on her face. "What's up?"
She looked at him. "Do you like doing this? Fighting, training, all that."
He blinked. "Of course. I loved the purpose of blades when I was but a boy, and put that love into practice. It's a purpose in my life--"
Calypso felt a rush of anger, and slammed her fist into the wooden fence. It cracked and splintered. "Yes! But the folks in the pen don't feel that! We give them coverings an' pillows an' such, but they're still miserable, because--"
Whirl saw where this was going and spoke quietly. "They're still slaves, Calypso."
"...And that's what I hate. I'm gonna do something about this. If-if they were hired paws, they could be paid with land and protection, and--"
The otter grabbed her wrist. "Calm down. We'll think and discuss your plan for a few days. No need to approach your father irrationally, he won't listen if you do. Okay?" When she didn't react, he shook her arm. "Okay?"
"Okay. Go hop off somewhere, do some thinking...unless you'd like to hang around and help me out?"
She took a deep breath. "I'll stay here." In a surprising move, she backed up and ran at the fence, jumping over it, and going to the center of the arena. "Come on! I can't train meself!" Came the cheerful yell.
"That's the Calypso I know! An' she'll hold on for just a moment." Moving quickly, he looked for and located a small otter folding laundry nearby the patio; She was alone. When he went over to her, he said "Tell them to be ready in three days' time, Tiderie.". Whirl gave his daughter a hug, and raced back.
Sister Branswaila took Mia by the paw when she walked in. "O'er here, dear." She said quietly. "You'll u-unravel the background." The sizable maid, usually a tower of strength, was crying silently.
In the middle of the room, several tables were together, and the Tapestry of Martin on top. The edges of the pictures were gone, and being picked apart by Redwallers, looking dispirited and keeping their heads down. Guards stood alert by the windows. In front of the window, Violat was overseeing the room.
"She ain't stupid, mousie, just put 'er somewhere an' tell 'er to get busy." Mia was deposited in a chair and handed a small wooden needle. She pushed the point under a loop and pulled.
"Just pluck out the threads, bunnyhare." Violat rose her voice over the wind blowing through the room. "Go on, pluck out everythin' yer liddle Abbey is based on. For all of the rulers too stupid to stop vermin afore they came, for His Lord Zangavar, and for a pair o'insiders who finally got this place t'fall."
Someone sniffed, and Violat turned on them. "'Tis yer own fault--!"
A little squirrelmaid named Ivyna had spoken up. "Wot happened? Wasn't Blood'one House always like dis?"
The ferret swung her spear and pointed it at Ivyna. "Shut up!"
"Jus' tell me wot happened, scabface!"
Mia looked up. Ivyna was being very brave, she thought. When she and Thymeo had first arrived, the Abbey was just beginning to fall into the despair brought on by a pair of sneaks. She had never seen the Abbey in a truly peaceful time. Mia hadn't seen Thymeo for a very long time, however.
Lost in reminiscing, she was snapped out of her dream when Ivyna shrieked; Two of the other guards had grabbed her by the arms and heaved her up. "Someone else can tell ye 'bout back then." Said Violat quietly, "But I'll show ye what's happenin' now an' forever." The dying sun glinted light off the blade as it swept around her, cutting off an eartip, and Ivyna shook as blood ran down her ear.
Before a more fatal blow could fall, the door guards slammed their poles on the ground three times. A muffled voice came from the other side of the door--"Enterin' 'is Majesty Zangavar Downblood!" Ivyna was dropped, crying, onto the tapestry, as the horde members saluted.
He was a big animal, with a short, squirrel brown coat of fur. His tail was long and fuzzy like a sables', but wrapped in a thorny vine. His actual species was unclear, however; An armet encased his head. The shaky rasps of breath could be heard mingling with the wind, however.
"What is this..." He took a deep breath. "...what is this disturbing my teatime?"
"Milord, the little one lying on that ill-begotten tapestry was actin' insolent, refusin' to do the work bestowed 'pon 'er--"
A huge paw waved and Violat went silent. His face pointed to Branswaila. "Is this true, old marm?"
The mousemaid kept her eyes on the artwork, now ruined with blood. "No, milord--"
"You're calling my Archcaptain a liar, then." The paw now moved to lift the face guard. The beasts behind him widened their eyes in fear.
"Not at all...Lord. Just that wee Ivyna there wanted to know 'bout your glorious conquest o' our Abbey."
The metal was dropped with a clank. "Really now?" When everyone nodded, sans Violat, Zangavar continued in a smooth voice. "Well, how could I possibly begrudge a loyal subject that? It's settled, then! After my dinner, the entire population will gather in the Great Hall to hear the wonderful tale of Bloodstone House." In an instant, he has snatched the ferret's spear and grabbed Branswaila's neck. "Say it, now, Bloodstone House."
Against the pressure, she managed to spit out the words, and Zangavar dropped her. "Good. Anybeast you catch saying Redwall Abbey is to be flogged, Archcaptain." He tossed the weapon carelessly back to Violat, who said "Yes, lord!"
"At dinner, then." With a sweep of his tail, the ruler of what was formerly Redwall Abbey slammed the door behind him. Ivyna had gone still, lying across Martin's face. The Sister picked her up; She had passed out. Rocking her, she whispered. "May I get her some water an' bandages? Please?"
Violat rolled her eyes and signaled to another guard. "Follow 'em!" As the three left, Mia quickly directed her attention back to the Tapestry. She noticed something unusual; Despite the squirrelmaid twitching and thrashing on the artwork, blood was splattered everywhere except on the face of Martin The Warrior.
Jarrer met with Mauvais, Ravern, Burzy, and Aswold in Cavern Hole. Armintha went about and poured tea, keeping her eyes down.
"So, Jarrer." Mauvais looked at him with amused skepticism. "What are you thinking?"
The mouse stood up. "Here's our plan, for starters; Our friends Skipper, Log-a-Log, and Foremole here allow a portion, only a small portion, to stay at Redwall."
"I ain't followin'. How would that help? Hardly enough defense for the south wall if we all cough up, say, a half score each." Asked Aswold.
"That's the thing; Your shrews would train our shrews in the art of combat. Though I'm not totally aware of how many shrews we hold...I'm sure mice and hedgehogs could go under your jurisdiction as well. The otters would train our otters and so on."
That was reasonable, but something still tugged at Ravern's mind. "Nice plan, but...why the concern for defense all of a sudden? Have ye seen somethin', Jarrer, Father Abbot?"
Armintha looked up; Jarrer took only the swiftest look at her before looking at the floor and placing his paw over his face and dragging it down.
"Yes, Skip, I have." He looked up again, staring at each of them in turn. "Well...no, not me, per say, but Altopha has--You know her, don't you? Our friend the barn owl, visits at the beginning of each season? Well, she lives out west, and flies over the plains to come here. The day before the beginning Spring feast, she told Abbot Mauvais about something strange she saw. Altopha says that, while flying, she spotted a lone figure on the plain. Lowering herself, she heard he was shouting something and listened."
He closed his eyes. "Downblood! Down with all yer blooood! Downblood is a'comin' to Mossflower, where the green shall meet the red!" That's what he said. Mind, Altopha says that she only saw one beast, and had seen no one of suspicion near her home, and it takes her about three days to get here."
"Then whoi this vermin ain't 'ere yet, zurr? Thur feast whurr 'bout a week'n'half ago."
"I've not the faintest idea, Burzy, but I feel we should start training now, just in case. Redwall stands out like a ruby on a dirt path, and I'm sure everybeast knows what a piece of scum would do for a jewel. Does anyone have any other ideas or plans?" When nobeast spoke, he went on to conclude the meeting. "So, we all agree, that's what we'll do?"
"Better'n anything I could surmise. 'Tis easier fightin' on your own turf than takin' dodderin' Redwallers out into the forest t'fight." Aswold stood up. "I'll tell me tribe, an' send some within the day."
Ravern and Burzy agreed to similar courses of action, and with an air of dejected silence, left the cozy Cavern Hall.
A week later, in Fort Warpelt, Calypso was sleeping. A dream was playing through her mind that she hadn't seen in a long time.
Her mother, Zaenna, was standing over her, holding two burning branches. She swept them all around her, above her, in circles...without the flames even touching the ground. When she slowed and stopped, a slave quickly came by and received them, dumping the burning ends into a pail of water. Primly, Zaenna brushed her paws off and looked to Calypso.
"In due time, my dear, that's what you shall learn."
But Calypso didn't want to learn firedancing, not if it smelled like that, sharp and headache inducing. The young wildcat wanted nothing to do with fire. The thick smoke didn't help her impression either.
But it was the sharp, acrid smell that woke her up. Rubbing her eyes,she peered at her door. Smoke was seeping underneath. "Fire!Fire! Get Caly--" There was a loud crash, and the voice was cut off.
Between the smoke and nighttime, she could hardly see how to get out. It was too high to jump out of the window (and during a fire.), so, turning her terror into strength, she brought her leg up and then swung it down, breaking the door. Upon further reflection, she wondered why she hadn't just opened it instead of getting all of these little splinters at such an inopportune moment.
The hall was filled with smoke. She got on the ground and began to slink out, keeping close to the bottom. She heard the army fighting with some adversary. Had Gadtritch returned? If so, how were Whirl, Blizzy, and Enamura faring? And her mother and father?
She clawed her way up to a window and leaned out. She saw the tell-tale silver armor of a guard fighting with something unseeable. The armored guard was struck in the face and fell backward, his assailant jumping on him in triumph and waving others to follow as he headed toward the building.
The chambers of Lord Atland and Lady Zaenna were empty, fine silks and curtains slashed and ruined. Wine was spilled everywhere. Closing her eyes at another piece of her life destroyed, Calypso ducked back down and made her way to the staircase. The building was coming down around the stairway, and Calypso moved as quickly as she could. The final 10 steps were burned away, so she gave a mighty bound and landed on the floor heavily. Something big started.
"Who's that?" Asked a harsh voice.
"Dad!" Calypso got to her paws shakily; Something was wrong with her left ankle. She stumbled through the smoke and eventually fell into her father, who scooped her up and ran out.
"Dad, what is it, what's going on--?" They crept around piles of rubble--and bodies. "Where's Ma?"
He shook his head. "Dead, I think. It's a damned slave rebellion! I don't know the details, but I saw them--" The pile beside them suddenly burst into flame; The stench of burning bodies got into Calypso's mouth and nose and she covered them. Unexpectedly, she felt herself hit the ground as Atlant yowled and tried to grab something from the fire. The white fur of Zaenna's body was blackened and burned, and yet Atland still persisted in pulling her out.
"There they are!" There was a twang of bowstrings; They were surrounded. "Get them!"
"Freedoooooom! From oppressooooors!" Four of the slaves surged forward savagely, but to her great surprise, two of them grabbed Calypso's arms, another her footpaws, and carried her away with the utmost care.
Atland would not be brought in, however. Ripping off Zaenna's burning cloak, he whipped it around them, sending sparks on to the grass. When it had exhausted its usefulness, he set after the slaves tooth and nail. He managed to slay three beasts before he realized they were taking his daughter away, and tried to leap after her. He was brought down by the combination of a heavy net and fatigue and sorrow.
Calypso was carried away from the fighting to a patch of hay near the side of the slave compound. Here, animals were being treated for burns and injuries. Lying on her back, all she saw was the sky and the wall. "Enamura's window.".
After a moment, the mousemaid herself was staring down at her. "Cal, are you alright?"
Between her destroyed home, snapped ankle, and worst of all, her mother killed, she was nothing of the kind and told her so. Enamura shook her head.
"I'm sorry 'bout that, but..."
"That's how rebellions work." Whirl was beside them now, taking off his helmet and tossing it to the side.
"Where is Tiderie?"
"She's still out there..." He lowered his voice so Calypso wouldn't hear him "Ransacking the house." The wildcat was near unconscious from shock. She kept murmuring for her parents.
"She'll be okay?" The maid replied, just as quietly.
"Certainly. Just the lower floors...anything worth our while upstairs will survive the burn." He looked at Calypso, who hadn't moved. Enamura saw him and said "Just a moment." and stepped to the side. She returned carrying a little bundle and sat down next to her.
"There's someone I want you to meet." She said. A little face looked up at her, blinking. He didn't seem very old. "This is Libera. Short for Liberation."
Calypso blinked, and then a sad smile began to spread across her face. "I knew you looked different somehow." She patted the blanket. "You got your ma, huh, Libera? Don't I wish..."
Whirl decided to intervene. "You understand, don't you Calypso? Why we had to do this?"
"Had to...what, kill my parents and ransack my home? Naw, I don't Whirl--You couldn'tve just left us in--" She stopped short; Atland was still alive. "What'll ya do to my dad? How is this gonna end? What'll ya do after all this? Ya plannin' t'kill me too?" Overwhelmed, she broke down and began to cry. Whirl put an arm around her as Enamura carried Libera away. He stood there for a long time, until she had stopped.
"Can you walk on that footpaw?" The Swordmaster asked in a low voice. "Yes, ye say? Good. Let me show ye what's going on."
Leaning on him, Calypso gathered herself up and hobbled along side Whirl as he explained. "See, we had Woceana's monocle--her grandfather's monocle, actually--so we could bend the sunlight through it and light something on fire. Enamura had the only window the sunlight would shine through long enough, but she just had her baby, so we moved 'em far away from it. When it finally caught fire, Pippum set it by the door, and we all started shoutin' as the smoke seeped out. The guards panicked, and one fool opened the door. See, there he is." Whirl pointed to a fallen guard, neck twisted unnaturally. "That was probably an accident, but what can ye do?
Anyway, being free, they headed straight o'er to me as Pippum carried the branch further into the guard compound. I handed out weapons, and when the guards ran screaming from their barracks...well, that's when we started." They stopped and stared quietly at the burning form of Fort Warpelt. Fights still carried on around the entrance, and Whirl went forward to ask about Atland's whereabouts.
The halls and coasts of Salamandastron were near empty. No hares practiced fighting drills on the sand, gardened on the rocky ledges, or played pranks on one another in the Mess Hall.
Dravity Bongle Jollopper paced around the chair of the badger lord, inspecting it closely. He ran his paw across the top, dislodging dust, and wiped the arms. When he finished, he stopped and looked around suspiciously. No one watching. No one had been around at all for seasons, except four other hares, but they were not around. With a whoop, he sat in the chair. Looking about with interest, he only vaguely registered that the chair felt odd.
Dravity began to sing;
"The jolly ole sun is shinin', but is there stuff to sup for sup--Yowtch!"
He leapt out of the ornate seating. "Bloomin'--Can't a chap take a little sitdown in peace?" He said, pulling at his scut.
A haremaid walked from behind. "Not that chair, nuthead. D'you rule Salamandastron?"
"Huh." Dravity stood as tall as he could and puffed out his chest. "I believe I bally well do, wot!" He deflated when a stick poked him in the stomach.
"If that's the case, ya must believe in do-gooders an' a Long Patrol!" She adjusted her cream neck kerchief. "That's for a Badger Lord, Drav, not f'you!"
He glared at her. "The Long Patrol exists--"
"No, it's still alive an' jolly well kickin', Luxumbra! We gotta keep it alive in our hearts'n'minds, all that."
In response, Luxumbra jumped first onto a bench, then onto a table. "Major Minegray, tell Lance Corporal Blintor to shut Kobry an' Mricklin up! A deaf frog can hear that caterwaulin'! Lord Tungrow, will ye please tell Bobbit the cook t'stop spicin' up the chowder wit Hotroot?" She looked at Dravity, who's mouth was pulled in a tight frown and jumped down.
"'M sorry beyond all belief, pally, but when did we last see our friends an' families? Four seasons ago? Nothin' good on this planet could've wiped out 4 score hares widout at least one gettin' back here."
Dravity began to hop about. "'M sick o'sittin' idle, Luxe. They didn't sit idle, they went forth, weppin's out, rushin' into battle wid the foe--!" He stopped suddenly. "Who was they off t'fight? D'you remember?"
She clapped him on the shoulder, "Naw, naw I don't. But Missus Klickzyna'll know. Let's find 'er. Better idea! Let's fin' everybeast, an' see if we can't do somethin' 'bout your restless spirit, wot."
Klickzyna O. Blotleydown was sitting on the edge of a rock garden, fanning herself with a palmfrond. Twychumbra, Luxe's twin, was digging up vegetables.
"Lookit! I say, Missus Mumzy, we'll 'ave a fine banquet t'night!"
Klickzyna flinched as the produce fell in the basket beside her with a thud. "I ain'tcha mum, Twytchumbra Gallowayfer, an' you'll stop throwin' that food on a whimsy, y'hear? You'll bruise it!"
He sat on his haunches and rubbed his eyes, smearing dirt on his face. "Not my dear old mater, y'say? Coulda fooled me. What was she like, d'ya remember?"
Klickzyna pressed the frond against her forehead. "A perilous beauty--but, oh, ain't that what they all say, y'say, but your mum was actually pretty. Stardum Gallowayfar, she could hit a butterfly on the wing with those gulls' feather arrows o'hers. If she aimed fer a foebeast, he'd be dead a second before the arrow struck 'im clear twixt the eyes!"
"Cool." Luxe and Dravity were passing by the window and heard everything. They climbed out onto the ledge, Luxe sending a rock sailing ahead of them. It hit Twytch on the ear and fell inside.
"Argh! Me lug!" With a leap, he tackled his sister and they set about, rolling around the edge, kicking and punching.
"At ease!" Twytch stopped trying to strangle Luxe with her own neck kerchief, she stepped off his chest, and they sat down obediently. Dravity looked for a clear space and followed suit. "Now, why're ya here? Dravity? Did ya dust the chair?"
"Indeed I did, marm--"
"Quiet, Luxumbra! Did you prepare the stewpot?"
"Yep!" She blinked her clear blue eyes and grinned.
"An' Twytchumbra was pickin' the veggitables, but neverthemind. What is it y'want, ya young folks?"
Unsure how to continue the conversation, Dravity looked imploringly at Luxe, who took a deep breath and said "He wants to leave!" pointing at Dravity.
He looked shocked. "Well, by gum, y'coulda put it better'n that! That's not it at all!"
"Well then, what is it?" Klickzyna looked at him pointedly. "'M too old for this..."
He sat up as straight, and put his paw on his hip, imagining an imaginary rapier there. "I want to leave."
The group gave him blank stares, and he continued. "I-I mean--We've had no information for four seasons. Don'tcha want to know what's goin' on? With Lord Tungrow? The Patrol? Our blinkin' friends an' family? Well, I do!" He shouted.
A shadow crept over him. "As do I, young'un. Nice to know I'm not alone." said a slow voice.
The final remaining hare, Cromba D. Whompwave, was behind him. An older, bigger hare with scruffed features was behind him, balancing two pails of water on opposite ends of a branch on his shoulders. The group was shocked at how silently he had appeared.
"But...I missed your reasoning. You'll tell it again?" It was not a question.
"Uh-uh-" Dravity gulped. "Most certainly, sah!" He paraphrased quickly, and Cromba listened. When he was finished, the older hare sighed and dug into the pocket of his worn pants. He took out a golden locket and snapped it open, adjusting it under the fading sun. It was a painted picture of his daughter, Elizzia, and her husband, Floppson. Gone with the Long Patrol.
He snapped it closed. "Righta, then. We're leavin' at midday tomorrow."
Twitch and Luxe were wearing identical masks of shock. Klickzyna's eyes widened from under her palm frond. "Cromba, y'not--y'not serious, are ya?" She whispered.
"Ya, marm, I am. If'n ya wish t'remain here, I understand. But I'm headin' out tomorrow."
Dravity made up his mind and jumped up "As-As I am, sah! Why, we'll traipse to the ends o'the terrainium 'till we find out just a-what happened!"
The Gallowayfer pair looked at each other. Then they nodded. "We ain't missin' a fight for all the scoff avalible!" Said Luxe.
"Well, er, maybe for all the scoff....but I've got my battle axe and Ma's fletch--"
"--An' my daggers--an' my ole Pater's compass--"
"--So just try an' hold us back!"
"I will!" Klickzyna bounded up and grabbed the twins' by a shoulder each. "You ain't got a lick o'training! I won't let ye wander out into all sorts o'dangers!" She looked around desperately for Dravity and found him standing by Cromba. "An' you too!"
"Marm, sittin' on our haunches here ain't helpful. If anything, 'm at a complete loss as to why no wanderin' vermin 'ave tried to take Salamandastron. Surely, someones' noticed an absence of a whoppin' group of hares."
As her grip went slack, the pair wiggled free and went over to them. "An' we gotta watch out for each other. Can't do that a million leagues away."
"Y'comin', marm?" Twytch held out his paw, and she waved it away.
"Yew won't be patronizin' me on the road. An' y'need somebeast to look after you. Cromba's a jolly good blade-swinger, but he couldn't raise 'is own fur proper."
The older hare rolled his eyes. "Well, no 'ffense taken, marm!"
"You've tugged on this old maid's paws an' screamed an' kicked, so now ya stuck with me!"
"Whooha!" The young ones began to jump about. "Adventure! Fightin'! Uh...adventurin', it's bally well what we've got!"
Zangavar sat in the huge thronelike chair at the head of the table, face still covered. Guards were seated in between each Redwaller, and Mia ended up between Violat and a rat called Snarful.
"So, milord, what will ye be eatin' today?" Called someone from the far end who Mia couldn't see.
"I think...that dormouse who seemed unable to accept that this Redwall place is no more, and gathered a resistance to try and break in."
Violat bent down and whispered to her "D'you believe that, hare, that 'is lord is eatin' a dormouse?"
Mia wasn't entirely sure what it was, but since the word mouse was there...she figured it was bad. "Maybe."
Soon Beggle, the assistant Friar, wheeled out a covered dish. His face, once jolly, was now worn and tired, and his spies were untidy. He placed the dish in front of Zangavar and uncovered it. Something smoking and charred was sitting amidst grilled vegetables.
"You will tell me if it is not cooked to satisfaction, Lord?" His melodious voice held a note of disdain.
"You bet I will." The voice rasped. "Help me get this off."
Zangavar flipped up the visor and Beggle wiggled it off of his head. Mia was still focused on the plate of food, so she jumped when he shouted "Look upon me!"
Zangavar Downblood was a sable, a very big one. His eyes were yellow and slanted, but it was his teeth that garnered attention. The canines were as thick as a carrot, and stopped just short of his chin. She didn't notice it before, but the necklace Thymeo Longruffle had given him in return for Mia's health was around his neck--The Long Patrol's Heart, a red jewel cut in its titular shape, with wires snaking out of the sides to wrap around a neck.
Why a warlord had a heart necklace was beyond her.
He took a fork and knife and started to saw at the meat. "Once-upon-a-time..." He threw the utensils to the side and grabbed it instead, using his fangs to rip off a huge chunk and swallow it down. "Not bad, spinepig. You'll live to see another day." Beggle rolled his eyes, bowed, and walked away.
"On second thought...no, he can live. Too many prickles, ahaha!" He continued to rip apart the meat. "Now, for the beseeching tale of my takeover...Me and my horde was coming up from..."
"The Southwest, Lord." said Violat.
"--Yes, thank you, Archcaptain. when we came across a lone mouse, with a haggard and--rather confused--appearance. He was captured and swiftly brought before me, where he stood shaking in fear. We could get nothing out of him except 'There's something wrong at Redwall'. He would say no more, so he was killed and eaten, and we continued, our sights now set upon this lovely building. Upon arrival, I approached the gates myself, and asked to speak to the leader. He brought me in and, stupidly, told me his plans, how Redwall seemed to be a pushover to vermin, how they were racking up defenses. I offered the services of my crew, and...after that, it was more or less the easiest inside-out takeover I've ever done." He leaned back in the chair and put his back paws on the table, sounding off crazy laughter. The horde joined in.
"But," Zangavar continued, stopping suddenly. "It's not just enough to tell you how I did it...how about I show you the beasts responsible for electing me Supreme Ruler Of Mossflower Wood?"
"Bring me Jarrer and Armintha."
A stoat went off to retrieve them. He returned with the pair in chains around the paws and neck, heads bowed. When Zangavar stood, the pair dropped to their knees. They looked pitiful, shaking and whimpering.
"Who is your ruler?" He spoke in a menacing whisper.
"Who is the Warrior of Bloodstone House?"
"And who do you have to thank for that?"
"...Only us, lord."
The sable's face turned from smug superiority to fury in an instant. "No!" He snatched a carving fork from the table and plunged it into Jarrer's back, right below the top of the spine. "I have only myself to thank for my rise to power! You two were stupid then, as you were now, to waltz right in. Leave it!" He shouted, as Armintha vainly tried to pull the fork out.
Miraculously, Jarrer hadn't died. "You'll have your reminder until yer dying day, mouse. Take 'em out!"
The stumbling pair were led away. Zangavar dropped himself back down in the chair. He reached for his helmet and jammed it on his head. "Dismissed."
When no one moved, he slammed the table with a fist. "All of you! Get out!" The guards scattered, leaving the Redwallers to fend for themselves. Mia tried to lift herself from the chair, but slid down onto the floor. Another roar, and she did the first thing that came to mind; Jumping under the table, with the tablecloth protecting her on all sides.
"Not you, Sleawort!" The guard had tried to run as well. "You'll bring me the other one."
"T-t-the hare, Lord?"
"What other other one is there? Get him!"
The sound of paws running away, a sigh; The sound of something being poured into a goblet. Sooner than expected, Sleawort was back, mystery victim in tow.
"What do ya want, fangface?" Mia almost hit her head on the table; That sounded like Thymeo.
"Just to offer my most sincerest condolences." Zangavar said this in an oily voice. Or maybe it just sounded that way because there was a note of sincerity.
"For what? What have ya done with her?!"
She assumed that he meant her, and a confused looked passed her face. What had been done to her? Had something happened?
"Oho..." The sable laughed (Great thought Mia I wondered when I was going to hear some evil laughter today) "I did nothing. It was Sleawort here who killed your little haremaid."
There was a cry of outrage; Apparently, Thymeo was unchained, because there came the sound of someone being hit in the head with a golden dinner plate, and then a sickening puncture sound; The stoat hit the ground with a thump.
"Nothing for you to live for, is there? You do away with one of my guards...somebeast has to take his place--"
"Hear me out, fighter! You stand as my guard, complete the job we must do, and I'll grant you your freedom."
Silence, then; There was a sigh, the kind that Thymeo made when he was giving it. "Though it would dishonor Mia's memory..." Wood scraped against the stone floor; Zangavar had stood up.
"Welcome aboard, mate." They may have shaken paws. "With you as my guard, I'll be unbeatable. Haharr, kick that fool's body away, he don't add to the decor!"
Before she had any time to react, the tablecloth began to move. Sleawort's body was being pushed under the table, head at an unnatural angle and a knife in his throat. Mia screamed and ripped the cloth behind her away, desperate to run from the defenseless animal her friend had killed. She pushed over a chair. It hit the ground with a bang, and she ran across the Great Hall.
"Wha--?" For a fleeting instant, Zangavar thought that Sleawort was still alive. Then he focused on the little animal running away. "Get them!" He screamed.
Pippum stayed by Calypso as she tossed around in a fitful sleep. The mouse had been busy all night, watching Whirl direct the raid on the burning house and check on Atland's whereabouts, but he kept by his friend.
When the first rays of sun began to break over the horizon, Calypso woke up. She sighed and looked around before putting her head in her paws.
"It's okay--" said Pippum quietly, but before he could give her further reassurance, a great shout came from below the watchtower.
Atland had shaken free of his chains and was surrounded at the base of the tower. "Just come quietly, cat!" Said a voice, before a "Urrk!" when Atland kicked him in the chest.
"Get him!" Whirl's voice seemed oddly magnified, and the wildcat ran up the stairway. "Wait, hold back!" The otter followed him, blade in paw.
Calypso was looking up at the scene now, with Pippum making feeble inquiries. "You don't--really--want to see that, do you...?" He was saying, but she ignored him.
At the top of the tower, a fight was going on. It was Whirl against Atland as the otter parried the blows with his sword. "We can talk about this!" He was shouting, but Atland was beyond reason, snarling, spitting, and clawing at the leader of the rebellion.
The otter pushed him toward the window, a morning wind beginning to blow.