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The Thunder Queen

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My computer was stupid, and erased all 15 chapters of the thing, because I wasn't going to post this until it was done...as you might imagine, I'm feeling pretty resentful toward it at the moment. I'm sticking this first bit up here, because I trust Wikia more than my hard drive. I understand if you roll your eyes at the fact that I have another story.

But this is better, I promise :D



"Eulaliiiiiaaa!"

With a powerful kick of her feet, Sayice Lapwing knocked back the vermin warlord Duskill Skullsong, named for the various noises that came from his preferred instrument--animal skulls. She picked up her sabre and stared down at him. "Alright, get your blade, scum! I won't slay a fallen beast--I'll slay ye after you've stood and fought!"

The weasel backed up slowly, and reached for his scythe that lay in the dirt. He swept it up with his left paw, leaving his right to fling sand into Sayice's face.

She jumped back, scrubbing furiously with her free hand and thrusting her blade forward.The hooked end of Duskill's weapon caught it, and the two weapons were locked together. The first beast who stepped forward to unlatch their blade would be killed by the other slamming theirs in the chest.

"Your skull will make a lovely sound after I've killed ye, hare." He snarled, trying to pull his weapon loose. "Who will have gotten the best o'ye then?"

Sayice strained her ears; She could hear the Long Patrol calling warcries while they fought in Mossflower Wood. Her adopted brother, Emperny, was at Redwall, helping to patch up those who had been injured in the Infirmary. Just seeing creatures fight was enough to make him ill.

But wait. This is not the time. She thought sternly to herself. Task at hand old girl. But the task at hand wasn't really making progress. Duskill squinted with his good eye, the one still in his head and not in his tent, and gave a great heave. Sayice stumbled forward, and her adversary saw and grinned wickedly. He gave another huge pull, and she could help letting loose a cry of shock.

"Redaeulaliaaaaaaa!" That wasn't Sayice. She had just gave a little shout, nothing expansive. Something flashed through the air and landed point first in the dirt a few paces away; The Sword of Martin the Warrior. It hung in the Abbey and now it stuck in the ground. But how did it get here--? Not important. For now.

Without thinking, she crouched and made a leap toward it; Her own blade went slack, and she felt the air go by in a whoosh as the scythe cleaved the air where she just was. Sayice's personal weapon was lying in the dirt, its owner with both paws on the hilt of the most marvelous sword ever forged. The blade seemed to glow in the dark, cloudy night.

"Well. Back on again." Fear in his eye, Duskill rushed over to where Sayice was. He had forgotten about the sword and stepped on it, cursing and stumbling as it cut deep into his footpaw. He swung the scythe and overshot his mark; He spun in a circle, stopping when Martin's sword went through his body. He fell dead, a sword through the back and heart.

Sayice pushed the heavy corpse aside and reached for her own sword. Securing it in her paw, she brought both of them together three times; A clear note pealed in the air. "Eulaliiiiaaaa! 'Tis over, all over. Eulaliiiiiiiaaaaaa!"

The sandy clearing had been empty; Now dozens of hares were pushing rats, foxes, stoats, and all manner of vermin into the area. Guards were posted around the perimeter. A older hare with a dirty blue and maroon tunic came up to Sayice. "That your doing?" He nodded to the body.

She saluted."Yessir, General Mackles."

He clapped her on the shoulder. "Well done, you. Top hole work, m'gel." He saw Martin's shimmering, dripping sword in her paw. "Ah, so the credit really belogs to that Abbey Warrior fellow?"

"Well...it came out of nowhere. The sword. So, yessir, I guess he gets some credit too. About thirty-five percent. Can I go see Emperny now? Tell everybeast back at Redwall that it's finally over?"

She received a stern look.

"Or...go see if anybeast needs a hand."

The features softened. "That's it, Colonel Sayice Lapwing." She stood there, speechless.

"You'll really put in a recomendation for it, Gen?"

"If you prove one more time that you deserve it, missy. Now hop t'helpin'!"

Every Patrol member greeted her enthusiastically, shouting the old, popular mantra of Say it ice so! Sayice says so! when she walked by with the good news (That she had killed Duskill Skullsong, not that she had been promoted. They all knew it would happen as soon as the oppertunity presented itself.) She came across Yapple Hoptti.

"Fantabulous! Just Fantabulous, m'Sayice! Let's do a final skirt 'round the edges of the wood, shall we? Dissuade any more stragglers, eh?" He held out his arm and she playfully took it. They went into the wood.

Sayice and Yapple checked within half a league of the area. Martin's sword was a little too long for the holster around her waist, so she held it loosely in one paw.

"I'm goin' over here!" Before she could stop him, Yapple untangled his arm and shot off to the left. Sayice was left alone in the dark. There were the remains of a camp; Ripped fabric, smoldering embers--

On an instinct, she looked down the swordpoint and gave a start; The point was aimed in the face of a little babe, wrapped in a blanket. It had kept pretty quiet, only making small noises. Now it began to cry at the sight of the weapon. Despite the length, she sheathed the blade and bent to pick it up. "Casualty o'war, are you? Where's ya mum?" She looked around, but she knew no more vermin walked free in the woods. Sayice poked back the hood of the blanket and a pointed ear poked out. A foxbabe.

She realized that it could be a trap (If it was, I'd probably be too late to save myself she thought.) and fumbling with her left paw, took out her sabre. The fox was looking at her pointedly now. She imagined him saying "Whatcha doin'?"

For a fleeting instant, she thought about slaying the babe and possibly saving a lot of potential bother and worry in the future.

That's completely horrid. I won't do that. The best option--the only one, really--was to take him to Redwall, and see what could be done.

Sayice made her way back to the clearing, where the Long Patrol was doing their customary 'Run or Die' ritual.

General Mackles stood in front of the group, paw on the hilt of his own long sword. "Y'all right, slinkin' stoats, rampagin' rats, an' any other allterations I missed--Final option! Y'can run to the North or South." He gestured to both areas. "But not East or West! Not until y'can look behind ye and see no bit o'Mossflower Wood. Ever!"

The way the land lay was that Mossflower went nearly all the way to the coast, sheltering the Great River until about a league away from the beach. He kept up the monolouge, however.

"If'n I see a single bleached earring, pawring, or necklace bonewear back in this forest, you're going to meet your maker sooner than ye'd like--like in the next ten seconds. No ifs ands or buts! Cut 'em loose, lads!"

Sayice looked quickly at the sky; A bright star was about a league ahead of her (and untold light years away). She was facing South, and would be trampled by cowards if she didn't move!

She cut a diagonal across the forest, with the little babe clinging to her tunic as she held him haphazardly. The sword cut away brush and foliage. A moment later, the sound of multiple paws at a time began as the freed captives ran behind her. Sayice assumed somebeast fell, as a hoarse, angry voice began spitting out swear words. "Don't listen to that." she said, but if the foxbabe understood anything being said, she didn't know.

After another few minutes, Sayice was back on the side with the hares, many of the younger ones--and they weren't terribly younger than her--were being held back by their superiors.

"Let me at 'em, Sarge!"

"Pottalow, you'd do more damage to the forest than to the enemy. Hold back, back!"

"Ya, boo, sucks, ya bone vermin!"

"Good riddance!"

"Ya mater was a shark and ya pater was a clump of poison ivy!" Yapple had shouted. Sayice went over to him. "Wait, what?"

"Aah!" He stumbled back in surprise, then gave Sayice a big smile. "Er, haha, hello, Iceness--"

"Well, thank ye for abandonin' me! I should have ya court marshaled!"

"Sorry, but--Still have that sword?" The subject was changed in an instant. "Well, I see yours, I mean, but the big fancy one...?" He saw the point had made a rut in the ground, a trail that--if anybeast wanted to--would lead straight to Sayice. Yapple then caught sight of the bundle. "Oh I say. Who's this?"

She held the bundle closer; The Long Patrol probably would not take kindly to her rescuing a vermin child. "I dunno. I found him in the forest, and nobeast was around. I'm taking him to Redwall."

To her immense surprise, he nodded without insisting to see what was inside. "Capital idea. Blighter's probably starved, I know I am. I'll tell old Mackles where you've gone; Community service. A an' B the C of D, am I right?"

"You are!" Sayice quickly located the path and headed east to Redwall Abbey. She periodically glanced at her bundle; The babe seemed just content enough to look about and wriggle a bit. It was so dark that the only way she found the Abbey was by the light of Martin's sword, and even then she nearly ran into a wall. She felt around for a wooden side door and banged hard on it. After a long while, the latch unlocked with a snip and swung open.

"Who's there?" A javelin poked out of the doorway and tapped the bundle. There was a little wail (from the babe) and a shout of indignation (from Sayice).

"You hold off! We're goodbeasts!"

"Oops." The point withdrew. "Sorry, miss! Come on, let's get inside afore them bonevermin come!" An otter ushered them in.

"You don't have to worry about that, it's over. Their leader is dead. I slew him. His followers are being dispersed and killed." Sayice had a hard light in her eyes. "Mossflower is free!"

The otter seemed stunned. Then a wide smile broke out over his face, and his body relaxed. "In the name of Rudderwake, you'll never know how glad I am to hear that! This calls for a midnight feast! Hotroot an' Shrimp soup fer all!"

Sayice couldn't help smiling. "Don'tcha think you should ask your Friar if that's allowed?"

"Oho, he looks for more excuses to have feasts than anybeast else! Ahaha, did I introduce meself? Saillor."

Saillor skipped all the way to the Great Hall. When the doors were opened, every eye was upon them, each on a worried face. He shouted two words; "It's done!"

Everybeast erupted in a cheer, and events began to quickly set in motion. "Bimble, heat up those pie crusts!" Friar Altot shouted, "An' tell Embry to get the fruit preserves! Somebeast, whip that Meadowcream puddin'! An' tell Cellarhog to get the Strawberry Fizz an' October Ale, the very best!"

Young Abess Amoret came up to Sayice through the crowd. She smiled, "Thank you, thank the Long Patrol, but especially thank you, Sayice Lapwing. For everything. And for our sword." Deltor, the Abbey Warrior was behind her. He waited for the haremaid to unlatch the sword, and saw the bundle she was holding. "I'll get it myself, if I may?" He unclipped the sword and went to place it on the pegs underneath the great tapestry.

"Your first feast as Abbess, Amoret. How does it feel?" Sayice was smiling.

"I wish it wasn't. I wish Abbot Whittlebaum was still alive to see that horrible fiend defeated. He would be especially proud to see you defeated him. He liked you a lot, you know." She peeked into the bundle. "And who is this?"

"I--" Before she could reply, something bumped into her legs and attached itself to Amoret. "Aunnie 'Ret! The bayin's stopped! Is it over?"

The squirrel bent down to pat her niece Rosemine on the head. "Sh, sh, Rosie. Yes, it is. Go see if Altot needs any help, now." The little squirrel gave a sloppy salute and shot off to the kitchens. "Always eager, she is." When she reached toward the bundle, Sayice found she couldn't let the foxbabe go.

"I...don't think this is the right place. 'M not sure he'd be well received. Could I show you him in private, Abbess?"

Amoret's face took on a serious look. "You may indeed. I'll bring along Recorder Hibbault if I may."

"Well...o'course you may. You're Abbes, I can't stop ye!"

Soon they were in the cozy Cavern Hall, with the young mouse Hibbault, who could not stop jabbering. "Why, y'defeated that mangy bonemuncher, did you, Sayice?"

"Indeed I did, Hibb, with a jolly good slice an' boom!"

"Wowww...! What's a slice an' boom?"

"Well, I sliced 'im, an' he went boom!" She winked at him, and they laughed. Amoret smiled with them, and said, "Alright, now, show me this little guest, please."

She raised her eyebrows when Sayice handed him over. She pushed the blanket off, and two little pointed ears stuck up. Sayice hadn't noticed it in the dark, but the babe was not coloured normally; His fur was oranged but had hints of silver streaked across his back and tail. The back of his ears also had a pale appearance, as if they had been lightly covered in ancient cobwebs. He had begun to doze off and now looked at Amoret in a slightly irritated manner. Hibbault's mouth was agape. "Is that a fox, Miss Sayice?"

"I found him on our final scour of the forest. I wasn't going to leave the little blighter." She replied defensively. Amoret was dangling a paw over his snout; The babe blinked and began to bat at it with a paw. There was a bowl of cold oatmeal somebeast had left; She took the spoon and fed him some. Amost immediately, the little one's fatigue was gone and he was grabbing at the bowl.

"He's hungry, poor thing. Hibbault, could you go get something for him from the kitchens? Something soft or mushy, please."

With a disappointed look, he sat down his record book and quill and went out. Amoret began to walk slowly back and forth. "Did you see any other animals in that part of the forest?"

"Oh, no marm, he was all alone."

"Ah." Then, "Have you named him?"

"Named him?" You didn't name things unless you intended to keep them. "Well..."

"Yes?"

"When we were walking along, I said 'Now, where is Redwall? D'you know, Nightless?'. The word just came out."

"Nightless." He peeked over at Sayice. "And what will you do with him?"

Sayice began to open her mouth and stopped. He couldn't set paw on Salamandastron. Well, he could, but she didn't know if the inhabitants would accept him. Lord Silvershoot would say that he had a chance to grow up good and well-reared, forsaking the usual ways of his species. But the Long Patrol, battle reared as they were, would see him as an enemy in their midst. And how could their Colonel bring the enemy into their gates? Not even Yapple would understand.

"T-the Abbey takes in orphans. Nightless is an orphan. See what I mean? Please, Abbess." Amoret was surprised at the insistance in the haremaid's voice. Long Patrol officers were taught to be perilous to their enemies and compassionate and kind to those goodhearted and innocent. Was Nightless goodhearted? "I'll come and visit him, on a reconissance mission, or something! But I will!"

Amoret gave Nightless another spoon of oatmeal. "This reminds me very much of a situation, long ago. A maid reared the son of a warlord in these walls and caused no end of trouble.He was declared Outcast, but his final act was to save his caretaker. They say when he was brought in as a cub that he bit her, and everyone who stuck a paw over his head." She proceeded to do this to Nightless, who ignored it and looked hopefully toward the door. "But our boy doesn't. He may stay."

"Who's gonna stay?" Hibbault was eavesdropping behind the door silently, holding a hot bowl of leek broth. It was Rosemine who passed him, assumed he needed help, and opened the door in time to hear her aunt's final statement.

"He is." Amoret gave Nightless to Sayice and took the bowl of broth from Hibbault and placed it on the table. "See if he'd like that." Nightless ignored the spoon altogether and stuck a paw into the sustanence. He then sucked at it and smiled, going back for more.

Rosemine glared at this newcomer. He was already taking up too much of her aunt's attention. "When can he come out to play inna orchard?" She asked sweetly. "Or be product've in any way to us. Or not eat dat way. 's not proper!"

"When he's older, Rosie, now be quiet. How far along are the preparations, Hibbault?"

"Honestly, Mother Abbess, we're just waitin' for your blessing; I told ye, Friar's always prepared for a feast!"

"And so he is! I'll send Mother Moscawl to help you, Sayice. Hibb, mind the door. Rose, come along."

The young squirrel shot a look at Nightless, who was playing in the soup as if he were washing his paws.



It was four days after the defeat of Duskill Skullsong. Relieved woodlanders had popped back into the woods to see the state of their homes, many in disarray. The Long Patrol had no aversion to helping, and the grateful animals insisted on doing everything for them. It came to a halt when Mackles insisted that he could button his tunic himself, that he'd been doing it for countless seasons, and that Duggry, a little mole, didn't have to do that, though he was thankful.

"Now, now, Duggs me mole, I'm fine!" He had said. "Go ask Colonel Sayice if she needs some help. There's a good chap." Duggry tugged his snout and bowed politely, waddling out of the room, down the stairs, and into the Great Hall. There was Abbess Amoret in her chair, Rosemine walking around and asking if anyone needed anything...a load of hares and visitors...there!

Sayice was sitting with Mother Moscawl on her right and Nightless on her lap. They were surrounded by Dibbuns, Redwall's youngest inhabitants, who were dipping strawberries into porrige and putting it on slices of bread. Having no concept of villianous beasts, they were happy to poke and prod the little fox after asking dozens of questions.

"Can Night'ess eat some blueb'y scones wid meddercream?"

"Ah, no no no, Topsey, not yet. Mites too young for that. However, I can." Moscawl took the scone from the surprised mousebabe and bit it. "Mrmph, just perfect!"

Duggry gave Sayice a tap on the shoulder. "D'yurr needs any 'elp, miss Say'ce?"

"Oh, no, not now, but thanks much for asking, Duggry." The mole bowed and toddled off to eat.

"There's a bluebr'y in ya prickles, Muther Moscawl." The mouse Sagery tapped the top of his head. The Dibbuns giggled as the hogmarm plucked out the offending berry. Even Nightless gave a squeal of laughter at the situation.

"Well, how'd that get there?" Moscawl began, but at that moment, General Mackles stood up and said "Long Patrol!" Everyone stopped and listened.

"It's time to be makin' our jolly way home. Abess Amoret, I thank ye from the bottom of me old heart about your undyin' hospitality while my hares ate ye out of house an home. We move out in an hour, get your belongin's packed and be on the front lawn in that time! Anybeast not there," Here, he looked at Sayice, "Is gettin' left, an' stripped of their duty. Dismissed!"

Sayice stood up, handing Nightless off to Moscawl. "Be back in a tick, mite." She turned her head and began shouting orders. "Millwop, stop stuffin' your face an' start stuffin your bag!"

During the next hour, she milled about the Abbey, telling off slackers to get ready. Her own bag was packed, as it had been last night. She loathed to leave the Abbey--to end her first visit to the place she had heard about all her life, but it seemed that the real pain came from leaving Nightless. To her surprise, Sayice found her vision blurred and wiped her eyes. When the time was almost up, she helped gather everybeast to the front. The entire population of Redwall Abbey came to see them off.

"In ranks, Biggles, five long and seven deep! Sawbith's tunin' the drum, we're marchin' in a few moments." She looked back to Amoret, who was standing with Moscowl, Sagery, and Nightless and went over to them. "Abbess...on that night--I forgot to mention it to you earlier, but--on that night, durin' the final battle...I was on the verge of losing. Then, I heard a battle cry, not a 'Eulalia' or a 'Redwall' be. Martin's sword then proceeded to fall out o' the sky and right next t'me! I didn't see or feel anybeast besides that savage in front o' me--"

Amoret put a paw to her cheek, thinking. "Sounds like Martin is taking a more active role in our defense than in seasons past--" Before she could finish, the drum began to sound, a little out of tune, but today, Mackles didn't seem to mind.

"Oh corks--" Hurridly, Sayice fished in her pockets and withdrew a medallion; The image of a hare standing in front of a mountain was on it. She looped the faded red ribbon over Nightless' head. "Here you go, m'boy. Until I come again." He picked the disk up and bit it. "Don't do that to these goodbeasts, now. G'bye, Nightless! An' Abbess, an' Mother M!" She ran back to her place near the front of the line.

Her absence had not been unnoted; Mackles came over and whispered. "I should give ye a demerit for that. But I won't if, if, y'can keep Torriens marchin' in place." Then in a louder voice. "Whaaaaaat patroooolll?"

The military hares shouted back. "Looooong Patroll!" They stomped their left footpaws in unison, and as one, marched through the gates and into the forest, on their way home. Redwallers cheered from the walltops and yard until they could be seen no more.

Amoret sighed. "Now...back to normal life, the start of yet another repair of our grounds and buildings..." She spotted Rosemine already shuffling the other young animals to their duties by the pond.

"An' you, young sir!" Moscawl said to Sagery sharply, "'Tis time to sweep the dormit'ry."

The young mouse shuffled his paws. "Aww...well, he's gotta help too!" He pointed accusingly to Nightless, who had fallen asleep with part of the medallion in his mouth. "He can at least keep me company, can't he?"

The Abbess excused herself with a nod and went off to speak with an otter about the strawberry crops.

"Bless 'im, he don't understand his mum's gone...Yes, I suppose he can, if you sweep quietly an' don't tell him any mad stories!" They began to walk back into the building and up the stairs.

"Eh...define 'mad stories', marm?"

"No Redwall hist'ry, not yet at least. He don't need to know that yet...tell 'im a nice story, like...about berry pickin'."

"Aww...fine, fine!" Sagery agreed quickly. Moscawl took the medallion off and put the fox into a cradle made from half of a barrel and stepped out, giving the mouse a stern look. Sighing, he picked up the broom and began.

"Huh...you're still asleep, are ye?" (He was actually wide awake and observing the cradle, but Sagery ignored that.) "Well, I'll tell ye any story I please! Every so often, the greatest warrior in Mossflower comes to our gates...'e looks like a little hedgehog, an' he his, but he carries a long stick, and, boy, Night, should ye see 'im fight..."


13 Seasons Gone

The rising sun already began to shine brightly on Green Isle, the emerald of the sea. Deluna Seawrath and Petulyon Streamdiver walked with the High Rhulain, Banzaila Wildlough alongside the neat row of crops bordering Holt Summerdell. Even though Banzaila was younger than them both, a head taller, and a queen, she still spoke respectfully to them.

"How's the planning for the Waterlogg Festival goin'?"

"We're keeping a lookout for Vallen. First he was goin' to Salamandastron, then Redwall." Said Petulyon in an official way. She prided herself on being a confidant to the queen.

"Hmm. I doubt Amoret herself will be able to come, though I'm sure she sends her best wishes." The Rhulain shielded her eyes with a paw. "Lord Silvershoot himself may want to come, though if he can is another matter...hopefully he's cleared up that battle with that Riptank cove..." She looked to her right. "Missus Deluna?"

"All manner o'drinks are being brewed, those apple thingamajigs are growin' well down parallel t'the valley--" The recitement was halted, however, as a woodpidgeon flapped out of the rush, startling all of them. Before Banzaila had the chance to wind her sling to full power, an arrow shot clumsily out of the bush. It missed the bird by an inch, and it squacked and flew away.

Deluna had zipped around her to Petulyon, who was cowering on the ground. Grabbing her by the ear, she hauled up the younger ottermaid. "What're ye jumpin' on the ground for? Shouldn't ye be protectin' the Queen?"

"She's a warriorqueen, she can protect herself! An' us!"

Deluna dropped her and went over to the arrow, recognizing the design of the shaft at the end. "Paradizo Seawrath! I know you're there, show yerself, girlie!" She yelled, snatching it up.

A young maid pushed her way through the thick bushes. Her fur was the color of a stormy sky at sea. Her chest and throat were a cream color, and would get strange looks if walking around at night, because no other part of her would be visible. She had a necklace in the shape of a fishbone. She lowered her bow to her side. "Aye, marm?"

Her mother swooped down on her. "Don'tcha 'marm' me! What're ye doin', shootin' arrows at the queen Rhulain!"

"Oh, is she here?" Paradizo saluted and bowed, still holding the salute. "Mornin', Rhulain. Hope I didn't spoil it with my--"

"Assault!" Petulyon interjected.

Banzaila waved a paw in dismissal. "Don't worry about it, nobeast is harmed. I saw that your arrows wobbled quite a bit, though--"

"I-I didn't want to kill the bird. Ouch." She added in an undertone as Deluna hit her with her rudder for interrupting. But Banzaila smiled.

"I thought not! I know you to be a much better shot than that. I'l thank ye, Missus Deluna, for teachin' your daughter t'respect life, you and mister Seadero."

"Thank ye--Paradizo, shouldn't ya be in school?"

"Erm, that's what I came to tell ye..." She shifted back and forth. "Sir Montil said...somethin'...somethin' else...oh! 'And the stars will ride o'er the emerald's pride when the sun has risen and set three times!'. That means..."

"A starshower!" The last one had happened when Paradizo's eldest brother, Aboryn, was just a cub, fifteen siblings ago. She had never seen one and began to dance about. "Wheeew! Will they fall into the sea, Ma? Could we swim and catch one?"

Deluna's paw shot out and grabbed her shoulder. "Stop all that hogglewhopin'. There's somethin' ye could be doin' for the Waterlogg Festival other than dancin' around. Ye can pick the figs, weave the grass crowns, wash the cloaks--"

"If you don't mind, Missus Deluna, may I say something?" Said Banzaila mildly. "Excuse me for interrupting, but I just had an idea. Old protocol says that I have to wear my ceremonial armor for events like this--when you know I'd much rather be free, swimming with my friends!"

Here, Petulyon gave a forced laugh.

"But rules are rules...so that armor and coronet must be polished. D'you see where I'm going with this?"

Paradizo stared wide-eyed for a moment. Then it clicked in her mind, and she hastily bowed and saluted again. "Oh, o'course I'd polish your armor! B-because it needs t'be done!"

"Fantastic! Go up to the Summerfalls, and tell the guard I sent you--" She stepped back as the young maid rushed by her, whooping and waving her bow wildly.

"Don't use seawater!" Yelled Deluna. "Twill rust metal--! Oh...that girl o'mine. I'm sorry, highness."

"Whatever for? I think we could all use some of Paradizo's spirit."

~~***~~

Hundreds of miles away in Redwall Abbey, Rosemine was being pushed to the limit. The Abbess had suggested that someone take the Dibbuns out to pick the berries before it began to rain. Of course she had to volunteer for it. She even took off her headband--a green ribbon with a bit left out of the knot--but now, it was all falling apart. The only other ones around her age not already engaged in business were...those two. And she would never ask them for help.

"Dibsy, don't dig on the banks of the pond!"

The little mole stood up and waddled toward her, smock dirty and a hole in the ground. "What have we told you about doing that?" The squirrelmaid said testily as she held onto the paws of a hogbabe and otterkit.

"Urhum...doant be diggin' by the pond, urr, urr, the water'll flood o'er me an' make ee into a mud poi!"

She sighed. "Close enough--Tobby, no, not the Peppormort, it's not ready yet!" She rushed over to the neat row of herbs to stop the mousebabe who was grabbing any leaf he could find to shove into his basket.

She dropped the Dibbuns clutching to her paws. "Now, go and pick some blackberries, okay? So we can have tarts for supper!" Grinning and laughing, they went to the berry bush with every intention of eating them beforehand.

She picked up Tobby's bag and dumped it out; Shredded leaves fell over the dark soil. "Ugh, Tobby...here, go to the far end of the garden--yes, there, where Rildum is--and help pick some vegetables!"

The babe crossed his arms and sat on the ground. "I don't like veggibles!"

"Well, no one is asking you to eat them, just get them out of the ground!" She cast an eye over all of her charges, satisfied that most of the work was getting done.

Crouched in a forgotten tunnel between wall and garden, two young animals snickered. The mouse peered out of it and called to a wandering hogbabe. "Spyrie, quick, in here!"

Without question he went over, and was placed inside the tunnel. "We playin' a game, mista Sage?"

"Yes, yes." Said the other animal, a fox. "Now, go a little further into the tunnel, hear, and you’ll see a mud puddle."


Spyrie’s face lit up, then grew sad again. “But missus Rosie don’t let us play inna mud!”

“Now, there’s the catch, me little pincushion—today, ye are. She told us t’tell ya little ones that when ya finish pickin’ stuff, ye can play in the mud—but only this once!”

“And ye gotta keep quiet. When you’re good’n’dirty, sneak back up to the Great Hall and tell the firstbeast you see that Rosemine let you play in the mud. Sage and Night had nothin’ to do with it!”

Nightless punched him on the arm. “I thought we were Night an’ Sage?”

“Well, hey, I was talkin'!”

Gleefully, the hoglet jumped into the mud, rolling around. After getting covered in muck, Night took him to the other side of the tunnel and saw him toddle off to the large Abby building. “One down, a dozen t’go!”

Sage lured the Dibbuns in through the front in ones and twos; Nightless explained to them their prank, which they were more than happy to go along with, only because it involved getting dirty. Surprisingly, Rosemine hadn’t noticed the disappearance of the animals under her care until it came down to only one left.

She looked around and spotted an otterbabe. “Poddim, where’s everyone else? Did they take their crop in already?” He shrugged and continued ripping off strawberries. She swept over and picked him up, speaking briskly. “Never mind those now, let’s go find the others!”

When Sagery saw that the do-good maid was halfway across the lawn, he ducked down into the hole to finally let loose his laughter. “Bwhaaha! Finally, that little goody-two-shoes is getting her just desserts!”

‘Huh, when somebeast finds out what happened to those mites in ‘er care, ya can bet she’s gettin’ nothing sweet at all! Ahahaa!” Nightless was laughing so hard he caught his tail in the mud puddle.

“Quick, let’s go see the result of all our hard work!” Still stifling laughter, they crawled out of the garden-side hole and raced across the grass, pre-storm wind blowing through it. They crawled under the stained-glass windows depicting scenes from Redwall history and reached the door, which was slightly ajar. They peeked through the crack to see Rosemine surrounded by a crowd of dirty, chattering Dibbuns under the shrewd eye of Mother Moscawl.

“Tell it t’me again, now…you say Rosemine told ye to play in the mud?”

“But I didn’t!” She said, as the Dibbuns nodded. Her eyes were wide, and she still held onto a basket filled with strawberries and leaves. “They may have been running every which way, but I swear, I told none of them to go swimming in mud! It’s filthy and dirty, who’d want to do that?”

“But they did, an’ under your care. Honestly, Rosemine, you’re usually far more responsible than this!”

Night cracked the door open more; The resultant gap was large enough to see part of their faces if somebeast was to look.

Through their snickering, Sage and Night heard the phrase that would be their undoing; “But they said she did.”

“’They’?” Asked Moscawl, “Who’s ‘they’?”

Faster than they ever imagined she could, Rose turned and her eyes zeroed in on the two miscreants. She lunged at them, screaming “They did!”

The pair quickly stopped laughing and ran back out onto the yard. “Graaaaaa!” They had been on the receiving end of Rose’s punches, and she could hit hard (But the temptation to not bother her was always too hard to resist.)

“Split up! When you hear my shout, lead her to the pond!” Said Sage, as the door hit the wall with a slam as she ran through.

“What makes ya think she’ll follow me?”

“You kidding? While she can’t—stand—either o’us, to her, you are the blight of Redwall.”

“…Huh?” Night swore he could hear the Dibbuns cheer loudly.

“Just—do—it!”

True to form, Rose only stopped for a moment to locate Night and chase him down. He managed to swipe his mud-riddled tail through her grasp a few times, even having some of the substance hit her in the face. She screamed again and doubled her speed, prompting him to do the same.

“Redmallonnnnerrr!”

That was the cue; Night ran toward the pond, so intent on getting toward it that he didn’t even see Sage. He ran on the bank and leapt over the hole Dibsy had been digging. There was a gasp behind him, followed by a “Geroniiimoooo!” and a heavy thump. Coming to a stop, he turned around.

Rose was sprawled in the mud, face down. Sage was on the ground opposite of her, but he was getting to his paws. He spotted her on the ground. “That wasn’t supposed to happen!” He said.

“Well what was?” asked Night, stunned.

“I was supposed t’jump on her!...But from the looks of this, seems you had a better idea.” He said, as Rose dragged herself up to a sitting position. "Even Master Honduran would be proud!" When she saw the pair grinning over her, she went to stand.

"Ooh, you two are going to get it--ow!" She fell back to the ground, clearly in pain. The ground shook as the herd of dirty Dibbuns rushed out to the group, followed by Mother Moscawl and Brother Tombal, who had seen the mucky crowd and followed them.

"What is it? We heard a scream....who's hurt?" She wove her way through the small crowd.

"It's me, it's my ankle!" Rose gasped. "It got caught in that hole!" Somewhere in the crowd, Dibsy shuffled his paws and lowered his head in embarrasment.

Moscawl bent to look at it. Then; "Someone alert the Infirmary, one of you mites. They need to clear up a bed--"

In a rush of happy squeaks, the Dibbun crowd moved as one toward the building until Tombal stopped them with his harsh voice. "No! I say...only Yimble will go. The rest of you, turn your tails 'round and come back!" And they did, with an air of disappointment, with Yimble the squirrelbabe hopping along to the Abbey.

Moscawl gently lifted the squirrelmaid, who was begining to cry silently, and spoke in a low voice. "Sh, sh, there there, you've done nothing wrong...here, let's go get that checked out, yes?" She walked around the group and up to the building.

Night crouched low among the Dibbuns but to no avail. Tombal quickly stepped through the crowd and grabbed his ear. "And where is your accomplice, young sir...?" With his other paw, he grabbed Sage's tail. "Come with me, boys!"

The Dibbun group giggled and laughed among themselves, pleased that some other beast would be getting in trouble. Night looked sourly at them and said. "Mother Boppins will still scrub ya fur raw with all that muck on ye!", which made them go silent.

~~***~~

The day was preparing to be another hot and humid one. The otters could already hear the heat sizzling in the air as they went about their duties. Many otters would fly into the water at any oppertunity to get out of the heat. Paradizo was the only one not thinking about it as she ran north through the growing fields to Holt Summerdell.

Otters passed her by, doing work for the festival, asking their fellows if Vallen had been seen, and taking care of everyday tasks. She approached the pool and falls; The water--coming from who knows where--crashed down into a foamy pit. She hopped along the path that ran alongside it, and up to the side of the falls. Stone steps cut into the falls, leading up to the Rhulain's private quarters. A guard stood with a spear beside a wooden door.

"Here t'polish the great ole ceremonial armor!" She sang.

"You'll be Deluna's kin, I'm sure of it." The guard unlatched the door. "Willow, got a cleaner comin' in!" There must be a guard on the other side; the room had two entrances. "Just call if you need anything." He said to her.

Even though she wanted to correct him, as she considered the term 'cleaner' demeaning, she walked in, excited.

The first thing that hit Paradizo was the sound of the falls; Even being right beside them, they didn't seem horribly loud. The rocks must be thicker than she realized. On the left wall was a large round mirror, outlaid with shells. A heavy looking old trunk sat beneath it, with a strip of velvet bearing the Wildlough crest upon it. The opposite wall contained a bed and small pegs along the wall to hang a sling.

She wandered around slowly, inspecting everything before pushing back the tarnished latch and opening the trunk. The Rhulain armor, beaten leaf-thin and bearing a star, sat on top of the red velvet. She lifted it out; The ceremonial coronet was beneath, silver streaked and spotted with a black substance. Scrubbing it with a bit of moss that had been brought along managed to remove some of the dirt.

Bending into the trunk, she looked around as to forget nothing. There was something tucked away into a corner, and Paradizo reached toward it and pulled it out; A book, small and green. Turning it this way and that, she saw a picture of a bow and arrow on the front cover and began to flip through the pages, stopping when she found a page of thin, neat handwriting. She began to read.

Saladain Corkall, Mimorly Kipptree, Rushweed Moltabor, and Emilaye Seawrath; Those were the names from which fear was born.

Was.

Mimorly, our Lightning Beauty, went first. From old age or lightning abundance, we don't know. Wimor, her mate, was devistated. He planned to go to Mossflower, and he thanked us for being such good friends to them both. If he in Dark Forest with her now, I hope he went peacefully, and not by his own paw.

Saladian and Rushweed went forth to the great sandstone valley in the shadow of a castle ruin, also in Mossflower, to rescue their familes and friends, who had been taken hostage by...and this is what they tell me...'magical foxes'. Huh, I ask you, Sal always did have a fierce imagination...died in the rescue effort, and we buried him in our headquarters, in the fields of the island on the inland sea. Corover, his son, left the day after...wherever he is, may he have found peace.

Where was I to lead them into that battle? Stuck wandering the halls of our stone fort,mostly alone, since those under our protection lived on the other side of the island, since something prevented them from coming inside, I've no idea what. I could always leave and return, but I didn't want to plague them with my visions; Nobeast had told these lines to me, but somehow they got into--and resonated--into my mind.

"Four beings to find their call, two talents to unite them, One Queen to lead them all, and in the storms bind them."

It took me a very long time to realize that poem was a reference to us...or, if our unique situation will ever be repeated seasons from now, then them.

After the sandstone valley battle (Rushweed told me that two foxes had gotten away; "Salvith and Monolor" he kept repeating.), in which the slaves had been left, abandoned, in the forest, our crew--along with the help of the Flane and Fur Woodland Army--helped some to reach us, and others to settle in the forest. (Now, a tribe of the F&F tells me, that a wildcat has repaired and habitate the castle with their army. Their leader, Martin,has a bad feeling about it; they're getting out now.)

Rushweed was outside training in every storm, swiping and hitting with his two long clubs, thundering imaginary enemies. I asked him why since the danger had gone, but he didn't respond until one day where we had supper with the other inhabitants.

"Because," He had screamed, "They must pay for their deaths!" and ran out the door. Biverna looked down at the pan of nut and cheese casserole that she had made.

"I didn't know it did all that." She had said uncomfortably.

Later, when he had calmed down, he told me the story; Turns out there was a maid, Lynaria, whom he had loved since childhood. When he had left his home on the forest outskirts to come train with us under Master Thebrinks, may he too rest in peace, they would be seperated for nigh on twenty-four seasons. When word reached us that trouble was brewing, Rushweed was the first one ready to go aboard our ship, the Stormbringer, and sail up river to rescue everybeast, Saladian coming along, Rushweed had said, to 'try and reign in my temper, my anger, until the right moment.'

But Saladian died before the battle could conclude, ironically, in the same slew of arrows right before the blast of fire--our very worst enemy--that killed Lynaria, her husband, and her children.

I asked him, "Did you manage to speak with her before she died?". He told me yes, while Lynaria lay dying from an arrow in the chest and one in the eye, that he loved her, and he would avenge them all. If she replied with something, he couldn't hear for the enemy's barking, triumphant laughter ringing in his ears.

"My god, Rush." I remember saying. "I'm..."

"I'm sorry for my behavior, Em, but now you understand. You're the only family I have left."

From then on, we trained in storms together, both thunder and lightning, hitting, whirling, firing, fighting until one day, he declared us ready.

"I won't ask you or anybeast else to come."

"But I will."

I told Kerney to hold the island down until we returned, but Sunner insisted that he come with us. The three of us took the ship, the only remaining way off of the island, and crossed the sea. We sailed around Mossflower, just outside of it, but due to a cruel trap, our beautiful ship crashed onto sharp spears sticking at an angle through the water; With the water washing over them, we couldn't see them. Rush, Sun, and I had to continue on foot to the northwest.

The handwriting got a little messier here.

We're up in this forest, where everything is cold, hard, and you can hardly see a step in front of you, even in day. The Black Forest, we call it. Before entering, we saw a stone castle towering over the forest, placed right in the middle. That is our destination, but the shadows pull at us, leading us to pockets of enemies, snatching our food supply, and trying to lead us ever further from our goal. More than once when we stop for the night, with the path in clear sight, we will wake up to see that it's disappeared entirely. After half a season wandering around, eating roots, berries, and the occasional fish, we see the iron-wrought gates that lead to this castle. If there's any clue that this is the house of the magic foxes, it's in the pictures that bits of iron were melted and bent into; Foxes on crude thrones, swirling a cloak around them, jaws open wide to bite into a fleeing mouse. Guards stand on the four points of the square wall, just in case intruders like us sneak past their shadows.

I remember one thing clearly; Rush giving a great sigh and whispering "Finally." We search around the wall for weaknesses and find none. I'm beginning to lose even more hope; Our morale was high until we stepped paw in this wretched place.

But then we all look up as we hear the sound of thunder. I look at Rush, my oldest friend, thinking how we survived fight after fight and sorrow after sorrow. "And now, the world is ours."

I draw my bow and latch an arrow after I struggle to climb up one of the trees. (Rush and Sun laughed at me; I'm an otter, I'd like to see them swim!) I aim for the top of the tower and let it fly. Upon contact, it explodes to an accompanying boom of thunder. The guards were thrust into action, firing at me and hitting me in the shoulder. I jumped down and ran to the other side, ignoring the pain.

I stay on the ground and fire at the wall, blasting a hole. Before the dust has cleared, Rush is through, walloping running army members, shouting and yelling all the time between the little booms of his clubs. Sun is just slinging stone after stone, causing more than one to fall off the wall. I continue to run and shoot at the building until I can't feel my arm anymore; It won't respond even now as I lay here.

Then, I see that Rushweed wasn't lying; A fox, dappled grey and black, is staring at me with pale yellow eyes; It wasn't there before. He throws something at me before I have time to react, and the point hits my dull arm as well. I feel nothing and run.

"Emilaye!" Sun is running after me now. "We've got to get away! Rush--Rush is down, he's dead, we have to run, they'll overcome us!"

How had thunder failed us? Because it was two crazy, older animals who thought they could take on a fortress filled with vermin and magic animals in the name of love and loyalty? I began to run back into the forest, but stumbled. Another try, another fall. Sun saw and grabbed my bow, slinging it over him. "Come on!"

We run for a while, with me getting more and more weary, despite all of the training. Strangely, nothing is following us, no shadows, no guards.

When darkness falls, we stop and flop onto the ground, grasping at the falling snowflakes. "R-running away from a fight...how?" I gasp.

Sun took my left arm, now limp from arrow and dagger wound. When his eyes grew wide, I knew it was the end.

"This...it looks like Brofbane. Possibly the most deadly poison...'m sorry, Em, but..."

Here, the writing changed in its entirety.

"Take it." Said the Thunder Queen in the weakest voice I ever heard from her as she handed me the journal in which she had been writing ever since we stopped. "Take it, and go back to our island. Take my bow and arrows too."

"No. I'll bury them with you!" I say. Not my most tactful moment.

"You will not! Another one will come, and she...will need them..." And with that, Emilaye Seawrath died in Black Forest.

As her friend, I'll do my best to follow out her last wishes. Pardon the stains of running ink, I write this last note while grieving for my two friends gone...

Paradizo excused Sunner's mess as she wiped the tears from her own eyes. Her ancestor, Emilaye, who would do so much for her friends until her death. But was she really her ancestor? There was no mention of a mate and offspring...

Archived by Broggan Seawrath of Green Isle, brother to Emilaye; The Summer of the Whirlstorms.

Right then, She thought. But how did her journal get from that horrid Black Forest to Green Isle?


Then it hit her; How long had she been in here, idle, reading old tales? The armor and coronet should have been polished by now, and she swiped up the latter and wiped the moss all over it until it shone. The armor was next. It wasn't stained, but dusty. Moss alone wouldn't clean it. Then she had an idea. She put the little book back into the trunk with the coronet. Picking up the armor carefully, she went to the door and knocked on it.

"Everything okay? You were quiet for a long while." Said Willow.

"Just fine, goin' out to give the armor a proper wash is all!" Willow nodded, and with false cheeriness, Paradizo stepped around him and followed the short rock outcrop to the small shelf. It was situated directly under the waterfall; She could reach out and touch it, but instead held out the moss to catch the spray. It was slow going, because too far into the falls, the moss would slip away and be slammed down.

Paradizo would consider the next act the beginning of an extrodinary adventure (Albeit still foolish); She stuck out the armor to be rinsed by the powerful rush of water.

For a moment, she held it there while the water struck it in the middle and ran down away from her. Then, unexpecedly, the armor was pulled from her grasp and sucked into the foam.

Her mind was blank with shock as she stood still for several moments; How could I do this--?

No. Her resolved steeled itself. How can I fix this?

Without a second thought, she dived into the waterfall, falling down with the heavy current.


Part 2:A Vermin For Each Of Them

"I'd drop you right off in the Abbess' office, but look at you!" Brother Tombal shot a look at Night's mud covered tail. "You'll go into the Recorder's Office--and touch nothing!"

He opened the door and pointed inside. It was a small room with a tiny writing desk pushed against the wall, under the only window. Bookshelves lined the walls, and two chairs with overstuffed cushions were in the middle. Sage and Night went inside, and the door was shut behind them with a click; Tombal had locked them in.

Almost immediately, Night went over to the desk, trying to unlatch the window. "Augh, the latch's rusted! Sage, get me one of those big books!"

"You're not planning to...break the window, are ya? We'd be in even more trouble!" The mouse jumped up and grabbed his friend's arm. "Come on, think reasonably. We're already on Abbess' Report." Night followed him, and Sage pushed him back into the chair. "Right, what's our story?"

He squirmed. "That she made the whole thing up?"

Sage looked pointedly at him. "But she's hurt--they're bound to believe her before us!"

"Then...we don't really have a story, do we--" Before Night could continue, the door unlatched and Abbess Amoret came in. She was older, but still thin with off white fur. She adjusted her glasses as she looked through them at the pair. Sage quickly stood up and made a gesture to his vacant seat.

"No, Sage, you sit down. Please explain what happened, both of you."

Sage began to tell the story in a rather rambling manner. Night interjected on occasion with a sentence to make them appear in a better light, but for the most part, his eyes were locked on the Long Patrol medallion he held in his paw.

When the story concluded, the Abbess stood in silence, thinking. Then, "I have seen Rosemine. Her ankle is sprained; She'll have to use the wheelchair for a week or two. While she does, you two will be her personal assistants. Any reasonable request she asks of you, you will do."

They were shocked. Being at the beck and call of your worst enemy was too horrible.

"There's a crowd of dirty Dibbuns in the hall; You will help wash them. Then, both of you will clean the dormitories; Sweep the floor, change the sheets, clean the windows, dust--All before noon, for that is when the Long Patrol is to arrive."

That got Night's attention from his amulet; In a very quiet voice he said "Don't tell mama. Please."

Amoret gave a very small smile. "If you do everything before they arrive,I don't there's any need to. Now, let's go, boys..."

Sage and Night stood and walked out of the office, followed by Amoret. They went back through the small hallway, up the stairway, and toward Mother Boppins, a chubby volewife. She looked them over exasparatedly. "Yore old enough t'clean yourselves!"

"Oh, er, we're here to, er, help was these mucky little mites--" Sage hit Night on the back. "Er, Dibbuns."

The dirty little crowd began to hop about in excitement, shouting demands.

"C'n I use the lavvyder soap? May I?"

"If the water be too hot, c'n we go wash inna pond?"

"Where's me bark boat? I won't wash without it!"

Night slowly turned and looked at Sage. "What 'ave we gotten ourselves into?"

Sage swooped up a laughing otterbabe. "Pshaw! The Dibbuns are the easy part...a raging wheelchair-bound squirrelmaid is a whole 'nother bowl of acorns."

~~***~~

Out on the fringes of Mossflower, a hedgehog sat on the ground, eyes closed, thinking. He was older than he looked, and was beginning to think that his schooling had been for naught, that he would never find the animals he was looking for. He breathed in the stormy air sweeping across the land, then opened his eyes and focused them on no particular spot across the scrubland.

The weasel Dafty shifted the grass from his hiding spot in the field and looked at him. He turned to an irritable-looking rat behind him. "Think he gots vittles on 'im?"

"Huh..." Hastily, the rat barged his way to the peekhole. "He looks like 'e ain't got nothin', no food, no home, an' not a lot o'life left t'him!"

Dafty pushed him to the side. "Keep yer snarlin' down, ye'd make the fishes cry! Our food's low, and we's not bound t'return fer another half season. We gotta get sommmat t'eat, an' fast."

The rat stopped scowling and looked at him. "Oho, what happens if we turn tail and bolt back t'the northerly way?" Only a group of three had been sent for the scouting mission. It had taken them half a season.

The weasel looked at him with blank eyes. "Death, an' no doubt about it. Y'saw what they did ta Konda--ya didn't? Tazminny!"

A very young ferret shuffled through the grass quietly, a grimy bloodred bandana around her neck. "Uh-huh, boss?"

"Tell Firgo here what happened t'Konda."

"Ohh." She reached in the pockets of her dirty pants and pulled out an old metal ring. Frayed bits of rope remained attached. "Well, they hung 'im from a ring in the Great Entrance, but he wasn't hanged, if ya catch me. So, 'is Lord Basth jumped from tha funny balcony and grabbed onta him. Snapped Konda's neck, an' brought them both down."

Firgo gasped sharply. "What happen to His Lord Basth?"

"His Lord wasn't hurt. Somehow, Konda ended up beneath him when they hit the floor--an' the rug, so I s'pose that helped too."

"Quiet!" The hedgehog was looking in their direction. All three went still and silent until he looked away. "Enough jabberin'--get 'im!"

"Sure thing, boss!" Tazminny dug in her pockets again and took out two manacles used to string folks up by the paws, but these had four long, curved bits of metal on them, set to resemble claws. She attached them to her wrists while Firgo took out a short, sharp sword and Dafty an axe. The three charged.


Other animals were watching the hedgehog as well, on the forest side. "There's our ole pal. For once, we're going to get a jump on him--Bipps!"

Bipps the runner was causing a leafy, noisy racket as he searched for berries. "Mmmhmph?" He said.

"Stop that!"

He swallowed. "I say, missie colonel, did you haveta run back'n'forth'n'forth'n'back all mornin' long? No, ya did not!"

"But I've been runnin' just like you are, fatface. An' yet I'm not makin' a racket even the deafest trout could hear! Keep quiet!" Sayice adjusted her ice-blue vest and put a paw to the hilt of her trusty sword.

Her old friend Yapple tapped her on the arm and pointed to the clearing. "Somethin's rustlin' o'er in front of him--" As soon as the words were out had Dafty, Firgo, and Tazminny running toward him, weapons drawn.

"Long Patrol, go! Eulaliiiia!" Sayice leapt over the bushes, her five hares behind her, weapon drawn. The hedgehog showed no fear or fright; To their surprise, he jumped straight into the air and tapped a treebranch; A slim fighting stick fell down and he grabbed it. The hares stopped short of him while he went to work. He jabbed Firgo in the chest and flicked upward, causing it to catch him on the chin. As he reeled back, Dafty rushed forward, and the stick curved around and smacked him on the neck. Tazminny stuck her faux claws out halfheartedly, and the stick caught in them. She grinned in surprise. "Wot now, ole spikeyrat?"

The hedgehog then gave a jump and pulled his end of the stick down, swiping the other end out of Tazminny's grip. He stood up, and pointed the stick between her eyes. He spoke in a low, rough voice. "Shall I end it?"

"With a stick only, oldster?" She snarled, but Dafty jumped up and grabbed her by the arm.

"N-no sir! You'll not have to worry 'bout us anymore, not at all. Cummon, girlie!" Firgo grabbed her other arm as they dragged a swearing Tazminny back through the brush.

"Yellow-bellied coward! Give 'im a real weapon, see if 'e can even hit a tree!"

When they had left, the hares stepped out into the open. "Huh." said Sayice. "Not proper language for any miss, eh?"

The hedgehog whirled his stick around to them, but stopped when he saw them. "Oho, Colonel Lapwing." He said warmly. "I could have used some help back there."

"No ya didn't, ya old codger! Haven't seen ye in ages. We thought you finally went the dark way."

"Evil?" He looked confused for a moment, then his face cleared. "Oh, death. Nothin' can get me. Not while I look for--"

"The Stormfour, yah, yah." Yapple said offhandedly as he searched around for more hiding vermin.

"Ahem. Yes. Well, anyway, if I was to indeed...die, well, Silvershoot would know."

The other runner, Saturnica, sat down on the ground, took out her knife, and began to whittle a piece of wood. "Really, sah? How?"

The hedgehog looked around at the group. "Huh. I don't even recognize most of you. Sembry, Hithero, Etherbant...they're all gone?"

"Nope, just stickin' closer to home..." Replied Sayice quietly. "Saturnica, Bipps, Eudoran...this is Honduran Deepclaw."

"Master Honduran Deepclaw." He corrected, but nodded at the three newcomers as they stared at him, open mouthed.

"Only to ya muses." Said Yapple, but the three young hares crowed around him and began asking questions.

"You were at the Battle of Toad Ridge huh, sah--?"

"Where 'e first executed tha' Wind Kick!"

"Wow, ole Sarge McWillins told us 'bout that! Tried t'show us and fell on his face. Show us, willya?"

Sayice stuck her paw in her mouth and let loose a piercing whistle and eveybeast stopped. Thunder rumbled in the distance. "Come on, Patrol. Let's get to Redwall before the storm hits us, eh? We'll all talk t'our hearts content then."

"You'll be talking." Said Bipps, who had began to trot toward the path going into the woods. "I'll be eatin' my fill!"

~~***~~

The grey stones of Marldark Castle, worn smooth over many seasons of violence and mischief, held the hangings of flags and tapestries proudly as Basthalph walked through, paws folded behind his back, head down, thinking.

Those three fools had been sent out nearly a season ago--Mossflower was not that far south that they could not be back soon--That's why they hardly enlisted ferrets into their service, always sneaking around, trying to change the wind to favor them. He glimpsed out the window and saw the river that snaked behind the castle and them doubled on itself a quarter league away, leaving a small peninsula in the middle of the forest. Beyond that...shadows.

Could they have deserted? No...he would know if they had. He clenched a paw around the choker's charm around his neck; An intentionally broken lightning bolt--she had the other one--and closed his eyes.

After his conscious rummaged around in darkness for a moment, he faintly heard the sounds of swears and rustling grass. Disappointed, he let go and his mind came back inside the castle. They weren't asleep yet. Pity, he wanted to send his threat before it was too late--

A low growl put him on alert. He looked around quickly and found the nearest weapon available--an old jousting staff--and parried the blow that came down.

His assailant had melted from the wall; She had blended in so well, Basthalph hadn't seen her. Pale yellow eyes glared at him as she raised her peculiar axe again; A long blade on one side, three long, sharp blade in a row on the other. It slammed down, tri-side first, onto the stone floor. Basthalph swung his staff across her legs and she fell on her tail.

She panted and looked at him. "Well played, brother. Even when you were at complete unawares!"

He held out a paw to help his sister Keldak, to her paws. "You'll want to blend in an area far from anything, sister. Because everything is a weapon. I thought we were holding off our battle until nighttime?" He asked, pulling her up.

Keldak snickered as she scooped up her axe. "You forget our family's old adage, brother--Never trust a vixen!"

They were nearly identical, with mottled grey, white, and silver fur, thin and tall, with those pale eyes. Their only minute difference were their expressions; Basthalph usually had a neutral scowl while Keldak’s face usually lit up with fiendish glee.

He nodded distractedly. "Of course." He looked outside again.

"What's plaguing your mind?" Keldak asked. "The Basthalph I know doesn't do much thinking."

He pushed her to the side and walked to the window. "Oh yeah? Well, what about that scouting mission, huh? Have you thought about that any, dear kinsbeast?"

She put a paw to her half of the broken necklace.

"I've already tried to scry them, don't waste your time."

She cracked her paws. "Well, you'll just have to wait, won't you? You know, our kind never were patient. Always wanted to rush in unprepared, but the plan that's best is the one carefully thought out. That's the problem with most conquerors, they rush in with their entire army, shouting, laughing, generally acting foolish, and alerting any warrior within the league."

"But we wont." He raised a paw; Outside, it seemed as though the shadows were moving back and forth faster. They heard footsteps approaching. Keldak cursed and melted into the wall, axe at the ready. Soon a thin, wiry weasel was running toward them, mismatched jewelry jangling around. He threw a hastly salute, dropping his spear.

Basthalph glared at him. "Well? Aren't you going to greet me Salwort?"

Salwort stopped, mouth open. A favorite trick of his masters was to have one meld into the wall, invisible to others, and have the visible one demand that they be addressed, and for fear of punishment, they did. Then the other would jump out and slay the beast for insubordination, ignoring their master when he or she could not be seen.

"Ah...Good evenin', Prince Basthalph the Wrath a-a-and Her Slyness Princess Keldak."

"Huh. Toadspawn." Kelda shook herself, making Salwort know that he wouldn't be dying today. She still pointed the pronged side of her axe in his face, however. "What is it?"

"I-It's just that--well, she has come back." The weasel stared at the axe and tensed himself, ready to run.

The two Marlfoxes glanced at each other. "And who is this?" Basth said in an overly polite voice.

Salwort swallowed and stammered out. "Your si--the one who does not exist."

Keldak let out an explosive breath and put her axe down. "Drat and damnation! Brother, we need to think of more tricks. These are far too easy if I'm not killing even one a day." She glared at him as if it were his fault.

He remained composed. "Very well. Where's Teraven?" The regent of their castle, entrusted by the King to care for it until one of the three children--Basthalph, Keldak, and their now-exiled sister--could eliminate the others by strength of their own paw to rule alone.

"I-I know not, Prince."

"Of course not, that slippery rat..." He shook his head. "Very well then. Take...her to the sitting room and lock her in. We'll be there in a moment."

~~***~~

The waterfall pushed Paradizo into the pool, pushing her deep before she had time to get a breath. Taking in water, she began to flail her way to the surface, sunlight getting brighter as she made her way up, breaking the surface with an explosive gasp.

She coughed and sputtered, then began taking deep breaths, looking beneath the surface for the armor. She could see nothing. She felt like a failure--

She remembered a little underwater opening, where the mouth was below the water level but the rest of the beach was above it. It was her only hope.

"Paradizo!" Someone shouted. "Para! What're you doing?" Meiharu Seawrath was on the banks, peering out at her sister in the water. An otterkit was holding her paw. "Is this supposed to be helping Banzaila? Can't ye keep yer attention on anythin'--?"

Turning to face the area and ignoring the jibe, she took a deep breath and dived in. It was easier to concentrate when she could breathe. Spotting the hole below, she swam toward it. Just as she thought she would hit the pool wall from swimming with the pushing water, she arrived and went inside, swimming up to get to the rocky beach. She crawled up and looked around. No armor. Crushed, she sat and put her head in her paws.

"Can't I do anythin' right? It was all 'jus' polish the blimmin' armor, Paradizo', not lose it!"

Meiharu, untaken to being ignored, had followed her. Crawling up and shaking her fur, she looked at her younger sister. Her expression changed from peeved to concerned. "Why, what's the problem? What'd you do?"

"I lost the Rhulain's armor." Paradizo said in a small voice.

Miharu looked at her. Then she let out a screeching laugh. "Hahahaaa! Well, who'd let you look after anythin'? They'd have to be as daft as a duck swimmin' in a storm!"

Paradizo lifted her head and glared at her. "The Rhulain herself."

"Oh." Embarrased, Miharu fiddled with her bracelet; Green stones around a blue one in the shape of a flower. Then, "Did you check up further? The sand here is wet; The tide could have pushed it farther up."

She sighed. "No, the ground is wet because two wet otters're sittin' on it."

Miharu hit her on the arm. "I'm tryin' t'be nice! I don't have t'be, I was watchin' Tella when you showed up, an' had to hand her to Frisko when I came after you! That's embarrasin'! Now let's go check." She pulled at her. "C'mon! We find it, nobeasts the wiser. We don't...well..."

Paradizo allowed herself to be pulled up, and they walked further up the slope, where it was growing darker. "How're we supposed to see in the dark, Mi?" Her footpaw hit something hard and she tripped, landing on the ground. "Yowch! What was that some silly beast left lyin' around?"

Miharu picked up the flat object and wiped off the front of it. "Yore that silly beast, Paradizo, this is the Rhulain's armor!"

She was up in a flash, grabbing the armor away and dancing in a circle. "Yaaaahooo! Me rudder won't be served on a silver platter today!"

Miharu, who was a bit shorter than her, kicked at her lightly. "Well, t'was my idea. You'd still be mopin' about if I hadn't followed ye."

"Why, certainly not, cullyette." Suddenly, they felt a breeze blow through the tunnel. Knowing she would want to explore, Miharu grabbed Paradizo by the arm.

"Paradizo, ye've got to take the armor back. Everybeast is probably worried where it is, and where ye are."

"Huh." Most of the population thought of her as an overexcited youngster who could only concentrate on archery. Even though she was, they seemed to look down on her, always sending her off to do some menial task a kit could do--and she usually messed it up horribly. Only Banzaila believed in her. She wrenched her arm away. "If they're worried, they can worry a fair bit longer while I go take a look."

She began to run up the path. To her surprise, she heard pawsteps follow her.

"Why're you comin'?"

"I never knew there was a tunnel up here, or even a cave below the lake. When I followed ye, I didn't even know where you were goin'."

They walked in silence for a while. The tunnel changed gradually, from dirt walls to old stone. It got narrower until Paradizo and Miharu were walking in a line, which they kept doing until Paradizo ran into a wall; The tunnel had ended suddenly.

"Ouch!"

"Nothin' doin'! It just...stops." Paradizo looked up; A rope was hanging just above her head. "Stan' back." She jerked it down and it revealed a trapdoor; It swung down, and something on top of it fell into the hole. Miharu gave a scream of surprise.

Sunlight filtered into the hole, revealing the object to be a crude stepladder. Holding the armor awkwardly, Paradizo managed to climb to the top rung and push the shield out of the hole onto the ground above, following it. Aboveground, she bent into it and held her paw out.

"C'mon ye liddle shortshrimp, use the stepladder!"

When Miharu was aboveground, both sisters looked around closely. The room had the remainds of burnt, wooden furniture. Charred tankards were still lying on them, with stools scattered about. The remainds of a tavern bar were crumbling to their right. Carefully, they both crossed the room and went to the door. On their left were crumbling stairs. Paradizo went to them and stepped lightly on one, looking up.

"No!" Miharu grabbed her paw and pulled her away. "Ya Brain's waterlogged, I swear! That'll cave in!"

"I know that, marm o'common sense! I was jus' lookin'! Didja ever hear of a place like this?"

For awhile, they were both silent. Then, "Remember that ole legend? With the cats who ruled Green Isle, and the otterclans fought them until the Rhulain came?" Miharu pulled at her flower. "They had a wooden fort like this, Para."


~~***~~
~~***~~

The gates were opened and the Long Patrol walked in. A crowd was just beginning to gather on the lawn, young animals who envied the fighting lifestyle of the hares, and older ones who wished that they too had their courage.

Saturnica, the new recruit, spun around in a circle, eyes wide. "So, this is Redwall! Where warriors were born!"

"An' the spiffinest tuck in the land, missie, most important." Said Yapple, seeking out Friar Altot and greeting him with enthusiasm.

Sayice looked around the crowd for Nightless. When she saw him, she rushed over and gave him a hug. "There's my boy! Lemme look at you--" She stepped back as he looked bashfully at the ground. "A great load of fur you are! I know you haven't been givin' Amoret any trouble now, right?"

He looked over her shoulder at Sage, who was holding tightly to Rose's wheelchair, preventing her from wheeling over and spoiling everything. Sage gave him the thumbs-up signal.

"Yeah, Ma, no lick o'trouble here." As everyone milled about on the lawn, Gatekeeper Tormal was about to close the gates when he found they would not come together. The young otter looked up and down the crack where the doors would meet, and saw a long stick was wedged inbetween. When he tugged at it, it leaned to the left and began to push the door open again. Soon, Master Hondurin was strolling through the entrance. He glanced at Tormal, "Good thinking, young sir. Latch up tight before any foebeasts can sneak in. Keep it up."

In an instant, Sage had abandoned Rosemine and rushed over to his idol. He gave a short bow. "Master Hondurin, it's great t'see you again, sir! How long have you been traveling? Do you want to sit down? Are you hungry? I'm sure it would be no trouble for me to fetch you a piece of bread before supper--actually, no trouble at all!"

Hondurin had been looking about at the Abbeydwellers while Sage was talking. He looked back at him with a small smile. "It's a pleasure to see you again as well, Sagery, and no, for now, I shall require nothing. But thank you." He saw Sayice talking animatedly to Nightless. He grasped his stick and twirled it into a fighting hold. "Foxes in the Abbey? What is this?"

"Wha--?" Sage spotted whom he was staring at. "Oh no, sir! That's Nightless. He's my best pal, one of ours." He half laughed.

Hondurin put his stick to the side. "Nightless?" He said faintly. A streak of lightning flashed across the sky. "The foundling?"

"Indeed sir. After the Battle Of The Bleached Remains...you were there, sir, as I recall...?"

Yes, he had been, but soon after he saw the vermin set to run, he left without alerting anybeast. Constant company was pressing on his mind, and he had been with the Long Patrol and Redwallers for nearly a season...

"Um...sir? We should be getting inside..." Altot had called that dinner was ready; Yapple was the first one through the door. "Or we can stay out here! That's...just fine!"

Hondurin snapped out of his thoughts and looked up at Sage. "Right. Inside. I'll sit with you this evening."

Sage looked as though he would pass out from excitement as he went forward.

A light rain had begun to fall, and the last remaining stragglers hastened inside the cozy Great Hall. All manner of dishes were on the table in true Redwall fare; pasties, soups, trifles, all manner of all things candied. Drink tankards were perched at the ends of the tables. Dibbuns and young animals began to hop and squeak with excitement, dipping a pawtip into a stew and licking it clean before they could be reprimanded.

When everyone was seated, Amoret stood in front of the big chair that was meant for rulers of Redwall. She looked at them serenely through narrowed eyes as she said brightly. "Well, sounds like Mother Nature is hard at work rinsing off Mossflower. Who are we to disturb her? Let Mother Nature go on about her duties. We'll stay here, out of the way, and just help ourselves to a Visitors' Feast!"

Everyone cheered and began to dig into the dishes. Nightless grabbed a pan of what the moles called 'shufficiently shallerer' turnip'n'tater'n'beetroot pie. It wasn't as deep as the original one, but it had a flakier crust that he liked. He scooped out a large portion and passed it to Sage. Receiving the pan, he looked in it and mumbled. "Ya wanna be a bit more conciderate to others, Night?"

Night kicked him under the table. "So, what 'ave you been doin on Salamandastron Ma?"

Sayice leaned back in her chair. "Ahh, let's see...last visit was last summer, was it? Not much really. Got a new band o'recruits from Camp Tussock. They gotta be trained, o'course. Lord Silvershoot an' I made the entire pop'lation clean the mountain, from the very top t'the bottom, an' even underground! Kept 'em active in the winter--would you believe, snow o'er the whole whoppin' beach! Even the Deckksea Tavern maintained in the caves was under snow, an' in a roomful of icy seawater."

"Waitaminute--tavern? There's a tavern near Salamandastron?" Sage's eyes lit up.

"Oho, yes indeed! Current owner is Blackfang. Barmaid is always Waverly. Probably the most mannerful vermin I've met this far. You aside, my boy." She winked at Night.

"Hold on--current owner? What do they do, everytime some hotshot crew member decides they want t'have a shot at it, they fight?"

Sayice shrugged. "Sometimes. Mostly, it's just the current owner misses killin' and slayin' and feels the need to go back to their old life of piracy. Then, o'course, we gotta put 'em out of action. But sometimes it's a fair big brawl."

Sage was getting excited. "Why does Silvershoot keep a vermin tavern on the coast? I'm sure he can just waltz in and have all the blaggards scatter!" He slammed his paw on the table.

The Colonel glared at him. "Sagey, y'still in the Abbey. Mind what yore sayin'. And, anyway, yes, if anybeast can put an end to their shindig, it's milord Double S over there. But he says it keeps us on our paws in the offseason. They get too rowdy, it's nought but a half hour's gallop down t'sort 'em out. I'll see if I can take you two soon." She added with a grin.

"Nightless, could you pass me that summer salad, please?" Asked Hondurin suddenly.

"Oh, certainly." He picked up the large bowl and passed it to him.

When the hedgehog picked it up, he grabbed his forearm with one paw and looked at it. "Er, sir...?"

"I thought I wasn't imagining it." Hondurin mumbled. He then noticed that Sayice and Sagery were looking at him, and quickly let the paw go. "Ahem, yes. I mean, quite unusual fur there, Nightless."

Sayice chuckled into her meadowfield trifle. "By gosh, Hond, leave ya eccentricities in the forest, wot wot?"

The evening went on, darkening into night. Just then, a clap of thunder sounded so loudly that the decorative art window shook in their panes. Dibbuns squeaked in fright, huddling against older beasts or ducking under the tables. The lightning flashed next, illuminating the entire room in a white light.

"My my, that will last throughout the evening..." Hondurin looked around and sighed. "Plague and pestilence upon it, I've forgotten my staff outside. Well, it isn't metal, t'will not rust."

Nightless nodded and went for a plate of berry tarts, but Sage grabbed his paw.

"Can we stop this?" Night hissed angrily. "Tryin' to eat here!"

"But, ole pal o'mine, the table is out of October Ale! Just heard Cellarhog Kulbel say it. How 'bout we help him out?" He winked.

He knew what was going on. Usually, they went out and played in the thunderstorms. Finding the grounds engrossed in darkness with the occasional flash of light was magical for them, slipping on the walltops and sailing on the overflowing pond. Sighing, Night wrestled his paw free and backed away from the table. "Be back in a tick, Mum, Sir."

Sage stood up and bowed to Hondurin again. He almost headed directly toward the door before remembering his excuse and going down the hall that led to Cavern Hole with Night. At the end of the dusty hallway was a small antechamber before descending into the cellars. Night dragged a footstool under the rectangular window and climbed through, with Sage following. When the mouse was on the wet ground, a gust of wind slammed the window closed.

Outside Night could hardly see Sage, and the mouse could only make out the silver accents in his fur. "Haha, where's the lightning to light our way?" Joked Sage, and the two ran off toward the walltop.

"Don't forget the leaves!" They usually plucked leaves from the crops, folded them in half, and send them sailing in the stormy air.

There was a thump as Sage hit the ground. "Ouch! I can't even see anything! Where on earth are we gonna find the crops?"

Nightless was unaware of his location, let alone where the plants were. This was no ordinary storm. He vaguely pointed in front of and to the right. "There!"

Lightning flashed an instant later, illuminating the grounds for five seconds. He spotted Sage and ran to him, helping him up


Sage had something in his paw. "Master Hondurin's staff!" He exclaimed. "It must've blown away from the entrance. Lucky it didn't touch the water!"

"Yeah, yeah, real lucky. Now this way!"

~~***~~


Basth and Keldak sat side by side on the cushion, forepaws crossed, with identical looks of scorn as they stared at their older sibling.

She was hunched in the chair opposite, a ragged tunic covering her features and forepaws. She was staring intently at the ground. There was an air of defeat around her, as if life had been less than kind.

Basth prodded Keldak to speak, but she poked him right back, and a silent argument insured. After he had been smacked in the jaw did he admit defeat. Facing their visitor, Basth took on a supirior and haughty tone. "Well. Why are you here, outcast?"

She looked up. "That's not my name. Maybe you don't remember it, being too young when I left--"

"We remember it plenty." Snarled Keldak."But anyone who betrays the Marlfoxes does not exist. Why waste time speaking names that don't belong to anybeast?"

There was a pause. Then, "I see our father has made sure I was not forgotten, clearly belittling me at every opportunity."

Another pause. With a sigh, Basth slumped onto the cushion. "I know I'll regret asking this, but tell us what you've been doing these past fifteen seasons."

"Where's that commoner?" Keldak blurted out. "I knew there was something missing, the air of inferiority."

Nerrva the Outcast shook in her cloak. "Rathmor is dead." She replied quietly, and launched into her story, how they had traveled south with his leader Skullsong and got caught up in a long winded battle where he was killed. When defeat was obvious, she had fled.

"I was going to go back, because I had left something priceless behind, but I never got the chance." She went on to say how she was found by a group of woodland bandits, who had worked, beat, and tormented her until she found the willpower to escape after four long seasons. "I managed to kill the squirrel, though. Before I ran. But I was too far away--"

"To get what you lost?" Said Basth. "What was it, anyway?"

She thought for a moment. "The pawring that father was going to send with me to the Icemalice Wolfhounds in the Land Of Ice and Snow as a dowry--"

"Where you would have lived a life of ease, violence, and plenty." Sneered Keldak. "But instead, you run off with a lowly hordesbeast. All that's left--the proverbial cutting of the snakes' head, so to say, to make this fall from grace even greater--would be for you to have had a child together!" She broke out into a fit of malicious giggles.

Nerrva looked straight at her. "But I'm here now." She said dully.

Basth huffed. "Yes, and?"

She tossed her hood back and stood straight. "I'm next in line to rule--"

Keldak stopped and jumped to her paws. "Never! Sister--and I say this with the greatest scorn--you are an outcast!"

"No, I was outcast until father died and I returned." She picked idly at her claws. "Why honor the declarations of those no longer with us? High Queen Nerrva--has a nice ring to it, does it not?" She looked over them and grinned. "Get the tome if you don't believe me, little cubs." She said mockingly.

Basth stood up and crossed the room to a podium made of dark wood. Atop it lay a large red book, with golden ornaments around the edges. He opened it and flicked through it, scanning the pages. Eventually, he stopped and read one for a long while. When he finished, he slammed it closed. "She's right, Kel." He said, not looking at either of them. "Any past declarations--the ruler keels over, you can forget it."

Nerrva leaned back, pleased. "Excellent. Now you two--go out and find Teraven and bring him here. Don't forget to spread the news--Long live High Queen Nerrva!"

Keldak looked like she wanted to kill her right then, but Basth grabbed her by the forepaw and dragged her out. When the door slammed, she exploded into a tirade, calling Nerrva all sorts of swears. He waited until she finished her tirade. "Look, Keldak, I understand why you're mad--"

She was so angry, she paid no attention to where she was going. "Mad? That--" She clattered into a display of spears and continued undeterred. "--snatched our inheritance right from under us. What are we going to do, brother?"

"First, we are going to spruce up the High Queen's chambers. It hasn't been used in sometime, and needs dusting. That said, the canopy poles are probably lose and likely to fall..." He looked pointedly at her and saw her expression change from angry puzzlement to sly triumph.

"And we will have to check every dish thoroughly to make sure there are no needles, blades, and poisons..."

"Queen Nerrva may wish to use the torture implements again--"

Keldak giggled. "And we'll make sure they're ready!"

"Are you with me, sister?"

The pair was rounding a corner where rats were standing guard. "Of course, Basthalph." She hissed. Then so the entire corridor could hear. "Long live High Queen Nerrva!"


~~***~~

Rose was talking with Saturnica when she saw the two boys excuse themselves and go through the cellars. I promise you, Auntie, they are up to no good!

"--And, gosh, there was still a whoppin' heapload t'do at the good ole mountain, but I an' Eudoran an' Bipps got off fair lucky, wot!"

Rose, who vauled hard work, saw the maid as friendly and goodhearted, but a bit of a slacker. (Still, when you fight evil, who has time to clean?) "That actually sounds like my kind of life, always having someone to help...huh, there goes this ankle. It'll feel a bit better if I walk about for a bit, excuse me, Saty..."

Pushing herself up from the wheelchair, she slowly made her way to the kitchens. Seeing her up and about, Amoret paused her conversation with Gaezl Nombrean. "Rosemine? Is everything okay? Why are you walking around?"

"Just swell, Auntie. Just stretching it out a bit." She kept up her act until she was behind the kitchen door. The feast was in full swing now, and so there were few in the kitchens. Hurrying, she made her way to the window ledge, where many a pie was sat to cool. The glass was firmly in place with the raging storm, but she squinted through the darkness. She saw the flash that lit up the night, and she caught a glimpse of a fallen mouse before having to rub spots from her eyes. For whatever reason, Nightless and Sagery were outside in a storm.

"Ha!"

A baking sheet hit the stone floor with a loud clamor. Rose snapped her head around; There was still a little otter warming small tarts, which had now been scattered on the floor. Looking frightened, he held both of his paws up at shoulder level, showing a pair of oven mitts dotted with small faded flowers.

Irritation flashed across her face briefly as she fought the urge to help; Then she broke into a smile and went over. "Whoops, I'm sorry, Carpadn, I didn't think anyone was in here--let me help you get those..." Quickly, they managed to pick up the tarts and pan, and with a smile, Rosemine pushed him out of the door. "I'll be right there."

Before the door could stop swinging, the window was unlatched, a fat bag of flour was upon the floor, and she had hopped upon it and through the window onto the stormy grounds.

She could see only what was right in front of the window; a few inches of grass. "Where are they?" The wind carried her words away. Thunder rumbled, and she pounded her fist into her open paw.

Suddenly, the kitchen lamps seemed to dim; A light from somewhere else was outshining it. Rose took a few steps to the right to see, but the light seemed to follow her. She looked at her clenched paw and screamed.

The light was coming from within her own paw, but what was it? She moved her thumb just a hair to peek inside. A thin line of something whitish-yellow strung from her paw, floating lazily into the air. She pointed it away from her face and opened her paw. The line grew longer and bigger until it arched into the sky and lit up the walltop. I held lightning! The thought was astounding. And scary. But she hadn't been hurt from it, so...

...Was that why Nightless and Sagery were out here, late at night, in a thunderstorm?Or were they just oblivious as ever, playing about?

Quietly, she would find out. With lightning in her paw.

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