Back at castle Rynthiel, Steeltooth Slicewind had been watching the masked hare for some time now. He had been wondering when the massive hare would take it off. Leaning over to Coldstripe, the otter king whispered in his ear. “Lord, if ya don’t mind me askn’, why doesn’t that there hare take off his hood so he can have some vittles?”
The badger turned his great striped head to look at the gallant hare seated next to him who was just sitting there, eating and saying nothing. “That bees Ironbuck, my bravest hare, he’s the brother of the good hare you met before, CopperJaw. But as for why he wears the hood, I’ll let him tell you. The badger leaned over and whispered to the hare that gave nod and got up motioning for steeltooth to follow. He badger gave steeltooth an encouraging nod to say he should follow.
The hare walked until they were out of sight and hearing of the many others feasting. “So,” the hare said in a very raspy flat voice, “you mustn’t be afraid I mean no harm.” With that he took off the hood to reveal a truly horrific picture.
The hare had absolutely no fur on his head at all. The skin was a dead blackish purple and was hanging loosely in flaps of dead skin in places. In other places, he had no skin at all, and you could see his bleach white bones. The creature had no nose, just two bony holes in his face. The hare had no bottom lip either, this exposed his crimson-red gums and many crooked but bleach white teeth. The hare rasped when he breathed and talked do to this injury.
Steeltooth Slicewind took a step back, unable to tear his gaze from the hare’s grizzly features though he did keep a reasonably strait face as to not hurt the hare’s feelings by staring. He blinked several times and stammered out, “H-h-how did this injury come about?” The regimental hare began his story in a very dry, hoarse tone. “It was summer, and the high lord Coldstripe sighted a lone sea-rat ship that had been blown off course and wrecked on the rocks. He sent out the long patrol regiment that my brother and I were in to go and make sure the rats weren’t causing too much trouble. CopperJaw and I were only with the Long Patrol for a couple seasons, and the lord thought the practice with some sea-rats would do us some good. The head of our platoon, good old sergeant sabers, sent me ahead one day to scout out the area.”
IronBuck started to grit his teeth together as he related his old enemies but after a little while he calmed down and began relating his story again.
“I should have seen it coming; I was tracking the horde when suddenly I was surrounded by at least a six score of snarling vermin. I stated screaming Eulalias like a mad beast and slashin an a choppin with my sword.”
With this IronBuck drew his battle sword. Steeltooth had never seen such a peculiar weapon. It was slim at the handle but grew wide and it had the shape of a barbed spearhead. IronBuck toyed with the blade as he continued his tale.
“Well, they dropped a weighted bag on me and knocked me out. One way or an other and tied my paws to a overhanging limb. A massive boulder anchored my foot paws down. Escape was unthinkable. They beat me horribly and their leader impaled me with this.”
IronBuck unbuttoned his regimental coat to show a crescent moon scar along his chest. "Supposedly the bucko would stab his victims with this here weapon that resembled a food-shape cutter. Nasty thing wot."
“One time I regained conciseness to have some kind of liquid being poured on me. Spluttering, I opened my eyes to see the leader of the sea-rats coming toward me with a burning torch. His eyes were hard and cruel with fire glinting in them. I can still hear his words in the back of my mind, haunting me to this day.” His eyes were full of cruelty and his voice dripped with malice, “You’ll wish you’ve never tried follern us once I get through wit you.”
“With that, he thrust the burning torch in my face. Now you see, if it was only the torch, my face would have been a little bit prettier. But remember, I was beaten very severely; broken bones and dangerous cuts played a vital role in the rearranging of my face.
Well, try as I might I couldn't get down, screaming, I hung there where I was sure I was going to die. But, fate had another path for me to take, at that moment my commanding officer and the patrol I was in burst into the fray. The officer, Sergeant Brawlback, grabbed my head with his right paw, and severed the ropes holding me to the tree. Then, he plunged my whole head into the river and shook it violently until the flame extinguished.
"My face was very seriously burned. It appeared that the vermin had poured some kind of lantern oil all over my head to make it burn more intensely. Being that we were a four days march from Salamandastron, we had to try to reach Redwall abbey, which was a day and a half march. They put me on a makeshift stretcher and carried me the whole way. I would continue to go in and out of consciousness, moaning and screaming from agony. The whole platoon thought I wouldn’t even make it to Redwall, the way I was acting. But against all odds, we got to Redwall in the dead of night and were met by good old Balkan the Gatehouse keeper. I was rushed up to the infirmary, but even the herbalist, Brother Wilt, didn't think that I would make it.
There were those good creatures though, who would stand at my side all the time. CopperJaw and Skarklin, all took turns sitting by my bedside. I was there for two seasons, full of agony. I had always been known as a quiet grave hare. So to see me screaming and writhing in pain was almost more than anyone could bear. However, one day I was able to actually acknowledge someone speaking. Then from then on I started to feel better. Eating slowly, and after a season and a half, I was able to speak understandable sentences. Then, I was able to sit up, and then, after almost two whole seasons of disgusting healing herbs, I was able to walk around."
Steel tooth sat on the tree stump that he had made himself comfortable on. Chewing reflectively on a root he had obtained during the tale. "You've gone through a lot, more than most creatures would survive. You’ll be very useful in a scrap with vermin. Come; join us once more at the table.