Well, here it is people, the better, longer, and...anyway, the rewrite of my previous story, Fren's Quest. It has the same title and characters, but I've revised the plot a little bit and actually decided to give it a timeline! Heh.
This takes place seasons after The Sable Quean.
I never thought I would live to see the day when a vermin would step out of the shadows of evil and into the light of good.
Ever since I was a babe, I always associated vermin as evil, treacherous scum with no greater desire than to vanquish all goodbeasts. After all, a popular saying here at Redwall Abbey goes: “The only good vermin is a dead one.”
Seasons upon seasons before I was born, a vast vermin horde known as the Ravagers, led by a sable known as Vilaya, had kidnapped young’uns all across Mossflower, including my great-grandmum Tura, and later attacked the Abbey itself. Everytime I had heard the story of the great Battle of Redwall Abbey I became more and more convinced that vermin do not deserve the right to live, such vile, horrid beasts.
Of course, I had never met one, until that fateful day all those seasons ago. All of my thoughts on vermin had changed entirely since then; not all vermin are cold-hearted wretches, but there are some who are bound on a path which is dappled by light and shadow, though they could ever truly belong in one side.
Fren Kozdru was one such vermin.
Night had long fallen on Mossflower country. Crickets were heard chirping their song throughout the woodlands, mingling with the warbling of night thrushes in a subdued symphony. Clouds scudded over the waning half moon, transforming the light-washed treetops into total darkness.
A solitary cricket perched upon a fallen leaf, rubbing its wings together and producing chirruping noises in response to its neighbors. Scuttling across the woodland floor, the nocturnal insect was completely unaware of the dark presence looming behind it. A flash of steel, and the cricket lay severed in two clean halves, its wings still buzzing momentarily.
The creature bent down and plucked the knife from the soil. Shrugging off his hood, the stoat sheathed the lethal blade in his belt and slunk back into the bushes he had just emerged from.
Another hooded figure crouched behind the bushes, awaiting the stoat’s return. This time it was a weasel, slightly smaller than his comrade but no less deadly. The stoat reappeared next to his companion, whispering, “’Twas nothin’ but a cricketbug, mate. If’n that trechearous liddle whelp was out there, she wouldn’t’a stood a chance agin me.”
The weasel snorted and took off his hood. Taking his own knife, he honed it against a stone on the ground. “No idier why we was sent out ta chase after the wretch. Deserved t’be exiled, dat un. She was nothin’ but a goody-two-paws, sorry excuse fer a vermin, if’n I do say so meself.”
His companion, the stoat, put his hood back on and stood up, knife in paw. He scanned their surroundings, listening intently for any noise that was out of the ordinary. Sensing nothing wrong, he sat back down. “No chance of ‘er comin’ back. ‘Ow bout we’s head back ta camp an’ tell the chief?”
The weasel nodded and slipped the hood back over his ears. Both figures silently retreated back to camp, until a rustling noise erupted behind them. Instinctively, the weasel whipped out his knife and, holding it by the tip of the blade, whipped it out in the direction of the sound. Rewarded by a thud and the abrupt silence, he turned around and ran to catch up with his companion, who had been pressing on ahead of him.
Deep in the undergrowth, the knife stood quivering, tip embedded in the trunk of an old beech just a hairsbreadth from a young ferret’s neck. She stood panting with her back to the tree, hoping that the two trackers had left. When she finally sensed that the danger had passed, she turned around and plucked the knife from the tree, then stowed it in the thin belt she wore about her waist, next to her sling. Thanks for the weapon, you cretins. She thought, before slinking off further into Mossflower.
She had no idea how long she had been going; hours, she guessed, though that mattered little to her right now. What mattered was how much distance she put between herself and the vermin camp she had once called home. Banished. That’s what she was now, banished simply because she was different from all the others in that vermin horde. She allowed herself a tiny snarl. Her father’s horde, she reminded herself. She knew her father had resented her from the moment she was born, and, unsurprisingly, she returned the feelings of resentment. Her father, the vermin chieftain, was about the only creature she ever truly despised, and with a passion, at that.
The truth was, she never allowed herself any true negative feeling for any other living creature, which is unusual to vermin. She never took any liking to the activities vermin were so infamous for, such as killing and plundering, and she would often refer to them as “unjust” and “intolerable”. Everybeast in the horde thought of her as a good-for-nothing softie, though none of them dared raise a stink about the chief’s daughter, despite the fact that they all knew about his hatred for her.
She paused for a moment, leaning against a sturdy alder, recalling the events of the previous evening which had led to her exile. Some days earlier, a few hordebeasts had ambushed a pair of wandering woodlanders and brought them into the camp. The horde leader had been interrogating them for a while, but, when he found that he would be getting no answer from them, he ordered them bound to a tree and starved. She, of course, was appalled by such action, and her father sensed this as well. So, earlier, he had called upon her from where she was staying and handed her one of his blades, a rapier.
“I knows yer a liddle goody-two-paws, Fren, but I want t’give ye a chance as a true vermin.” he had told her. He led her towards the base of the oak where the two woodlanders were sitting tied to the trunk, groaning and sighing. Gesturing towards the captives, her father then said simply, “Kill them.”
Fren the ferret inhaled sharply, the rapier trembling in her paws, incredulous. She took two small, but jerky, steps closer to the tree, never removing her gaze from her father’s. The ferret warlord let out a breathy laugh.
“Go on, kill them. Skewer them, behead them, slice them to ribbons, kill them.” He pressed her. “Prove that yer a true vermin an’ yore mammy an’ I didn’t have ye fer nothin’.”
Still facing the older ferret, Fren raised the rapier. She held it in midair for a few seconds, then slashed downward, severing the ropes which bound the prisoners. She then turned around and booted the nearest one, a squirrel, and gritted urgently, “Go! Go! Run for your lives, you and your pal!”
The squirrel and his companion, a large otter, needed no second bidding. They had scrambled to their feet and dashed headlong into the depths of Mossflower Woods, leaving Fren to deal with her father.
She stood there unwavering, rapier still in paw, as she waited silently for her father’s response. The warlord narrowed his eyes and inched closer until Fren could feel his breath on her forehead.
“Defy me, will you?” he hissed in a threateningly soft tone. He reached out and yanked the rapier from his daughter’s paw by the blade, ignoring the blood that gushed out when he did so. Rage made him shake, though he managed to keep his voice level as he went on. “You had a chance, you little whelp, and you threw it away jus’ like that. No fur ‘n blood of mine is goin’ t’be a worthless liddle softie.” Summoning his horde, he bellowed, “From this day forward, yer exiled from this horde permanently. Make one move t’come back, an’ we’ll slay ye on the spot. Unnerstood? Now, begone afore I dispatch ye!”
Fren growled menacingly at her father as she made her way towards the edge of the camp. “Who says I want to come back to your filthy horde? Vherdan the Scum, that’s what you are. I’m no daughter of yours, you black-hearted fiend!”
The hordebeasts within earshot suppressed a gasp. Nobeast had ever spoken like that to the warlord, let alone his own child. Vherdan drew his cutlass and pointed it in her direction.
“Use dat smart tongue on me agin an’ I’ll rip it outta yer mouth.” He snarled back. Fren simply turned on her heel and sprinted out of the camp, slingstones and arrows from the horde bouncing in her wake. Vherdan held up a paw, signaling a halt. “Don’t waste yer ammo, buffoons. Let ‘er run. As long as she ain’t in me horde, she’s of no trouble.”
Fren had been running for hours since then, pursued by two guards, but even after they had given up she never stopped. She judged by the moon’s position moving further to the east that it was a few hours till dawn. She collapsed fatigued on the forest floor, sides heaving, tongue hanging out of her mouth. She scraped together some leaves and moss, creating a makeshift nest, and flopped onto it, sleep crashing over her like a black tidal wave.
In her slumber, dreams bombarded her like missiles. A ferret who resembled her so much, wailing and twisting in a bed of leaves spattered with blood, a small wet bundle writhing into the world. Fire, a raging fire, hungrily lapping at the walls of small cottages and sending beasts screaming and fleeing for their lives in terror. A ship with black shapes pouring over it, sounds of battle and clanging swords emanating from the decks, until some creatures leap overboard in a desperate attempt to escape. Maniacal laughter, the painful sound of a whip cracking over naked backs, and cries for help. Finally, a tall, armor-clad mouse wielding a magnificent sword, stepping out of the rose-tinted mists, and pointed the tip of the sword at her.
Fren listened in wonder as the mouse spoke in a deep, resounding voice: “Young Fren, though you were born a vermin, you are seemingly bound for something else; a path of light and shadow. But whether you truly belong in light or in shadow, I cannot predict. This you must find for yourself. Fare thee well, and remember, nobeast deserves to lead a bleak life.”
As the mouse stepped back and vanished into the misty haze, Fren let out a strangled cry. “Wait! Come back! Who are you? And why do you—“
Suddenly her eyes snapped open, and she gasped. Awake.