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Gaylesclan

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I'm making this up as I go along, so hang on tight and we'll see how she fares!

Notice: I'll be putting up pictures for this story on my Redwall Wars Wiki page, due to complications on this site. Here's the link: [1]

Prologue

Keynith trudged along the dusty, beaten path, the expanses of Mossflower woods on either side of him. A full moon shown down on the woods, lighting his way like a motherly lantern in the sky. The air was warm, but a frosty breeze hinted at cold yet to come. A few more days, the big otter thought, and he'd be at Redwall Abbey. A smile spread across his face and he licked his lips in anticipation of the feast that the abbeybeasts were preparing. It was nearly the end of summer, the weather beginning to cool, and the abbeydwellers would be celebrating the fall harvest. This was the most extravagant feast of the year, for the new crops pulled from the abbey gardens would be the freshest they could be. As Keynith rounded a bend, his thoughts preoccupied with images of spicy hotroot soup, savory leek and mushroom flan, and ice cold cider, he almost passed by the small door set in a hillock on the opposite side of the path from him. The only thing that made him aware to its presence was that it opened, and a old, grizzled hedgehog hailed him. The hedgehog yelled across the cold night air,
"Come in traveler, come in!
Come!
There are Tales to be woven, Stories to be spun!"

Obviously expecting Keynith to follow him, the old spiky hog waddled through the small doorway. Entering the dwelling, Keynith had to stoop to get in through the doorway. The house was literally dug into the hill. Its earthen walls were held together by the roots of a long dead tree, which were clearly visible running along the walls. The only furniture was a hardwood table, a stool, and a large armchair that sat by a fireplace dug into the wall. A pot hung over the fire, filled with a bubbling stew, chunks of vegetables and shrimp floating in it. Several barrels stood along the walls. By the light of the fire, Keynith saw that the hog was bent with age, and most of his spikes were a silvery grey. He carried a large club as a walking stick, and when he spoke he gestured animatedly with it. Swinging the club round the room, he said in a dry voice,
"My house is yours
It's not much, you see
But the only condition's that you listen to me."

Picking up a bowl, he dipped it into the pot and handed it to Keynith, who gratefully accepted the meal. Unhooking a wooden mug from his belt, he filled it with liquid from a barrel, and came to sit in the armchair by the fire. He sighed deeply, and sipped from his cup. Keynith pulled up the stool across from him and waited for the hog to speak. After a while, the wizened hog leaned forward and spoke again.
"I've been alone for some time
my children've left me
you're the best I've had for a while
in terms of company.
All that I've had
for so very long
Is my collection of tales
and a couple of songs."

He leaned back, and his eyes took on a look of awe, as if reliving a moment. He spoke again.

"This is an ancient tale of these lands
of dreams, love, and the greatest of clans
of times when evil battled with good
and the heroes of legend that live in myths stood"

Chapter One

The last rays of the setting sun glinted off the sea, sparkling and dancing like diamonds across the water's surface. The sunset dyed the few clouds in the sky vibrant shades of orange, red, and pink, making a stark backdrop to the dark blue sea. Over everything was the quiet rush of the sea, soothing the coastal climes. White breakers rolled in the distance, and the waves closer to shore threw up a gentle mist of water. Everything was peaceful. Or it was, at least, until a mass of five-score otters, whooping and shouting, raced down to the sea, their feet pounding heavily on the sand. It was time for the Otter's Hullabaloo. The annual celebration of the Otter's brought every holt together, river and sea otters alike, for a celebration of feasting, dancing, and general merry-making. It could last from days to weeks long, depending on how much fun they were having. Diving and flipping, spinning and twirling, the otters launched themselves into the tide. Splashing each other with water, the full-grown otters acted like babes, racing and wrestling in the sea. They moved with sleek agility, sliding through the water like fish. It was no problem for otters. They were as at home in the water as any fish. Several rushed into the spray with nets, and only moments later emerged, dripping wet, but cheering and struggling to hold the landed fish. More emerged with shrimp and clams, and soon a large pile of various edible sea life grew on the shore. From the cave set into the rocky wall that ran along the coast was rolled a giant cauldron, larger in diameter than a full grown otter, followed by several elderly otters carrying bags of spices and herbs. The pot was set atop two stones, high enough and far apart that there was a space beneath the cauldron when it was set down. This was filled with dry timber and driftwood, enough that it would make a blazing bonfire large enough to heat the gargantuan pot. Seawater was poured in almost to the brim, and the fire between the two rocks was lit. Seeing the pot, the otters rushed from the sea, crowding around it and cheering excitedly. As the elderly otters began adding herbs, fish and shrimp, the otters struck up a song.

"Oh, what is every otter's wish?
to 'ave some o' their favrit' dish
it keeps 'em swimmin' like a fish
It's soup! 'Otroot soup!
Good ole' 'Otroot soup!"

"It'll burn yer mouth right off yer face
before you even 'ave a taste
It'll set yer ears a'smokin'
If it don't burn, we'll be 'art broken
Soup! 'Otroot soup!
Bring out the 'Otroot soup!"

"Watercress an' clams galore
not enough shrimp, add some more!
The only thing you can't ferget,
You haven't added any yet!
An' if you don't you'll get the boot Don't ferget to add 'Otroooooooooot!"

As the otters held out the last note, a bag of orange-red powder was upended into the cauldron, turning the soup inside a shade of dark orange, and rousing cheers from the crowd. The soup now finished, the crowd of otters swarmed the pot, pushing and shoving, even climbing on top of each other to get to the soup. Bowls, mugs, and cupped hands were dipped into the pot, and merry bantering filled the air. "Oi! Out o' the way, I was 'ere first!"
"No you weren't, I was 'ere years 'afore you"
"Hey, you got sand in me soup!"
"Tastes better that way. Adds a nice crunch."
"You're just tryin' to get away from... Hey, it does taste better!"
"Told ya. I always add a healthy spoonful o' sand to me soup!"
The soup now gone, the cauldron was rolled off the fire, and more wood was added, raising the flames into a towering inferno. The otters clustered around the bonfire, laughing and joking. a group of otters was pushed forward, and amid cheers of encouragement began dancing a traditional jig. The cloud now clapping the beat, a pretty ottermaided stood and started singing in a sweet soprano.

"Oh, I wish that I could swim away
through streams and rivers pure
'neath mountains and through valleys
to where none 'ave gone before"

"Hey, I'll be a wanderer
the things that I will see
I'll travel round the world and back
just in time for tea"

"I'll trek across wide deserts
and summit soaring peaks
I'll swim across the ocean
just as I swim through creeks"

"Hey, I'll be a wanderer
the things that I will see
I'll travel round the world and back
just in time for tea"

"Never fall in love with me
Many chaps make this mistake
I'll stay in town for just a day
And when I leave their heart I break"

"Hey, I'll be a wanderer
the things that I will see
I'll travel round the world and back
just in time for tea"

Amid raucous applause that echoed along the shore, the singer and dancers took their bows and sat down. The firelight stood against the dark sky, the stars shining crystalline against the great blanket of black. More otters leaped forward, performing acrobatics, and the night air was filled with gasps of awe at their feats. Only one otter, not yet an adult, but growing quickly, did not watch their show. Danwen sat apart from the rest, watching the full moon's reflection on the restless sea. He had heard the ottermaiden's song before, after all, she was his sister. But now it seemed to express something in Danwen he had never felt before. He felt... restless. He stared at the dark horizon. There must be something past there, he thought. Ever since he was a child, he had wondered what lands lay across the sea. No he had ever asked new. No one had ever been that far. There were stories, though. Danwen secretly collected as many tales as he could. If there was a traveler coming through camp, Danwen would listen to him. If an elder was reminiscing of bygone days, Danwen would be there, eating up the stories. He wished he could be like the heroes in those myths. Strong, brave, everyone looked up to them. He sat watching the sea, remembering the heroes. Then he sat up. Who ever said he couldn't be like them? His eyes took on a hard determination, though they still remained fixed on the horizon. He would go there. Nothing could stop him.

Chapter Two

Mist shrouded all. It was not a light mist, the kind that troubled landbeasts. No, it was a mist of the sea. Deep, rolling fog obscured everything. Wisps of mist curled around the neck of a solitary gull, floating in the sea. He was disgruntled. Kicked out of his nest, on a night like this?! He sunk his bill into his chest, trying to ignore the cold and get some sleep. Slowly, the chill deep in his bones faded, and he drifted off into a fitful rest. Completely unaware of anything, he failed to notice the dark form looming out of the fog. He was wrenched from his sleep very suddenly, sucked under the boat, and put to sleep again. This time permanently. The pure black boat, unaware of its victim, plowed onwards. The only figure on deck was a lone weasel, tending the wheel. Skerg, for many of the same reasons as the gull, was disgruntled.
"To think that I got deck duty on a night like this", he muttered sullenly. He spat off the side of the boat, ridding his mouth of the taste of Cooky's "soup". Moral at the galley was down all around, as food and fresh water ran out. Dinner tonight had been little more than sea water and some onions, and the grog ration had been barely enough for a mouthful. Skerg shivered, the heavy fog condensing on his fur and soaking him to the skin. He was miserable. Three weeks at sea left him starving and thirsty, and now he was cold and wet from water he couldn't even drink. Muttering sullenly, he leaned against the wheel, keeping it in the same position with his body. A crows caw brought him up straight, arms tight, holding the wheel.
"Blasted birds", he muttered. "Always spyin' on us. Can't do nothin' round 'ere widout dem knowin' 'bout it." Indeed, up in the rigging were hundreds of birds. All of them were jet black, save one, a magpie, whose white wingtips had been dyed to look like cresent moons. The rest were ravens and crows, perched haphazardly on the rigging, visible only as shadows in the fog. Most of them slept, but some stared down at the deck, watching, seeing everything. They were the reason this ship, the Wraith, had known only one captain in its many years. They served that captain alone, product of a deal long forgotten by all, save the birds and the captain herself. High above the deck, the birds observed everything. No secret was safe from them, be it a hidden stash of rum, or a mutiny among the crew. They served the captain, and because they knew all, the captain knew all.
Its birds seen only as eerie shadows in the invisible rigging, the ship drifted along in the mist, following no course, but never veering, always going straight through the fog. Though none on board knew it, its course would eventually lead it to Mossflower. It slowly faded in the mist, disappearing into shadows, and then nothing.

Chapter Three

The midday sun hung over Mossflower country, bathing it's inhabitants in sweltering heat. Dry winds stirred the trees, shifting the shadows thrown on Redwall's western wall. Inside, the abbeybeasts were doing their best to keep cool. Dibbuns giggled as they splashed about in the pond's shallows; elder's watching them from the shade of the orchard. The Abbey's older occupants did thier best to stay cool,some fanning themselves, others drinking iced beverages, and others, like Grumm cellarhog, simply complaining. Lying flat out on his back, eyes shut against the shafts of sunlight filtering through the orchard's foliage, Grumm moaned lamentably.
"Why is it so 'ot out?" he complained. "Tis bloomin' indecent for summer to last this long."
Abbot Reellam replied from his position against a gnarled crab-apple tree.
"Indeed Grumm. I doubt even Felia badgermum has weathered such a drought. The entire Abbey is suffering, even the trees" he said looking at the dried leaves above his head.
Rolling to face the elderly squirrel, Grumm gestured in the direction of the splashing Dibbuns.
"The pond is lower than I've seen it in ages, sir. If the weather holds like this, I fear we may be in serious trouble from thirst."
The abbot chastened Grumm, looking at him sternly.
"Now, Grumm, there is no need for that kind of talk. We have plenty of drink stored in your cellars, you should know better than anyone."
Grumm looked at him urgently.
"No sir, it's not that. If we don't get enough water, we may not be able to brew this season's batch of October Ale! And what is a midsummer feast without at least a barrel of-"
Grumm was cut off as Felia badgermum bellowed out the call for lunch. The soaking wet Dibbuns rushed out of the pond, dripping with water and giggling madly. Pursued closely by Sister Maryweather, they stampeded into the Great Hall, fleeing her threats of a much dreaded bath. The Abbot and Grumm followed at a more leisurely pace, still discussing the drought, and of course, the finer points of October Ale.

Lunch was a simple affair; Summer Salad and warm oatfarls arranged along the table in Great Hall. Most abbeybeasts took their meal and went to eat in Cavern Hole, while others ventured back outside. Myllian, a young, pretty squirrelmaid, was among the former. She sat with her best friend, the stout mole Durble, chatting between bites.
"Durble, have you ever been outside the Abbey?" she asked.
Wiping crumbs from his mouth, Durble replied in the heavy accent customary to moles.
"Oye, Myll, I once went wid me Da to learn de finer points 'o diggin'". He wrinkled his velvety nose. "Ye jus' can't dig in 'dis Habbey soil. We 'ad to go oot inta Mossflooer woods, we did."
Myllian stared out the window at the emerald green expanses of Mosslower woods, the sea of trees swaying in the summer wind.
"What was it like, Durble?" she asked quietly.
"Oh, it was wunnerful", he said, oblivious to the fact that Myllian was not looking at him. "All da trees an bushes; an o' course the soil." His nose wrinkled in delight. "Ther soil was all damp an' cool. Oi 'ad a great toime diggin in ee groond. My Da toll me der soil in dose woods is ther best dert around." His chest puffed out proudly, a funny sight, seeing as how he didn't have much of a chest to begin with. "'An he shoold knoo. Moi Da's the best digger in the wurld."
Indeed, Durble's father was the Foremole of Redwall: chief digger and the elected leader of what few moles lived within the great sandstone walls. Despite his old age, the Foremole could dig better than any beast around, a feat that was constantly proved to Durble, for he often challenged his father to a match of digging. So far, Foremole had won by a long shot every single time.
Myllian turned to look at Durble, about to reply, when a hand grabbed her by the ear.
"Just look at you!", Myllian's mother, Maryweather, scolded. "Rumpled dress, crumbs on your wiskers, and look at your hair! Something must be done at once!"
Pulled through Cavern Hole by her fur tufted ear, Myllian scrambled and shouted in resistance.
"Ow! Mum, let go! I'm not a kid anymore, I can walk! Ooch, don't twist my ears! I'm coming, I'm coming, it's a just bit hard to walk backwards, ow!"
Up the stairs and into the dormitories she was dragged, until finally she was sat down on a bed in front of her mother and father. Rubbing her ear and squinting up at them, she protested her punishment.
"My dress wasn't that dirty, and you know it. Why did you drag my up here, aside from wanting to tear my ear off and embarass me half to death?"
Her father stiffened, and leaned down to chastise her.
"Don't speak that way to us, young lady! We are your parents, and you will show us respect. It is not befitting of a Tarrgoan to-"
Myllian stood up, causing her father to step back.
"Oh, dredging up the family history again?!", she said, now totally enraged. "You always bring that up, saying that 'I'm not noble enough for a Tarrgoan', or 'I should have better manners beffiting a Tarrgoan', well you know what?! I wish I'd never been born into this family! If you're much better than anyone, how come you came to work at this abbey? Why are you helping all of the commoners, if they aren't as noble as you? You know what I think? I think that all of them are more noble than you! I think you're just snobbish, arrogant fools!"
Her parents looked at her, stunned. Still panting from her tirade, Myllian glared at her parents with distrust. Why were they so strict? Why did they have to smooth every crinkle, clean every stain? Why couldn't they accept things as they were? Why couldn't they accept her?
The three stood for maybe a minute, no one saying a word. Slowly, Myllian's temper faded like a fire's coals in the rain, and she noticed the affect her words had had on her parents. Her mother, so often seen with pursed lips and eyes like ice, seemed on the edge of tears; her lip just visibly trembing, her eyes glistening with moisture. Her father, Arrum, was trying his best to be remain stolid, but his eyes revealed what he truly felt. In their amber depths Myllian saw sadness, confusion, and, could it be true? Regret? His mouth opened to speak, but only a croak came out.
Myllian ran. It seemed the best thing to do at the time. The only thing to do. She ran down the stairs, through Great Hall, into the orchard. She ran until she couldn't feel her feet, but knew they were torn and bleeding. But no matter how fast or far she ran, she couldn't shake the feeling in her breast. She wasn't sure how a hole could be heavy, but that was the best description she could come up with. It felt as though a great, dark hole of nothing had opened in her chest, a nothing that weighed more than she had ever carried. She ran to her tree. Strictly speaking, it was not her tree. But strictly speaking it was not her bed or even her clothes. So she thought of it as her tree. It was nice to think you owned something. What type of tree it was didn't matter. It was hers. She used to play in it when she was young. It had been a pirate ship, a house, even a fine carriage drawn by pure white horses. It had been anything she had wanted it to be. Mostly it had been a place where Durble had been sick, but that was beside the point. Right now, though, it was none of those things (especially since Durble had vowed never to climb it again, "Nowt fur a millyun years"). But it was still what she needed it to be. It held her, comforted her with its touch, cradled her in its branches. Hidden behind the dry, brown foliage, she cried herself to sleep.

Chapter Four

The misty pre-dawn did little to illuminate the scene on the Northern Shores. In the caves along the cliffs, as well as on the sands above the tide, masses of otters snored. Creeping as quietly as possible through their midst, Danwen stole out to the sea. He'd sneaked into the kitchens and stolen enough food for the next week, avoiding his mother and the few other otters that were awake at this early hour. He'd also taken his dad's best fishing rod, and a big jar full of bait-worms. Carrying his ill-gained goods in a large sack slung over his shoulder, Danwen crept silently to where the otter's fishing boats were tethered. Stowing his bag in the raised bow of one, and checking the sail, mast and rudder for signs of damage, he pushed the ship over the sand. The otter's ships were kept far up on the shores, after years of unexpectedly high tides, and it took Danwen nearly ten minutes pushing to reach the sea. Finally, though, he shoved the boat into deep water. With the water rushing out around his paws, he finally clambered into the little craft. There was no need to set up sail yet. The tide was leaving quickly, and that would drag him out into the open sea. He could catch up on his sleep while he waited.

The Wraith was coming into land. After nearly a season, sailing the frigid, storm-tossed seas of the North and the deceptively still, sun-scorched doldrums of the South, it and its crew were coming into land. An unearthly mist still lay like a cloak over it; despite the first rays of the morning sun the fog was as thick as ever, curling and twining around the masts and rigging in ghostly tendrils.
Up the shore where the otters snored it slid, crunching over the sand and up the beach. It loomed out of the mist, crushing the jauntily painted fishing boats beneath it and sending colored splinters flying. The cracking wood startled early waking otters to their feet; their cries of alarm breaking the misty silence. Up the sand the behemoth lumbered, creaking ominously. Just in front of the first of the sleepers, it stopped. An uneasy silence hung in the air, otters staring open mouthed at the unexpected arrival. None of the otter's noticed, but the mist suddenly ceased its movement.
The harsh cry of a raven split the silence like a knife. Screaming down from the heavens like shadowy comets came hundreds of birds, their liquid, beady eyes shining in anticipation. The otters cried out in alarm, not because of the vicious attack, but because riding on the back of each bird was a black cloaked figure. At the head of the nightmarish charge was a white-gray fox, her pale coat making her nearly invisible against the mist. Foam frothed from her lips, and she pointed her snout to the heavens, howling a mad cacophony of laughter.
Then they were among them.
The otters never stood a chance. Still half-asleep and unarmed, they were helpless to defend themselves against the surprise assault. The cloaked riders were among them like a storm, dealing death with long, halberd-like weapons from the backs of their mounts, who fought just as fiercely with beak and claw. The vixen at their head was a hurricane of steel, whirling and slicing with a monstrous scythe, cutting down otters with fiendish howls of glee. Into the caves where the ottermaids prepared breakfast the birds hopped, high-pitched screams following them as they cut down the women and young with cold brutality. Outside on the beach, the fighting stopped.
No otters remained. Their bodies littered the blood-stained sands, their blood soaking into the surf, coloring the foaming tide a sickly shade of red. Birds and riders alike were stock still, awaiting orders. The vixen held her scythe aloft, its crescent moon shape gleaming eerily in the half-light that shone through the mist.
In a high, caterwauling voice, she wailed aloud. "We fly inland! Great fortune awaits us there, as open to the taking as these worm's lives!" She rose above the shadowy masses, wheeling as they chanted their loyalty in unison. "We serve you, the Queen of Mist, with all our hearts. Where you go, we go. Our lives are yours. Those who stand in the way of the Mistwing and their Lady will die." Rising into the air like a phantom cloud, they swirled around the vixen, who, cackling madly all the while, sped south, along the beach and towards Mossflower woods. The mist, slithering and curling once again, slowly retreated from the scene, leaving the masses of dead alone in the sun.

Far out at sea, but not quite far enough to lose sight of the shore, Danwen, awakened by the noise, howled in misery.

Chapter Five

Myllian was awakened by a gentle hand shaking her shoulder. Remembering just in time not to roll over, she stood and turned to face her guest.
It was Abbot Reelam.
Myllian scrambled frantically to straighten the dress and bonnet her parents made her wear, mentally cursing how easily the delicate fabric tore. The abbot quietly laid his paw on her shoulder, stilling her frenzied paws. Taking her gently by the arm, Abbot Reelam led the way down the tree and onto the dewy grass. Only once they were both safe on solid ground did he speak to her.
"Your parents are very upset," He intoned sternly. Myllian stared at her footpaws. The climb down the tree had reopened her cuts, but she didn't feel them.
The abbot softly pushed her chin up until he was looking into her eyes. "Under normal circumstances I would be very upset with you, but..." He sighed. "Mostly I want to turn your parents over my knee."
Myllian stared at him. "S-sir?" she asked uncertainly.
The abbot motioned for her to follow him, and slowly ambled through the orchard, away from the abbey. "Your parents came to our abbey nearly twenty seasons ago, in the Winter of the Falling Stars. They had been married two days before, but their gathering was ambushed by vermin. Despite being the only surviving members, they were badly wounded, and it took us abbeybeasts nearly a full season to heal their injuries completely. They were lucky, and all of their injuries healed almost without scarring. You could tell that they didn't like being dependent on us, but they did everything we said without complaint.
When their injuries finished healing, they told us that they would be staying to help at the abbey in order to pay back our kindness. We told them, of course, that no payment was necessary, but they insisted. It seems to me that your father has the funny idea in his head that if he doesn't somehow pay us back, his family honor will be tarnished." the abbots bushy tail bristled. "They've looked down their noses at us for the entire time they've lived at this abbey, despite our attempts at kindness. If it weren't for you, I'd kick them out right now." The abbots shoulders sagged, his anger deflated. "But it's also because of you that I wish I could tell them off. You remember I said they were the last of their families after vermin attacked them at their wedding?" Myllian nodded. "That means you are the last of the Tarrgoans." Silencing her exclamations, he turned towards her and placed his paws on her shoulders.
"Your parents expect you to uphold the family honor, for once they are gone you will be all that's left of their precious nobility. I will not ask you to forgive them; they have wronged you, there is no doubting that. But consider their situation. You are a good child. It is a shame they must do this to you." He took her by the paw and led her indoors, where the abbey was still sleeping. Giving her a warm loaf and one of the harvest's russet apples for an early breakfast, he bade her farewell.

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