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Bluestripe the Warrior

Part One: Arrival at Salamander Meadow

Prologue: Blue?

A badger, big and dark, stood in a cave, protecting the little badgerbabe inside. A corsair rat outside was snarling, "'And 'im over, Cloudcatcher."
The badger shook his head, and grabbed a club. He hit the rat on the head, killing him. Instantly, another group of pirate rats surrounded Cloudcatcher.
One stepped forward. He wore a purple cloak with a golden earring in his left ear. He growled, "Hand me the club."
Cloudcatcher swung it over his head menacingly.
The rat with the earring shook his head in mock pity. There was a sudden cry of triumph from behind the badger.
Cloudcatcher whirled around to see a rat, holding the badger baby.
Suddenly the rat dropped him. "'E's blue!!"
The rat with the earring squinted in confusion. "Blue?"
Cloudcatcher took advantage of the confusion to scoop up the baby and race off into the night. Behind him, the corsairs yowled, "No fair!! No fair!!" They attempted to follow, but were soon lost in the haze behind Cloudcatcher.
The badger looked at the babe and smiled. The moonlight illuminated the badgerbabe's silver stripe, the only parting of the blue fur. "Bluestripe, the Warrior Lord..." The words were a fading whisper on the wind as his father raced onward, always onward.

Chapter One: The Fog Field

Gasping, Cloudcatcher arrived at a huge gate. Behind it loomed a huge mountain, which blocked out part of the sky. The badger looked at the gate, then pounded on it. Once! Twice! Three times! Just as the huge white badger reached out again to bang, the iron gates swung open.
In shock, Cloudcatcher walked into the stronghold, and found himself in a huge field, covered in fog. "'Ello?"
There was no answer, but the fog was much denser now. He stumbled over something furry, and the white badger hit the ground hard. There was a shout of "Hey!" from in the distance, but otherwise, there was nothing but the badger, his babe, and the hare's body, which Cloudcatcher had stumbled over.
Bluestripe let out a shriek. "Cloudy!!"
The father badger clung tightly to him. "What is it, Bluestripe, my warrior?"
He raised a chubby paw and pointed at a shadow in the fog. "Wook! Swadow!"
Cloudcatcher narrowed his eyes as he heard the shout again: "Hey! Stranger!"
The badger's black eyes darted from side to side. He reached for his club and realized that it wasn't there. With a groan of regret, Cloudcatcher reached for the dead hare and pulled out a dagger as all of the shadows advanced on him and his babe... closer, and closer they came.

Chapter Two: Nara and the Mist-Hunters

Cloudcatcher backed up a pace or two before answering, "We come in peace, but can hold our own in a fight!"
A voice near his ear snorted, "Huh! You? An old badger and a motherless badgercub? You think, you think, that you have a chance against us?"
Cloudcatcher jumped and was rendered speechless, but Bluestripe narrowed his eyes. "Cwoudcachah's na' old! You old! An' I a wahwe-er."
The voice laughed in real humor. "You're a warrior, eh, bucko?"
Cloudcatcher pressed his son closer to himself and did not reply. Neither did Bluestripe.
Soon the laughter in the creature's voice died off. "So, come on, tell us why you're here, to Salamander Meadow."
Cloudcatcher gasped. Salamander Meadow! He hadn't meant to come so far... not to the ruins of the old vermin palace, which had been ruled by a ruthless wildcat named Iceclaw, who had been tracked and killed by Lord Urthrun... but his wife and son had escaped... and still roamed the lands. All this Cloudcatcher had learned from his father, an old warrior named Nightblade.
The voice hardened. "I said, tell me your tale. Or would you prefer to be tortured by the last remaining members of Lord Iceclaw's band?"
Iceclaw's band! The words struck fear into the badger's heart, but he replied fearlessly, "I am Cloudcatcher the Furious, and this is Bluestripe, the Warrior. While we look weak, greater warriors you could not find! We have just slain the corsair Captain Cutthroat, who did not believe our tales of valor and victory."
The creature growled, "You lie."
It turned to the crowd of shadows, and called, "You, as the Shadow-Slayers, were warriors of Iceclaw. Now, you serve me, Nara, wife of Iceclaw and leader of the Mist-Hunters!"
Nara turned and narrowed her eyes at the two badgers. All they could see was her tail swishing the ground of the field as she addressed her troops. "You slayed Urthrun and all of his mice and squirrel-warriors because he was fool enough not to know that hares make the best warriors, and now, you, my fighting Hares of the Mist-Hunters, will prove you will fight for your home!"
Cloudcatcher gripped Bluestripe tight, knowing fully well what was coming-
"Mist-Hunters, attack!"

Chapter Three: Retreat

The shadows advanced- they came closer, each crowding closer and closer to the two badgers. Cloudcatcher could only see their eyes, most of them as black slits, and their weapons flashing menacingly as he peered through the veil of mist. But he knew that they could see every move that he made.
Cloudcatcher backed up a few steps more and felt the iron gate press into his fur, and sighed in relief. "Bluestripe!" He whispered. "As soon as I count to three, we'll run through the gate and slam it. Then we'll be safe. No! Don't speak!"
A white paw was clamped hard on the badgerbabe's muzzle as he drew air to speak. Bluestripe looked reproachfully at his father, but he did not struggle.
"One!" The word was a breath in his son's ear.
"Two!" The hares were fast approaching, and Cloudcatcher knew that they would be ripped to pieces if they didn't escape soon.
"Three." With a swift movement, the white badger turned and ran through the gate, slamming it with a loud clang!
Nara raised her paw, and stalked up to the gate, glaring amber daggers of hate at them. "You are a coward, Cloudcatcher. You say you are mighty but you cannot even stand up to fight without retreating! Mighty warriors! Bah!" She turned and, with a sneer, strutted back into her army.
Bluestripe growled, "Cowad! Huh!"
As if in a daze, the little badgerbabe grabbed his father's dagger and squeezed through the gate bars. With a cry of "Hoooooooolllllllllliiiiiiiiiiaaaaa!" he sprang on Nara. His voice, near her ear, whispered, "I no cowad!", and the wildcat felt the dagger at her throat.

Chapter Four: Nara's Comeuppance

"Bluestripe!!" Cloudcatcher screamed, but made no move to protect his son. Instead, he watched in awe of his little babe.
Nara turned slowly and stared into Bluestripe's eyes. "You... wouldn't really kill me, would you?"
Bluestripe narrowed his eyes. "You kill Urfun?"
"No, no, another wildcat did that. His name was Iceclaw, and he was a bad, bad cat..." Nara purred.
"You wy. You have widecat babe wiff Icecwaw, you mayweed to he." Bluestripe pressed the dagger closer to the cat's throat. "I no wike be wyed to. Tell I twuf."
"I... I did, young fearless creature! Get off me!" In a sudden fit of anger, Nara bucked like a wildbeast, throwing herself and Bluestripe back and forth savagely.
The little badger held on, however, and, eventually, Nara slowed, panting hard. She screeched, "Don't just stand there! Help me, Mist-Hunters!"
One hare, dressed in a silver tunic and carrying a long spear in one paw and a heavy sack in another, approached cautiously. He looked the scene over- a tiny, silver-blue badger with a dagger against a wild, half-crazed wildcat's throat- and let out a soft chuckle. "Times have fallen hard on you, Nara. Our weapons are with you, young Bluestripe."
Nara glared darkly at him, and bunched her muscles underneath her and prepared to spring. But Bluestripe stopped her. "Spwing an' 'oo die!"
Headless of the voice, Nara sprang, and, in one swift movement, her head rolled on the ground. Bluestripe leaped off the carcass and cleaned Cloudcatcher's dagger on her fur. He spat, once, on her back, and walked away from her body.

Chapter Five: Starslasher and Whitetail

The hare let out a call in admiration. "Wait, sir! Pray, tell me your name?"
The young badger turned to him and squinted as if he had a tough time seeing the hare correctly. "I Bwewstwipe."
The hare nodded once, then stepped back a pace. "I am Whitetail, leader of the newly-formed Hares of Salamander Meadow. Our... our thanks go with you, Bluestripe, for ridding us of this... beast." Whitetail spat contemptuously. "If you ever need anything, anything at all, come back here. We will not forget you."
Bluestripe stared at the hare in a hard way. Finally, he nodded. "I will 'ooz dat favor, so I not forget." He nodded again, and turned to leave.
As he prepared to leave through the iron gates, Whitetail called, "Wait!"
Bluestipe paused.
The hare approached him, and, as the two looked into each others eyes, blazing blue with a tint of red staring deep into wise black ones, Whitetail reached into his tunic and pulled out a long sheathe. There was a gold design on it, a long, curvy S. He held it out to the badgerbabe.
Bluestripe's small body quivered in excitement. He breathed, "Ohhhhhhh..."
Whitetail smiled in spite of the dignified posture he had, but quickly corrected himself. "Bluestripe, you will be a great warrior someday. Give this to your father, Cloudcatcher, and, when you are ready, he will give it to you. This... is a great sword, feared by many, hated by some, but I know you will help clear its name. It was known as Starslasher in its heyday, but never forget- it's the use of the weapon, not the weapon itself, that makes a warrior. A warrior for good does not need to fight unneeded to prove himself- a true warrior will be known by the way he helps others. The previous owner of this blade, he was known as Iceclaw the Ferocious, was a good warrior; nay, one of the best warriors that this land ever saw. But he let greed and self-importance overtake his mind- and you saw the results."

Chapter Six: Cloudcatcher's Rant

Cloudcatcher met Bluestripe outside of the gate, and took the sheathe without a word. But once they were out of sight of the iron gates, he turned to his son.
"You fool!" He practically shouted. "You thought you could stand up to that cat? It was pure luck that kept you from getting slain! And what would those hares say to that? Oh, you'd be a great warrior someday, here, have Iceclaw's old sword, Starslasher, and give it to your father, the coward, until you get true warrior training... blah, blah, blah! I've raised you ever since the day your mother was killed, and you've always been a hard one! You would've thought every darn creature from here to the Icelands wanted to steal you, and, until this day, you've always just whined and moaned; Oh, Pa'll take care of me, no need to fear, let Cloudcatcher get all the danger... Then, when you suddenly get the bright idea to "be a warrior", I am the coward, and you are the warrior! Well, I'm fed up with looking out for you! Go back to your stupid Salamandastall Hares or whatever they are... I don't care anymore!"
Bluestripe stopped and stared at his father.
Cloudcatcher narrowed his eyes. "And here's something else to noodle over before you die. I'm not your father! You're an orphan, ever since you were born. Never had a father, mother died soon after you were born, and I found you. I cared for you, loved you like my own son. But I DON'T CARE ANYMORE! So leave me alone!"
Bluestripe stared at him somemore. Then Cloudcatcher ripped off Starslasher, threw it the badger, and raced off into the woods, towards the rising sun.

Part Two: A Fortress None Can Penetrate

Chapter Seven- Rebuilding Urthrun's Fort

When Bluestripe arrived at the Meadow again, Whitetail was standing guard outside of the iron gates. When he saw Bluestripe, alone, he said, "Are you alright, young 'un? We heard yonder father giving you grief, and if you need help..." He shrugged.
The badger smiled. "No, no, may I wivv here? Daddy abandon me."
The hare raised his eyes towards the lightening sky. "Sure. As I've said, we owe ye one. There is one thing..."
Bluestripe shrugged helplessly. "Whatever is, I help. I die if I weave here, too wittle."
Whitetail nodded. "We've decided to re-build Urthrun's stronghold, and name it Salamanderstrong. You know, strong in Salamander Meadow."
Bluestripe thought a moment. "Sawamandastwon. I wike it."
The hare pointed at another hare, a female in a lovely lavender tunic. "That's our plan-maker; her name is Sitker. She will have your jobs for you, Bluestripe." He opened the gates for the badger.
As he went through the huge gate, Whitetail whispered, "Every hare in the meadow heard your father, loud and clear. Our sympathies go with you, young 'un. But do not think harshly of Cloudcatcher. He... he has a lot on his mind of late."
Bluestripe studied the hare's wrinkled features carefully, then nodded once. "I gwateful foh you letting I stay."
Whitetail shrugged. "And we are grateful to you for killing Nara for us. Now go on to Sitker... we knew ye'd be back here, and we are quite pleased to have you- for good."

Chapter Eight- Bluestripe's Job

Sitker looked up as Bluestripe approached. "Ah, good! Ah was wonderin' when ye'd get 'ere!"
Bluestripe looked into her face, and into her startling aqua eyes. "Ma'an I..." He began.
She cut him off. "Noo, non of that! Ye know the plan?"
Bluestripe shook his head- "no"- and watched the hare closely.
She nodded. "Than listen carfully to meh. We're goin' te build baek the ole stronhol' of Lor' Urthrun. It shael be big enough, indeed, foer all of us 'ares to live there."
Bluestripe nodded. "What do I do?"
Sitker pointed to a load of stones outside of the gates, which Bluestripe now saw that they surrounded the meadow, behind the badger. "Eef ye could move t-hose stones, Ah'd be mighty graetful."
The badger nodded. "Eef thass 'ow I can hepp, thass whah I do!"
The hare watched Bluestripe trot off, and sighed. Thank the Clouds and Suns that we have Bluestripe now! He'll help us build the fort tall enough that, by the time the summer floods rush in, we will be safe inside.

Chapter Nine- Summer Floods Come Early

One morning, when the foundations for the fort were just being laid, there came a rushing noise. Bluestripe, who was a little bit bigger now, and old enough to have almost minimized that baby-talk, instinctively looked up at the sky, but it was cloudless.
Soon, water poured in through the bars of the iron fence. A torrent burst through, and Sitker looked up too, fear clouding her unusual, aqua-colored eyes. "Whitetail!!" She screamed.
The hare looked up just in time for the torrent to hit him. He went flying over the fence and lay still on the ground.
Impulsively, Bluestripe jumped the fence, which was bent down in water-weight, and grabbed Whitetail. The badger slung the hare onto his back, and grunted with the effort. "Sitker...!"
The hare shot him a fleeting glance, but she offered no help. "Hares of Salamandastrong! The Summer Floods are early, and we must leave... now. Follow me!"
The plotter jumped the fence in the weighed-down area and took the lead. The hares filed out behind Bluestripe.

The hares and Bluestripe waited out the flood-month in a small cave at the base of a huge mountain, with Whitetail gradually recovering from his ordeal with the water. Bluestripe was still shocked to hear that he could not swim, but, as the warrior-hare recovered consciousness, Bluestripe decided against mentioning this.
Towards the end of the season, Whitetail, Sitker and Bluestripe went back to inspect the water-level. To their shock, nothing remained, except for one part of the big iron fence- the gate, the entrance to Salamander Meadow.
Bluestripe gasped, "Wh...what happened to it?"
Whitetail replied grimly, "Flood-damage."
"This'll never do. Our strong-hold being washed away every summer? This won't do at all!" Sitker fussed.
Bluestripe jumped around in excitement. "We can move the building site to the mountain! And, since the name Salamandastrong seemed to fit so well, we can name the mountain Salamandastrong! I myself will build the iron fence, starting with this gate..."
Whitetail nodded. "This could work, this could work indeed! Good idea, Bluestripe!"

Chapter Ten- Night

A shadow purred softly. "Yes, yes, move your fortress to the mountain, much easier to capture.... rarrrr..."
In the sunlight, the shadow was revealed to be a silver wildcat, quite rarely-colored, with a long, moon-shaped scar that earned the cat his name- Night. And he was every bit as fierce as his father, Iceclaw, and just as ambitious as his mother, Nara.
Night planned to carry on his father's feat of capturing a badger's stronghold with the victory over this... Bluestripe's fort, oh, what was it called, Salamandastrong. Yes, that was it...
The wildcat silently followed the two hares back to the cave's entrance, where he hid, waiting for night, which was when his senses came alive, for Night was a creature of night.

While it would be so easy to, with a sweep of his paw, kill them all, Night retained himself from the instinctive calling to do just that. He had to remind himself, "Not now, Nighty, or you'll stronghold'll never be completed, because you know full-well that you could never build a castle, not like the ones the badgers can build, oh, no, because they are strong..." It continued in this fashion for a while, Night talking to himself, standing in the shaft of moonlight, gazing into the Hares' and Bluestripe's safe-haven...
When, suddenly, a silver paw flashed out. Unable to contain himself, Night pulled a dagger out from his belt and quietly cut the victim's throat. As crimson stained his paws, the wildcat fled into the midnight moonlight.

Chapter Eleven- Funeral

Soon after the cat's departure, Bluestripe's dreams began to be feverish, and he woke to find a shadow running away from the cave. How odd!
Suspicious, Bluestripe got up to investigate, when, almost to the cave exit, he fell over something. Expecting to be cursed at for accidentally disturbing somebeast's sleep, he was shocked when there was no sound.
Bluestripe turned around and looked at the hare, hard. It was wet with... blood! The hare had been murdered... by the fleeing shadow?
The big badger gasped in recognition, and fell to his knees on the hard-packed earth. "No!"
Whitetail's head lolled, eyes clouded in death.
"Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!" Bluestripe's cry of grief woke every hare, and all crowded around the badger and the hare.
Sitker pulled at Bluestripe. "Come on, we'll give him an honorable burial."
The badger looked up at her, eyes tinted a shade of red. "Let me, please."
The hare nodded in fear of a badger with the Bloodwrath. "Of course, sir."
Bluestripe lifted his old friend and carried him out a ways, before setting him down in a divot on the ground. He covered his deceased friend in dead leaves and summer flowers, and, in the moonlight, all the hares and Bluestripe bowed before Whitetail's grave.
But, from that day on, Bluestripe was the unanimous Lord of the Salamandastrong Hares.

Part Three: The Hunt For Night

Chapter Twelve- Mission: Hunt Night| Status: In Progress

The next day, Sitker, Bluestripe, and another hare named Scarlett, a warrior, visited the mountain, scouting for a good fort-position. Scarlett found a huge flat part of the mountain, and Bluestripe, surveying the land carefully, nodded once to show his acceptance of the land.
"Start tomorrow." The order was coldly given- Bluestripe still had not gotten over the death of Whitetail.
Scarlett nodded in return.
Sitker narrowed her eyes. "What about that tree?" She pointed at an ancient maple tree.
Bluestripe lumbered over, grabbed the trunk, and pulled. With a loud riiiiiiiiiipppp it groaned, but Bluestripe won the fight and the tree was thrown off the edge of the mountain.
Bluestripe straightened and looked at Sitker. The badgers's eyes were clouded. "Sitker, you have sense and brains. Scarlett, you have strength and power. Both of you are dear to me. I need your help on a decision, a very important one."
How odd, thought Scarlett, He has grown up overnight. But grief does that to creatures- ages them quickly.
The hares gazed back at him silently.
"Whitetail was killed cowardly, in the night, by somebeast. A wildcat, by the looks of the blood-stained pawprints left as it fled."
The hares nodded. All this was true.
"Sources have revealed that this was likely a wildcat by the name of Night, son of Iceclaw and Nara. Murderer in the night, as he is sometimes called." The badger gazed around him. "Whitetail was a brave warrior and his death is mourned by all. But it shall not go unavenged.
"I am proposing that I go in search of Night and kill this threat, or at least make war with him. But, should I fail, I need the fortress to be here when I return. And if-" his voice cracked, but he cleared his throat and continued, "-if I do not return, you will take over for me. But my question for you is this: is my search wise?"
Scarlett, surprised, found her voice first. "I... I am in favor of you going, my Lord. But be wise, and let your head rule your heart, not the other way around."
The badger nodded.
Sitker nodded at her Lord. "The fortress, Salamandastron, shall be here, proudly fluttering her flags, when you return. And may you return! Victorious!"
Bluestripe did not correct her. "Then rise, Commander Scarlett and Commander Sitker. I go at once. And it may be wise should you decide to... ahem, form a fighting squad, while I am gone."

Chapter Thirteen- Disagreements

Stunned, the two hares watched Bluestripe as he descended down the mountain. When he was no longer in sight, Scarlett turned to Sitker. "He's crazy."
"No, he's not!" The new commander defended her Lord hotly.
Scarlett narrowed her eyes, but did not reply.
Was he crazy?
When Sitker made no response either, Scarlett took hold of the situation. "Well, if he returns, then we should certainly begin work on his fortress. Why don't you see if you can get some stones for the foundation." It wasn't a question.
Well, I can't bring them here on my own, stupid!
Sitker growled deep in her throat.
"Do you have a problem, Commander?" Scarlett asked sweetly.
Only that you're treating me like a Dibbun.
"No." Sitker snapped. "But I suggest you find yourself a job, Commander."
Scarlett watched the older hare pityingly. "Don't worry, old lady, I will." She swung around haughtily in the opposite direction of Sitker, disrespectfully turning her back on her.
"One more thing, Commander, if it isn't below you to listen to me." Sitker called.
Scarlett turned around, a sneer on her lips. "What do you want?"
"I am a dangerous enemy. While you are the warrior, I am the planner, and the schemer with a head and no weapon is far more dangerous than a warrior with only a sword and no brains. While the schemer may run, the warrior will die, for a head is needed to have sense. And sense is needed to survive." Sitker smiled coldly. "Just a thought to noodle over, young hare."
I have made myself an enemy. And she is dangerous as well. But I am right- a plan is just as good as a sword. Anyday.

Chapter Fourteen- Rorc Nightblade

Bluestripe hadn't gone very far when he heard a noise, which appeared to come from behind a large boulder.
It sounds like a fight. But... no one lives here but the Hares and I!
He peered around the boulder and saw a tall, muscular otter with long legs that were good for running. He wore green cloth shorts and a belt around his waist which held two wicked-looking dagger-sheathes. The daggers were in the otter's paws. He was surrounded by weasels, but the otter fought bravely until the circle closed in on him.
Bluestripe, a spectator, decided that he needed to help the otter. He ran out from behind the boulder with a war-yell. The weasels looked up and ran at the sight of a badger coming at them.
The otter, with no assailants left, turned, eyes blazing, to Bluestripe. "I had them all in hand! I didn't need your help at all!"
Sure you didn't, otter. If I hadn't intervened, you'd be dead meat right now.
"Well, I'm quite sorry for disturbing your valiant death scene!" Bluestripe snapped.
It's one thing for me to risk my life for a random otter I find, but I don't mind if I at least get credit for it.
The otter stared at him, then carefully placed his dagger in his belt. "Thanks, but next time, I can handle my own fights."
No worries. Next time, I won't even consider helping you!
When Bluestripe narrowed his eyes coldly, the otter grinned and stuck out a blood-stained paw. "I'm Rorc Nightblade, roving warrior. Call me Rorc. You are?"
Uncertainty reigned high in Bluestripe's list of feelings, but he gripped the otter's paw. "Uh... Bluestripe, the warrior, badger Lord of Salamandastrong."
"Badger Lord. That's nice. Do you have a stronghold for your subjects?" Rorc grinned. He withdrew his paw.
"It's being built."
"Why, don't you need to help? A badger like you would be very helpful!" The otter winked.
"I'm... hunting an enemy."
Rorc's eyes narrowed and he was suddenly serious. "Yeah, me too. My enemy, a wildcat named Night, he killed my parents."
Bluestripe nodded. "I, too, am hunting this Night. He killed my best friend, a brave hare named Whitetail."
"I am hunting to kill." Rorc murmered.
"As am I." Bluestripe whispered.
"We should travel together. Two are better off in this land than one. Especially..." The otter surveyed the badger with a critical eye. "Especially if you are unarmed."

Chapter Fifteen- Rorc's Story

I don't know what to make of him, thought Bluestripe. I honestly don't. One moment he's happy and cheerful, the next, it's like he's suddenly in "warrior mode" and he becomes all silent. I don't know what to expect.
After Bluestripe had had enough of Rorc's silence during one of his sadder moods, he asked, "Tell me your story, Rorc?"
The otter sighed. "Sure."
He began:

My father, Blaze, a river otter, and my mother, Charlotte, a sea otter, were from the island of Southaven, where Blaze was Skipper of Holt Southaven. It was a beautiful Holt, full of brave warriors that had limitless courage, immense strength, and blades forged from stars themselves! The mission of the Holt was to save all of Mossflower from evil. So Captain Blaze set off with a crew of six, along the Havenholder, bound for Mossflower. Along the way, Blaze's supplies began to go missing. The thieves were revealed to be three of the crew. Angry, Blaze dropped them off at the island of Icecloud, yes the very hometown of Iceclaw and Nara, and he got more supplies as well. By now, the crew numbered only four with Blaze included.
Angry at being left on Icecloud, the thieves went to Night for help. Night set out after Blaze in the Shadowhaven, and he caught the otters' ship one night. Everyone was murdered but Blaze. Furious at being betrayed, Blaze stormed back into Icecloud to kill the traitors. Night caught and killed him.
When Charlotte, my mother, heard what had happened, she vowed she would never leave Southaven, and neither would I. Alas, when she tried to forbid me, I refused to listen. I stole away one night in the Havenholder II, bound for Mossflower Woods. I figgered I could go straight up Mossflower River and find some vermin t'kill. But I got lost, and here I am."

Stunned, Bluestripe could find no words to say to Rorc Nightblade. Rorc did not say anything either, and so the evening slipped into a quiet dawn.

Chapter Sixteen- Further Disagreements

"YOU IDIOT!!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING??" A screech split the morning aura of calm.
Scarlett's voice rose to an equal level. "I'M FIXING WHAT YOU DID WRONG, YOU FOOL OF A HARE!! HAH!!"
Did wrong? A little hare named Starfur rushed into the hares' campsite, her arms filled with firewood. Starfur was the cook-hare. "Commander Scarlett! Commander Sitker! Come quicklyyyyyyyyyyyyy!"
The Commanders rushed over to her. "What is it?" demanded Sitker.
"What is it?" asked Scarlett. Both of them turned to glare at each other, but no further words were spoken between the two.
Starfur shot a worried look at the two of them and dropped her bundle of wood. "There are weasels over on the south side of the mountain. Where Lord Bluestripe set off from. I think they're following him."
"Thanks Starfur." Scarlett turned away from the cook-hare, who left. "We should send out a patrol."
Sitker frowned. "Why endanger other hares? What if it's a trap?"
"What if the sky fell to the ground right now?" Scarlett shot back.
"I think we should go."
"WHAT?? Have you got tail-fluff for brains? Why chase after them ourselves?"
"Why chase after them at all?"
"To warn Lord Bluestripe, fool!" Scarlett screeched.
Sitker snarled, "Warn? Who said anything about warning anybody? But why send some other poor hare? Too cowardly to go yourself?"
"No! Not at all!" Scarlett growled. "It's just..." She turned away.
"What, coward? You're not a warrior at all! Just a tail-fluffily-soft wittle baby hare!"
Amber eyes blazing coldly, Scarlett turned quickly. "Fine! I'll go! But death will ride with us. Never fear.

Chapter Seventeen- Captain Rorc Nightblade

Bluestripe and Rorc Nightblade made good progress that day. That night, they camped near the base of the mountain. "Phew!" Bluestripe groaned, looking up at the stone structure that eclipsed the night sky. "We were high!"
Rorc laughed. "Aye, matey." He sobered. "Night's palace should be around here... tomorrow."
A crafty smile curved the badger lord's lips. "Why wait for tomorrow, when Night will be sleeping? Let's ambush him... tonight."
Rorc cocked his head, thinking. "Not ambush- we don't stand a chance against him in the night. But, hey, meeting him in the dark... all for it!"

That night, the duo found their way to Night's palace guards. Or, rather, the palace guards found them outside the palace. One, a shiftly-looking fox, brandished his spear. "No Unauthorized Entry."
Rorc growled, "I'm authorized."
"Show me your pass!"
Pass? What's Rorc up to? We're not authorized!
The otter shook his head. "You DARE to bar MY way?? I should kill'ya now- for insolence!"
The fox shrank back a step, but his spearpoint still held the trio back. "Wh...who are ye?"
"Don't ye know me! I'm Captain Rorc Nightblade, second-in-command to Lord Night himself! And I command to be taken to him!" The otter puffed himself up.
Wow, he actually looks a bit like a vermin officer... and Captain doesn't sound too bad on a fella like him!
The fox narrowed his eyes to slits. "Very well. But I'm watching you, so don't try anything funny."

Chapter Eighteen- Blood-Red Sunrise

Clarification: This chapter is the MORNING AFTER Bluestripe and Rorc enter Night's palace, and the AFTERNOON AFTER the hares' argument.

Murka, the weasel leader, heard the footfalls of the hares. He gathered his other vermin troops around him. "Issin up, me mates. Yon'er hare come, yazz? You ide, zen jump oot when I says HUNT! Zen, we slit!" He made a quick motion across his throat. "They leevs mountain, we free!"
The vermin brandished their swords in the air. "Yarzz!" They quickly disappeared into the trees.
As Scarlett and Sitker appeared, hotly arguing, Murka jumped out. "Ello laydies. Ann ow'r oo do'in tooday, eh?"
"THAT'S HIM!" Sitker yelled. She grabbed her sword and sliced the air over Murka, who ducked.
"Eh, now, dees no HUNT!" He bellowed the last word.
A dozen vermin swords swung quickly. Sitker dodged them all, but found herself against a tree. Scarlett stood next to her. "What do we do?" gasped out Sitker.
"WE aren't going to do ANYTHING." Scarlett's lip curled. She swung her paw over Sitker's head, holding her in a tight headlock.
"Murka! Come here. She's the one who would normally chase you out." Scarlett called.
The weasel looked up and screeched. "AH!!!!!!"
He galloped over and pulled out a bloody-red knife. He cleaned it slowly, and Sitker's eyes followed every movement.
"Scarlett, you wouldn't really... I mean... really..." She babbled.
"There isn't anything that I wouldn't do. You've outdone me in everything. You don't know how it feels." Scarlett spat.
"You're a better warrior."
"NO, I'M NOT!!" Scarlett roared. "Just die, and spare me the headache."
Murka grinned. "You feel nothing. Zip. Zilch. Unpain."
He swung the sword quickly, and Sitker lolled on the ground."

Chapter Nineteen- Meeting Night

Clarification, because this is getting confusing- THIS HAPPENED DURING THE ABOVE BATTLE.

It was the morning after Bluestripe and Rorc had arrived at Night's palace. The wildcat had acknowledged their presence, but told them to wait until morning.
The foxguard came to get them. "Your royalness." He mock-bowed to Rorc. "The REAL Royal One had requested your presence now."
The otter did not say anything but nodded coldly. Bluestripe followed the roving warrior out of the cell that they had been placed in last night, the badger just barely getting through the doorway.
The fox led them to a large room where Night greeted them courteously. "Greetings, badger. Greetings, otter."
Bluestripe nodded slowly. "Good day. I have come to declare war on you." It was obvious to the badger that he couldn't kill Night in this place.
The wildcat did not looked surprised at all. "Anything else, badger lord?"
"Then good day, warrior."
The otter looked shocked as the foxguard led the two out of the palace. Outside the gates, Rorc shrieked, "ARE YOU CRAZY BLUESTRIPE??"
"No." The badger said nothing else, but turned away.
Rorc, who knew his companion well enough, looked slightly shocked, but said nothing. Their steps turned towards Salamandastron.

Part 4: Scarlett's Justice

Chapter Twenty- Starfur's Trap

When the defeated, weasel-raiding party of hares returned to the mostly-built fortress of Salamandastron, Starfur ran out to meet them. "Did'cha claim a victory??" she shrieked, not unlike an energy-filled Dibbun.
"One victory, but we lost the battle." Scarlett stalked back Starfur without a passing glance.
The cookhare caught up with the Commander. "Hey, Commander Scarlett, where's Commander Sitker? Shouldn't she be up here with you?"
Scarlett turned around, but kept walking. "Sitker's back there. She stayed back to do something for me."
"So you're friends now?"
"Aye. Hey, there she is now! Hoi! Sitker!" Scarlett waved her arms above her head and screamed.
The hare galloped up to them. "Bluestripe should be here within the next three sunrises, you know."
Starfur narrowed her eyes. "Nay, I did NOT know that. And I thought you left in a red tunic, you're wearing a blue one now."
"Er... my red one was a bit... flashy. I borrowed one of Scarlett's blue tunics." The hare stumbled a bit.
But you're not Sitker! I watched Scarlett sacrifice you to Murka! Oh, well, when Lord Bluestripe returns, I shall tell him. The least I can do for poor Sitker is trap her impersonator in a web of lies.
"But Commander Scarlett does not wear blue. She says it offsets her ears."
Cloudteeth, why did I ever say that? thought Scarlett furiously.
"Anyway, what right do you have to question a Commander?" The-Sitker-like-hare-growled.
Scarlett winced. Sitker would NEVER talk to her sister like that.
Starfur glared at Sitker's Impersonator with unconcealed distaste. "A Commander, Silverblade?"
"I am not Silverblade, I am Commander Sitker!" the hare retorted.
The cookhare scrutinized the impersonator. Finally, she stared straight into Silverblade's eyes. "I know what you are up to. I saw Scarlett and Murka kill Commander Sitker. I will play along-until Lord Bluestripe returns. Then, your plot will be revealed. And, should you do one thing against me, I shall tell the entire of Salamandastron the truth- that Scarlett killed Commander Sitker, and that Silverblade is against Lord Bluestripe."
Starfur spat once, in Silverblade's face, then stalked off.
So I've figured out the truth. And made two dangerous enemies. But what can I do with my knowledge?

Chapter Twenty-One- Scarlett's Plan

That night, while all of Salamandastron slept, Scarlett sat in her tent, scheming, staring straight into the dancing fire.
Starfur knows I killed Sitker, and she'll do anything to avenge the death of her sister. She will tell Bluestripe. That can't happen- it'll go bad for Silverblade and I.
Suddenly, a furry head popped into the firelit tent. Scarlett looked up, a faraway look in her eyes. "Hello?"
"Commander." The voice was clipped and harsh.
The hare's eyes cleared immediately. "Yes, I'm here. Coldtail?"
"Thass me!" The hare was a big one, brown and brawny, with muscles flexed and ready to fight.
"Well..." Scarlett prompted impatiently. These spies are painfully slow. They'll be the death of me!
"The Lord Bluestripe will be here within the next few days."
Scarlett's ears pricked in alarm. "That cannot happen. Twill be the death of all of us, the True-Blood Hares, when he returns. He must not be able to return if we are to hold sway in this army!"
Suddenly, everything became clear to Scarlett. Of course! If Bluestripe never returns, then Sitker's death need never been known! I will no longer have to worry about Starfur, either!
"Coldtail, fetch Silverblade for me. I need her." Scarlett sounded far away, even to herself.
"Yes, Commander." Coldtail bowed and left.
A second later, Silverblade and Coldtail stood in front of Scarlett. "My loyal Hares..." the Commander purred.
She paused to add another log to the fire. The flames danced up high, then settled down to rest, although not completely.
Scarlett resumed her plan-telling. "I need you two to go to Lord Bluestripe- Coldtail knows where he camps- and tell him that many of Night's forces have attacked in his absence- and killed both Starfur and Sitker. He values both hares, and will ask where they went. Tell him that I have sent you to go with him to follow Night's forces- they fled towards the Highlands. He will follow, and when you two return, I will have everything ready."
Silverblade frowned. "But... Starfur's not dead yet!"
Scarlett bared her teeth. "She will be- by noontime tomorrow!"

Chapter Twenty-Two- The Betrayer Betrays the Betrayer

Clarification: While all this happens, Bluestripe & Rorc are basically going back to Salamandastron.

The next morning, in the breakfast-line, Silverblade stalked up to Starfur. "I need to speak to you. In the cooktent." she croaked.
Starfur's eyes flicked up to the big hare, then back down to her job of serving the hares- handing out oatcakes and flasks of cordial. "I'll be with you in a moment."
After all the hares were fed, or, rather, after all of the oatcakes were eaten and all of the cordial was drank, Starfur met up with Silverblade in the cooktent. "What do you need, impersonator? Come to apologize for my sister's death?"
Silverblade's eyes filled up. "I hadn't thought much about that- not until last night. Now, I'm sorry for it. I won't be Commander Sitker any longer."
It was then that Starfur realized that she was not disguised as Sitker. "So what do you need?"
The big hare hesitated. "I don't agree with what Scarlett is doing, taking over Salamandastron, but I cannot verbally rebel in any way other than this- she is plotting to kill you. Before noontime today."
Starfur's eyes grew huge. Cloudteeth, how much else'll happen to me? In two days, my sister is murdered and now I'm experiencing an attempt on my life! Cloudteeth!
Silverblade continued, "A dagger in your heart, a drop of poison in your food, enough to kill a hare or two and have the rest stampede you, that kind of thing. But she has to get rid of you before Bluestripe returns- noontime, because then the rest of her plan takes form. Now hurry! Get out of Salamandastron until noontime tomorrow. Then you shall be safe."
"But what is the rest of her plan?" Starfur asked worriedly.
"She'll get Coldtail and I to sent Bluestripe off on a fools-chase. But I plan on telling Bluestripe exactly what the Commander did, instead."
"May I come with you?" Starfur asked.
"Because he'll believe me the most, especially the part about... Sitker." Starfur's eyes widened sadly. "Oh, Silverblade, I miss her so much! And I'm so frightened!"
Silverblade nodded and patted the cookhare's shoulder. "But think of it this way- you are, in essence, avenging her death. Because I know for a fact- Scarlett will NOT be expecting Bluestripe to return to Salamandastron."

Chapter Twenty-Three- Finding Bluestripe

Bluestripe and Rorc traveled for most of the day before they reached the ends of the earth- almost. Suddenly, Rorc, who was scouting ahead, called out, "Lookee here, three likkle hares!"
Bluestripe rushed up to them, only to find Rorc holding tightly to Starfur, Coldtail and Silverblade's ears. "Starfur? Coldtail? Silverblade? What are you doing here?"
Starfur broke down in hysterics, just like she had planned with Silverblade. "Lord Bluestripe, Commander Sitker... she's dead!"
"Yes, Scarlett killed her with the help of a band of Night's weasels. She held Sitker up against a tree and the weasel leader, Murka, cut her head off. Scarlett forced me to impersonate Sitker for a day and a half until I came to my senses- how would I feel if Caresy was killed? So I imagined Starfur's pain in this way, and we plotted together- we come find you, Lord Bluestripe, so's Scarlett could not kill Starfur, like she was going to." Silverblade admitted.
Coldtail nodded. "And she sent Silverblade and I to tell you a bunch of lies in order for you to go off, hunting Night's beasts in the Highlands, so as Scarlett could proclaim herself Queen of Salamandastron, with a bunch of Hares under her just waiting to kill you."
Bluestripe gazed at the three of them sadly. "I had feared it would come to this. Rorc, you may drop them."
Kuthunk! The hares landed hard on the ground. Starfur gazed up at Rorc with fear lighting her eyes.
He gazed back down at her. "Hi, mate!"
"H...hello." Starfur muttered. "I'm Starfur, who're you?"
"I am Rorc Nightblade, roving warrior. Pleased to meetcha, Miz Star."
Starfur blushed and picked herself up off the ground.
"So, what can I do with this knowledge?" Bluestripe inquired.
The three hares answered in unison: "You have to return to Salamandastron and kill Scarlett- if you value saving your stronghold!"

Chapter Twenty-Four- Cloudcatcher Returns

Once they got to the gates of Salamandastron, Bluestripe and Silverblade snuck off to the left- they would surround the Crowning Hall, as the newly built Dining Hall was called, then rush in and surprise Scarlett.
Starfur went off to the right- she still had to hide, because Bluestripe had come before noontime.
And Coldtail went off straight into the Dining Hall. His job was to tell Scarlett that Bluestripe had headed off towards the Highlands. Then, when Bluestripe and Silverblade came in, Coldtail would be the reveal-all.
Happily, Coldtail skipped along until he came to the Dining Room Door. Then he stopped and composed himself. "Okay, Coldtail, strut your stuff."
He swaddled into the hall and up to the head of the banquet hall. He knelt at Scarlett's Queen of Hares Throne where she sat. "My lady, Lord Bluestripe has returned. Starfur and Silverblade are with him."
"Starfur!" she shrieked. "Do not say that word in here! And Silverblade is only acting- she would never betray me!"
Yeah, right, Lady.
"But we shall wait for Lord Bluestripe, then fill him with arrows!"
Cheers erupted from the hall.

Bluestripe heard the cheers. "That's our cue, Silver!" He whispered.
With a mighty roar, Bluestripe swung at the door... but it opened on its own. Coldtail slid out. "She's gonna fill'ya full o'arrows like a pincushion."
"I have to get to her." Bluestripe swung his head towards the half-open door, his eyes blazing red fire.
Silverblade put a paw on Coldtail. "He's a badger. Just let him go."
Bluestripe banged through the door, ignoring the flying arrows. "Scarlett! I trusted you!"
Fear filled her eyes as she saw the blue badger rushing at her. "No, no..."
Suddenly, a second before Bluestripe reached her, a white dagger hit the hare in the chest. Scarlett frowned, then gasped, "Cloudcatcher!" before toppling off her throne in death.
Bluestripe whirled around and saw him battling a few of his hares. "STOP!!!"
The battle halted. "Bluestripe!"
Bluestripe's eyes narrowed. His last memory of Cloudcatcher was not happy.
The old white badger dipped his head, and Bluestripe saw that he was shaking in effort.
"Bluestripe..." When he raised his head, his neck and stomach were full of arrows. "Bluestripe... I'm sorry... for everything... I said. You are a warrior... truly... I... am... sorry." The white badger's eyes clouded over.
Then, Cloudcatcher fell slowly in death.
Bluestripe let out a mournful howl that was picked up by every other hare- mourning the death of a Badger Warrior.

Part 5: Salamandastron Sieged

Chapter Twenty-Five- Founding An Army

Bluestripe addressed the army of hares. It was right after Cloudcatcher's funeral and Scarlett's burning, and Bluestripe had begun to return his thoughts to Night.
"Hares of Salamandastron, I have with me four friends who need something. Three of which need promotions- rise forth, Commander Silverblade, Commander Coldtail, and Commander Starfur. The fourth is a good friend of mine- meet Rorc Nightblade. He will be my equal, and you shall addressed him as Skipper Rorc. Rorc is a true military genius, and it is with his help that we shall defeat Night!"
Cheers rose to the rafters of the Dining Hall.
"Now that Commander Sitker is gone, who replaced her as Head of Architecture?"
There was a chorus of "Saerina"s.
Bluestripe nodded. "So, Captain Saerina, how much is left to work on?"
Saerina nodded in reply to Bluestripe's recognition of her. "Only the infirmary, sentry towers, and the finishing touches on the cellar."
Bluestripe thought hard. "So... now that Starfur is a Commander, I am allowing Yausear to take over Starfur's old job of cookhare. Therefore, Yausear is now in charge of the cellar."
Yausear nodded.
Bluestripe grinned. "And now, I present to Isseeurf the honor of being the official Warrior Hare of Salamandastron, now that Scarlett is gone."
Isseeurf grinned cheekily. "An' ah shaell d'ah betteh joab than here, ah say!" He unsheathed his daggers and did a quick war dance around Bluestripe.
Suddenly, a thought struck Bluestripe like an electric bolt as he heard a sound like metal clinking against boots. "Commander Silverblade! Who's on sentry duty?"
"Si... eh... Si..." Silverblade stuttered, then her eyes widened in horror. "No one!" she gasped hoarsely.
Bluestripe whirled around and swung open the door of the hall in time to see seven-score vermin surrounding the mountain of Salamandastron.
"We are sieged- trapped in our own, unstocked mountain." Rorc whispered worriedly.
As the two warriors watched the vermin assembling, Bluestripe could not help but wonder how they would survive the siege.

Chapter Twenty-Six- Stocking Salamandastron

Isseeurf, the Warrior Hare, approached Bluestripe the next morning. "Saer, ah do believe thaet ye needs tae get a weapon!"
Bluestripe, who stood at his chamber window, watching the vermin troops, nodded. "Yes, I believe that I do."
Isseeurf watched a couple of weasels trying to build a fire. "Saerina set oop t'faerge fer ye."
The badger lord shook his head. "I have a sword, but tis lost."
The Warrior Hare cocked his head at his Lord. "Staerslaesher?"
"Aye. I lost it... after Cloudcatcher left me here." The badger turned back to the sight outside. "Don't worry about me. We need bows and arrows for every hare, not just me."
Isseeurf saw the logic in this. "Erkay."
He turned to leave, but then turned back. "An' Laerd, we sent'out faergin' parties th's'maernin'. They'r due baeck any secon'!"
Bluestripe nodded. "Thank you, Isseeurf. I am pleased in my selection t'make ye Warrior Hare."
Pleased, the warrior hare nodded and left. From his spot by the window, Bluestripe watched the foraging party, led by Silverblade, search around in the bushes, then heard a cry of "WEAPON!"
One hare, it looked like a liddle one named Moony, raised the blade of Starslasher into the air. Immediately, Silverblade was there.
"That was t'weapon that Lord Whitetail gave to Lord Bluestripe!" she exclaimed.
Bluestripe chuckled. Lord Whitetail. I knew about the legends, but I never would have believed it... Lord Whitetail. But he deserves it!
Moony gasped. "Then is it useful?"
"Shore is. Give't to Lord Bluestripe and he'll be a true badger lord!" Silverblade squealed.
Bluestripe sighed heavily and turned away from the scene below. Commander, it takes SO MUCH MORE to be a Badger Lord. You'd NEVER believe it.

Chapter Twenty-Seven- Preparations

Night stalked around the Salamandastron mountain, purring here and there at some beast. "My loyal Captain Salisf, you have done such a purrrrfect job, securing our little position here."
Salisf, a strong fox-Captain, looked up and smiled. "My thanks, Lord Night. Everything on this eastern side of the mountain, I have done."
Night blinked. Wrong answer, fool.
His paw slithered out. "So, you have done everything, have you? Why aren't you the leader of the Horde, then?"
Salisf realized his mistake as Night reached for his knife. "Lord, I have... done nothing... next to... you..." he gasped.
The wildcat narrowed his eyes and drew his weapon coldly. He tickled the fox's neck fur. "Oh, but a second ago you had done everything on the east side. What, now you are saying that I did that?" Night was enjoying this.
Salisf gulped. "But, Lord, you... gach!" His voice choked as the knife handle was stuffed in the fox's mouth. Night dropped him to the ground.
"Silence, fox. Tonight we attack the mountain, be ready." Night retrieved his knife and swept on, skulking around in the shadows, and complementing all the other beasts.
Salisf picked himself up and rubbed his neck as he gazed enviously at the weasel Captain that Night was now complementing.
"What a lovely job you've done on the catapults, Captain Vedse!"
"Thank you, Lord Night. It is all thanks to your mercy." The weasel replied, bowing stiffly to Night.
The wildcat grinned coldly, his teeth flashing white, as he moved on, tossing over his shoulder, "We attack tonight!"
After Night was safely out of earshot, Vedse turned to where Salisf was watching, and blew him a raspberry.
Amber eyes blazing, Salisf charged at the weasel with his knife clinched in his paw. The fox slapped Vedse in the face, and, where the blade was hidden in his paw, a huge knife mark was left on the weasel's face.
Vedse stumbled as blood poured out of the left cheek in his face, and he fell. The weasel staggered back up to his feet, slowly rising, then swayed. Sneering, Salisf began to turn back to his post.
But he turned around for one more jibe, and Vadse's thrown dagger hit him in the nose. Salisf screamed, and the two threw their other knifes at the same time. Both hit the other beast straight in the chest, and both fell, transfixed in cold death.
A shape moved in the bushes. It stalked smoothly out of the foliage, and stamped hard on both of the dead Captains' faces. Then, Night turned back to his stroll around the besieged mountain.
From his chamber window, Bluestripe too had seen everything. "Isseeurf!" he called.
The hare approached him with a, "Yees, Laerd?"
The badger turned from the window with a crafty smile. "They are attacking. Tonight."

Chapter Twenty-Eight- The Surprise in on the Surpriser!

That night, Bluestripe hid the seven-score of hares in the shadows of the castle. All but one. Commander Silverblade, "snoring" loudly, was playing-asleep as bait for the vermin.
Near moonhigh, there were sounds of vermin. "Shut yore trap!" Night hissed as the rising tones of arguing ferrets echoed through the Salamandastronian halls.
Suddenly, there was the sound of scrabbling paws. "Lord! There's a sleeping hare over here!"
"It won't be sleeping anymore, if you keep making noise like that." Night snapped, but followed the ferret who had found Silverblade into the dining hall.
"See, look, Lord." The ferret knelt down, knife out, next to Silverblade.
"Move!" Night hissed, but it was too late.
WH-THONK! The dagger hit the ferret straight in the head.
Suddenly, arrows rained on the vermin. Coldtail's group of hares lit twenty torches in different places in the hall, and Isseeurf led some warriors out into the firelight. Stunned, Night could only watch as Bluestripe leaped into the fray.
Rats scattered as all of the hares attacked Night's troops. Suddenly, Night snapped into action. "Don't just stand there, you fools! Fight back, or be slain!!" he screamed.
Suddenly, Bluestripe was in front of the wildcat. "Come and fight me, cat!"
Night snarled, "Outside, where neither has the advantage."
With one leap, Bluestripe was outside with Night on his heels.

Chapter Twenty-Nine- The Battle of the Leaders

Bluestripe grabbed Starslasher as Night drew his long sword, a wicked broadsword called Moonfire. Bluestripe knew he had to have the advantage, and brought his sword down on Night's head. But the wildcat dodged, and like lightning Bluestripe found himself parring Moonfire's blow. Bluestripe fought like fifteen badgers, but Night fought like twenty wildcats. Bluestripe felt his strength failing.
Determination filled Bluestripe's limbs and everything was covered in a red mist. Fire coursed through Bluestripe's veins, and suddenly his strength returned. The tide of the battle turned.
With one flick Bluestripe slashed Night's tail straight off. Howling like an enraged crow, Night swung his sword, severely wounding Bluestripe's left leg. He stumbled, but threw Starslasher. It was a one-in-a-million throw. Night was caught in the chest, and went flying backwards.
But, unaware of his impending death, the wildcat's eyes blazing, he approached Bluestripe, Moonfire out in front. Heedless to the danger, Bluestripe grabbed the blade and swung it over his head. Night clung tight to it, but his strength began to fail.
Bluestripe raised the blade over his head, and the hilt slipped from the wildcat's grasp. Bluestripe swung the sword around, and, holding the hilt, thrust the blade into Night's skull. The wildcat's eyes finally glazed over.
Bluestripe's legs began to give, and he stumbled. Suddenly, everything went black.

Chapter Thirty- The Burning

When Bluestripe woke up, Silverblade was standing over him. "Lord, you're alive!" she gasped.
Bluestripe sniffed and stiffened. "Why do I smell fire?"
Silverblade looked up in horror. "Lord..."
The badger ignored her and stood up, swaying from blood loss. But he managed to stay on his feet.
"No!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Bluestripe screamed.
Silverblade put a restraining paw on the badger's shoulder as they stood together.
It was enough to be heard in the Highlands. Salamandastron was blasted apart. Bluestripe ducked as pieces of woods flew by his head.
Smoke tunneled into the sky, but Bluestripe could only watch as fire consumed his beloved fortress. He turned away, eyes spilling an ocean.
Silverblade patted his back.
"Those... poor... hares!" he choked. "F-fighting the v-v-vermin w-while I was h-h-here, kn-kn-knocked out!"
Another paw touched Bluestripe's back, on top of Silverblade's paw.
Startled, the Commander looked up into the soft, sympathetic eyes of Starfur.
"Star?" Silverblade murmured.
"Silver. Blue." Starfur replied warmly.
Bluestripe straightened up. "Starfur?"
He turned around, and his breath caught in his throat. In front of him, some wounded, some scorched, some supporting each other, were all of the Hares of Salamandastron. Not one was missing.
"You're alive!" The badger screamed. "You're really alive!"
Coldtail came up beside Silverblade. "On'ee t'vermin perished in this explosion."
Saerina, the Head of Architecture, came up next to them. "The irony- twas their own fault!"
Isseeurf, the Warrior Hare, and Yausear, the cookhare, approached as well and embraced Bluestripe in a hug.
Like one body, the rest of the hares followed suit.

Chapter Thirty-One- The Springtime Celebration

"And do ye, Sir Isseeurf the Warrior, take this lady Saerina the Architect, to be your mate?" Skipper Rorc Nightblade asked.
From his perch in the back, Lord Bluestripe the Wild Warrior silently laughed. Haha, Rorc, ye ole scalawag! I never woulda guessed that he'd help mate my Hares!
But Isseeurf nodded grimly. "Ah daeo."
Rorc nodded. "Then you may kiss the haremaid!"
Bluestripe turned away so he did not have to watch the two embrace. He had watched Coldtail and Silverblade embrace. He didn't need to watch it again. But he heard the "Awwwwwwwwwww!"s that came from the hares that watched.
Bluestripe nodded and turned back to find Rorc staring at him.
"Ah!" Bluestripe jumped. "Where'd ye come from? Ye was up there just a sec ago!"
Rorc blinked. "Yeah, but ye didn't come up when I asked."
"Yeah, you was supposed to come up and "ratify your new nickname as Bluestripe the Wild," yadda, yadda, yadda. Anyway, ye don' mind, do ye?"
"Not at all." Bluestripe began to steer Rorc to the refreshment table.
"Anyway, Saer told me t'tell ye, work'll start next week on the fortress, on'y this time, twill be on the inside of the mountain. Or, rather, built into it." Rorc followed Bluestripe.
The badger nodded. "Whatever. S'long as it gets built, I dun' care. But tell her t'take the month off, she just got mated f'clouds' sakes!"
Rorc grinned. "Okay." He slipped off into the crowd towards the group massing around Saerina.
Suddenly, Bluestripe heard the shy voice of Starfur say, "Lord?"
He turned and...
Bluestripe blinked. "Why do I taste vanilla buttercake?"
There were roars of laughter.
Argh, Starfur shoved 'er cake in my face!

Epilogue- The Future for Rorc

Bluestripe the Wild lived out the rest of his life in peace and happiness after his fortress of Salamandastron was rebuilt. All of the hares lived their life in happiness, although Skipper Rorc left the mountain to revisit his family on the the Island of Southaven, where he lived until his mother Charlotte's death. By the time he returned, Bluestripe's strength was failing, and Rorc was by his side when he died. Later, in a last tribute to the great badger lord, Rorc took Bluestripe's sword Starslasher and sailed with it to another part of Mossflower. A mousewarrior later found it and Starslasher later became known as the Sword of Martin.
Having "set Starslasher free", Rorc Nightblade returned to Salamandastron with another badger named Stonepaw, who later became Bluestripe's predecessor. Having lived a full life, Rorc journeyed back to Southaven, where he became Skipper of Holt Southaven. When the deranged badger Smokefoot attacked, Rorc fought bravely, but was captured by Smokefoot's forces. Fighting for his freedom, Rorc fought the whole ship, but perished. The otter's brave stand created fear into Smokefoot, and the badger and his vermin left the isle. Skipper Rorc Nightblade the Warrior's grave is still on Southaven Isle, and, to this day, the otters tell legends 'round the campfire of good Skip Rorc, and how he won back their freedom. That tale is here.

The End.

I owe much to Blue for inspiring me to write this, and to Skip for allowing me to use his character in this story and thanks to everyone who read and critiqued this! I HAVE FINALLY FINISHED A FANFIC!!! HollyBluestripe the warriorVorsicht der Nacht 22:50, May 22, 2010 (UTC)

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