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Letting an arrow fly, Lady Marigold jumped down, out of arrow range, to watch.
The arrow hit it's mark, and a stoat fell over, dead. The wildcat did not even stop to pick him up, only kicked him over to a mouse slave.
"Bury him." snarled the wildcat. "Squirt! Keep an eye on the slave. Make him dig four graves. One for Batkret, one for this one..." the wildcat lord kicked the stoat over to the poor mouse. "One for Maridress, and one for that fox!"
Squirt, a ferret, saluted the wildcat. "Aye, Lord Crught."
Crught, snarling still, nodded.
Lady Marigold, hidden behind the tree, ran off to tell Maple that Leaf was well and truly captured. "Imagine, having to dig graves for those vermin!
A snort made her turn around. There was Crught and a fox standing there.
"You will be, too, squirrel!" snapped the fox.
"Catch me, first!" challenged Marigold. Launching an arrow that killed the fox, Marigold fitted another arrow. She shot it and missed Crught.
Hearing a shout, the wildcat lord turned away, snapping Marigold's arrow as he went. "I'll be back!" he snarled.
"And I'll be ready!" snarled Marigold back.
Sighing, she turned away, scrambled down the tree, and headed into the forest.
"Burr aye, Gonffee, hurr hurr. You'm a greet cookee."
Gonff flashed the mole a big grin. "Do ya really think Lady Maple'll like my cranberry pie?"
Dewlap, for that was the mole's name, grinned too. "Who doesn't?" asked the mole.
"Umm, let me think..." said Gonff.
"I can't think of anything!" sighed another voice behind him.
"Marigold!" cried Gonff. "What happened?!"
"I met the cat and his fighters. My gosh, the fox is stupid! He didn't even duck from my arrows!" Marigold sighed.
"Is Leaf captured by the Crught cat?" asked Gonff, spitting the wildcat lord's name out angrily.
"Yes." groaned Marigold.
"Doas Ladee Maple know ret?" asked Dewlap through a mouthful of cranberry pie.
"No. I'll tell her later, at the feast." Marigold groaned again.
"Paws off, pieface!" Gonff snatched the pie away from Dewlap.
"Tis good!" said Dewlap hopefully.
"Not till the feast." said Gonff.
The mouse and the mole watched as Lady Marigold, sighing wearily, headed off to go tell Lady Maple that Leaf was captured by Crught.
Meanwhile, in the bushes, Squirt continued to watch. I must have a satisfactory message for his Lord, thought the weasel. I must have a satisfactory message.
That night, at the feast, Lady Maple stood up and said some words. The badger Lady was frighteningly large, but gentle.
“Hello, and welcome to our Midsummer's Eve Feast. Though, if you think about it, what do we have to be celebrating?”
Before she could finish, an otter named Shagnan jumped up. “Well, we don't know if Lady Leaf is dead or not...”
Lady Marigold stood up too. Hissing angrily, she snapped, “Lady Maple was getting to that!”
Shagnan sat down again, abashed.
Nodding briefly at the squirrel, Lady Maple continued, “Lady Marigold was out today, gathering berries for our feast, in fact, when she ran across the wildcat Crught's camp- Lady Leaf is one of his slaves!”
There were gasps, especially from Shagnan.
Holding up a paw for silence, the badger Lady continued, “She is made to dig graves for vermin, now, and when they stop dieing, who knows what will happen to her? It is imperative that we get her out of there soon! Should you have any ideas or plans, come to visit me. And, now...” she said, raising her voice, “Let us begin our feast!”
As the animals settled down in to eat, there was a knock on the door. Lady Marigold opened it cautiously. “Yes?”
“Open up, all of us are ready for the feast!” called a high voice.
Puzzled, Lady Marigold opened the door. Standing there were three wildcats, an ancient badger, and a tall, warlike mouse.
“Martin the Warrior, is that REALLY you? And Bella of Brockhall? Oooo, is that Sir Gingevere and Lady Sandingomm? But who is that...?” Lady Marigold asked, looking pointedly at the third wildcat.
Gingivere smiled. “That is our son, Rovisine. He is four months tomorrow.”
Sandingomm puffed her fur out proudly. “My first!” she said.
“Pardon, but do you mind if we do this inside? The feast smells good...” Martin broke off, blushing.
Blushing as well at her rude manners, Lady Marigold stepped aside so that they could pass in. “Offf, course.” She said, curtsying.
The travelers needed no second bidding. Martin and Rovisine led the older wildcats in, and Bella stopped to talk to Lady Marigold.
“So, how's Leaf?” Bella asked, as the pair walked slowly through the Entrace Hall towards the Dining Room.
“Um, not that good, you see...” And Marigold related Lady Leaf's sad story to the motherly badger, who nodded and sniffed at all the right times.
That night, Brockhall held a counsel of war. Crught was dangerously close, and his horde of one hundred-score fighters were nothing to sneeze at. Bella opened the meeting.
“As you undoubtably know, our Lady Leaf has been captured by Lord Crught the Wildcat. Lady Marigold attempted to save her, but was forced to retreat. Crught, as you know, is the cousin to Queen Tsarmina, his father having been Lord Ungatt Trunn back in the time of Lord Brocktree of Brockhall, Bella's grandfather. Ungatt was brother to Verdauga, so therefore Crught is also cousin to Gingevere and Sandingomm. Second-cousin or something like that to Rovisine anyway, so we have to take precautions that Crught knows this also. Therefore, Rovisine will be a natural target, also being a wildcat.
“I have come to the conclution that for the time being, the Greeneyes' family will stay at Brockhall! However, when Crught finds that they are not at Gingevere's farm anymore, Lady Leaf will face immediate danger. In an attempt to draw us from hiding, he might even kill her. He now knows that we are watching him, in fact, he may even be watching us, and will quit using Leaf as a slave and instead use her as a captive. This way, we will be unable to get messages to her. Now that we agree on this, who has any plans?”
Gingevere raised his paw. “Is Chibb still around?”
Marigold raised her paw and knocked Gingevere's out of the air. “No. He took his chestnuts and left last spring.”
“Any more suggestions?”
Lady Amber came forward. “Marigold and I can take come archers and rescue her! And Martin or someone can cause a distraction, we'll sneak in, and bring 'er straight back, aye!”
Marigold came up and stood next to the middle-aged squirrel archer. “I'm with ye, Lady Amber, even to death!”
Bella smiled. “Good. Now what kind of distraction...”
The Brockhallers talked until well into the night, unaware that Brockhall was no longer a secret place- Squirt found himself racing back towards Crught's camp, unaware that another evil presence was hiding in a hole in front of him. "Asmodeussssssssssss!”
Martin creeped up towards a large stone fort, deep in Mossflower Woods. Straightening his swordbelt, Martin knocked loudly on the wooden door. Immediately the door was opened by a weasel. "'Oos there?" He growled.
Martin coughed, and the weasel turned to stare at him warily. "I... I wish to speak with Lord Crught."
The weasel narrowed his eyes. "What business doth a wittle mousey 'ave wi' our Laird?"
The mouse warrior held his contempt in check. "I wish to speak in civil terms with your Lord about the spies around our homes lately."
"Aye, they are disturbing us."
There was a clatter from behind the weasel. He turned around to peek inside the fort, before turning back to Martin. "Varry well, comm in."
The warrior bowed low, then whipped out his sword and cut off the weasel's head.
There was a shrill whistle from behind. "Mouse!"
A fox stood there. "You... killed him?"
Martin's eyes were hard. "Yes I did. Would you like to be killed too?"
The fox backed off quickly seeing his aggression. "No, no, of course not! I just wanted to see if you was related perchance to the group that just broke Leaf out of prison. Because if you was, you'd be in trouble."
Martin fatally let his guard down. "Leaf is free?"
The fox grinned wickedly. "Yes sir, she's free, though, unfortunately, you're not."
Martin tried to grab his sword but he couldn't move his arms. A group of stoats from behind the warriors guffawed. Martin twisted and kicked, but to no avail. He was stuck tight.
The fox sneered. "You was so trusting... Lord Crught was right. Unfortunately, you was the one who flooded Kotir, wasn't you?"
Martin stared at him.
"Well, you gonna regret that, mouse. Tomorrow's yo' deathday, and nobeast'll celebrate it more'n Lor' Crught an' I."
In horrified recognition, Martin allowed himself to be led away.
Once out of the prison, Lady Leaf, Lady Amber and Lady Marigold scampered up to the trees above Crught's stronghold. Lady Amber threw a stone at the door with a hollow clunking sound. This was the signal, and Martin was supposed to come out. The squirrel Lady waved Marigold and Leaf on with a swift "I'm coming, don't worry about me. I'm just going to make sure that no other prisoners are in prison."
The two archers stared at her, reading her worry for Martin in her eyes, then nodded, and scampered off towards Brockhall.
Lady Amber hopped out of the tree and lightly scampered down towards the prison's window. She whispered, "Hello?"
To her horror, a familiar voice answered, "Lady Amber?"
"I'm coming." The sound of chains dragging over stone reached the squirrel lady's ears. She winced.
"Martin, you fool, you let them get you again!"
He stumbled and cursed. "I didn' do it on purpose, you idjit! Get me out! Tis the Hellgates in 'ere, and I'm supposed to die tomorrow!"
"Tsk, tsk, language!" Lady Amber scolded as she surveyed the land. "Name-calling is never necessary. After all, you were the one who got yerself stuck in there."
Martin groaned. "Please, Amber! Now's not the... get down!"
Lady Amber froze. Hearing the sound of guards clanking, the squirrel dove back into the trees.
"What'cha doin'over 'ere, mousey?" She heard a guard ask.
"None of your business, ferret." Amber heard Martin spit.
There was a sound of a blade being drawn, and a choking sound. "Oh, but tis mah business, mousey. Lord Crught doesn'like 'is slaves doin' suspicious thin's, mousey. Now tell me what yer up t'! Is yer girlfriend out thar?" He jeered.
Martin glowered at him. "My 'girlfriend' has just sounded the alarm at Redwall Abbey. I'll be gone by morning." The sneer was obvious in his voice, which he rose as he said, "The alarm at Redwall Abbey". While Lady Amber knew what he was telling her to do, she waited to hear what would happen.
The guard glowered back at him. "Weall, if'n yer girlfriend's at Redwall, she don't know if'n we move ye, do she? Dargr!"
"Yes, Captain!" Another guard was obviously saluting, based on the clanking sounds that reached Lady Amber. His voice sounded as if he was a young wildcat.
"Move the prisoner to another cell. One without windows. Move him to, say... the Darkdeath Cell."
"But Captain! The Darkdeath Cells are used only for murderers, and traitors!"
"Does he look like a murderer to you? Fool! Do as I said! Or I'll report you to Lord Crught!" The ferret growled.
"Yes, Captain." With a sigh of something like regret, the wildcat 'Dargr' grabbed Martin and the next thing Amber heard was the prison door slamming.