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Another fanfic?! Holly, stop doing this to yourself! Well, this is one I've been writing for a while, but on the RFFW (come join us!). In fact, the updates here will not be real-time. In other words, to make sure you get every update when they happen, follow this on that Wiki! I'm just posting this here to see what reaction it gets :D I'll post the updates on here after about five on there. :) Enjoy.
Oh, yeah. P.S. This was inspired by the book Twilight by Erin Hunter. It's a Warriors' book. You'll see the similarities soon :)
Thanks to dear Sale for all her help. The following characters are hers, given to me:
- Violet Deepwater
- Siri Blackstreak
From the Journal and Memories of Skipper Jercid Asdia Greenlough
Holt Swiftstream lays in the shadows of the palms. One huge oak, called the Mother Tree, holds our caves beneath her roots, like prey in an eagle's talons. The South Stream rolled past, tumbling and rushing over the Stepping Stones, suppling us with water and the occasional fish. All was peaceful...
Until the monstrous Holt Tidewater had to come! They landed one sunny afternoon in the Rebirthing Season. Their leader, Arrana, was injured when they came ashore; she told only me their sad tale.
Holt Tidewater had come from a place called Green Isle, which had been overrun by a wildcat named Riggu Felis. Some of the otters had been taken prisoner, the others had run away with her. She told me that she knew she was dying, but could I please shelter and take care of her Holt? "My new Skipper will be Iccorid," she told me. "He knows of this. Take care of him, dear Jercid, and do not attack him unless provoked. I do not want a war between our Holts. It would not be good for either."
The next day, dear Arrana was dead. Iccorid was a terrible leader; he intruded upon our space, stealing our food. Eventually, I confronted him. "Iccorid, my dear!" I told him. "If you need more space, more food, you have only to ask!" But he did not respond, and, the next day, the guard I had assigned to guard our food from Holt Tidewater was found dead.
I found this provocative, and said as much. We moved Holt Tidewater out, and declared war on them. I went to meet Iccorid under terms of peace, and look what he did to me! I am now on my deathbed, and, any doubts my Holt may have of avoiding a war with our guests are now dashed. They killed Frurnt, and soon-to-be me, and my Holt will never back down now.
Jercid Asdia Greenlough, Skipper and Leader of Holt Swiftstream
Written on the Fifteenth day of the Scorching Season
Chapter One: Adrian Greenlough and Iora Dirre
A sigh escaped the lips of Adrian Greenlough as she stood on the edge of a cliff, looking out over the sun setting below the wrecked harbor. Her Holt, Holt Swiftstream, had been here for as long as anybeast could remember, and they had been at war against Holt Tidewater for as long as SHE could remember. Ever since they killed her dad three years ago, Adrian had harbored a hatred unlike any other for the intruders.
She was a beautiful young ottermaid. Tall, lean, and muscular, but smart and sly as well. Adrian had her father's deep, green eyes and fur the color of a hawks' plumage. She had a light blue flower behind her ear, a cornflower, it was called, and she wore a long tunic the same color. Her cloak, blowing in the breeze off the water, was a silver color; the cloak had been her father's.
Adrian's face filled with compassion as she looked over the wreckage. Iccorid Dirre, the Skipper of Holt Tidewater, had burnt their ships last night after her mother, Iris Greenlough, the Skipper of Holt Swiftstream, had burned theirs. As the ottermaid surveyed the floating, charred pieces of wood that had once been the pride and joy of her Holt, a sob rose in her throat.
Adrian turned away, her eyes filling with tears. She covered her face with her paws, and took a few steps off the edge of the cliff. Something made her turn around, though, and look one more time over the wreck of the boats.
A small figure strode down the dock, towards the one remaining boat. It had something shiny in its paws, and Adrian's green eyes sparked as she watched it approach their canoe. They won't get this one, she pledged, and quickly scanned the cliff face for a place to descend it. There!
A few paces away, there was a steep incline, but it ended at the bottom. Adrian winced, following it with her eyes, but, finding no other ways, she carefully went down the incline. It was rocky, but not as slippery as she had thought. Her heart racing fast, Adrian's only thought was that she would not let them destroy her Holt's hard work.
Getting confident, Adrian picked up her pace, hustling down the steep incline. She tripped and fell, grazing her ankle on a hard rock. Dots of pain blurred her vision, but the ottermaid didn't stop. She jumped up and ran full-speed, ignoring the stupidity of running down a cliff when there was no way back up, and ignoring the jolts of pain that jabbed her every time her left paw hit the rocks.
At the bottom of the cliff, Adrian flung herself towards the dock, running towards the boat. Up close, the figure was a lot bigger, and the ottermaid could see that he was a brawny male from Holt Tidewater. He was lumbering towards the canoe, and, on the far side of the harbor, towards Holt Tidewater's camp, there were three figures watching. One was Iccorid; Adrian could tell by the hunched figure. Legend had it that her father, Jercid, had done that to him after Iccorid had hit him in the chest with an arrow.
"Stop!" Adrian snarled loudly, as she stumbled up to the male.
He was a few inches taller than her, which annoyed Adrian, and was much brawnier. He had blue eyes and lighter fur than her; he wore khaki pants and brown boots, as well as a short white shirt with an open-chest vest over it. It covered him a bit, but still revealed a few battle scars. He looks like Iccorid, Adrian thought darkly.
The otter raised his eyebrows at her. "Feisty, aren't you?" He guffawed loudly. "Who are you?"
Adrian met his eyes squarely. "Adrian Greenlough, scum. And you ain't goin' nowhere close to our canoe!"
"I see. I'm Iora Dirre, son of-"
"Iccorid the Cowardly. Yes, I know," Adrian spat. "Just leave me, and my Holt, alone, and never grace me with your presence again!"
Iora smiled. "Aren't you nice? Just like your daddy."
"It's your dad's fault he's gone!" Adrian screamed. "Just leave me alone."
The otter raised his chin a fraction of an inch. "Suit yourself." He turned and stomped off.
Adrian watched him go, anger filling her throat with a sour taste. When he was almost off the dock, he raised his arm in farewell. Annoyed, Adrian turned on her heel, turning her back on him. She stomped to the edge of the dock and looked down at the canoe. She stared at it for the longest while, then clambered in.
Those Tidewater fools won't get our canoe, she decided. Taking the oars out of the bottom, she paddled it around the side of the island to where Swift Stream emptied. Adrian grit her teeth. It was hard enough to go down the Stream, but to go against the tide... she winced.
Climbing out again, Adrian's paws brushed against some stones. She pushed the canoe in front of herself, grunting. It was heavier than she imagined, and the tide rougher. The ottermaid shuffled her paws so that she had a firm hold, and pushed the canoe so that it was half-on land, half-in the stream, but secure enough that it couldn't float away.
Adrian found another pawhold, and maneuvered the canoe back into the stream. Pushing it as far as she could, she moved it back over to the side.
Moving at a painfully slowly pace, Adrian finally managed to get the canoe to a place where she could moor it in her Holt. "Mom!" Adrian called, and her mother, Iris Greenlough, Skipper of Holt Swiftstream, came over.
She looked just like Adrian, with brown eyes instead of green. Her blue cloak twirled around her, and her long silver tunic matched the brown leather dagger belt and the leather arrow-quiver over her shoulder. "Adrian, dear. Whatever are you doing?" Iris's voice was soft, like the mint leaves that Jordan Vicfur, the Holt Healer, grew.
"I found Iccorid's son poking around the canoe," Adrian muttered. "He had something to destroy it with, so I figured I'd better bring it back. You prob'ly want to tie 'er up." She yawned a huge yawn.
Iris's eyes, which had hardened at the mention of Iora, softened again. "Of course. I'll get Risra to help me. Go get some sleep, darling. You need it."
Adrian suddenly felt drained. "Alright. 'Night, mom."
"Good night, dear."
The ottermaid stumbled to her bedroom-hole in the roots under the Mother Tree and, as soon as she hit the bed, Adrian was asleep.
Adrian was slipping through the woods. The ottermaid looked around at the moonlit trees, wondering where she was. She hadn't been here before, yet it looked very familiar. Then she realized. I'm in the trees where Holt Tidewater is now, she thought. But what...?
A figure stood ahead, and Adrian strained her eyes, wondering what it was. Iora. There wasn't a question in her mind. Adrian briefly wondered if she'd lost her mind, but pressed on. "Iora!" she called softly.
"Adrian." His voice was a breath in her mind. He smells good, Adrian thought as the scent of oranges writhed around her. Iora put his arms around her and held her for a split second. "I'm so glad you came," he whispered in her ear.
"I wouldn't miss it for the world." Adrian's reply startled herself. She searched for the anger that had fueled her courage that day, and found it replaced by a compassion close to love.
"I'm glad you feel that way," Iora let her go. "I feel the same..."
The world spun away from the moonlit scene as Adrian awoke, being shook. Risra Ironback stood there, looking down at Adrian. "Ad... who's Iora?"
The ottermaid jerked herself into a sitting-up position, all sleepiness gone. "Why would you ask that?"
"You were calling out the name in your sleep. Oh, well. Since yore up, yew can help me with the chores." Risra shrugged, and Adrian felt a quick rush of affection for the brotherly otter.
As Adrian moved around the Holt, she couldn't help but remember her dream. Why did I feel that way towards that idiot? His father killed my pa, and I find myself having lovedreams about him... She sighed. "He's an idiot," she snapped.
Risra looked at her, surprise in her eyes. "My father?"
"Oh, no. I'm sorry, Ris. I was a million miles away." Adrian blushed.
The otter nodded. "I know. Adrian... if there's every anything I can do, ever anything you need to tell me... I hope you feel you can trust me."
Adrian nodded, feeling hollow. "Thanks, Ris. I... I'll remember that."
Chapter Two: Siri Blackstreak
The sound of hooves galloping on the rocky path behind her made Siri Blackstreak smile. The wildcat was lean and cunning, and she didn't fear the bounty hunters on her trail. Siri had blue-grey fur and green eyes, as well as thick muscles and a sleek body. Her long claws gripped the reins of her horse, and her tail streamed out behind her. Siri wore a black, clingy tunic with a ratty black cloak, which concealed many daggers, of which Siri had unmatched skill.
The wildcat smiled again as she reviewed her plan. She was approaching a cliff as tall as the Abbey of Redwall; a fall down it would be certain death. Her horse, Lerfa, would take her to the edge, where she would jump off at the last second, landing on her paws, and run off into the night, where she would rejoin her brother, Jorver, and proceed with their troops to Salamandastron. It was fail-proof! Unfortunately, Lerfa would go over the edge, but Siri had another horse, Volri, tethered in the nearby woods.
Siri heard the hooves get louder and louder, and she spurred Lerfa into a faster pace. "Go!" she snarled, kicking him in the side.
His response was a loud whinny.
The wildcat heard one of the bounty hunters call to one another, "The cliff's ahead! We'll see if she goes over!"
In your dreams, Siri thought scornfully. Now she could see the tell-tale signs of a deadfall. Stones abundant and trees blown sideways. The wildcat's practiced eye surveyed them, waiting, waiting, waiting... for the right moment.
Lerfa knew, now, that something was wrong. "Lady," he whinnied. "There's a deadfall ahead. We gonna go over!"
"Just keep going!" Siri snarled coldly. "Always keep going."
His head bobbed, although he looked worried.
Closer and closer to the edge they galloped, when suddenly, so abruptly that she knew at once something was wrong, Siri threw herself off Lerfa and to the right. The horse scrambled for a pawhold, but, with a loud scream-like sound, he vanished over the edge.
When the wildcat landed, her right leg was wrenched to the side. Siri's weight collapsed on it, and the wildcat let out a silent scream. She tried to get up, but the leg couldn't hold her. Succumbing to the pain, she blacked out, in the shadows of the dead trees, coming to very quickly.
The bounty hunters hadn't seen Siri jump. They stood there, staring stupidly over the edge of the cliff. "She gone," one of them said in disbelief. They were all dressed in black with long swords, attached to their backs with handles protruding over their shoulders.
"She is." The shock was evident in the second hunter's voice.
"Well, we go back to boss now," the third said hoarsely.
"I suppose." The three bounty hunters turned their horses away, heads bent as they talked together, trotting quietly away.
"Adriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiaaaaaan!" Iris's voice carried across the series of caves that belonged to Holt Swiftstream. Adrian, curled up in her bedroom, thinking, slowly stood up.
"I'm coming, Mother." But, instead of leaving her room, Adrian stood and walked over to a small hole in the wall. Her dream kept haunting her memories, taunting her, and the ottermaid had had enough. Out of the hole, she took out a rock and a piece of birchbark. Before her death, Adrian's grandmother, Mildred, had taught her how to read and write on birchbark. Adrian had paid puzzled attention, but now, she would put that skill to use.
The ottermaid held the sharp rock tightly in her left paw, and, slowly and carefully, she carved the message in the birchbark:
Iora Dirre, Holt Tidewater-
Meet me at the harbor on the second night of the full moon. Midnight. I have a question for you that can't wait. And only for you.
Adrian Greenlough, Holt Seaspray
With emphasis on the different Holt names, Adrian thought fiercely, as she signed her name with a quick flourish. She tucked it into the pocket of her tunic, and left her room.
The main tunnel going back up to the Abovelands was decorated with seashells and dried flowers that the Seaspray otters had put up. It was dark and homey, yet Adrian, like all other members of the Holt, knew it from the bottom up.
Blinking as she emerged from the tunnel, Adrian's sea-green eyes lit immediately upon her mother, tall and commanding, who was talking to Risra. The ottermaid bounded up to Iris. "Hi, Mom!" she exclaimed cheerily.
Risra flashed Adrian a grin, and Iris smiled. "Hey, Ad. What's up?"
"Not much," Adrian grimaced, but it was replaced by a smile. She was determined to get into Holt Tidewater, if it took all her willpower. "You called for me?"
"Oh, yes. I-I need a report from Violet." Iris's voice lowered considerably.
Violet Deepwater was a friend of Adrian's who lived in Holt Tidewater. After Iccorid had killed Jercid, Adrian and Risra had agreed that they needed a method of watching their enemies. Violet had volunteered to live, around the clock, at Holt Tidewater, agreeing to meet her once a month, on the day before the first night of the full moon.
Today. Adrian had totally forgotten about meeting her friends, so caught up in her assessment of Iora. "I'm sorry!" Adrian exclaimed. "I'll go to meet her now!"
Iris nodded. "You do that. I'll see you soon. Ask her if they celebrated after destroying our fleet; it matters more to me than you think."
Adrian nodded in reply. "Okay, Mom! Bye, Ris!"
Risra's fond smile followed her as she raced out. "Bye, Ad."
Chapter Three: Violet Deepwater
"Ad'ian! I'ere!" The strangely-accented voice hissed out of the shadow of the trees, making the ottermaid spin on her heels.
The woods filled Adrian with a strange sense of anticipation; she was in the almost-exact spot as her dream had led her. Adrian looked around for the gleam of violet eyes that had given her friend her name, and spotted them. Checking to be sure she was alone, Adrian slipped into the shadows and gave her friend a once-over.
Violet Deepwater was a tan-colored otter with violet eyes and cream-colored chest fur. She was wearing a lavender tunic with a silver cloak, much like Adrian's, but she had a dagger on her hip and a smile on her lip.
Adrian smiled. "Why the dagger, ol' friend?"
"I'orid's oder." Violet shrugged. "'E is di'tator."
Adrian winced. "While we're discussing your leader-"
"'E's n'mine le'der, Ad'ian," Violet hissed.
The Seaspray ottermaid looked pained. "Sorry. While we're discussing Iccorid, I need you to give this to Iora." Adrian took out the birchbark, confident that Violet couldn't read. But any self-respecting Skipper would teach his son to read and write, thought Adrian, a bit scornfully, a bit reassuringly. So Iora can, of course.
Violet's eyes sparkled. "I'ra?"
"Yes, you know, Iccorid's son? I-it's important." Adrian couldn't meet her friend's eyes.
The spy's eyes widened as she took the birchbark and tucked it into her cloak, but said nothing.
"D-did Tidewater celebrate after burning our fleet?" Adrian suddenly remembered Iris's question.
Violet looked surprised. "Ye', b'I'o'ri' not let us go too loud. E'se yew 'ere. Why?"
"Mother wanted to know..." Adrian trailed off as she heard a noise like someone tramping through the woods.
Violet's eyes sparked. Adrian didn't need words to know that Holt Tidewater otters were coming. She backed away. "I'll meet you next moon!" she called softly.
Violet nodded. "Bye."
As Adrian slipped away, she heard Violet calling, "Ye', I'ra, fro' Ad'i'an..."
Oh, please let him be the only one there! thought Adrian desperately.
As she rushed, panting, back into the camp, Iris looked up. She was still talking to Risra, but he looked stressed, and she looked like she was at the end of her patience. "Ah, Adrian. Did our friend have anything to say?"
"N-no. Iora Dirre, Iccorid's son, came along, and we decided to meet again next moon." Adrian sat down for a moment to catch her breath and looked up at the two otters.
Iris's gaze hardened. "You're alright, I assume?"
"Yes. Violet says that they did celebrate, but Iccorid kept the noise down."
Iris nodded. "Thank you, Adrian. Go have some fun now."
"Yes, ma'am." But Adrian didn't move.
The Skipper's eyebrows raised in amusement. "Go on."
Adrian stared at Risra, who shifted under her gaze.
Iris smiled, finally understanding. "Go on, Risra. You and I have talked enough today."
"Yes, ma'am." Risra's voice was full of relief. "D-do I have your permission, though?"
Iris's eyes darkened again. "Yes. But ask Mehird first."
"Grandfather?" Adrian was confused at the mention of Mehird Greenlough, her grandfather.
"Yes, dear. Don't worry, though." Iris kissed the top of her daughter's head and waved the two on. "It's a matter between Risra and I."
Mehird Greenlough stared at the young otter. Mehird himself had seen better days; his fur, although it was glossy, was scarred, and he had a few bald spots. Scars ran down the sides of his face, and his blue eyes were paler than the sky on a hazy summer day. His right footpaw was twisted in many, painfully different directions, and Mehird carried a walking stick, which he leaned heavily on. He wore a faded, tattered navy cloak with an old fighter's uniform on underneath. Since Jercid's death, he had taken to carrying weapons; Mehird had a long, wickedly sharp claymore strapped to his back, with the hilt above his shoulder, making it easy to grab in case of an attack. "Yer jokin'." The old, corsair-sounding accented words came out in a croak as Mehird gazed as Risra.
The otter shifted uncomfortably. "N-no, sir. I'm serious. I want to marry Adrian. Miss Iris told me to come ask you."
"O' course she would." Mehird stifled a yawn and stretched his paw up to feel the claymore's hilt. "Ye know, tradition demands that ye ask 'er father. I ain't Adrian's father." Mehird lifted his paw to stop Risra's comment. "An' I also know- Jercid's dead. That dad-blamed fool of an otter killt 'im. But that don't change nothin'."
Risra looked perplexed. "I-I said something of the sort to her, sir. But she was adamant that I ask you. Said that you'd 'elped raise Adrian since birth, and you were like a father to her. So... I should... ask... you...?" Risra trailed off as Mehird's eyes temporarily glazed over, then returned to normal. "A-are you alright?"
The otter began to wheeze. Risra hurried over and looked at him, from the smile on his face to the matted fur. "Sir! Do you need help?" Then he realized that Mehird was laughing.
"Ho, my wird! Ye see, yew've been more o'a family member to Adrian than I 'ave!" Mehird's smile was wide on his face, making him look like the jolly fighter-otter he had once been. "O'course ye can! I 'ave no problems wi'ye marryin' my granddaughter!"
Risra's smile lit up his face, as well. "Thank you, sir!" he cried.
"One t'ing." Mehird's smile faded a bit. "I don' wan' ye t'ask 'er 'til after the full moon. 'Er father's death's anniversarary is the second night o'de moon, an' I don' wan' it tamperin' wi'er decision."
Risra nodded. "I shall. Thank you again greatly, sir. I- thank you!"
Violet Deepwater's heart was pounding. She was certain her eyes were wide with lavender fright, as her muscles tightened. Just nerves, she told herself as she clutched Adrian's birchbark message tightly in her paw. Iccorid can't hurt me. The thought gave her no comfort.
Her paw shook as she approached the guard. He had no name, not one that Violet knew, but he frightened her all the same. He wore all black with his dark cloak breezing out behind him. The large axe he held made him look like an executioner, bring on doomsday, and his appearance did nothing to ease Violet's nerves. "S-s'r..." Violet's voice trembled as she quietly asked for his name.
"Viktir. Viktir Warback." His voice reminded the ottermaiden of daggers being scraped down the sides of a cliff, and hurt her ears, but not enough to keep her from wondering why his name was so strange. It sounded more like the name of a warlord than the name of a guard. I won't argue, though... Violet thought fearfully. She hated that she was so shy, but she was terrified of causing attention to herself. If other beasts noticed her, they would ask questions- and they might find out that she was, in fact, a spy for Holt Seaspray.
Violet nodded quickly. "S'r Vi'tor. I' I'ra 're?"
Viktir's black eyes held contempt for the strangely-accented otter. "Yes. He is. He is down by the lake. May I take a message?"
"N-no, s'r. I-I find 'm." Violet hurried off, fear lending wings to her paws.
She didn't see Iccorid Dirre come out from behind a tree and talk to Viktir. She didn't see them pointing at her, and she didn't see Viktir take out his axe and mime chopping off her head with it.
Violet Deepwater had been found out.
Chapter Four: Jorver Blackstreak
Jorver Blackstreak crouched, watching Siri leap aside. Even the bounty hunters were sure to have seen that, Siri. Honestly. The contempt for his sister was nothing new; although he was the leader of the vermin group- he refused to call them a 'Horde'- he had to keep Siri with him. "The least she could do would be to make it easy on me," he snarled quietly, but Jorver knew that that was the only reason he hadn't killed her long ago; she was too unpredictable, and he liked that. I just wish she wouldn't insist on equal partnership! I built the group, I should rule them.
But Siri was stronger, and Jorver knew that a fight with her would likely end in his death or maiming.
Had he been in the sunlight, versus the bushes, he would have looked like any wildcat. Jorver was tall and lanky, a little awkward, and terrified of water... just like his great- great- great- Jorver didn't know how many more greats-grandmother, Tsarmina Greeneyes. He even looked a little typical; sandy-ginger fur, pale blue eyes, and dark stripes down his back. He wore a black cloak with a bear tooth (from a bear he had killed) as a clasp. Jorver also had a hooded tunic underneath, complete with crossed longswords, attached onto his back, with the handles high enough that he could unsheathe them with one quick movement. A few daggers were concealed in the tunic, but Jorver wore no belt.
As the poor, stupid bounty hunters galloped away, Siri dragged herself out of the bushes and towards Jorver. He sneered when he saw her bloody leg; it was twisted the wrong way, a couple of times, but she had the same defiant face she always wore. Jorver stuck out a paw. "Sis."
Siri ignored his paw and nodded. "Jorver." The way she said it, with her teeth gritted against the pain, it sounded like, "Juhveh."
The wildcat asked slyly, "In pain, sister?"
She snapped, "Where's Volri?"
"Quiet, sister. The hunters may hear us."
Siri's eyes blazed. "They will not! They think I went over the fall with Lerfa!"
She's so easy to annoy...
"While we're on the subject of Lerfa, do you think I have the resources for you to simply send horses over the edges of cliffs?" Jorver pasted on a pitying look. "I don't, if you do think that." He jerked his head towards the forest behind them. "Vol's in there."
Siri gave him no reply, simply turning around and limping heavily into the woods. "Come on, brother. The Horde is waiting." She smiled mockingly, knowing he hated for it to be called a Horde, and hopped off into the trees towards her horse.
"That arrogant little-!" Jorver muttered to himself. "Mother, why did you give me the blessing of her?" On her deathbed, Jorver's mother, Arga, had asked him to take care of his sister. That was the only reason why he didn't kill Siri and be done with her.
Suddenly, he heard the loud sound of a horse screaming. He recognized the whinny of Tarsent, his own horse. If she touched him, she's... Jorver turned and ran into the forest in time to see Siri jump onto Volri, a tall black horse with flaring red eyes, and see a flash of ginger running deeper into the forest. Tarsent!
"Siri!" Jorver's voice held a cold challenge. "Where is my horse?"
The wildcat looked down at her brother with cold scorn in her eyes. "He decided to leave."
"You let him go?"
"I set him free."
Jorver's blue eyes sparked, and he grasped one of the sword hilts protruding above his shoulder, unsheathing it. "Bring him back, Siri."
"She can't. Once a horse is gone, he's gone," Volri offered. His voice was low and deep, yet it was filled with compassion for his cold mistress and the contempt for her brother that she had passed on to him.
"Shut up, horse." The language wasn't enough for him. He swung the longsword and chopped off part of Volri's tail.
The horse quivered with rage, but Siri reined him in. She whispered, "You will have your revenge."
Jorver snarled, "Get. Tarsent. Back." But in response, Siri whipped out two daggers. The first she threw at his head, but it missed, and the hilt bounced off the tree-trunk behind him. It landed in his left leg, and Jorver turned to stare at it, missing the second dagger, landing in his right leg. The wildcat fell to the ground.
"Go." Siri's voice, filled with an unleashed, maniacal laughter, ordered the horse.
Volri was only too happy to comply. He reared up on his back legs and, with one, crushing kick, Jorver's skull collapsed under his hoofs. The wildcat was dead instantly.
Siri smiled acidly. "Good work, Volri."
"Dead vermin," he huffed.
"Let's go find our Horde," she told him, and he moved off towards the far-off sounds of a Horde of vermin celebrating, not knowing who, or what, was coming for them.
Iora Dirre stood on the dock, gazing at the ruins of Holt Swiftstream's boats. He looked at them almost sadly, remembering the scornful look of Adrian Greenlough. She was interesting. He wasn't sure how he felt about her yet; Iora just wanted to meet her again, without the hostility.
"I'ra!" Iora heard his name come from Violet Deepwater.
He rolled his eyes without turning around. He knew, from listening to Viktir and Iccorid, that she was a Holt Swiftstream spy, and that she was a good friend of Adrian, Iris, and Risra. "I'm here, Vi."
The ottermaid joined him at the dock, feeling sorry for the Holt Swiftstream otter, Lillian Clearcloud, that had died in the burning. Lillian, an orphan adopted by Risra's family, had been on guard. She'd tried to sound the alarm, but it was incomplete, and, by the time Risra received it, Lillian's body was floating at the bottom of the lakeside harbor. "F'r yew. Fr'm A'i'an." Violet pulled out the birchbark scroll and handed it to him.
"Adrian? From Holt Swiftstream?" Iora took the scroll and looked back at Violet, raising his eyebrows.
Violet nodded and scampered away quickly.
Iora watched her run with something between pity and contempt in his blue eyes. He turned his attention back to the scroll, thankful for Iccorid's insist on teaching him to read. Iora Dirre was carved on the front in beautiful handwriting.
Iora cracked the tree-sap seal and scanned Adrian's message. The day after tomorrow, here, at midnight. He could certainly do it, especially since it seemed that she felt the way he did. Now, now, Iora, don't get ahead of yourself. Adrian's fiesty.... but you could win her over in the end.
Moonlight shone brilliantly from the full moon. It was near midnight, and Adrian's eyes gleamed with the uncertainty of her mission. It was the second night of the full moon; Adrian thought of her dad, Jercid Greenlough, who had died many seasons ago, right after Iccorid Dirre had come. What would Father think of me? Sneaking out to meet the son of his killer?
A voice inside her whispered, But it isn't really sneaking. You're just... asking some questions.
As Adrian approached the clifftop, a slight breeze ruffled her cloak and fur. The ottermaid could see another lean shape sitting at the end of the dock, watching the moonlight reflect in ripples. Adrian crept down the cliffside precariously, and stepped out onto the dock. The first board squeaked, but the shape didn't turn around.
Adrian went up to the figure and sat down next to him, not touching but close enough that she wasn't going to fall into the water. Iora finally turned towards her, stood up slowly, and smiled coyly. "Hi, Greenlough. How was your day?"
"All the better for Iccorid having killed my father." Adrian snarled, then remembered he was here at her invitation, and added a quick greeting. "Oh, yeah. Hi, Iora."
"Hi. Your name Adrian? I think it is." He grinned, letting her know that he was only kidding, and, although she snarled, she didn't punch him (like she greatly wanted to). Why did I invite him? My dreams were only dreams, nothing more.
"Don't doubt your destiny, Braveheart." Iora touched her lightly on the shoulder and sat down again.
"Braveheart?" Adrian sat down next to him, but as far away as she could get from him.
Iora looked off into the moon, which reflected off the lake. A slight breeze ruffled his fur. When he didn't say anything for a moment, Adrian looked at him. His eyes had a faraway look in them. "Braveheart was something a dear friend of mine used to call me. She was a great friend, but died defending something she believed in. I ended up being a coward in that; she was the Braveheart. You remind me so much of her..." He sighed quietly.
A horrible thought dawned in Adrian's mind. She hoped beyond hope that it wasn't true. "W-what was her name?"
He looked at her sharply. "Aria Erastra. She was your aunt, Jercid's sister. Jercid... he found out that I was meeting her, and threatened to kill me if I didn't stop. Iccorid found out, and although he was mad at me, he was more angry with Jercid. When he came to offer us supplies, Iccorid lost control of himself and gravely injured your father." Iora looked away. "It was my fault, Adrian. Aria didn't blame me either. But someone had to bring him home. I thought I should've brought him back to you, but Aria said that she should go too. When she showed up with Jercid and me, Iris and Mehird were furious. Mehird, on Iris's orders, took Aria and me into the woods, and killed Aria for being a traitor. Before she died, he told her that she could have had anyone in Holt Swiftstream, but no, she had to come after me." He sighed. "Mehird told her that it was her fault Jercid was going to die, and so she would have to pay. He meant to kill me too, I think, if Aria hadn't persuaded him to save her. 'Father,' she said. 'My actions were rash. But otters did die. I do not beg for my life. I ask you to please save Iora's. He was young and caught up in me. Twas all my fault anyway.' It wasn't, of course. I was a great deal younger than her, I'm only about your age, but..."
"But she saved you too." Adrian finished for him. She was, in turn, quiet for a moment, before whispering, "Iris never told me much about Aunt Aria. She just said she had betrayed my father and both had died for it. I always thought of Aria as a bad otter. But I suppose she isn't, now that I know what really happened."
"You believe me, then?" Iora asked, surprised.
"Should I not?" Adrian looked at him with a slight spark in her eye.
He met her gaze, and Adrian found herself locked in his beautiful eyes. "Of course you..." He trailed off.
"Yes?" Adrian asked.
He sighed, and tore himself away from her gaze. "You should. I think you're beautiful."
She was shocked. Did she feel that way about him? Adrian made no reply.
"I don't think I love you, like I loved Aria, but I think you're beautiful."
Adrian looked back out at the moon. "Thank you. I... I wish I could've met her. Aunt Aria, that is."
Iora turned his now-piercing stare at her. "Or would you have condemned her, like your father did?"
"Wait a second. Iris and Mehird always told me that Holt Tidewater landed here, and used our resources. Jercid went to talk to Iccorid, and he injured Jercid. How could you and Aria have gone through that-all, if Jercid died after you first got here?"
"He didn't die IMMEDIATELY after. When we landed, it was Aria who was the guard on duty." Iora sighed and looked back at the moon. "She was even prettier than the sunrise."
Adrian said nothing.
"You have got some of her beauty, Braveheart. Both inside and out. But it's the inside that matters more. And that's the only area, I think, that you have over Aria." The otter stood up and stretched. "I gotta go, Adrian. Father set up a Dawn Patrol to parade around our side of the island and make sure there's no- I mean, nothing's wrong. I'm on tomorrow's Patrol. Can't be yawnin' on it. Viktir Warback leads it, and he tolerates no slackers. I'll meet you here tomorrow night. Same time, same place."
"Okay. See you." Adrian didn't move, but, out of the corner of her eye, she saw Iora stretch, and walk back towards his Holt. He disappeared into the woods.
A lone ottermaid could be spotted, sitting on the edge of the dock, long into the hours of the night, thinking about everything she had just learned and wondering about Iora. The one think she didn't think of, was their different Holts.
Chapter Five: Captain Ered
"SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIILENCE!" The screech echoed through the woods and everything present suddenly ceased to make noise. Siri Blackstreak dismounted Volri and left him standing at the edge of the clearing on top of a few rocks. The wildcat's green eyes slithered over the vermin camp, missing nothing. The beasts were standing frozen. Siri stalked regally up to a rat Captain in rags, with a spear leaned casually next to him. He was frozen, shocked, with a bone halfway to his mouth.
"Captain Ered." Siri's voice was filled with disgust. "Am I right?"
"Ye are, madam." But the rat still didn't move.
"Who appointed you? Jorver or me?"
"Y-ye did, madam." The rat suddenly managed to move again as Siri looked away.
The wildcat's voice rose, and the several-scores of beasts there heard her perfectly clear. "Jorver Blackstreak is dead! Anybeast who was appointed a ranked-beast by him now has their rank forfeit! I will appoint new officers to take over for them. Anyone who opposes me will have their lives forfeit, and their carcasses made an example of! I promise you, I am not as forgiving as Jorver!"
Every beast in the clearing shuddered. Jorver Blackstreak had not been forgiving or tolerant in the slightest. But no one doubted Siri's words.
Volri, her black horse, reared on his hind legs. "Jorver oppose Siri! Jorver fool! Jorver have crushed skull. Happen to you, oppose Siri! Queen forever!" He trumpeted, and when he fell back onto all-fours, it made a smashing sound against the hard stone he was standing on. Everyone shuddered again. Volri was fearsome as well.
"Thank you, dear Volri. Please also note that desertion will not be tolerated. I know what you are thinking," the wildcat added, turning her blazingly cold gaze on Ered, the rat Captain. "You cannot hide anything from Siri Blackstreak."
The rat looked terrified. He froze in horror, then turned and ran blindly into the crowd, pushing for the back. Siri let out a hard laugh that sent chills down everybeast's spine. She reached a paw into her cloak and when it withdrew, there was a dagger clinched in her paw. The blade had sliced her fur open, and blood ran down her paw, making her look like a fearsome demon-queen. Without warning the dagger flashed through the air. It went through the hole between the paws of two ferrets, over a fox's head, clipping only three hairs off her head, and struck Ered in the back. He staggered, but another dagger hit him in the head, hilt-first. He fell with a writhing scream.
Siri smiled again and slowly walked over to him. Ered lay twitching in a pool of his own blood. "Tsk, Captain. I told you I'd make an example." She thrust another dagger into his side, and he let out another piercing scream. She took the dagger out of his head, and chopped off his paw. He let out a shriek. "Madam, lettit stop, lettit stop!" None of the wounds were fatal so far, but blood loss would kill him eventually.
"Okay. But you'll wish you'd let me continue." The wildcat walked off, and, as usual, she was right. As soon as no new wounds were being inflicted, the others hurt so much worse.
At the front of the Horde again, Siri finished addressing her vermin, as though nothing had happened. "We will set off for the mountain of Salamandastron tomorrow. There is an old friend I must visit with."
They cheered briefly, but no one ever forgot what had happened to poor, Captain Ered, who lay, twitching occasionally, in a lake of red.
Adrian woke up to find Iris standing over her, hands on her hips. Parren Shadownyt stood next to her, writing feverishly on a slat of birchbark. Adrian blinked groggily and gradually her mother came into focus. She felt a brief pang at the relieved look in her face, but she had to pretend that she didn't know she'd come back into the Holt at sunrise. "M-mom? What happened?"
Parren started, dropping the sharp stone she'd been using to write. Parren was the Holt healer; she was skilled, but very, very skittish. She recovered her stuff while Iris replied in a very tense tone, "Adrian. You stumbled in here at sunrise, and practically collapsed at Risra's paws! What were you doing?! We all thought you were internally injured or something, and Parren here has been working since then- it's nearly noontide now!- trying to figure out your problem!"
Adrian felt another guilty pang. She couldn't tell her mom where she'd been, though. "I- sorry, Mom. I couldn't sleep so I left for a moonlit walk around midnight." Time wasn't a problem, since no one had seen her leave. Only return. "I... I fell asleep on the docks about an hour and a half after I left, so I woke before sunrise and came back here. I was still kind of sleepy, and just kind of... crashed. Sorry, Mom, Parren.." Adrian finished weakly, trying to smile.
Iris narrowed her eyes and set her jaw, seeming to look right through her daughter. Adrian fought hard to keep from moving; that would confirm that she was guilty of something, and, somehow, managed to meet her mother's gaze. Finally, Iris nodded curtly. "Don't let it happen again," she warned. "If you can't sleep, then fine, walk, but don't go so far from the Holt. Holt Tidewater is dangerous; we can't tell when they're around."
Adrian nodded, feeling relief flood over her. She would just come back after her next meeting with Iora. "Yes, ma'am. Parren, I really am sorry," she added ruefully.
The Healer cracked a satisfied yet weary smile. "I'm just glad yer okay, sweetie."
Adrian inwardly cringed at the nickname but managed not to show it. She kept a smile plastered on her face until the Healer had left. As soon as she did, though, Adrian wished she'd come back. The ottermaid didn't want to be left alone with Iris.
But the Holtleader didn't say anything, just crossed to a wooden shelf with a bow and a quiver of arrows on it. "This was Jercid's," she murmured, stroking the oakwood bow. "Sweet Jercid, murdered so carelessly...."
Sensing danger was past, Adrian nodded absently. Before she could control herself, she blurted, "Why don't you ever tell me about Aunt Aria?" Then she winced, expecting her mother to whirl around, eyes blazing, a cold comeback on her tongue.
Instead, Iris whispered, "You know the story. She betrayed your father, causing his death, and she paid very dearly for that."
"But how did she betray him, mother? Iccorid knew we were here!"
Iris did turn to look at her now, but her brown eyes twinkled lightly. "Aria broke the boundaries between the two Holts in a horrible way. She and Iccorid's son, Iora, became friends. Very good friends. Together they decided to rule the forest, and they started with poisoning Iccorid against Jercid. When he visited the Holt with a peace offering, Iccorid reacted upon lies, and killed your father. Mehird killed Aria; it caused him much grief to kill his own daughter, but she begged him to let Iora go. The big softie!" Now she flared up, years of pent-up rage rearing its head. Iris hissed the next words. "Jercid on his deathbed and Mehird lets one of the murderers go, just because of some puppy love! So what if she was his daughter?! Dying wishes mean nothing if they come from traitors and murderers!" She snarled and seethed for a moment before saying very, very quietly, "That is why peace is impossible between us. Impossible, that is, until Iora lies dead. Then a right will be wronged, and we may be able to get along."
Iris swept out of the room, calling back over her shoulder, "Risra wants you. Get dressed and come on."
And she was gone.
Who should i believe?! Adrian's mind wailed.