The primroses were long over, and it certainly was summer. A beautiful mousemaid—only in her early twenties—raced to the one she loved. “Martin, wait for me!” she called as she caught up with him.
He turned around. The mouse, also in his early twenties, could clearly be recognized as a warrior, for this was Martin, son of Luke the Warrior. Martin stared into the beauty of the maid’s eyes, her beautiful hazel eyes. Martin loved those eyes, for they were the windows to the soul of his beloved friend Rose. “Yes?” he answered retrospectively.
“You truly are a hero, Martin. Just think of it—you were once a slave in the curse of Marshank, and here you stand, with a full army at your feet to destroy the accused place. But you have to promise me something, Martin.”
Martin clasped his paws around hers--how small and dainty were Rose's paws, how warm! Martin vowed to never forget this feeling of happiness. “Anything for you, my sweet Rose.”
“Stay strong for me Martin. Stay gold.”
“Of course, Rose. I will stay strong for you. I promise.”
That was five seasons ago. Rose had since died in the Battle of Marshank, leaving Martin alone and lost. Alone and lost Martin may have been, but he was strong. He was strong for her. He promised. And he would never love again. No one could ever replace Sweet Rose.
Sunlight streamed through the windows and into the simple room. It was dawn—but the room’s inhabitant was already awake. Tightly stretching the sheets over his bed, Martin stared into the sun, the same way he did every morning, each day of the year. Martin’s keen ears picked up a sound—the sound of knocking at Martin’s own Abbey of Redwall. The only one awake, Martin knew he would have to answer the sound.
If there was one thing Martin knew, it was that the caller could be vermin. Picking up his father’s sword, he ran his paw over the worn leather sheath. Martin was strong. And he was prepared.
As Martin walked across the Abbey courtyard, the knocking grew more frantic. Carefully, quietly, he unsheathed his sword. Slowly, he opened the gates. Instead of a fierce weasel or rabid rat, Martin’s eyes set sight on a mousemaid. He found himself wondering is the figure standing in front of him was a ghost, an apparition. From her pink dress with a green bodice, and her white bell sleeves, down to her leather sandals. There was a worried, familiar, look about here. Her face, her hazel eyes--those familiar eyes! Her cream-coloured fur, that look, that look that told you she knew she could take care of herself. No, it couldn’t possibly be… Rose? It was the spitting image of her—was it truly Rose?
The figure spoke. “Hello, my name’s Rosemary, but call me Rose.”
Not too far away from the peace and tranquility of Redwall Abbey, there was pain and terror about in Mossflower Woods. Death, destruction, and doom were being brought on by vermin. Homes were burned, food was stolen, and families were murdered. It was no coincidence—for it all the attacks had one core source—Borislavo the Victor!
The charcoal-black weasel believed it was his destiny to rule all the lands, and what better place to start than Mossflower Woods. He was skilled in the art of war, and he had yet to lose a battle. Borislavo had a horde, ten score strong, yet he needed a fortress, where he could rule the Woods in splendor. It was not long before he had found the perfect place—for what better place to rule the woods in a red stone castle! In his cold and icy voice, he called to his hated brother, his Captain, his loyal accomplice.
“Addanc, my brother, you are to gain entrance to the red stone place, where we will rule together as equals.” Borislavo’s obsidian black eyes glinted, and so hid the truth—the ruler of Mossflower would be he, and he alone!
“As you wish, my Master.” Addanc gleamed with unhidden pride—to be a ruler, and equal to his almighty kin! All of his years of loyalty would soon pay off—for the ruler of Mossflower would be he, and he alone! “I need bring no weapons, for the beasts that inhabit the place are naught but fools—their trusting ways will be the death of them!” Addanc disguised himself as a ferret, and left to the red stone fortress, knowing who would win this war.
Borislavo the Victor relaxed—for this would be an easy victory! He was the victor, the conqueror, and he had yet to lose a battle.
Martin was in a daze. No-one in the Abbey had never seen him like this before. None of them thought that the entry of the mousemaid Rose to the Abbey would have anything to do with it. Martin’s heart leapt every time he saw the maid, but he could never tell her of his feelings for her. So, Martin went out of his way to avoid Rosemary, for she was a constant reminder of Rose. Martin decided to only refer to this new Rose by her full title—Rosemary. He vowed would never love again, not ever. But buried in his heart, he knew it wasn’t because his Sweet Rose was irreplaceable, but because he was afraid. Martin the Warrior was afraid of losing someone, someone else that he loved. And so he would stay strong. For his darling Sweet Rose. Martin’s thoughts were interrupted by sounds—sounds of yelling and screaming, terrible sounds. Martin grabbed his sword, and ran towards the sounds, the sounds of pure terror!
Martin stood in awe at the scene that lay before him—but only for a split second. A ferret, and a large one at that, was cruelly beating on Rosemary. "Let me in to the red stone place!" cried the ferret in an ice cold voice.
Rosemary, was screaming and was doing her best to beat the ferret off. "I will never let you into Redwall!"
Unsheathing his sword, Martin ran towards the vermin.
Seeing that he could not possibly defeat an armed, enraged warrior, the ferret fled, screaming. “You’ll soon be sorry, mouse! We’ll come for you, when you least expect it!” Ignoring the shouts of the ferret—now gone—Martin attended to Rosemary.
“Rosemary, are you all right?”
“I’m fine, Martin, it’s only a scratch. That was very brave of you, to save me like that.” She smiled coyly at Martin. Rosemary’s hazel eyes sent a shudder through Martin’s bones. The look that those eyes sent to Martin was the same one that his sweet Rose had given to him all those seasons ago—it was the look that was only given in awe and admiration, and in love.
“It was nothing.” Martin spoke rather gruffly and abruptly.
“Well, then let me at least give you a token of my gratitude.” From the pocket of her dress, she produced a lacey handkerchief.
“No! That’s very nice of you, but I’m fine. Don’t trouble yourself.” Martin felt his eyes welling up with tears. No! He would stay strong.
“But I must show some form of thanks to my rescuer.”
“I said no, Rosemary!" Martin's usually cool temper flared. He turnedaway from the fairy-tale sight of Rosemary and her hanky. "Just leave me alone! I don’t need you! I don’t need anybody!”
Rose ran away, crying broken sobs. “Wait, Rose! Come back! I didn’t mean that!” I’m sorry Sweet Rose.
Martin was leaving. He had his reasons. Martin was leaving. But he would return. Martin packed lightly; it was his way, taking with him only the things he absolutely needed. The only things he needed were: light food provisions, a kit that could be used for healing wounds, and of course his trust sword. Tightly wrapping his few items in a burlap sack, Martin turned toward the door. He wasn’t looking where he was going—and bumped straight into Abbot Berdadine. “Father Abbot, I’m so sorry, I was just leaving, you see…”
The wise old squirrel looked at Martin with a knowing eye. “I know, Martin.”
“It has nothing to do with the Abbey.” Martin replied hastily. “That ferret that attacked Rosemary yesterday, it said there were more of them. It’s my job to go and find them, and get rid of the vermin. For all we know, they could be right outside our Abbey, or in Mossflower Woods, bringing destruction in their wake. That’s how I intend to find them—I’ll follow their tracks, for vermin like them leave a path of destruction, until every last one is disposed of.” Martin’s eyes glimmered with hate and vengeance for the vermin as they took on a blood red color.
“Ah, yes, Martin. I see. But I expect you’ll need a companion, no?”
“Gonff will join me; it’ll be just like old times.” Martin smiled, thinking of the good 'ol days when he and Gonff the Mousetheif would roam, freeing the Woods of evil, and of the chilly nights with a warm campfire, and Gonff playing a cheery tune on his flute. Those were the days! Martin's happy reminiscing was cut short by the Abbot's words, which cut Martin's very happiness like a knife.
“But Gonff has a family, and he needs to stay here, at Redwall. I think I know of someone who could be of assistance to you. Yes, I know just the one. She’s got courage, strength, and a great knowledge of weapons and battle, and herbs. I think she could be of a great use to you.”
“’She,’ Father? You don’t mean…”
“Rose will join you.”
“B-but, Berdadine! The field of battle is no place for a lady…”
Abbot Berdadine looked at Martin in a rather intimidating way, which was difficult for one so small as the Abbot. “Now, Martin. I know there is more to the reason that you are going on your, ‘quest.’ I know what happened yesterday.”
“Father, but what does she really know of war? To think of it, a decent lady in the midst of battle.”
“You would be surprised at the skills that young maid possesses. I know of her past, and I know why she is here today with us. Someday she will tell you her tale, but for the meantime, take her with you.”
Martin’s temper flared for the second time. “I refuse to take that-that…”
“There is no point in arguing, Martin. My mind is set. Rosemary will be your traveling companion.” With that, the ancient squirrel left the room, leaving Martin angered, but more importantly, scared.