Waves crashed upon the beach. A ship lay wrecked on the western shores, north of Salamandastron. Near the wreck, a bloody mass was on the ground. Fargon, Son of the great wildcat King Julian the tenth, was dead.
He had been slain by his younger brother.
Terraz the Wild!
All who heard the name felt fear, for the name was fear, and it's owner, a hundred times as fearsome. Legends came from across the sea about a wildcat who would let nothing stand in the way of his lust for blood. To prove this, he had slain his elder brother.
Or had he? For the Wildcat's carcass was stirring.
Fargon was alive!
Barely breathing, Fargon heaved himself upright. His fur was matted and soaked in blood. His left ear was missing. But Fargon had a mission to accomplish. He must slay his brother before it was too late!
That was when the figure appeared. Cloaked in black, it slid out from the wreckage of the ship. It hurried up to Fargon. "Take it easy," it whispered. "I believe you're on our side now"
Abbot Morterrum had never been an early riser. Most Redwallers had started their daily activities by the time he was up and about.
Breakfast was not a formal event at Redwall Abbey. It was usually a come and go occasion, starting at no specific time and ending shortly before lunch. So it was that the Abbot was not late, simply "not early".
Morterrum met Friar Dorran on his way downstairs. Dorran, a mouse like himself, was a friend to all in the abbey. Known for his kindness, generosity and good food, the Friar was always ready to help, and almost never turned down a request (one of the few times that this happened was refusing a hare his 15th helping).
"Mornin', Father Abbot." said Dorran
Stifling a yawn. the Abbot tried to smile. "Ho, hum, yes, good morning to you too. I hope there will still be some breakfast left when I get downstairs."
Smiling, the kind friar picked up a tray from atop the stone oven. "I saved some for you," he said. "Hot scones with cold mint tea. Here, I'll help you take it down."
Morterrum gave a huge contented sigh. "Dorran, I don't know what I would do without you." he said.
"Probably starve." replied the Friar. "Oh no, look out!"
The pair were almost knocked flat by the stampede of Dibbuns rushing up the stairs. The ones in front stopped abruptly at the sight of the Abbot, causing the ones in the rear to crash into them and fall over. They started to run off in the other direction. Wondering what was going on, the Abbot grabbed one and held him up to eye level. "You, can you tell me what is happening here?" he said
"Good evening Favver Abbot, us is-"
The Abbot stopped him in mid sentence. "Hold it, what do mean, evening? It can't be..
Morterrum paused as he understood the joke. "Oh, you're calling me lazy, you're saying I slept all day, are you? Right, well, for insulting your Abbot, I sentence you all to go play outside."
The babe wriggled and squirmed, trying to get away. "Thank you Favver, but I no can do that if'n yous don't pu'me down now."
Abbot Morterrum gently put the Dibbun down on the floor. "All right, go play."
The dibbun scurried off.
The two friends resumed their way downstairs. Dorran chuckled at the Abbot. "You should have made him tell you what he was doing."
Morterrum was puzzled. "Why's that, friend?"
The Friar replied willingly. "'Cause he was runnin' from bathtime, did you see the state of him?"
After breakfast, the Abbot went for a stroll of the grounds, leaving Friar Dorran to prepare lunch. It was a sunny day, so nearly everyone was doing outdoor activities. Being mid-spring, it was not hot out, but comfortably warm. Morterrum walked over to the north wall steps. When he got there he took of his sandals and rested his feet on the warm sandstone. He was soon joined by sister Rose, the infirmary keeper. Sister Rose strongly went against the stern reputation of past creatures in here job; she was one of the nicest people in the Abbey, and also still a somewhat young squirrel. Rose had always been a friend of Morterrum.
“Good morning, Father Abbot, wonderful day, isn’t it?” the squirrelmaid said.
“Indeed it is,” replied Morterrum. “What do you plan on doing today, Rose? I was thinking, as you just pointed out the fair weather, it would be a nice time to enjoy yourself.”
Rose gave a sorrowful frown. “Oh, Father, I wish I could. But I have to go out and gather herbs, you see, for the infirmary. I’d go another day, but this is the best time for most useful plants to grow.”
The Abbot was sympathetic. “Well, you’ll still be outside. I’ll tell Friar Dorran to pack a small lunch.”
The sister’s look grew even sorrier. “It’ll be more than just lunch. Do you know the old quarry, where Matthias the Warrior retrieved Martin the Warrior’s sword from Asmodeous?” When Morterrum nodded she continued. “Well, there is a special kind of herb that only grows in rocky places, like the quarry. I won’t bore you with details, but it cures a severe fever that often happens in mid-spring. It takes at least two days to get there.”
Abbot Morterrum was mildly surprised. “Two days? I never knew of this.”
“Well, you wouldn’t,” replied Rose. “I haven’t needed it . The infirmary keeper before me left a large supply. This is the first time I’ve had to go.”
The Abbot sighed. “I understand. But take Skipper with you. If not for your position I would not let someone as young as you go out into Mossflower, especially alone. The woodlands can be dangerous.”
Late morning saw Rose and Skipper leaving the Abbey. Cloaked and carrying haversacks, they waved up at Morterrum standing on the walls. They stepped onto the path, and turned right, into Mossflower wood.
Skipper was a big strong otter, skilled in the art of many weapons. Unlike most otters, who carried javelins, he carried a spear, strapped to his back. He had made it himself, in the burning forges of Salamandastron. He had been there on a visit, and instantly took a liking to the forge. It was a very curious weapon, and good for throwing and close combat. It had a wooden haft, with metal rings clasped around it to keep it from splitting. At the top was a crossbar, and after that was a deadly blade, about the length of a short sword. A curious weapon indeed, and one only used and mastered by the Skipper of Otters.
As soon as they got into the trees, Rose started looking about for the herbs she needed. She was going very fast, and almost looked frantic, searching through the undergrowth. Skipper had to walk somewhat fast to stay with her.
“Ahoy, mate!” he called. “Slow down, I can’t very well protect you if’n you don’t stick with me!” Rose immediately slowed down, allowing Skipper to catch up.
“Well, stamp me rudder, what do you mean by dashin’ about like a frantic ferret?” he said, slightly panting. “Not that you’re as ugly as one, but actin’ like a wild weasel don’t make sense to me.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry, I just want to hurry.” said Rose. “I don’t like being away from the Abbey one bit. So if I hurry here, we can start the long journey to the quarry sooner.”
Skipper nodded, and let her keep searching.
It was only a few minutes before Rose was panting extremely hard.
“Tell you what,” said Skipper. “Let’s stop for lunch. You’re obviously exhausted.”
The sister was stubborn. “No, no, I can keep going.”
Skipper put a paw on her shoulder. “Lissen to me, matey. I knew you was gonna get tired. I let you keep going fast so you would learn a lesson. Start out slow. Now si’down, and lets eat.”
Rose surrendered. “Oh, I suppose you’re right. You’re more experienced in this sort of thing.”
Skip nodded. “Right, then when we’re done munchin’, you can tell me what the herbs look like. Then we’ll both search.
Rose looked to the sky in exasperation. “Why didn’t I think of that!” she exclaimed.
Skipper gave a broad smile. “Because, like you said, I’m more experienced in this sort o’ thing. Nothin’s better than experience.” He suddenly lowered his voice. “Don’t look now marm, but we’re being watched.
Skipper stood, and stretched his arms, reaching behind his back. Rose realized what he was doing not a moment too soon. She ducked her head as he whipped out his spear and flung it into the bushes with amazing swiftness and accuracy. There was a light thump as whatever had been watching them was sent to Dark Forest gates.
Rose was shocked at how fast Skipper had decided to kill, and done it. She spoke in a horrified whisper. “Skipper,” she said. “That could have been anyone. You had no proof that it was a bad creature.”
Skipper was silent as he pulled out his spear, with a dead wildcat impaled on the blade. The cat was strangely dressed. He had a breastplate and helmet, both with an insignia, five claws stained with blood. He also had a cape with the same symbol. On the ground nearby was a curved sword with fur wrapped around the handle.
Rose shook her head in amazement. “Bu-but h-how did you know?”
“I saw him a while ago.” said Skipper. “He’s been watching us for ages. I didn’t want to tell you until I was ready to deal with him. I thought you might panic.”
"But still, you shouldn't have killed him. Couldn't you have just knocked him out or something?"
"No," said Skip. He indicated the fallen blade. "He was about to strike. Nothin' else I could've done."
“Let’s go back to the abbey.” said Rose. “I don’t like being out here knowing there are vermin roaming the woods.”
Skip agreed. “Right. We need to warn the Abbot. Here. Take this on the way back.” He handed her a small dagger.
Rose took it from him. It felt cold and uncomfortable in her paw. She did not like carrying a weapon. Killing was exactly opposite of her job, healing. But she knew it might cost her life not to have it.
It was not long before she did need the blade. Four wildcats, dressed and armed the same as the one Skipper had killed, leapt out of the bushes in front of them. Without threatening, halting them, or doing anything vermin usually did, they charged.
Rose screamed. Without thinking, she held the dagger up in front of her. She was extremely lucky that day. The wildcat coming at her stuck himself on the small, deadly weapon. Rose stood stock still, in shock.
Skipper was fighting with the other three. Battering left and right with his spear, he fought furiously to save his and the squirrelmaid’s life. It was only when he noticed a deep gash in his arm that he realized that these were experienced fighters, and he could not take them alone. “Help me, Rose!” he yelled. “Help!”
The thought of Skipper dying broke the trance. Rose sprang to assist him. She immediately stabbed the closest foebeast in the back. He dropped dead.
Skipper saw Rose start shaking violently, in shock again. He knew he could not protect her and fight at the same time. He then sheathed his spear, heaved Rose onto his shoulders, and started running towards the Abbey. The two remaining wildcats pursued him, hot on his heels in a chase that could only result in two ways: Skipper dying, or escaping.
One of the cats was getting too close for Skipper’s liking. He stopped suddenly, and gave a mighty backwards kick. He felt his opponent’s jaw crack, and the unconscious vermin fell into his companion. They both toppled over, giving Skipper a few seconds advantage, before the last wildcat still in action resumed the chase.
Lucky for Skip and Rose, the Redwallers had taken lunch on the walltops today. Friar Dorran was first to spot them coming out of the trees. He assessed the situation in seconds. Taking action, he picked up a medium sized barrel of October Ale and gave a loud shout.
The barrel smashed down on the wildcat’s head. He was knocked backwards, leaving Skipper and Rose to reach the Abbey safely.
The Abbot had been on the grounds when he heard the shout. He rushed up he stairs to see Skip with Rose on his shoulders running towards the Abbey. “Open the gates!” he shouted. “Open the gates for our friends!”
Helping paws heaved the main gate open, and Skipper rushed in. he sat Rose down and called to Morterrum. “Abbot, I need help. Rose is in shock.”
Fortunately, the infirmary keeper was not the only one skilled in healing. Almost every brother and sister in the Abbey knew the art, and Morterrum was no exception. “Get her into the gatehouse. There is a bed there. Prop her feet up and keep her covered. Friar, bring some hot mint tea, for when she wakes up.”
The two creatures did as they were bidden. Then Morterrum saw Dronn Sternspike, the Redwall cellerhog, walking out through the gates. “Dronn, where are you going?” he asked.
The stout hedgehog growled a reply. “I’m going to go get the vermin who dared attack peaceful creatures from our Abbey. We need him for questioning, and I don’t take the loss of one of my barrels lightly.”
Morterrum nodded. “Right. Haul him into the gatehouse. Rose and Skip have a right to see this, and we might get some privacy there. I’ll go check on them.” He walked into the small building, and was relieved to see Rose awake and sipping tea. He sat down by Skipper. “Skip, you must tell me what happened.”
Skipper obliged without saying anything else. “We were attacked. Four o’ the rascals.” He leaned in close to the Abbot. “Rose had to kill two of them. Exactly how I felt after my first battle. Nothin’s worse than killing ‘till you’re used to it.”
Dronn then entered the gatehouse, hauling the unconscious wildcat. He shoved him up on a chair. “Let’s wake him up now.”
They never had the chance. Several things happened at once. The gate house window shattered as a streak of red flashed across the room. The wildcat gave a strange gurgle. Rose screamed. A red arrow was quivering in the back of the wall. Skipper dashed outside. What he saw chilled him to the bone.
A wildcat was standing on the Abbey wall. It’s eyes were blood red.
A bloodwrath beast was inside the Abbey.
And no one within the walls was safe.
Fargon awoke slowly to a great pain all over his body. He was lying on a wet substance, some sort of cloth. His head was propped up to breath. By the smell and the soothing feeling in his back, he could tell it was not water, but some herbal mixture that he was lying on. The wildcat knew nothing of healing; for all he knew, he was being soaked in poison.
He tried to sit up, but he couldn’t. That was when he realized he was tied down. He craned his neck to get a look around. He was in the hull of a ship, apparently wrecked,with a gaping hole in the side. A small fire was lit in the center of the area.
That was when the voice spoke. “Sorry about the ropes, but I’m not sure I can trust you yet.” He tried to see the speaker, but the attempt was unneeded. A dark, cloaked figure stood over him. It held out a bowl and propped his head up. “Here, take some water.
Fargon sipped it gratefully. By the voice he could tell it was a middle-aged male, but not what type of creature. “Thank you,” he said. “Please tell me who you are.” Then he saw the medallion. It hung from the creature’s neck, a circle with a carved symbol. The symbol was five bloodstained claws, with an arrow going through them.
Fargon roared with rage. “You!” he screamed. “You’re from the resistance! You killed my father!” He strained to get at the creature, but the bonds held.
The figure remained calm as he answered. “We did not do that. Your brother poisoned him and then framed it on us.”
Fargon sank back in shock. “I--- I suspected---but---never knew.” The wildcat moaned. “Then Terraz is truly evil” he muttered.
“Yes,” replied the figure. “He is. My name is Ashim. You wonder why I have not killed you. So do I. I do not know why he is evil and you are not. You must tell me what happened so I may better understand this conflict. Why Terraz tried to kill you. Start from the beginning, and things may become clearer for both of us.”
“Why should I trust you?”
“I don’t know,” said Ashim. ”Maybe you shouldn’t. Should I trust you? Until we both understand each other better, trust is a risk we’ll have to take.
"Yes," said Fargon. "I agree. But at least untie me or I shall tell you nothing."
Ashim fiddled with the knots for a moment. Fargon was free from the bed, but his forepaws and arms were still tied.
“All the way,” said Fargon
Ashim suddenly whipped out a long, curved sword from behind his back. He held it at Fargon’s throat.
“You’re lucky I even let you live, let alone untie you. For now, we talk under my terms. I can do my job with or without you, but I prefer to know more about what I’m doing.”
“Fine,” said Fargon. “I’ll tell you my story. “But I want to be freed as soon as I’m done.”
Ashim nodded, and gestured for him to begin.
The night grew colder and the fire burned down as Fargon told his story.
"We first came to the island when my great-great-grandsire went sailing and discovered it. There were peaceful creatures there. They told us the island was called Sampetra. Evil had once reigned in its past, but that was many, many seasons ago. They trusted my grandsire, and soon, after he had helped them through hard winters and the threats of vermin pirates, he was made King. Our family had always ruled somewhere, so his position was somewhat self appointed. However, the creatures there liked him, and did not mind at all under his kind rule. Other wildcats sailed there to serve him."
"Years passed and his descendants were always good rulers. Our family had long ago changed our ways to peace, and not warfare and conquering like most of our species. We were peaceful. Until recently. Until Terraz was old enough to learn history. As he grew, we could tell he was going to be a warrior. As he grew, he learned of our family’s bloody, war-torn past. Terraz loved it all. He devoured the history of all our wars and conquests, and even our greatest defeat, in Mossflower wood. He admired our enemy, the woodlanders, for being clever enough to defeat us. Then he would go over strategy, figuring out how we could have won. He was a true soldier.”
“Then my father grew ill. No one had ever seen a disease like it. Our healers had no idea what to do. I stayed by my father’s side almost constantly. Terraz acted sympathetic. He told the islanders that I was in terrible grief over my father so he would be taking charge in my stead. His rule, however, was eventually cruel and unfair. He had work parties constantly. He enslaved some creatures, and had fierce punishments when they couldn’t get their work done. I cannot believe how ignorant I was to my people’s needs.”
“Terraz was also secretly building an army. It started with his friends and close allies. Then, more and more wildcats rallied to him as he gained power. Ships came by and some wildcats stayed and joined him. He also started having vermin corsairs stay and serve under his fierce rule.”
Fargon paused. “I think from here, my friend, you know the rest of the story.
Ashim nodded. “Yes, I believe I do. Fill in anything I miss.”
He took a deep breath. “When he started bringing vermin crews to the island, us peaceful creatures knew that he had gone too far. He had to be stopped, and it was up to us. The resistance formed. We had quite a few skirmishes, mainly us attacking them.”
“Then it all changed. Your father died. Terraz proclaimed that we were behind it, and said he was launching an all out attack to destroy us. We knew then that we had to hide. We could fight in skirmishes, but against an entire army? There wasn’t a chance we could win.
“After we went into hiding, Terraz said that he had wiped us out. He told everybeast that you were still not fit to rule. Then, he announced his plan. He was going to attack Mossflower wood. He said that it was a much better place for us to live. His family had reigned there before, and would once again. He wanted revenge on the Redwallers for driving them out of that country. He also said that he would take you with him, to take care of you in your grief-stricken state of mind.”
“And then that was it. He was gone. He just left, taking his army and leaving some of his captains to keep control over the islanders. I assume that he took you prisoner, seeing as he tried to kill you.”
Fargon nodded. “One night, his soldiers came to my room. They beat me and knocked me unconscious. When I awoke, I was on board his ship. When we landed, he brought me out in front of his troops and tried to kill me. As you can see, he failed.”
Fargon paused. “I should’ve known what he was doing. I would’ve, too, if I had studied history like he did. Terraz must have gotten the idea from when Tsarmina poisoned Verdauga Greeneyes the Great and took over. If I was smarter, I would have stopped Terraz when I had the chance.”
“I take you’re against Terraz then?” Ashim said.
Fargon growled fiercely. “How could I not be?”
Ashim lifted his hood off of his head. He was a squirrel. He drew his sword again and swung it at Fargon. Fargon was terrified at first, but the blade sliced harmlessly through the ropes binding his paws.
“That’s the answer I needed.”, Ashim said.
Chaos was everywhere inside the Abbey walls. Creatures were running in every direction, fleeing from the foebeast that threatened their lives. Skipper, being a quick thinker, started yelling into the crowds.
“Everybeast get back to the Abbey! Everybeast run!” He wanted them to have some direction of where to go, instead of panicking and going everywhere. He pulled out his spear and started running towards the wildcat, yelling.
“Vermin filth! How dare you attack our peaceful Abbey!?” Enraged at the prospect of the Abbey dwellers being harmed or possibly killed, Skipper’s warrior spirit was roused. He threw his spear at the wildcat, running almost as fast as the spear was flying.
That was when things got much worse.
The wildcat sidestepped Skipper’s weapon. With speed like lightning, its paw shot out and grabbed the spear in midflight. He hefted it, then flung it back at Skipper with deadly speed and accuracy. It took him through the shoulder, lifting him off his paws and sending him flying backwards several feet through the air.
The wildcat had cast aside the bow he had been using earlier. He drew his sword and ran halfway down the stairs, then jumped down the rest of the way. He charged at the fallen Skipper, sword raised high.
Then a dark whirl of fur flew at the wildcat.
Corin had taken lunch in the orchard. The young otter liked being alone, to talk to himself and think. He also liked to practice. Corin was another exception of the usual otter weapons. He wore a long saber at his waist. Whirling, twisting, and slashing, he moved through complicated patterns while muttering to himself.
“Why should I listen to him?” he muttered. “He thinks he’s the boss of me just because he’s Skipper. I’ll show him. As soon as I get a chance, I’ll show him, and then I’ll run this blade straight through his dirty little…” An extremely violent thrust from Corin sent his blade into a tree trunk. It knocked him off balance, and he staggered to the ground.
Had he been thinking reasonably, he would have known he wouldn’t kill Skipper, but he often felt like he would. Siblings tend to cause that feeling between each other. It seemed the two brothers could not go through a single day without thinking they would be better off without the other.
It was right about then that Corin heard the commotion from the front of the Abbey. At first he thought it was the Dibbuns playing. But then he heard the terrified screams and the paws pounding the earth to run. He realized this was no game. Someone was in danger.
He pulled his saber out of the tree and sprinted towards the main gate.
Corin saw the wildcat on the wall. He saw him throw a spear at a creature on the ground. Saw him leap off the stairs and start running. Corin had to run faster. The wildcat had drawn his sword. He raised it into the air, ready to strike.
Corin gave an almighty leap at the cat. He collided dead on and sent them both rolling several yards. The wildcat was struggling to rise with Corin on top of him. His saber had impaled his paw and stuck him to the ground. Corin wrenched it free and prepared to strike.
The wildcat twisted its body and kicked Corin, sending him flying over his head. The otter landed hard a couple feet away. The cat stood up, blood dripping from his paw. With only tooth and claw for weapons, it leaped on Corin. The worst move it had ever made, seeing as Corin was holding a sword. However, it still managed to pierce his arm with its claws, before it died, Corin’s saber through its chest.
Corin heaved the wildcat’s carcass off of him, pulling his sword free as he did. He wiped the blade on the grass, then ran over to the injured creature the wildcat had been about to kill.
“Are you all right?” He said. “Did it…” His voice trailed off as he saw who it was. “Oh. It’s you.”
Skipper sat up and tugged the spear free of his shoulder, wincing as he did. “Thank you,” he muttered.
Corin widened his eyes in mock surprise. “Did you actually just thank me for something?” He said. “I thought you’d have the usual excuse “I had it under control”.”
Skipper frowned. “Corin, that’s unfair. I never said-“
Corin cut him off. “I know what you said, but you’re thinking it anyway. Besides, when have you ever thanked me before?” And without another word, he stalked off towards the Abbey.
As he shut the gate, Skipper flung his spear at Corin’s retreating back. It sank into the Abbey door with tremendous force. He growled with exasperation. “One of these days…,” he muttered threateningly.
Rose and the Abbot came rushing out of the gatehouse.
“Are you all right?” asked Rose, kneeling to inspect his shoulder.
“I’d be a lot better if that idiot kept his mouth shut and left me alone!” he spat out furiously. “I thank him for savin’ me life, and he has to get all smart about it!”
Morterrum glanced at the spear embedded in the Abbey doors. “Well, you both do have rather short tempers,” he observed. “It’s no wonder he would get angry, with you two always fighting.”
“What’s there to be angry about?” Skipper asked.
“Well, I hate to say this,” the Abbot began. “But I’m not sure what his actions would have been if he had known you were the one being attacked.”
Skipper opened his mouth, pure fury in his face, but was cut off by a gasp of pain that issued from his open jaws.
“That’s a very nasty wound you’ve gotten yourself, Skip,” said Rose. “And Father Abbot, don’t be so glum. I’m sure Corin would’ve saved Skipper.”
“Come to think of it, I’m not so sure,” said Skipper. Rose looked shocked. “I know I’m his brother, but we hate each other, and, well, I’m not sure how far either of us would go. I’ll say this, though, it’d be nice to not have him around.”
“Skipper!” Rose cried. “Don’t say that!”
“I know I wouldn’t kill him, but some days, he makes me feel like I’d be much happier if I could just wring his little neck.”
Here, apparently Rose could take no more. With care to grab his injured arm, she heaved him upright, ignored his strangled yelp of pain and said “Well, I’m sorry we don’t have time to discuss murdering Corin, but you need to come to the infirmary with me so I can bandage that shoulder. You’ll need to have your arm in a sling for a while, and I don’t want you up and around, especially not killing your brother.”
Skipper stared at Rose in utter horror, and then gave the Abbot a look that clearly said “Help!”
Corin sat against the wall, his head in his paws. He had retreated to Cavern Hole, where he knew he could be alone. The wound on his shoulder was not bad enough for him to want it bandaged, but it still slowly dripped blood onto the red sandstone floor.
“What would I have done if I had known it was Skipper?” He hated himself for thinking it, but it was a question he did not know the answer to. Even though he figured not knowing was better than knowing he would let Skipper die, the thought still tortured his mind, leaving him guilty, angry, and confused.