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Oberik Thundersong soared high above the thick mist obscuring the roiling ocean below. The majestic albatross listened to the raucous cries of wheeling seabirds and the crashing waves along the rocky tide line. He knew he was nearing the land he patiently sought and soon, tall rocks stood firm above the swirling chaos of seamist. Patches of surging water could soon be seen where the impervious fog thinned out. As he flew onward toward the land, Oberik thought of his old friends who lived here. It had been a long time since he had last visited these shores,due to his natural longing to see new places, and visit foreign lands. Now, after many seasons, he was coming home. By now, the open sea was behind him and he was flying over a narrow rocky spur that jutted from the mainland when he saw the first signs of life, other than the various seabirds that made their nests along these rocky shores. Two searats bumbled about as they scavenged for what little food could be found on the small peninsula.
- "I found a shellfish over 'ere, Scropp!"
- "Give it ter me, den!" said Scropp.
- "Yew got plenny over dere!"
- Suddenly, the albatross flew over them. Both rats ducked immediately for cover.
- "Yarrah! It's after me!"
- "Shurrup, blabber bonce,can't yer see it's already gone?"
Oberik was puzzled. His friends, the mongeese would never have allowed their fieldslaves to wander about, but perhaps they were survivors of a shipwreck, he thought. He was now over the low mountains that protected the southern coast of the island. Individual trees began to show themselves,and soon formed a small wood that extended a little ways eastward and westward. The trees abruptly gave way to golden fields of ripened grain, gently waving in the cool breeze. All was still and peaceful. However, Oberik sensed that all was not well. The grain was trampled in some places and parts of the fields were barren. Then he saw mice and otters stumbling under huge loads of wheat, passing by the broken remains of the carts that were supposed to carry the load. Standing idly by,were vermin taskmasters, cracking whips over the backs of the slaves. In the distance stood the dilapidated frame of an elegant villa,now overrun with vermin. A load squawking caught his attention.
- "Kree! You all die, if you come closer! Kraa!"
A group of rats had trapped a kite with a net,and were now making sport of it. One rat,holding a spear, approached it.
- "Yarr! I ain't 'ad nothin' but maggoty vittles fer four stinkin' days!"
- "Kreeyah! Come any closer and ye shall be feeding the maggots!"
Like a thunderclap, Oberik was among them, scattering the vermin right and left. He quickly loosed the net and the two birds flew into the sky, with arrows zipping past them. The kite caught an arrow that was aimed at him, and threw it contemptuously back at its owner and was rewarded with the anguished howl of a rat.
- "Owow! Cap'n, that featherbag 'it me wid me arrer!"
- "Hard luck! Now get back in formation 'fore I flay th' lot o' yer!"
The disgruntled collection of vermin marched back to the ruined villa.
- "I don't unnerstan' 'ow things got this way anny'ow,"
murmured a weasel.
- "Cap'n Ravell promised us easy vittles an' a relaxin' life if we joined up wid 'im,"
echoed a ferret.
- "Silence in the ranks! Move yerselves, yew rotten, lily-livered swabs!"
shouted Captain Ravell as the dispirited vermin gang plodded on. Meanwhile, Oberik and Eideroh Skybreeze, for that was the kite's name; rested upon the rocky pinnacles of Mount Cyre, and looked down on Blue Gate Harbor below.
- "Tell me friend, what has happened here?"
- "That I do not know, for I am young yet, and the vermin have infested this place for many seasons now."
- "When I visited last, this island was inhabited by my friends the mongooses, who used vermin as their slaves, but otherwise did not allow them here,"
- "They say a sickness brought by infected vermin slew all the mongooses.
Whether that is true,I don't know, for twas before my time." replied Eideroh.
- "I was sent by the Otter Resistance to gather support against Emperor Scurva, as the wicked marten so styles himself.
He rules Marfang now, backed by the Brethren of the Sea. The few of us that remain free fight back against him, but we are few and his hordes are many."
- "It sounds as if you are in need of an albatross, yes?"
said the albatross.
- "Your help would be more than welcome, friend!"
exclaimed the kite.
- "Good. In my travels I have come across many beasts both good and bad, but one group stands above the rest in their willingness to help those who are oppressed"
- "And who might that be?"
- "I once was traveling for many leagues and a storm caught me by surprise. It damaged my wing and I was unable to fly, so I had to land in the forest below. There I was set upon by a band of vermin in my weakest hour. I thought all was lost but a party of otters had been tracking the vermin and attacked them, freeing me and bringing me to a place of rest and healing."
- "Where is this place?"
- "It is called Redwall Abbey and it lies a good distance across the sea in a place called Mossflower. I believe they would be willing to aid your cause"
- "Then let us journey there with out delay, friend Oberik!"
With that, the two birds took off and soared through the air towards the east.
Meanwhile, in the city of Marfang a grim stone building stood alone. This was the Imperial Prison, home of some of the most dangerous creatures alive. From it's tall basalt towers, to it's massive gray walls, the prison was an impressively gloomy place. Every week, a procession of black robed figures marched through the early morning mist, chanting as they strode towards the tall building. These were the priests of the Darkruus, and their duty was to select the three weakest prisoners who would be bound and taken to their temple, from which they would invariably never be seen alive. The massive timber gates slowly swung open to recieve their grim visitors. Urquill the ferret Warden of the prison, nervously went forth to meet the shadowy figures.
- "Harumph! I have yer pris'ners ready, yer Lordnesses!"
- "Good,good. Bring them forward, Warden"
whispered the leading priest. Urquill brought out a mouse, an otter and an evil looking ferret.
- "Dose two are 'scaped slaves,an dis un killed er Cap'n"
- "Silence! We are not interested in their backgrounds!
They will serve our purposes very well though". Urquill shuddered at the thought of "their purposes".
- "Open the gates!"
he called, eager to be rid of his sinister guests. The priests turned and marched out the gate into Marfang. The doors swiftly closed shut behind them as they proceeded up the street. To one side of the broad cobblestone street stood a row of long abandoned warehouses, and on the other side lay the city proper. It was a massive spectacle of ruined grandeur sprawling into the distance, until it met the thick walls of the Fortress. There it became merely a small shadow against the mighty bulwarks of the Fortress, whose lofty towers could be seen for up to a mile on a good day. The prisoners stumbled up the hill in chains, unaware of the horrible fate that lay in wait for them. As they struggled up the street they were assailed by the harsh cries and jeering taunts hurled at them by the close packed vermin mob in the marketplace. From far and wide, corsair ships laden with booty would sail to the Markets of Marfang to sell their stolen goods. Fine swords, glittering jewelry, bolts of silken cloth or slaves; it could all be bought or sold in Marfang.
- "Perhaps I can interest ye in this exquisite sword? It was once in the possession of none other than the legendary Gabool th' Wild!"
- "Gabool's ole carver eh?
I'll offer ye these fine, strong slaves o' mine" said the rat.
- "O ye will, will ye?
I 'avent seen a more miserable group of slaves since I was a young dock rat!" "Go find somweres else to peddle those walkin' skel'tons!" the tradesrat cried. The prisoners were pushed through the crowd of haggling vermin until they were stopped at a tall, stone archway at the end of the market. It was once plated with gold to illuminate the ancient carvings of byegone rulers and heroes, but now the gold had been stripped off and the lower carvings had been defaced by the idle stoat guards who now barred the entry. Their spears parted respectfully to allow the priests entrance beyond the gate. They now stood in a large square with a broken fountain overgrown with ivy, in the center. To their left stood the old governmental buildings, now deserted and in ruins. The captives were dragged straight ahead to the other side of the square and as they passed they could see to their left the tall spires and dulled green roofs of Thierle Palace, residence of the evil Emperor. Outside, slaves toiled in the mid-morning sun scrubbing the dusky blue walls and tending the elegant garden that faced the square. Vinka the ferret spat in the general direction of Scurva's dwelling place, and one of their captors smote her on the face.
- "Dare not to so insult his Majesty!"
The temple of the Darkruus was now almost directly in front of them. It dwarfed the other structures surrounding the square, standing alone with a desolate mountain to it's back. Over the main gate was a weathered inscription that read "Marfang Royal Library". They soon entered the narrow black gates gates and were led through the courtyard into a small room. An old priestrat wearing yellow robes removed their tattered rags and replaced them with coarse grey robes of the type worn by priestly acolytes. They were then taken to a long hall with many corridors branching off of it, and one of the passages connected to another small hallway with a oaken door at the end. It opened into a large room filled with thick purple smoke. It had a sickly-sweet odor that was produced by a row of black-robed priests rocking back and forth on the floor, smoking long pipes and chanting. A purple robed weasel came forward and mumbled something unintelligible while making strange gestures with his paws. They were then led to another corridor with several small rooms. As they passed, they could see acolytes making amulets and charms, to bring good luck and protect the wearer from harm. Finally, they reached another black gate which led outside. Before them lay a flight of worn stone steps that wound their way treacherously up the steep mountainside to a large fissure in the iron tinted rock. Halfway up the steps the mouse tripped and nearly tumbled over a narrow precipice. The otter ignored her captors and rushed to help her friend, but was cruelly jerked back on her chain. The priests dragged the mouse upright and continued on their way. After an hour's climb, the party arrived at the mouth of the cave. Framed by stalactites and stalagmites, the dark entrance resembled a venemous snake's mouth. A large, green adder slithered out of the cave ominously and began to speak.
- "I am Nhiss, chief attendant to Kingcoiler"
- "Aww Shaddup! yer wastin' our time"
cried one of the new priests. Quick as lightning Nhiss whipped forward and sank his poisonous fangs deep into the impertinent rat's throat, sending him hurtling off the edge and into the sharp rocks below. The adder turned back to the others.
- "You may pressent your ssacrificess now."
The prisoners struggled as they were forcibly thrust into the dark entrance. Darkness immediately enveloped them like a shroud as they groped blindly in the impenetrable blackness.
- "Thiss way, little oness."
Nhiss called. Vinka the ferret began to regain a small part of her vision and did not hesitate to flee from her captors and run off into the inky shadows of the cavern. She approached the other side of the cave more cautiously, and surveyed her surroundings in the limited amount of light filtering through the entrance. Directly in front of her was a large wall, honeycombed with small passages and crevices while to her left gaped a large hole. The otter and mouse, whose eyes had not yet become accustomed to the darkness, were being led through the hole while behind them a large number of snakes, led by Nhiss, were sliding noiselessly towards her. Vinka ran along the honeycombed wall and stopped suddenly. She sniffed the stale air and detected a trace of fresh air coming out of a small crevice. The snakes were getting close now, so Vinka ducked into the the small crack. She was not surprised to find that it opened out into a cramped tunnel leading gradually downhill. Hearing her pursuers closing in on her, she ran down the pitch-black tunnel, feeling her way forwards. Vinka could hear the screams of her erstwhile companions echoing down the narrow corridor when she turned the corner and ran smack into a sleeping snake. Both creatures were so surprised by the unexpected encounter that before she knew what she was doing, Vinka had scrambled over the venemous serpent's scaly back and into the small passage beyond. The snake finally managed to turn itself around in the narrow tunnel and give chase. Vinka quickly outdistanced herself from her pursuer and caught sight of a small glow ahead of her. She soon found a small hole through which she extricated herself from the treacherous maze behind her. She stood on the north-east slope of the mountain and, blinking in the bright mid-day sun, looked around her at the broad expanse of Slithrunn forest spread below her like a lush green carpet. She hurried down the rocky incline and into the sheltering depths of the woods, covering her tracks as she went. Sunlight dappled down on a forest floor littered with leaves in various shades of red and gold, while towering giants reared their thick trunks up into the cool autumn breeze wafting through the wood. Vinka traveled for the rest of the day until she reached a small brook near nightfall. There she made camp and settled uncomfortably onto the leaves and sticks to go to sleep. She dreamed that night of the circumstances surrounding her prison sentence. Vinka and her Cap'n, with a medium number of vermin had made a raid on the dwelling of Hrenn Aquasliph, a descendant of the legendary otter Slith Eelback. The young otter had escaped but the vermin had burned her small cove after looting it. Among the items they kept was a marvelous sword, the blade shone like a meteor from the deadly sharp point to the simple hilt set with a red stone that twinkled in the evening light. Vinka and her captain had fought over this sword but she was no match for him and the rest of the raiding party combined. After slaying him with the shining weapon, she had been subdued by the rest of the vermin who brought her back to Marfang, where she was imprisoned. The general in charge of Castle Arras, a small outpost in the eastern side of the forest, had been there and seen the sword. No doubt, it was now in the armory at the Castle, for the greedy general would never have brought it to the emperor, but would have kept it for himself. She woke sometime after sunrise and covered all signs of her camp, and decided to head in the direction of Arras. Vinka did not have a plan but she was sure she would think of some way to get the sword before she got to her destination. However, she was not to succeed, for she had gone hardly an half hour's march into the forest when she was set upon by a party of scavenging marshtoads. She fought desperately but, weakened as she was by her recent incarceration, she was soon dragged to the ground and clubbed senseless. The brown toads then headed in a northerly direction and soon there was naught but a few scuffs on the ground to tell of the recent struggle.
Night had fallen on Mossflower Wood and not a sound could be heard save for the ragged, rasping breathing filtering through the rustling leaves of a small clump of bushes. Abruptly the noises ceased as the creature in the shrubbery heard voices whispering loudly and coming closer.
- "She can't ave got far in dis part of the forest. I can barely see me nose on me face in the darkness!"
whispered a sly looking stoat to his companion, also a stoat.
- "Shirrup! She might ear ye!"
hissed the other stoat.
- "Look Quirla! I found er tracks!"
- "Yew useless idjit! Anyone can se dis over ere is the right trail."
Further argument was cut short by the arrival of a flickering torch bobbing through the woods in their direction. The crackling flame soon was close enough to reveal it's bearer, a rat.
- "Gen'rl Verl is callin all youse trackers back for a rest cause ye could'nt see any thing in these woods anyways in the dark. Ye should get a good night's sleep cause yer gonna be up early tommorer."
The breathless rat scurried on to bring his message to the other trackers. The two grateful stoats hurried back to camp. If they had stayed a little longer and searched the bushes behind them they would have discovered their injured quarry, lying bleeding on the ground. With much effort, their wounded prey staggered to her paws and lurched forward running through the forest until she could run no more. An immense building with red sandstone walls blotted out her vision as she crumpled unconscious on to the dirt path bordering the Abbey.
Abbess Amaryllis was up early that morning with her two good friends Brya the badger mother and Holly, a hedgehog. They entered the kitchens and found that Friar Taris the Head Cook was already up and about, making preparation for another famous Redwall breakfast.
- "Pass me that pot of flour will you, Perrin?"
- "Do'nt stir that batter too fast! gently now, Arcia."
said the Friar. "Good morning to you, Friar Taris." greeted the Abbess.
- "Good morning Abbess Amaryllis, i'm surprised to see you up this early."
- "I thought i'd wake up early so Brya, Holly and I could enjoy a morning sunrise on the walltops with a cup of tea."
said the Abbess.
- "that sounds like a good idea, i'll go make tea and get some edibles to go with you. I wish I could join you but somebody has got to watch after these two rogues. Get out of those candied chestnuts this instant!"
the Friar hurried away to take care of the two dibbuns. A little while later Taris came back, burdened under a platter of hot arrowroot scones and peppermint tea.
- "That ought to warm you up."
he siad as he turned back to see what the dibbuns were up to this time. The Abbess and her two faithful friends made their way outside and began to cross the lawn.
- "Brrr! It's getting chillier every day."
- "That it is and you know what that means."
- "Autumn is here, I can smell it in the air!"
- "Do you think it is time for the Autumn Feast?"
questioned the Abbess.
- "I think so. The air is brisk and the leaves are turning now."
replied Brya. The trio ascended the west wallsteps and looked out across Mossflower Wood, as the birds began to sing their morning chorus. The first golden rays of sunlight crested the horizon, lighting the fall leaves in a blaze of gold, crimson and brown.
- "Our home is always so beautiful in the first glow of dawn!"
- "I agree, though sunset is a close second."
said the badgermum.
- "What's that down by the path?"
- "It looks like somebeast that's been injured! Let's go see if we can help."
said Holly. The companions hurried down the wallsteps and were headed for the gate when a otter stepped behind them.
- What's th' hurry, marm?"
It was Skipper Baroo returning from his morning swim in the Abbey pond.
- "There's somebeast lying out on the path. We were just now going to see if we could help."
said Amaryllis as they quickened their pace towards the gate. The burly otter opened the gates and proceeded cautiously towards the figure that lay crumpled on the path.
- "It's a vixen! I'd hadvise ye t' leave it be, vermin wot we took in 'as only brought trouble an' 'ardship on Redwall in th' past."
- "It may be a fox, but Redwall Abbey has always been known as a place of healing for anybeast that comes to harm. How can we just leave her there to die?"
said the Abbess.
- "I suppose we'd better git this vermin inside then, though it goes agin' my fur th' wrong way t' ave it in th' Abbey with dibbuns an elders about."
said the cautious otter.
- "We will heal her and send her on her way soon. She wo'nt be here long."
The Abbeydwellers managed to carry the wounded fox inside the walls and took her up to the infirmiary, where they prepared a bed and laid the fox to rest. Sister Comfrey the infirmiary keeper was brought up to date on the situation.
- "She has a canceto live if she wants it. Here, hand me those dressings."
said Comfrey as she applied an ointment to the wounds.
- "These are awful wounds, but nothing a strong beast could'nt recover from."
pronounced Sister Comfrey.
- "She does'nt look very strong though."
- "I'll give her some of my physic and see if that does'nt liven her up some."
said Comfrey as she reached into the cupboard and pulled out a vile looking liquid in a glass bottle. There was a knock at the door, Holly answered it and returned to the bedside.
- "That was little Perrin, he says he was sent to look for you and tell you that everybeast is waiting for you down in Great Hall."
- "Tell him that i'll
be right along as soon as I finish taking care of this fox's bandages." The little Dibbun recieved the message and trotted down the steps to Great Hall.
- "D' Abbez iz in th' firmiary with a hurted fozker but she be wight down in a likkle while!"
proclaimed Perrin. There was confusion at the table as to what a fox would be doing in the area of Redwall.
- "Twas probly sneakin about with evil intentions in mind fer all of us!"
- "Mor'n likely it got hinjered tryin to get in here!"
The commotion was interrupted by the stately arrival of the Abbess.
- "Calm down, quiet everyone! Now, what's going on?"
- "Was that fox tryin to climb the walls?"
- "Are there any more out there?"
- "Redwall is not in danger, Skipper did'nt see anyone else out there. We do'nt know how she got hurt but we are going to heal her wounds and send her on her way. There's no reason to get excited."
An elderly mouse piped up>
- "If'n there's nothin ter be wurried about, then why dont e' get on with it an say th blessing?"
- "That is a very sensible idea"
said the Abbess as she sat down and began to recite the blessing.
in in planting and harvest
in sadness and gladness
thanks be to the seasons
The hungry Redwallers attacked the sumptuous spread with ferocity. No pudding, pie or pastry was safe, and the soup and porridge disappeared with alarming alacrity. Amaryllis and her companions left early so they might tend to their verminous patient once more. Brya studied the fox critically.
- "We should put her out on the path sometime before she wakes up, that way she will have no memories of Redwall to take to who knows how many others of her kind."
At that moment the fox regained consciousness. She was still to weak to move but she could speak.
- "Who are ye?...Where am I?..."
- "I am Abbess Amaryllis and you are in the Abbey of Redwall."
said the weary vixen as she lapsed back into unconsciousness.
- "You really should'nt have told her anything."
- "She probably wo'nt remember anything in the state she's in anyway."
The door burst open and Rillian the mousemaid rushed in.
- "There's a band of vermin at the gates! Skipper and the others are talking to them now."
croaked the fox, startling them.
- "That'll be me ole matey Verl... an his Cutthroats!"
The fox once again fell asleep.
- "Now now. Do'nt be getting all upset over an old fox's words"
Bryla said, comforting the distraught mousemaid. They departed the infirmiary, leaving the fox in the trusty hands of Sister Comfrey. The Abbess instructed the beasts in Great Hall not to go outside or go near the windows before exiting the building. Skipper Baroo hailed them from the walltop.
- "There's a varmint ere wot wants words with ye!"
Amaryllis climbed the wallsteps and bravely faced the Cutthroats. They were a motley collection of rats with a few weasels, stoats and ferrets scattered about, led by a corsair fox decked out in tattered silk finery.
- "What do you want from us?"
the Abbess questioned.
- "Give us Iridian or ye'll be swimmin in yer own blood 'fore ternight's over!"
shouted the vicious fox.
(Note: I have been banned or will be banned shortly so don't expect any updates till 2011.)