A long, long time ago, when the world was new, before the existence of Martin the Warrior, even before Lord Brocktree's time, vermin and woodlanders were friends. Yes, they were friends. Nobeast at that time knew of evil, violence, greed, or hate, and so great and everlasting friendships took place. The world was a beautiful, joyful land. That was, until the Era of Corruption began.
An otter lay by his father, weeping, on the bank of a river. The otter's father was slowly but surely dying after the long, harsh battle against a band of vermin. Earlier, a score of stoats, weasels, ferrets and rats had tried to raid the otters' home behind a waterfall for want of food and shelter. But they had failed; thus paying the price of death at the wrath of the warrior and his son.
The otter, whose name was Watertail, tried to catch his breath between gasps and sobs. He had a slim, lightly muscled figure but was very handsome, and had emerald green eyes. Watertail's father attempted to speak. His voice was feeble as he spoke the last of his words before death.
"Watertail... my son.. promise me one thing." Watertail's eyes welled up at the thought of his father leaving to the Dark Forest gates forever. "
Wh-what is it, f-father?"
"The battle has taken a large toll on me, aye... I can already hear the Dark Forest gates open for me..."
"Please, j-just tell me!"
"Watertail, before I die... go to the Redwall Abbey and tell Abbot Durstan that Waveheart the Brave has died... and that you must live at the Abbey. Farewell..." Waveheart, father of Watertail, closed his eyes and died.
"N-no... don't leave me!" Watertail howled in anguish and deep loss. And so he lay there, crying, oblivious to the harsh rain that fell about him. Indifferent to the corpses of dead enemies. And unaware of the intense journey ahead.
Watertail was buisily packing supplies for his journey to the Abbey at his home, the cave behind the waterfall. He still couldn't get over the fact that Waveheart had died only a day ago. Or that he killed a score of vermin with only him and his father. He sniffed, and tried to get ready for the three day's journey ahead.
Food, some daggers, a blanket and his father's amulet all went into his bag. Waveheart's amulet... Watertail's memories rushed to him like a tsunami in a storm. His father and him fishing near the ocean... discovering the golden amulet on the sandy banks of his river... Watertails smiled sadly and tried to change his thoughts. He knew that he couldn't protect his home as well as his father could. So, he was supposed to travel to Redwall Abbey and see Abbot Durstan.
Abbot Durstan! Watertail remembered his father's last wish for his son's safetry. Quickly, he packed the last of his supplies and rushed around the waterfall blocking the main entrance to his home. Watertail, now outside, knelt in front of his father's grave near the river and bowed his head.
"Father, Waveheart the Brave... I will go now. May your spirit rest in peace... Goodbye." And so he trekked, eastward, to his new home.
Two foxes sat together, heatedly conversing. One held a small, furry bundle, and the other was waving a saber wildlly in the air.
"Byren, I ain't havin' no whimpering, snivelling babe to take care of! There's already have an army of tenscore stoats, weasels, rats, ferrets to command. I'm not stopping the Era of Corruption from bringin' it's full wrath upon those wooldland countrysiders. They've been too peaceful to be around, I can't stand this no more!"
Byren looked offended, and she held the bundle closer to her. "Stop this nonsense, Raegar! Woodland creatures aren't bad creatures, and besides, our young un' needs loving parents, not savage, cruel warlords."
Raegar the Fierce didn't back down from the argument. "Well, have it your way dirtnose. You can do whatever you want with that stupid excuse for a daughter," he pointed to the infant fox Byren ws holding. "I'm going to conquer this countryside while you play nursemaid with that heap of fur! This world is in need of change! Revolution! And I'll make it happen, without you or that vixen!"
As Raegar stormed off, Byren wept silently. Her daughter, unaware of what had taken place, smiled. She looked at her baby for the first time since birth. Needle-sharp teeth could be seen developing... but what suprised Byren was that the little vixen grew a slightly larger, jade-green fang. Tiny blue eyes sparkled and silver fur shone in the evening sun. However, that was not the end of it. What Byren's daughter posessed had shocked her so bad that she nearly fainted. Nine tails, long and brush-like, protruded from where only one tail shouldhave been. Byren was speechless. She couldn't think of anything, just her precious baby stuck in her mind. She was special. Veralia was special. Byren's daughter was named.
The Redwall Abbey loomed in front of Watertail as he approached the gates. Impressive sandstone walls towered above him, and he shook his head in amazement. I haven't been at this place for a long time, Watertail thought. He rapped on the gates, once, twice, three times, and a voice called to him.
"Who goes here?" Watertail coughed and shouted back, " It's me, Watertail, son of Waveheart the brave!"
An old mouse, badger, and a hedgehog opened the gates and stepped outside. "Ah, Watertail! Its me, Abbot Durstan. Remember?" Watertail nodded. "Aye, I remember you! And isn't it Mother Sara and Ruth Spinetip!" The badger and hedgehog nodded.
"Well, long time no see! Its good t'ave yer at our Abbey, aren't I right Ruth?"
"Yes, yes, s'been a long time since our last visitor camae, huh. Still though, welcome!" Abbot Durstan took Watertail by the paw and let him inside the Abbey.
"Thats enough chitchat, you two. Anyways, what brings you to our home, Watertail?" Watertail sighed and spoke in a dreary tone.
"Father Abbot... my father has died." All three creatures gasped.
"How could this be?"
"Nay, it ain't possible. Surely your father just fainted."
"What did I say you two? ENOUGH!" Mother Sara and Ruth qickly stopped talking. Watertail gaped at the Abbot like a monster had just came out of a nightmare.
"So," Father Durstan smoothed down his clothes and polished his spectacles. "Just how did your father die?"
Watertail sighed. "...It's a long story."
Watertail and Abbot Durstan sat together at the Cavern Hole, talking about previous events. "Well," said the Abbot, "while you and Waveheart were fighting a score of vermin, the two of you got some wounds, especially your father. Am I right?"
"Aye, yes Father Abbot."
"Very well. So Waveheart had obtained severe injuries, spoke his last words to you and died, leaving to the Dark Forest Gates for eternity... very tragic indeed.."
Watertail did not reply. Weary, his eyeslids were beginning to droop and his head nodded to sleep. The Abbot stood up and left Cavern Hole.
"I'll be back to get Sister Palomar to send you to the sickbay for some rest and medical attention. Forgive me if I hadn't attended to you needs much sooner. In the meantime, sleep well."
Loud snoring made Watertail's reply.
Sister Palomar watched, amused, as a snoring otter lay in a bed and rolled over in the blankets. With the help of Mother Sara and Ruth they had carried the heavy traveler by the name of Watertail. The mousemaid unpacked Watertail's belongings, and found his ragged blanket, daggers and amulet. She threw away his blanket, but kept everything else inside the knapsack that Watertail carried. Palomar smiled to herself as she brought herself up to the dormitories to sleep. Tomorrow, she would find out about their new Abbey dweller.
Veralia, since the day she was born, was a happy and innocent creature. Byren, her mother always looked after her and never mentioned anything about her father, Raegar. Until now, Veralia had been loving and carefree. However, since Byren's death and the discovery of the war, she had become lonley and mistrustful. Her only friend that cared about her was Cleef the stoat. Cleef was abandoned by his parents, then orphaned as they died in the war. He joined up with Veralia when he was no older than any Dibbun. Together, they grew up and faced numerous dangers, quickly bonding enough to start calling each other brother and sister. Once-friendly woodland creatures barred their doors and locked their homes whenever they saw the pair. Other vermin were uninterested in taking care of the two, taking more to the Era of Corruption and other vulgar things. Nobody cared about Veralia or Cleef. For it was foretold that they would be the survivors of what manybeasts would never survive for a long time. Death and war.
Waveheart awoke, feeling drowsy and... quite not alive at the same time. The last thing he remembered before going into unconsciousness was talking to his son and hearing heavy timber gates opening up. Thousands of tormented souls, screeching and wailing, had pulled him into those gates.
He pondered, thinking and grasping previous memories, and putting them together to come up with the one ultimate solution: Waveheart was inside the Dark Forest. He was dead. Looking at himself, he noticed that he was a transparent spirit. His misty white being, having no weight, levitated just inches from the dark ground.
"Lord Vulpuz, the riverdog awakens!" A scratchy but ghostly voice called out somewhere.
A deeper, more sinister voice echoed in response. "Bring him to me, my guards!"
Twoscore fox-like spirits rose from the ground and started swiftly advancing to the otter. Waveheart tried to run away, but he could not, for his soul was paralysed in fear. As the forty foxes advances, he saw that they were as large as wolves, and they were a transparent, ghastly grey. One of the spirits reached out and grabbed Waveheart. Slowly, the pair and the rest of the Soul Guards sank into the ground.
Vulpuz, the leader of the Dark Forest, sat in his majestic throne of ancient bones (hey that rhymes). His fiery flaming fur burned intensely, and his eyes were like black voids. At the size of a badger, he was the mightiest fox that ruled death.
Veralia sat in a throne of ice next to Vulpuz's. Unlike him, however, her fur seemed to be made of silver ice, never melting, nomatter how close she came to Vulpuz. Her nine tails, long and brush-like, touched the dark floor. Veralia's eyes were like blue water. She was not quite as tall as Vulpuz, but still just as imposing all the same.
Meanwhile, the two were busily talking, not noticing the otter and forty fox-spirits rise before them.
"So this fox, his name was either Chickenhound or Slagar, I don't care, said he was the 'Master of life and Death'. What a bluffer! How dare he say that when the real Master was me! So I said, 'You, fox, you may think you can control living and dying, but I'm the one who does this all'! And the blighter was so scared that his mutated face just stared at me and shook and shivered. So he just stood there, not able to say anything, so I had to send my Soul Guards to take him away. One day, just one day, I'll punish him when I feel the time is right!"
"Its all right, its all right, Vulpuz," Veralia's icy tone soothed him. "He got what he deserved, and you can stop ranting on about him now. Slagar was already punished by death."
Vulpuz sighed and before he could reply, he noticed the Soul Guards and Waveheart's spirit before him. Sitting taller and trying to intimidate Waveheart, he spoke in his evil, fiery way.
"My Soul Guards, you are dismissed. And you, riverdog, come here,"
The Soul Guards vanished into thin mist with a wave of the Death Lord's paw, and so only Waveheart remained, staring at Vulpuz and Veralia fiercley.
"What is your name, ottercreature?" Vulpuz asked.
"The living call me Waveheart the Brave. Riverdog and Ottercreature have no meaning to me." he replied.
Vulpuz chuckled. "Look Waveheart, now the dead will call you by that name. Anyways," he said, "do you know why I brought you here?"
"I haven't the faintest idea why," Waveheart said, "but either I am here to be welcomed or punished in death."
The chuckle became a snigger. "Veralia wishes to speak with you!" Vulpuz pointed to his icy companion in her own throne. "And its certainly not to welcome you!"
Even though Waveheart kept a calm posture, he felt dread take over his spirit. Slowly, walking (or floating) to his inevitable fate, Waveheart approached his doom.
"Wakeywakey... rise and shine... oh whatever, get up, you great big pile of blankets! Everybeast is waiting for you at breakfast time!"
Watertail felt his face being slapped, mouth and all, and with a groan and sat up to rub his eyes. A young mousemaid, paws on her hips, stared at him and glared. Stretching, he yawned and made his way out of the sickbay bed and started to walk out of the door.
"Oh, no you don't!" the mousemaid rushed torwards him and started slapping him on both of his eyeballs.
"AAAAAAAAGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!" Watertail screeched and, covering his face, ran back to hide in the bed.
"My name is Sister Palomar. And if you don't start changing your clothes and washing your face, I'll hit you where it really hurts! Got that, Watertail?" She pointed to a green habit and a wooden bowl of water on a bedside table near his hiding place.
"All right, all right, I'll get going..." Watertail cautiously moved from his bed and changed into the green habit, then washed his face and soothed his burning eyes. "Soo, how do you know my name?" he asked, trying to change the topic. This Sister Palomar surely is a fiery one; he thought.
"My friends and I had to drag you up to the sickbay here, I'm the one who is incharge of this place; and as we laid you down ye started snoring and shouting out yer name!" she said. Her eyes held an amused glint in them. Watertail wasn't too sure if he liked Sister Palomar.
"And now that you're finished getting ready for breakfast, you can go eat now. Have a good meal, and be off with you!" Palomar called.
Watertail nearly skipped in joy as he raced though the hallway for his breakfast.
The young otter, now in the grand Cavern Hole, was seated next to Palomar, Abbot Durstan, Mother Sara, and Ruth. Otters, squirrels, mice, bankvoles, and hedgehogs occupied every single chair and table. Watertail noticed that there weren't any moles. The entire room was abuzz with gossip and chatter from most, if not all, of the Abbeydwellers.
"Father Abbot, why aren't there any moles in the Abbey? I saw some of them thae last time I was here." he asked uncertainly.
Durstan held a somber look in his expression. "Long ago, seasons after you came, a sickness called talpidae disease was spread all over Mossflower woods."
"Nobeast knows how the disease managed to get here," Palomar chimed in, "but some believe that it arrived overseas from vermin corsairs and searats. They ventured close to our Abbey, but thanks to Skipper Pascal and his otters, they managed to scare away the vermin."
It was Sara's turn to share a part of the sad tale. "However, the talpidae disease spread around and infected the mole population that weren't within the Abbey," she explained, "It didn't hurt other creatures, but it did affect our hearts... those were miserable days. One by one, slowly but surely, poor, innnocent moles had their lives taken away."
"But the worst thing of all," added Ruth, "was that there was no cure! Even the best of healers couldn't find an herb that would do anythin' about it. So, Foremole Barton and his kind got worried. One season, they left this Abbey to live in a faraway land, to escape the disease. Nobeast knows their fate," she said ominously, "but in me heart, I believe that they still live happy lives."
The friends held sorrowful looks in their faces.
"Look, that time has long gone now, and I'm sure that the moles are living right now. Besides, breakfast has come!" Watertail consoled them. HIs words seemed to cheer the others right away. While they had been talking, Friar Armani had placed large plates of greensap pancakes, crystal bowls of fruit salad, loaves of fresh bread, and tankards of strawberry cordial with other drinks for the meal.
Abbot Durstan stood up. Pulling out a small silver bell from the folds of his habit, he shook it, creating a gentle tinkling that could be heard even over the loudest voices. The Cavern Hole was hushed to a dead silence.
"Now," he coughed, "I want all of you to know that we have a new resident here: Watertail. He has come here because his father, Waveheart the Brave, died in a harsh battle against a band of vermin. Although Watertail has been to this Abbey long before, lets welcome him with open paws and warm greeting. So, what do you say?" He gave an inquiring look to all of the Abbeydwellers.
Everybody cheered and shouted words of welcome, making Watertail feel a little sheepish at being the center of attention.
"And now, we eat our breakfast in honour of our new friend!" Durstan's voice rang out as clear as his bell.
All other noise was drowned out by more cheering and munching from everyone. Sister Palomar had to lean in close and shout in Watertail's ears to be heard by him.
"AND I HAVE SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO TELL YOU AFTER LUNCH!"
The otter shut his eyes and clapped his paws over his ears, muttering something about brain cells and migraines.
Veralia, now matured to a teenager, looked over a rocky cliff and saw a large camp. Cleef stood by her side, looking to the clouded skies, worried.
"Finally, the time is right... I can meet my father again." Veralia had a look of longing and hatred in her face. Cleef knew that she wanted revenge on her father and his army for starting the Era of Corruption and abandoning her. At times like this, her mood could be unpredictable, even though she held some expression to her visage.
The stoat looked at her and asked, "But how are we going to stop Raegar and his army if we don't have any others to fight them?" The odds of two young vermin versus an giant horde with a ruthless leader seemed unlikely enough.
"I said, I will only meet him again. Don't make any assumptions yet," Veralia said. She put on a black hooded cape and turned to Cleef. "Put this on," she said firmly, handing him another black cloak. He noticed that all of her features, even those lovely nine tails and the jade fang were concealed by the cape in shadows. The same effect was placed on Cleef as he placed on his cloak as well.
"Now, lets go." The fox climbed down the cliff with precision and speed that she reached the ground in moments. She looked up expectantly at Cleef. "Are ye coming or not?"
Thunder flashed and rain began to fall as the stoat called down to her. "I'M COMING!!!" He threw himself over the cliff and, as air whistled past him, landed next to Veralia on both paws, unshaken by the landing.
"Very well then." Veralia broke her pace to a run as she raced to Raegar's camp, swift as the wind. Cleef huffed and puffed while he stumbled behind her.
"ETHANE!" a fox with red fur stepped into Raegar's tent. Raegar was lounging around, looking at maps and other things that he referenced to for travel. "Tell me now, how was the patrol around these here lands?" he rapped his pointed claws on a map with strange markings and writing.
"Well, Lord Rag-ear-" Ethane started to say.
Sighing, the fox warlord stood up and drew a dagger from its sheath. He tickled the blade under his Commander's chin.
Its Raegar, me young lad. Say it right! Rage-ar, not Rag-ear.. got it?"
The commander could only nod and gurgle, for fear of having the dagger blade stuck in his mouth.
"Good, then. Now tell me again..." He was cut off short by an Arctic fox, white as snow, rushing into the tent.
"What is it, Cassandra?" Raegar aknowledged her.
"Two creatures wish to see you, one is a fox, the other is a stoat. I don't know who they are, though." said Cassandra.
"So be it. Bring in these visitors to me," said Raegar. "And you, Ethane, go with Cassandra." THe two foxes nodded and left the tent. Raegar sighed, and continued to read some more. "I'll find out who these two visitors are..."
Watertail sighed as he scrubbed dishes and pots and pans from morning breakfast at the Abbey kitchens. Scouring cups, pots, and other things of the latter, watertail thought blissfully about going into the orchards to pick fruit, or the pond to catch fish. But no, he was here so that he could evade Sister Palomar, an infirmary sister, from injuring him. How ironic.
Meanwhile, Friar Armani and a dozen other creatures were preparing lunch. Creatures bustled about, carrying food, or other things for different purposes. Fendi the squirrel, the hedgehog friar's assistant, was laid under an enormous stack of oatcakes to be served with honey. Panting, he took one step at a time torwards a table to set his burden down. Suddenly, every oatcake he was carrying toppled over, some falling with a splat onto his head. Watertail abandoned his chores and ran over to help Fendi. The squirrel smiled sheepishly as he wiped crumbs from his eyes.
"I owe my thanks to ye, Watertail. But hurry, we need to get up sharpish-like, before we get pounded by those dreadful spikes of Friar Armani." he said.
WAtertail helped pick up the remaining oatcakes and hid spoiled remains under the table. "Well, mate, its no problem at all. I'd be happy to help others, especially if I can escape the terrors of Palomar and washing dishes!"
THe two, now friends, fell on the floor and shook mirthlessly, and laughed when they couldn't stand it no more. By the time Watertail and Fendi were done laughing, the abbey friar was upon them.
"C'mon you little fellers," Armani said. "If ye don't stop chortling right now, you'll miss lunch!"
Panicked, both squirrel and otter rushed out of the door, faster than anybody else could.
Lunch outside of the abbey and into the orchards was a fine affair. all of the animals who were even the least bit hungry got hearty shares of oatcakes, damson pudding and meadowcream trifle, with mushroom leek pasties, summer salads, and whatnot. Watertail, Fendi, and even Sister Palomar sat together under shady trees and a warm breeze. Sunlight streamed through the leaves, leaving dappled patterns onto the grassy meadows. Watertail took a sip of pennycloud cordial before speaking his thoughts.
"You know, Palomar, I'm wondering what it is that you wanted to tell me." he gave her a strange look.
"Well," she said, "I told you that I would tell after lunch, not during it!" Palomar's eyes held a strange shine to them.
"So be it." Watertail took another draft of cordial before resting his back on a tree and staring at the sky. Fendi was unable to say anything, for he was stuffing pasties into his mouth. The infirmary sister daintily picked at her plate and sniffed at an funny-looking oatcake. She threw the offending item away and set down her plate on the ground. Fendi did the same and swallowed his food.
"Are you ready now?" Palomar asked.
"REady as ever," replied the otter. "my friend over there, the squirrel, he wants to know too. So please hurry."
"All right, I'll begin." she took a deep breath.
"Long ago, before the time of Martin the warrior, even before Lord Brocktree's existence, vermin and woodlanders were friends. You heard me, they were friends. Nobeast at the time, not even vermin, knew of violence, greed, or hate, or bloodlust. The world was a happy place, that was, until the Era of Corruption began. It was started by-"
"Will you get straight to the point?" Watertail grumbled.
"Yeah, will ye?" Fendi piped up.
The young mouse maid sighed and hung her head. "Let me do all the talking, you guys wanted to know in the first place. Besides, it concerns the death of a certain someone's father's death."
"Okay, so the Era of Corruption was started by a fox warlord, who let the mighty ruler of the Dark forest, Vulpuz, walk in his dreams. Vulpuz promised this fox that there would be a wonderful future of conquest, ruling, and tyranny if he followed Vulpuz's words. The warlord wanted to know what these horrible things were. And instead of refusing the offer... he accepted it. Soon after marrying his wife, he had a daughter. However, this fox was different. She had silver fur, blue eyes, a fang of green jade and, most importantly, nine long, lovely brush-like tails. Little did the warlord know that when this fox, Veralia they called her, would bring the end of his life for ruining the peace that was short lived. WhAT Veralia didn't know was that Vulpuz brought these terrors onto those lands. Only she, and another stoat, ended the horrible war that had brewed amongst all animals. However, Veralia could not stop the deep-seated grudge of woodlanders and vermin against one another, and nobeast was grateful for what she did until seasons later. At the cost of ending a war that the Lord of the Dead had started, she had to give up her life, but not before doing some deeds first. Veralia hacked off the nine tails from her being, imbued with such life and purity that only Vulpuz would bestow on some creatures. She gave these tails to the stoat, and told him to hide each tail in a different part of the world, where only the wisest and bravest could find them on an epic quest. After telling this to the stoat, she made preparations to sacrifice herself. After traveling to a mountain and climbing to its peak, she sacrificed herself, and her spirit reached the dark forest gates to rule with Vulpuz. Some say that the mountain later became Salmandastron."
Palomar's audience yawned and folded their arms.
"Well? I don't see how this related to my father's death," Watertail said, "unless you were talking about the deep-seated grudge with the woodlanders-against-vermin thingy."
"WHat happened to the stoat? And where did you hear this legend?" Fendi asked, curious.
Suprisingly, Palomar didn't hit them on their heads. She just smiled. "The stoat's fate is unknown, but he probably died. I heard this legend from a traveling hare from the Long Patrol in Salamandastron. He was a kind, jolly old fellow, sent by badger Lord Mura, I believe. And Watertail," Palomar looked over at him. "Do you know why I told you this?"
He shook his head.
The infirmary sister held a mysterious yet excited gleam in her eyes. "If we get all of the nine tails, then we might be able to resurrect your father!"