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This is a short story I wrote for a fan fiction contest on the official Redwall forum. It tied for second place in the contest. There are spoilers for the The Sable Quean, so if you haven't read that, don't read this fic!
The mountain Salamandastron reared majestically into the morning sky. It had stood throughout the ages as the domain of Badger Lords and the hares of the Long Patrol, a symbol of right and good, and justice for all innocent creatures.
Buckler Kordyne, the young Blademaster, was heading down to the mess hall for breakfast. He could hear the chatter coming from the hares seated around the tables. The young hare was just about to enter the mess hall when he heard a commotion behind him.
Buckler turned to see two young Long Patrol runners hurrying through one of the side hallways supporting a limp, exhausted-looking haremaid. “Hey, what’s going on?” He hurried towards them and helped support the haremaid.
“Sah! We were on patrol, an' found this haremaid walkin’ around in a sort of daze, wot!”
“So we got ‘er back ‘ere. I hope she’ll jolly well be alright!”
One glance at her was enough to tell him she needed medical attention - she had several slashes all over her and a lump on the back of her head. “Come on then! We need to get her to the infirmary!”
On their arrival, the healer, a middle-aged female named Gentian, took charge of the haremaid, as the young runners told their story to the healer.
“What d’you think happened to her?” asked one of the runners.
“It was vermin, without a doubt,” Buckler said grimly.
Gentian was bandaging a slash on the haremaid’s side. She nodded her agreement.
“Is she goin’ t’be alright, marm?” the other runner inquired.
“Aye. She’s got a good pulse an’ she’s breathin’ well. She’ll make a rapid recovery, so don’t worry about her, wot!” Gentian replied.
The haremaid began to moan softly. Suddenly her eyes, a startling shade of green, flew open. She pulled herself slowly to a sitting position. “Wh-where am Ah?”
Buckler stepped forward, smiling reassuringly. “You’re at Salamandastron, with the Long Patrol.”
She seemed confused. “The Lang Patrol? Ah hail frae the north, ye ken, sae how…” She broke off, staring into space as if remembering something. Then she continued, her face a picture of shock. Buckler and the others in the room listened in sympathy. “Now Ah remember. Mah name’s Blair. Mah mither, father, wee brother an’ sister an’ Ah left the Highlands earlier this season. ‘Twas a hard life up North, sae we left for the warmer areas of the Sooth. We encountered the fox - Zaykimir, Ah think – earlier this morn. He had a band of aboot fifteen vermin, and for nae reason they attacked us – we were mostly unarmed. Ah fought with all mah strength, but somebeast hit me o’er the head with a spear haft or somethin’. Ah came to and wandered awa’, not carin’ where Ah ended up.” She had spoken matter-of-factly until this point, but now she burst into tears. “Mah family’s been slaughtered by that fox! And Ah swear, he’ll pay!” She lowered her head, sobbing.
Buckler’s thoughts were in turmoil. Memories of his brother Clerun ran through his mind. Four seasons before, Clerun had been murdered by Zwilt the Shade; Buckler had sworn vengeance and at last the sable was killed. Poor Blair. I lost my brother, but she’s had her whole family slain. I know something of what she’s feeling, but… no I don’t. Clerun wasn’t killed right in front of me. Right then and there the young Blademaster decided he’d help Blair any way he could in her quest.
The haremaid looked up. She wiped her eyes and addressed Gentian.
“Please, marm, may Ah leave now? Ah need to catch up tae that killer before he gets tae far off. Ah’m grateful tae ye all for rescuin’ and carin’ for me, but Ah must gae noo.”
Buckler looked at the haremaid sympathetically. “But I don’t think you’re in any condition to go, miss.”
Gentian nodded. “I’m very sorry, Blair. But Buckler’s right. You must rest awhile longer before you’re fit to leave. Perhaps tomorrow if you’re doing well you can go.”
“Ah’m leavin’ right noo, nae matter what ye say!”
“First drink this,” Gentian said, holding out a beaker of water. “It will help you recover faster, wot!”
Blair accepted it, draining it to the last drop. Almost immediately she lay back, yawning. “Ah think you’re right. Ah’ll rest awhile.” The haremaid quickly dropped off to sleep.
“That wasn’t just water, was it?” Buckler said, glancing at Gentian suspiciously.
“You’re right,” the healer admitted. “I put a sleepin’ drug in it. She’ll be out for hours with the dose I gave her.”
Buckler stood and headed for the door. “Right, well, I’d better go an’ inform Lady Ambrevina about Blair."
A knock sounded on Lady Ambrevina Rockflash’s forge room door. The huge young badger had been ruler of Salamandastron for nearly a season now. Though a bit inexperienced, she was getting used to her new role. Ambrevina was taking breakfast, but she put down her plate and called, “Come in.”
Her good friend Buckler Kordyne entered. “Milady, there’s something you should know.” In a few words he told her about Blair. “So if she’s intendin’ to go an’ attack that fox, I’d like to go with her, if I may. May I have your permission to get some of my friends to come along? I’m sure they’ll want to come and help as well. Blair shouldn’t be allowed to go against close to a score of vermin alone.”
Ambrevina nodded. “Of course you and your friends can go. I would’ve sent some Long Patrollers along if you hadn’t volunteered. That’s very kind of you to go with her, Buck."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Late afternoon of the next day, Buckler strode through the hallways, back to the infirmary to see how Blair was doing. Walking beside him was Diggs and a number of their friends. They found Blair sitting in bed, gulping down a bowl of soup. Gentian was busy organizing some medical supplies, but she looked up when the door opened.
“Good news! Blair’s doin’ jolly good, an’ I think she can leave right now, if she’s a mind to!”
Buckler nodded, smiling. “That’s good!” Turning to Blair, he introduced himself properly. “My name’s Buckler.”
Each of his friends introduced themselves in turn. Altogether, the group numbered fourteen.
Blair put down her bowl and managed a smile. “Nice o’ all o’ ye tae come an’ see me.” She stood up, wincing slightly. “Now, Ah must be gaein’. D’ye ken where any weapons might be that Ah could use? Ah’ve got tae leave before that fox gets tae far awa’.”
Diggs spoke up. “Well, y’see ol’ gel, we don’t think you should go off by yourself! So Buck here got us together, and we’re comin’ along to jolly well help you, wot!”
“What?” The haremaid turned to Buckler in surprise. “Buckler, sir, Ah’m gaein’ by mahself. Ah’m no’ gaein’ tae risk yer life an’ yer friends’ oot there! It’s mah quest, an’ mahne alone!”
Buckler shook his head. “Hold on, Blair. How could you take out fifteen vermin alone?” As her shoulders sagged with the realization, the young hare continued, “We’re comin’ with you.”
“Alright,” she replied. “But the fox is mahne. Ah’ll make him curse the day he was born before Ah’m finished wi’ him!”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
After getting their weapons and provisions together, they set off. Algie Bloggmort, who had some knowledge of tracking, would help them follow Blair’s tracks back to where Zaykimir and his band had attacked her and her family.
As they traveled, the shifting sand dunes gradually gave way to grassy flatlands, dotted here and there with flowers. Algie walked a bit ahead of the others, following the erratic path Blair had left through the tall grass. Diggs talked quietly with the haremaid Miggy M'ginnerty, as Buckler walked alongside Blair, watching her out of the corner of his eye. He admired her apparent calmness, though he knew she must be hurting deeply.
Suddenly he realized Blair was looking at something further ahead. He followed her gaze, and could just make out a trampled patch of grass in the distance. Then she spoke, her voice a mere whisper.
“Stay here.” She took off, running past Algie down to the trampled area. The others came up behind Buckler.
“I say, what’s going on?” Algie inquired. Then it hit him. “Her family.”
It took Blair some time to lay her family to rest, but she did it. Afterwards she rejoined her friends, her eyes red, but face impassive.
Poor girl, Buckler thought. He didn’t say anything right then, and neither did the others. Instead, they maintained a respectful silence for a while as they pressed onward, with Algie following the vermin band’s trail.
The westering sun continued its slow descent into the horizon behind them, turning the sky a brilliant shade of pink. They kept on. But as the sun’s last rays faded and dark set in, Buckler turned to his friends.
“We’d better make camp.”
“Aye,” Miggy M’ginnerty agreed. “How ‘bout over there?” She pointed ahead to a clump of bushes.
“Looks as good a place as any,” Buckler replied. He unshouldered his haversack and led the group toward the campsite.
They made a simple supper, toasting scones and cheese over a small fire. There was water and mint tea to drink. A soft breeze blew past; the stars overhead twinkled in the nightdark sky. Buckler ate and talked with his friends. Even Blair was conversing some.
Gradually everyone quieted down and unrolled their bedrolls. Buckler and Diggs took the first watch, settling down by the fire as everyone else lay down and dozed off. The breeze was slightly chilly, and the two young hares were glad of the warmth from the flame, though small. Buckler’s mind wandered. How is Blair gonna kill that fox herself? She has no experience at all, yet she’s sworn to slay him and wouldn’t take kindly to somebeast else steppin’ in and finishin’ him off for her. But she could be killed if no one did something! The young hare suddenly realized that he really cared about Blair; he admired her courage and determination, how she kept going despite her pain. He swore to himself that he wouldn’t let anything happen to her. Even if it meant killing the fox himself and depriving her of that final act of revenge.
The fire flickered in the breeze as Buckler sat there. Thinking about what the future would bring.
The next morning dawned clear, with a soft warm wind blowing. Buckler and his friends ate a hasty breakfast and set out again through the dew-laden grass.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Zaykimir was a sinewy young fox, leader of a band of about fifteen vermin. His gang was a motley rabble, mostly rats, with a few stoats and ferrets. Zaykimir himself was a fairly skilled swordsbeast who’d left his father’s horde in the far south. A small band had followed him north, seeking a name for themselves through plunder and cruelty.
Just the other day they’d encountered a family of hares – two adults, a teenaged female, and two younger leverets. Zaykimir had confronted them; then, just to let his band have a little fun to liven up their day, told them to attack the hares. They gleefully obeyed, Zaykimir himself joining in. They left not one alive. Overall, Zaykimir decided, it had been an enjoyable little experience for him and his band.
The fox sat by a small, smokeless fire in the afternoon sunlight, munching on a woodpigeon. The rest of his band sat around, eating.
The fox glanced up. “Raven.”
A stoatmaid looked up. “Yes, sir?”
“What do the omens predict for today?”
Raven claimed to be a seer. She pulled a pawful of pebbles and small bones from a bag she carried, throwing them upon the ground. The stoatmaid studied them intently for a moment, then spoke. “Well, we won’t run into any more beasts today, sir.”
“You sure ‘bout that?”
Raven moved some pebbles around, then replied, “I’m pretty sure. But the omens aren’t clear right now.”
Zaykimir was rather annoyed, and he let her know in no uncertain terms. “Oh, the omens aren’t clear, eh? Fine! Try throwin’ your pebbles and stuff again later today! The omens will be clear then! And if they aren’t, you’re goin’ to be wishin’ they were!” He ran his paw over his blade meaningfully. Frightened, Raven hastily amended her statement, saying that she was completely sure they wouldn’t run into anybeast.
At that precise moment the Long Patrollers were crawling quietly through the tall grass towards the vermin. Buckler was in the lead, with Blair close behind him. All were tensed for action. Buckler drew to within a few yards of the foe, signaled to the others with a wave of his paw, and leapt to his footpaws, unsheathing his rapier in one fluid movement. “Eulaaallliiiaaa!!!” He rushed at the startled vermin, his blade flashing in the sun.
Behind him, Blair ran along, yelling wildly, her sword waving. The other Long Patrollers followed suit, giving vent to their warcry.
Taken by surprise, several vermin fell to the blades of the Long Patrol. However, Zaykimir and several others were quicker to react. Unsheathing his blade, the fox leader slashed at the first hare he encountered. Blair. She parried and slashed at him, narrowly missing flesh. But he slashed right back at her, furrowing a rather shallow wound down the young haremaid’s side. She raised her sword and managed to score an equally minor hit.
Buckler parried a rat’s rusty sword and dispatched him with a quick thrust of his rapier. Around him, his friends wielded their swords with deadly efficiency, giving no quarter. Turning, the Blademaster realized that the battle was practically over. It had only taken a few minutes. Now only Zaykimir himself was left.
The fox and Blair stood apart, breathing heavily, several slashes covering each of them. The others gathered in a group. They watched apprehensively, knowing better than to interfere in their friend’s personal battle. Buckler soon joined them, clenching his rapier hilt tightly. Right, I’m just going to charge in if things get too much for her.
Zaykimir was nervous himself. Not only had a band of hares, mainly trained fighters, charged in and killed his band, but now they were just standing by while allowing one of their number to continue to challenge him. It was rather unnerving.
“What do you want, anyway?” he shouted at the hares in general.
Blair growled at the fox, “Ye killed mah family, scum!”
Zaykimir suddenly recognized her as the teenage haremaid from the other day. The one he thought was dead. But he kept a calm exterior, merely retorting, “So?”
Her reply was delivered in a voice laden with hatred.
“Ye’re goin’ tae regret it as lang as ye live, which will nae be very lang, ye ken! Noo, let’s finish this. Dinnae worry, these other beasties will nae interfere. This’s just between ye an’ me!”
“Alright.” He grinned, certain that the haremaid would soon tire and then he’d have the upper claw. “Let’s get back to it, shall we?”
Blair charged, feinting a thrust. Zaykimir brought his sword up to block the blow. She whipped her blade away and just nicked the fox. In return, he slashed at Blair’s shoulder area. She attempted to block it but failed. He opened a fairly deep gash running from her shoulder to her upper arm.
Buckler saw her wince; then she went at her opponent like fury, hacking and slashing for all she was worth, her eyes now suffused with red as the Bloodwrath took over.
The Blademaster gripped his sword again. Come on, Blair, you can do it!
To say that Zaykimir was scared would be an understatement. Terrified would be a more accurate description. He was now facing a haremaid who seemed possessed of a wild strength; he was backing away now, on the defensive, unable to return any of the blows - it was all he could do to parry them. And sometimes he couldn’t. Blair wounded him several times before he tripped and fell flat on his back, dropping his sword.
He scrabbled for his blade but she kicked it away. Desperate, he began pleading for mercy. “Please don’t kill me, I’ll go away, never come back, just don’t kill me!”
Buckler watched as Blair raised her blade over the prone fox, her voice cold and filled with hate. “Ye didnae show mah family any mercy, did ye noo? Sae why’d Ah?”
She swung the sword. Zaykimir’s head rolled from his body, his eyes staring sightlessly at the sky.
Blair dropped her blade, her eyes returning to their natural emerald hue. She turned and looked at her friends all standing around. The haremaid dabbed at her shoulder wound with a bit of her tunic. Buckler swallowed, then untensed himself, realizing he’d hardly moved a muscle during the whole thing. He walked towards Blair, his friends following.
Turning towards her companions, Blair unexpectedly burst into tears. “Ah swore Ah’d kill him. He won’t be murderin’ any more innocent beasts.” Shaking her head, she went on, “Ah hardly ken whit happened. Ah heard a voice directin’ me what moves tae make. Then when Ah got that shoulder wound, Ah just went crazy. Ah barely remember whit happened.”
Voice? Directin’ her? Could it be…? He’d heard of such things before, like when Clarinna slew Zwilt. But Buckler didn’t waste time puzzling over it. He smiled. “You did it, Blair. You did it.” He put his arm around her. She wiped her eyes and looked up. “Come on.” He turned to his friends. “Let’s all go home.”
Blair nodded. “Aye. Ah never want tae lay eyes on this place again. Let’s gae.”
Extract from the diary of Lady Ambrevina Rockflash.
It is the evening of the first day of autumn. And with it comes some exciting news. Buck and Blair are engaged! Only I know of it so far, but at the dance that’s being held tonight to celebrate the new season, they’ll announce it. They hope to be married sometime later this season. I’m so happy for them!
Blair has changed much since her arrival here. She seemed at first a despondent creature, but now her natural cheerfulness has returned. I think she and Buck make a lovely couple.
The dance is going to begin in a few minutes, so I’d better end this entry. The Long Patrol will be expecting my presence. Perhaps I’ll write again later tonight.