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Dark clouds spread across the cerulean blue sky in a thick gray haze, creating a shadow on the deep foliage of Mossflower Woods. The forest seemed to grow eerily silent and the shadows seemed to grow darker as the storm clouds brewed above.The silence was broken by the creakity creak of the sound of a cart making its way through a narrow dirt road flanked by knarled bushes and ferns. On the side of the cart, in crooked letters were the words "Brakk's Traveling Performers Troupe".
A single ferret pulled the cart along. The ferret was quite muscular and had tan fur and a white mask of fur around his half closed black eyes.
" Oi, Vurk! Do you see anythin'? Any village or buildin' or whatever?" A plump rat that sat at the front yelled out at the ferret, who merely shook his head. The rat clawed at the canvas covering the cart with frustration." By the name of Vulpuz! When was the last time we performed anyway? We ain't gettin' paid and we only have a day or two worth of viddles!"
"Aw, don't grumble Brakk me old father. We'll find somethin'. Right brother?" Tarry, the younger son of Brakk asked his sibling.
"I dunno and I don't care," Turim, the older son grumbled as he studied a worn map over the top of his spectacles.
"Stop yer family fight for a second. Can't you see a thingummy in the distance?" Slyvan, a female stoat pointed a claw at the top of a tiled roof that just started to peep out of the tops of the trees.
Brakk turned his head to look at the roof that Slyvan had pointed out. A humongous grin formed on his face, showing crooked yellow teeth. "This is interesting. What settlement may that be?" The rat mused as he happily thought of performing and getting paid with food. "Alright Vurk! Run full speed to that buildin' before the rain starts pourin'! You don't wanna be a wetbeast!"
Vurk grunted quickly, and before anything more could be said, Vurk bolted down the path as the first few raindrops plopped to the ground.
Book One: The Sly Jokester
Rain poured down in heavy drifts upon Redwall Abbey, pattering onto the red sandstone that formed the peaceful building. A single otter climbed up onto the battlements. His fur was slightly wet and his footpaws were damp with rainwater. He stood in the downpour for a second and stared down at the front path and the ditch.
"Aaah! That feels much better. The weather was so humid jus' minutes ago," the otter sighed. He shook the water droplets from his headfur and was about to turn back, but something caught the corner of his eye, and he stared cautiously back at the front path. A cart was rushing down the path, kicking up mud and splashing through puddles. "Now what is that?" The otter squinted to look at the creature pulling the cart. A ferret! The otter gave a slight grunt of surprise. " I guess I got summat to say to ole Skipper!" The otter rushed down the stairs two at a time and ran into the abbey in a hurry to report his findings.
Skipper Jon saw the young, wet otter half running and half slipping towards him. The Skipper raised an eyebrow in silent amusement and caught the heavily breathing otter by the arm.
"Now, now! Calm down Rupple. Yer leavin' a watery mess on the floors, and Abbess will tan yer scroungy hide!" Skipper Jon barked in a no-nonsense tone at Rupple.
Rupple merely smiled at the otter leader's remark, but quickly got to the point. "There's vermin at the front gates Skip! I think ye better investigate."
"Vermin ye say?" Skipper Jon's eyes narrowed into slits.
"Yes Skip. A ferret was pullin' a cart down towards us!"
Skipper Jon patted Rupple's shoulder. "Good find, mate.I'll go get Abbess Rinn and Foremole Drubble and find out about that ferret. Don't tell the other Redwallers though. It'll only cause commotion."
Rupple nodded and the Skipper turned and went to get the Abbess and the Foremole, a grim look dominating his face.
The three Redwallers stared down at the cart load of performing vermin. Abbess Rinn was holding a crude umbrella carved from wood. It was actually quite sturdy. The Abbess was a middle aged squirrel that actually looked pretty for her age. She nodded at Skipper and Foremole Drubble, who were also holding umbrellas, a nervous smile on her face. She readied herself to call down to the ferret who was staring at her silently, waiting for her to speak first.
"Hello there! What brings you to Redwall Abbey?" Abbess Rinn shouted, a paw cupped around her mouth.
As soon as she spoke, Brakk jumped out of cover in the cart, his ragged cloak fluttering in the chill wind. A slight sneer formed on his lips. "Woodlanders in an abbey, eh? This'll be fun." The plump rat put on a pitiful face and moaned back at the Abbess in his best help-me-I'm-in-distress voice, "Aaaaaaoooh! Have mercy on us marm! We're just poor travelin' performers! We'll perform for you! In return you can give us viddles! Ooooh! Mercy!"
Skipper Jon glared at the moaning rat with a look of distate.. "Shut yer muzzle and let the Abbess speak!" Brakk fell silent immediately, and the Abbess spoke once more, "Ah, yes you may perform for us and gain food, friends." Brakk's face brightened up instantly, and he bowed in a over exaggerated manner. "Thank you! Bless yer luvverly hearts-"
Brakk was interrupted by the Abbess. "Under one condition!" Brakk narrowed his eyes and twitched his ears in annoyance."What now?" he muttered under his breath. "You must not harm any creature residing in the abbey. Do you understand?" Abbess Rinn shouted in an authorizing tone. Brakk merely nodded and smiled, showing his decaying teeth.
"Whut're plannen t' do Abbess marm?" Foremole Drubble asked, his black eyes never leaving Brakk and Vurk. "I can't trust these vermin. The rat seems crafty." Skipper Jon stated his opinion.
Abbess Rinn put a paw to her brow in thought. " I don't trust them either, but the rules of Redwall state that we must help weary travelers whether they be woodlander or vermin."
Foremole shrugged."Oi guess we shudd let those varmints in, then?" Skipper crossed his arms and nodded, yet in a grudging way, a scowl on his face. Abbess Rinn smiled slightly. "Don't worry Jon. I've got a little plan...well, sort of. I think those travelers won't be able to harm us tonight." With that said, Abbess Rinn leaned over the battlements and yelled, "You may come in! Please wait for a minute while we open the gates!"
Brakk grinned triumphantly. "Heh,I guess we're goin' in." Slyvan and a female weasel named Maren slipped out of the cart and admired the high walls and the beauty of Redwall."It's surprisin' I'm lookin' for'ard to performin' in a woodlander fortress,"Slyvan said. The leaden skies still spouted down rain as Brakk's Traveling Performers Troupe entered the legendary building.
Several heads peeked out of the big doors of the main building curiously as the old cart creaked into the abbey courtyard.The rain was slowly seceding, but the sky was still a dull leaden color.
"Look at the cart, Callie! It's being pulled by a ferret! What is happening?" A mouse expressed his worry to another mouse nearby. Callie tip-pawed to look at the mysterious cart that was being lead by Skipper Jon, a look of sheer curiosity on her face. "I can't quite see, Dwinzle, but are you sure that there is a ferret?" She shuddered slightly.
"There shore is. What are varmints doin' in our h'abbey anyway?" Trakko the hedgehog bellringer answered Callie's question instead, his lips pulled into an angry snarl. There were a few other mutters of distate from the other onlookers.
Soon enough, the doorway was being filled with gossiping Redwallers who had heard of the news that a bunch of vermin in a cart had been invited into the abbey. Some were quite angry. "This is just nonsense! Who in their right mind would let vermin into our home!" Sister Jacelyn, a gaunt faced squirrel shouted. Shouts of agreement followed.
"Oi guess the Abbess wudd, burr aye!" Foremole's voice cut through the shouts of displeasure, quieting them immediately.
Everybeast present was silent as Foremole lead Brakk and his troupe into the abbey as dibbuns and oldbeasts alike stared at them with with horrified eyes.
Brakk took a look at the creatures parting to let him and his group pass. He gave a sweeping bow towards no one in particular and said, "We will give you a show right after supper, so look for'ard to it!" Brakk smiled once more and winked cheekily at Sister Jacelyn, who blanched visibly.
"Smile, treebeast, smile. Ye look like ye swallowed a beetle," Maren said calmly, her dull brown eyes transfixed on the dignified sister."W-What are you doing?" Sister Jacelyn said shakily as Maren approached her. The weasel reached for the squirrel's ears like lightning, and everybody gasped, only to sigh in relief as she pulled a chestnut out of the sister's ear."Magic," Maren whispered, and she stuffed the chestnut into her mouth.
"Whoah, that was the most amazing thing I ever saw!" Callie broke the silence, her eyes as wide as boulders.
That was when everybody started laughing.
"Hahahahaha! Did you, haha, see Sister Jacelyn's face?"
"Of course! Heeheehee! We were all gonna scream from the suspense!"
"Hurr, weaseler! Do that'n agin!"
"I hope those varmints are not as bad as we seem. Heheheh!"
Amidst all the talking and laughter, Sister Jacelyn stood in the doorway, looking extremely flustered.
There were three primary things to fear in Valer Swiftshoot's horde.
First of all, there was the unpredictable weasel captain Kovva. Kovva had dark fur and a dark heart, being one of the most ruthless killers in the horde. He was also a master planner and tactician. He would usually be the one making the battle plans and leading discussions with the other captains. All in all, Kovva was infamous for his battle strategies that seldom failed and his cruel actions.
The second primary thing to fear was the sable that went by the name of Shenza Harron. He was a loner that wasn't part of the horde; a mercenary and an assassin. He was also from the feared Harron clan. The Harron clan was a clan of sables that lived a nomadic life in Mossflower Woods. They were brought up to be masters of swift killing and camouflage. Shenza followed the horde from a distance, killing whenever ordered by Valer Swiftshoot himself, the last and most primary thing to fear.
Valer Swiftshoot was a tall fox with rusty red fur and coal black paws. He wore simple plate armor and a crimson tunic underneath it. His cape was made out of the furs of his enemies, giving him a fearsome look. He weilded a bow and arrows and was quite proffesional when using it.
Valer's personality was a bit different from most warlords, though. He didn't give off a fierce demeanor all the time, but rather a cheerful one. Surprisingly, the warlord enjoyed jokes and slapstick comedy, but he was not one to be underestimated.
Today was one of the days that Valer had thought up a new joke to tell. He strutted over to a random hordebeast who was sitting in front of the fire , looking quite miserable because of the downpour from before.
"How ya doin' Grubnose? Feelin' dry yet?" Valer greeted casually with a slight mocking tone in his voice. The rat merely stared back, his teeth chattering uncontrollably.
Valer sighed and plopped down next to the rat, pulling his cloak tightly to his body. "'Tis a shame that yer all cold and mizzable I'll tell yer a joke to cheer ya up."
The rat didn't have time to answer as Valer dealt two swift blows to the back of Grubnose's head. "Knock, knock!" Valer called out. Grubnose put a paw to his head and yelped in pain as Valer smirked.
"W-Who's dere?" Grubnose stuttered.
"Little ole lady."
"Little ole lady who?"
"I didn' know ya could yodel mate."
Suddenly, the whole encampment was filled with wild guffaws and loud shouts of laughter as they yelled out their compliments about the new joke made by their leader. Valer bowed dramatically towards his hordebeasts as Grubnose still held his aching head in his paws.
Valer quickly turned to Kovva, who had kept his face emotionless throughout the whole ordeal. "Mossflower country is quite new to us, but looks like a nice place t' settle, eh?"Valer asked his captain.
"Sure 'tis, chief," Kovva agreed as he sipped slowly from a bottle of grog.
"Surely ya are a genius, Kovva, thinkin' of a plan like that'n. Who would think of scoutin' Mossflower like that? Hahaha!" Valer laughed as his eyes glinted mysteriously in the moonlight.
Supper at Redwall was pretty silent as Brakk and his group took their seats with the other Redwallers in Great Hall. Lanterns burned in nooks and crannies, giving a homely coziness to the atmosphere. The tapestry of Martin the Warrior was in its place on the wall, staring down at the creatures silently.
Abess Rinn sat at the head of the table and looked at the table laden with all sorts of breads and scones and pasties and salads. She could see Brakk and his sons licking their lips hungrily. Chuckling to herself, she leaned over to a mouse sitting near her. "Brother Truff, everything seems a bit awkward, eh?"
The mouse brother nodded and took a quick glance at Slyvan who was already reaching for a mushroom pastie. Since he was sitting close to her, Brother Truff stopped Slyvan's paw quickly and told her loudly so that everyone could hear, "Why don't you and your troupe introduce yourselves first? We'd like to know your names."
"Yes, yes. Please do my friends," Abbess Rinn added in eagerly. The other Redwallers nodded in agreement.
Before anything more could be said, Brakk stood up, slamming both paws on the tabletop. "Yes indeed! We'll do that! Stand up troupe!"
Brakk's troupe stood up slowly and Brakk ran over and introduced each creature in his usual over-exaggerated manner.
"Here 'tis! Vurk the Strong! Weightlifter an' cart puller of our troupe. He c'n lift two stripe'ounds in a flash! Ain't that just amazing? An' here be Turim me older son. The juggler and story teller!" Brakk wiped mock sweat from his brow and went on. "Then here's Tarry me younger son!The acrobat!Then there's Slyvan, our charmin' an' singer song writer stoatress! She's an actor too."
Brakk then turned to Maren, and suddenly everybody was clapping and laughing, recalling the little chestnut trick that Maren had done to Sister Jacelyn. Brakk leaned towards the tall weasel and chuckled. "Seems like yer gettin' popular, weasel." Maren merely smirked, and Brakk started his introductions again.
"This popular weaselmaiden is Maren Mayhem the Magician, and I'm the Master of Ceremonies, Brakk!" The Redwallers all clapped in unison as the troupe bowed.
Friar Edwin, an old grizzled hedgehog with gray spikes banged his wooden ladle on the tabletop to get attention. "Now why doncha goodbeasts go an' start diggen in so we c'n see those scallawags perform later on, eh?"
The friar's proposal was greeted by a mighty cheer and supper began.
Brakk and his troupe stood in the attic, staring at the assortments of blankets on the floor, waiting to be laid upon. Brakk and his troupe had indeed put on a show and the Redwallers seemed to like it a lot. It seemed they were gaining the woodlanders' trust.
After the show, Skipper Jon and Foremole Drubble had lead them to the attic that was reached by a spiraling staircase. The attic was currently being used as a rest area for the elderly ever since they had remodeled it a couple of seasons back. Skipper Jon had said that they could sleep there for the night, but he warned them that if they caused even a little bit of trouble, they would be kicked out of the abbey.
As soon as Skipper Jon and Foremole Drubble left, Brakk plopped down on a blanket and yawned."Gaaah! How long are we gonna be actin' all goody-two-paws?" Brakk growled in frustration.
"We won't be like this for long ,da," Tarry reassured as he sat down next to his father.
The rest of the troupe took their places on the blankets, feeling quite tired yet still alert.
"Tarry's right," Turim added in quickly. "As soon as those abbey bumpkins are asleep, we'll be doin' somethin' quite evil enough, alright! Heh, I wanna get over with this mission quick-like, and we c'n go back to travelin' without that weasel from Valer's horde spyin' on usn's the whole livelong day!"
Everybody glanced at Maren, who merely shrugged. "I'm doin' me job ya addlebrains. Ye were ordered by Valer Swiftshoot to scout out Mossflower country and report to him about how it's like; you guys bein' travelers and all. You were also to spy on a few seddlements while you performed,and I was sent to look out on ye nitwits to see that ye weren't gonna do anythin' funny and stuck to yer job."
Slyvan squinted her eyes at Maren, an annoyed look on her face."Yah, yah! Ye've been sayin' that for the past few days and we get it! So shut up frogspawn!"
Maren was immediately on top of Slyvan. She pulled her dagger out of the hidden pocket in her tunic in one deft motion and held it above her head, her dull brown eyes cold and harsh.
"Don't call me frofspawn agin or I'll-yaaargh!"
Vurk pinned Maren to the ground quickly and Turim and Tarry joined in the fray eagerly. Shaking his head in frustration, Brakk pulled his sons out of the fighting mass and kicked Vurk in the back swiftly. "Be quiet ya idjits! Yer gonna git us in trubble!" Brakk hissed as he pushed Maren off Slyvan. Everyone grew quiet as Brakk glared at them while he put one ear to the door to hear any pawsteps coming their way.
After a while, Brakk sighed and stared out the window, his face accented with dark shadows and the yellowish light of the lantern.He glanced at his sons who seemed to be sporting sizable lumps on their heads, possibly given to them by Maren.
Time ticked slowly in silence as Brakk frequently looked out the window, studying the moon and the darkness of night. "Alright my sons", Brakk proclaimed."The moon is fully up and most of the abbeydwellers seem to be snoozin'.Are ya ready? " Tarry and Turim nodded silently.
"Then out ya go," Brakk ordered with a wave of his paw."Don't forget to come outside with a hostage! We'll be waitin' for ya."
"Ah, no worries, da!" Tarry reassured as he stepped out the door with Turim.
As soon as the rat brothers left to act out their plan, Brakk took off his tattered brown cloak and urged the others to do the same. Maren took off her dark blue cloak that was patterned with stars and Vurk took off his old green traveler's jacket. Slyvan also took off her flamboyant red cloak and tossed it to Brakk as Maren and Vurk did likewise. Catching the cloak deftly in his paws, the plump rat started to knot them together to make a rope of cloth.
"Heheh! We've got everythin' ready! Alrighty Vurk! Hold the rope out the winder, and we'll climb down t' the abbey grounds quick-like!" Brakk announced. "How will I git down, then?" Vurk asked as he scratched his headfur.
Brakk laughed quietly to himself. "I've got my ways, ferret! Just do as I say."
Vurk merely nodded, the obediant beast he was, and took the rope cloth from Brakk and let it dangle out the window precariously. Brakk pushed Maren forward quickly"Ya go first, weasel!"
Maren masked her fear by pursing her lips and nodding confidently. She knew that Vurk wouldn't let go of the rope while she was climbing down it, but the thing that worried her was the fact that the cloth rope was shorter than expected. She would have to jump to the ground froma height that was nothing to sneeze about. Maren gulped and lowered herself out the window slowly, clutching the cloth with both paws. She climbed down the wall until there was no cloth left to hold on to, and with a sigh, she let go and fell to the ground with a thump.
Maren stood up quickly, her rump aching like never before. Trying her best to hide her pain, she beckoned to Slyvan with gritted teeth to come down.
Slyvan seemed to be really scared at first, but she eventually came down after much pleading, or threatening from Brakk. Brakk soon followed, spraining his paw in the process. Vurk then threw the cloth rope to Brakk, who unknotted the cloaks and spread them out with Maren and Slyvan to make a net. Vurk jumped down from the window right into the cloak net, and the foursome's work was done. All they had to do now was to wait for Turim and Tarry.
Callie walked up the stairs to the dormitories with Dwinzle close behind. The mice duo had helped clean up the kitchens with Friar Edwin after supper, but Dwinzle had accidentally spilled cornflower honey all over the floor, and cleanup time had lengthened until late at night.
"I'm feelin' pooped. We shouldn't have volunteered to help," Dwinzle muttered as he stumbled up the stairs, his arms hanging limp at his sides.
"Oh, just go to bed, grumblepaws! You'll feel much better after you get a good night's sleep," Callie berated Dwinzle quietly, trying not to smile. Callie secretly enjoyed the clumsy mouse's company even though he grumbled a lot. He was nice to be with despite what other people said.
Callie and Dwinzle stopped in front of the dormitory where Dwinzle's huge family resided. Dwinzle had twenty-four family members including himself. They all lived in one single dormitory.
"Good night Dwinzle. See you tomorrow," Callie whispered. Dwinzle nodded and quickly slipped into the room as quietly as he could, lest he wake his old grandmother.
As soon as Dwinzle went in, every thing was silent.Callie sighed and started to head to the dormitory which she shared with a few gossipy squirrelmaidens, a few female otter warriors from Skipper's crew(although they were seldom present), and a few mice. Callie was nice to her roommates but she still kept her distance to them. She was not good at socializing like Dwinzle or her other otter friend, Rupple.
Callie thought about the mysterious magician weaselmaid and the vermin troupe. She thought about what they might be doing up in the attic. Maybe sleeping? Maybe gambling and playing dice? Maybe...
"Uuuuummmfff!" Callie let out a muffled scream as a paw clamped over her mouth roughly. Callie struggled helplessly with her captor, trying to bite at the paw with all her might, but to no avail. Suddenly, a second figure stepped forward. Callie could barely see the creature's face, but it looked quite familiar. Feeling panic rush through her veins like a rapid current, Callie struggled harder and more aggressively, but the second figure merely grabbed both sides of Callie's head and swiftly knee-kicked it with a great force.
Callie couldn't yelp or shout in pain as the paw was still clamped over her mouth, but she could feel herself slowly losing conciousness as she slumped to the ground. The last thing she heard before totally blacking out was the urgent whispers of her captors. She immediately realized them as two of the rats from the vermin troupe, but it was too late to do anything about it now.
Callie's eyes flickered open slowly as she regained her consciousness. She felt her head throb lightly and a slight groan escaped her mouth. She blinked twice to regain her sight and slowly moved herself into a sitting position.
Where was she at? That was the only question that dominated her mind as she stared at her surroundings. She seemed to be somewhere in Mossflower Wood. The sky was a dark blue color with a tint of peach light showing on the horizon. Dawn was breaking. The cart of Brakk's troupe stood parked next to a sturdy oak and the troupe members themselves were sleeping around a pile of ashes and glowing embers that was once a small campfire.
Then suddenly, something in Callie's mind clicked into place. She remembered the fact that she had been captured, and she drew in her breath sharply. She got up off the hard dirt ground, flinging a ragged blanket off her body, then she tripped and fell over.
Groaning in pain, Callie looked down at her footpaws and saw that they were bound by one end of a strong rope. The other end was tied to a tree. There was no means of escape for the young mouse.
"Aw, is liddle mousey scared?" A mocking voice behind her made her turn around swiftly, only to tumble to the ground once more with a squeak of dismay. She saw a dangerous looking fox smiling at her from behind the cover of a few bushes.
The fox was a rusted orange color and had shining yellow eyes. A huge grin was plastered on his face. He wore a funny looking hat that was styled like a cowboy hat. He walked out of the undercover of the brush, still smiling.
Callie could see the fox clearly now in the first rays of sunlight. He wore a black duster and a yellow belt with two daggers tucked into it. He also had a long thin whip tied around his waist like a deadly rope belt.
"W-Who are you?" Callie managed to choke out as the fox strutted over to the sleeping Brakk, uncoiling the thin whip from his waist. The fox took one quick look at Callie and laughed. It was a swift, deep guffaw and Callie shivered for some reason unbeknownst to her.
"Ah, who am I? Well, I'm Vlade Brackenclaw," the fox answered simply, giving a few experimental cracks with his whip.
Brakk and Maren awoke immediately at the sound of the whip, and they both stood up groggily, trying to figure out the situation. Maren was the first to spot Vlade, and her paw went cautiously to the hilt of her dagger. Brakk also saw the intruder and frowned, his face a mask of displeasure. "Huh, who are ye?" Brakk yelled.
Vlade gave a smile that could have flattered even the cold hearted of ladies, and swept his hat off his head with a flourish of his paw. Maren was unamused.
"My name is Vlade Brackenclaw, Sir Rat and Miss Weasel. I am looking for a long lost relative that is rumored to be roaming around this area. You see..."
"Whaddaya want?" Brakk cut in quite rudely.
"Get t' the point, fox, or I'll skewer ye with me blade! We don't have enough time t' listen t' ye yammerin' on about summat like a gossipy woodland bumpkin!" Maren snarled.
The rest of the troupe woke up and stared at the intruder with wide eyes as Vlade twirled his whip idly, his trademark smile still on his lips.
"Get to the point I will, then," Vlade said cooly."Where are ye headed?" he asked. "If we're goin' the same direction, I would love it if I could...well...hitch a ride!"
Vurk scratched the back of his head and yawned. "We're goin' over to Valer Swiftshoot's camp to report-mmmmfffff!"
Brakk slapped a paw over Vurk's mouth, looking extremely annoyed. "Shut it, fool! Yer leakin' information t' a stranger!"
Vurk nodded sheepishly and glanced at Vlade, a flitter of a smirk appeared on his face and vanished as he walked over to the cart. He hopped on as if he owned the cart himself. The troupe dashed after him in a panic, terrified of what the intruder was going to do with their precious cart.
"What are ye doin'?" Brakk screeched. Maren whipped out her dagger and leapt on Vlade, who side stepped easily and lashed out with his whip. The whip coiled around Maren's arm and the weasel let out a cry of surprise. Vlade smirked and swung his whip, flinging Maren off the cart. Maren practically flew out of the cart and crashed into the bushes.
Brakk screamed with rage."Vurk, kill him! Gut him! Get rid o' him!"
Vurk was about to make a move, but Vlade was quicker. Soon enough, Vlade was face to face with Brakk. Still grinning. Tightening the whip that was coiled around the plump rat's neck. Nobody moved.
"You see, it seems we're going the same way, so I'm just gonna hitch a ride, eh? Do I have to repeat meself?" Vlade said as he shook his head in anger.
Brakk merely squeaked in terror. Vlade's grin grew larger. He always got his way, no matter what. This time, as Vlade jumped on the cart, no one made a move to attack, even Maren, who studied Vlade's face silently. He looked rather familiar.
All the creatures, including a trembling Callie was loaded into the cart and Vurk stretched his limbs and started to pull the cart, ever weary of Vlade, who was playing around with his whip.
Extract from the journal of Bildy Hallow, Recorder of Redwall Abbey in Mossflower Country.
Today is another warm summer day and the sun is gleaming down its rays upon the earth, but Redwall Abbey is in no mood to enjoy it. The performing vermin troupe have disappeared, along with one of our young ones. The young one is none other then Callie the mousemaid. The elders think that the vermin are to blame for this sudden disappearance, but there is not enough proof to say that they have indeed captured her. Skipper Jon seemed to take a liking to Callie, and he seemed the most worried out of us. Our wise Brother Truff suggested the idea of a search party, and most of the creatures agreed to that idea. Abbess Rinn said that she would pick out beasts to go on the search party a little later on, and I myself will be helping her. I hope the search party can find Callie, wherever she is at the moment.
Bildy the bankvole recorder stopped writing and stared solemnly at young Dwinzle, who was slouched over in one of the big armchairs in the Gatehouse. He was holding something tight in his paws and was staring at the empty fireplace.
Bildy walked overto the distressed young mouse and put a paw on his shoulder. "Now, Dwinzle, why the long face?"Bildy asked even though he already knew the answer quite well.
Dwinzle clasped the marble he was holding tighter and uttered one word, "Callie."
Bildy shook his head sympathetically. If he remembered right, Dwinzle had been good friends with Callie. A slight smile formed on his lips as he remembered the time that Callie had come to him on a blustery spring day to tell him a little secret. She had entrusted him with this secret of hers, and had made him promise not to tell anyone.
He helped Dwinzle out of the armchair by tugging his paw. "No worries. Abbess Rinn is going to pick the creatures for the search party! Come follow me young 'un."
Dwinzle nodded and followed Bildy towards Great Hall, where the Abbess was at at the moment. Dwinzle slipped the glossy marble into his tunic pocket and sighed anxiously. The marble was none other than a present that Callie had given to him on his seasonday.
Abbess Rinn stared at the hopeful creatures that were willing to be part of the search party. There wasn't much, owing to the fact that Callie was not much of a social beast and kept to herself most of the time.
The Abbeydwellers were indeed worried about Callie's safety, but a lot of creatures were hesitant to go out and search for a mousemaid that they didn't even know well in the dangerous woods.
The Abbess leaned back in her chair, staring at each creature. She could see the young otter of Skipper's crew, known as Rupple. She could also see Trakko the bellringer hedgehog and Twinge the assistant dormouse healer that helped Sister Berry in the Infirmary.
Abbess Rinn was thinking intently, and the creatures were slowly growing impatient and anxious. Why was this taking so much time? Couldn't they just pick someone? Soon enough, rescue came in the form of Bildy and Dwinzle, with Skipper Jon and Foremole Drubble coming in soon after. Rinn brightened up when she saw them and beckoned them over to the table she was sitting at.
Dwinzle joined Rupple and Trakko in the group of search party hopefuls. "Did the Abbess pick anybeast yet?" Dwinzle asked as he glanced at the elders who were talking in hushed tones.
Trakko grunted impatiently as he muttered, "Not yet." Dwinzle nodded and looked straight ahead. He was wondering if he should become part of the search party hopefuls. His paw slipped into his pocket and grasped the marble as he thought this. He made up his mind.
A swift tap of a claw on the tabletop brought Dwinzle back to his senses. "We've picked the creatures. Listen carefully now," Abbess Rinn said quietly, her face serious. Dwinzle pricked up his ears tentatively.
Foremole Drubble spoke first,"Twinge, you'm bees one o' the searcher party creatures. Yer healin' skills will be of help, burr aye."
Twinge's eyes grew wide as she heard this and her paw stifled a gasp that was about to pop out of her mouth.
Skipper Jon was next. "I picked Rupple 'cause he's an experienced fighter for 'is age."
"And I picked young Trakko," Abbess Rinn added in hastily. "He's got a good sense of smell and good eyesight. That will be of handy I believe."
Bildy was the only one left. He didn't speak but merely pointed. Everyone's eyes followed Bildy's outstretched claw to rest on Dwinzle.
"Bildy, you here?" A timid voice sounded outside the gatehouse. Bildy smiled. This was none other than the voice of the mousemaid Callie. Bildy and Callie had been good friends ever since Callie had spilled ink all over his habit when she was naught but a Dibbun.
"Yes, I'm here. What do you want, Callie? Is there a reason you came here?" Bildy asked as he poured each of them hot mint tea from an old kettle.
"I've got a secret to tell you, I guess. At first, I wasn't going to tell anybeast, but my mind was going to burst and I was going to go insane if I didn't tell somebeast. But I just couldn't tell anybeast. I thought of trustful people that could keep my secrets and I thought of you, Bildy."
Bildy looked at Callie over the rim of his teacup silently. He set the cup down on the oakwood table and smiled. "I see. Fire ahead."
Callie's face seemed to gain a reddish tint for a moment, but she cleared her throat, and opened her mouth, "I think I'm...I think I'm starting to like this fellow...named Dwinzle," Callie muttered awkwardly as she fiddled around with her cup. A little of the hot tea trickled onto her lap, and she let out a slight yelp.
Bildy chuckled. He knew that creatures that were about Callie's age started to gain some interest in the opposite gender, but he kept his mouth shut about that topic. "I see," Bildy mused."Do you feel better now that you've told me your secret?"
Callie shook her head."No, I'm not done yet. I'm afraid that he won't like me back," Callie said with a hint of embarrassment in her voice.
Bildy paused, his cup halfway to his mouth. He stared at Callie and Callie stared back, waiting for the elder to say something. "If you want him to like you back, make him like you back," Bildy said after a moment of silence. "Become a great friend to him. Creatures like Dwinzle are creatures that can even risk their life for their mates. Be his best friend, and he just might start to like you back."
Callie listened intently, her small pink nose twitching in thought. After making Bildy promise not to leak her secret, she slipped out of the Gatehouse quietly.
Bildy returned back to the present, his claw was still pointing at Dwinzle. Abbess Rinn gave a questioning glance at him and Bildy smiled mysteriously and said, "I pick Dwinzle just because."
Grubnose the rat and Arma the vixen stood guard at the outskirts of Valer Swiftshoot's camp. Sunlight filtered through the trees and made dappled patterns of shadow and light on the two alert creatures. A slight breeze rustled the foliage and the grasses underpaw.
Grubnose sighed and leaned on his spear, his eyes half closed. "I'm feelin' tired. How long have we been standin' 'ere?"
Arma shrugged. Her one good eye stared lazily at the sky. "I'm not sure, Grub. I'm guessin' that we been standin' gaurd for three hours or so."
"Huh! A few more hours and an' it'll be more darker than Cap'n Kovva's heart itself! When's our shift comin'?" Grubnose grumbled.
Suddenly Arma put a paw to her lips. Her eye that was not covered by her black eyepatch narrowed and a paw strayed to her dirk.
"Wot is it?" Grubnose whispered, his head swiveling here and there to check the woodlands.
"Be quiet, idjit!" Arma growled. Grubnose fell silent under the vixen's steely glare. The silence dragged on for a few more seconds, then a creaking sound seemed to emanate from the woodlands along with a clear tenor voice.
"Someday I'll do lotsa things like
Killin' rats and slayin' stoats
Maybe I'll steal some good paw rings
And go an' crush a corsair boat!"
The creaking grew louder and Arma and Grubnose gasped as Vurk and the troupe's cart came into view. Vurk was running as fast as he could, crashing through the foliage like a juggernaut. Vlade was the one who was singing the ditty, his whip swinging dangerously above the troupe member's heads as he sang. Brakk and Maren glared daggers at the smiling fox, but Vlade seemed to be enjoying it greatly.
"Halt! What is your busi-aaargggh!"
As soon as Arma said "halt," Vurk skidded to a stop abruptly, and the cart lurched forward, flinging Turim, Tarry, and Vlade off the cart and on to Arma and Grubnose.
Vlade was the first to stand up. He dusted himself off quickly and held out a paw to Arma, grinning broadly at the pretty vixen. But Arma was made of tougher stuff. Ignoring the paw, she whipped out her dirk and lunged at him, only to trip over Vlade's extended footpaw.
Grubnose stood up swiftly, watching in horror as Arma rolled head over heels into the bushes. Grubnose was about to move, but Turim and Tarry grabbed him from both sides. Grubnose sent the butt of his spear thudding into Tarry's belly, and the young rat staggered back, stunned, but Turim doggedly held on to the guard rat. Grubnose growled and was about to send Turim to the Dark Forest by a quick spear thrust, but all at once, several things happened.
Vlade's whip coiled around his waist and Maren's dagger tickled his neck dangerously while Vurk grabbed Turim and pulled him away. Then Captain Kovva and a rat captain named Rotback ran over, hearing the commotion.
"Hellstooth! What is this?" Kovva exclaimed as he barged into the mass of creatures. He spotted Maren and quickly grabbed her shoulder, digging his claws deep into her flesh.
"Explain what is happenin', sister! Explain truthfully or you'll be a deadbeast!" Kovva growled.
Maren winced but managed to glare cooly at her older brother. "Those foolish gaurds thought we were enemies and attacked us!"
Arma stumbled out of the bushes, brushing leaves out of her headfur as she did so. She glared with contempt at Maren and snarled aloud her displeasure,"She's lyin' Cap'n! Those two rats and the fox jumped on us'ns first!"
Rotback spat into a fern bush and gave Arma a swift push, sending her sprawling flat on her stomach.
"Aw, stop yer grumblin', nitwit. Cap'n Kovva's gonna git this settled an' over with."
Vlade quickly released Grubnose and sprinted over to Arma."Bad form, pushin' a lady like that," Vlade berated the rat captain as Rotback stared back unamused. Vlade tried to lift up the vixen in his paws, but got a sharp slap from Arma instead.
"What are ya tryin' to do? Carry me? I'm no snivelin' babe!"Arma screeched, her face beet red.
"Silence!" Kovva cut in. Everyone ceased to talk immediately.
Captain Kovva stared at Brakk, who bowed his head slightly in greeting."So, have you got any information on Mossflower Country?" Kovva asked.
Brakk nodded."Yessir. WE got a good deal o' information all right. And..." Brakk paused for affect, then clambered into the cart. Brakk came back out, pulling Callie in his wake. Callie was a trembling and crying mess; her fur was messy and her eyes were red rimmed and dazed.
Kovva's eyes lit up as if he had found a gem. "Where did ye get 'er from?"
"We captured 'er from a place called Redwall. 'Tis not far from here. Maybe a day and a half's march." Brakk explained, pulling at Callie's ropes as he did so.
Kovva nodded. "good work, troupe. I'll take ye to Valer Swiftshoot. And you two!" Kovva yelled at Grubnose and Arma. "Yer punishment for attackin' creatures of our own side will be no rest! Yer shift will not come for ya!. Get ready to gaurd this place all night! Keep yer eyes peeled for anythin' or else I'ii peel yer eyes out for you with me blade"
Kovva turned and smirked wickedly, leading Captain Rotback, Brakk's troupe, and Vlade to valer's tent as Grubnose and Arma groaned pitifully from behind.
Vlade took a backward glance at Arma, feeling sorry for her for a split second, but he grinned and faced forward again. He was looking forward to meeting his brother.
The sun blazed low in the sky, making the distant trees of Mosflower brownish-black silhouettes with flaming orange backgrounds. Redwall Abbey looked wonderful with the brilliant red sheen coming from the worn sandstone blocks that formed the building. Four creatures stepped out of Redwall with a few other creatures in tow and a bunch of curious Redwallers.
"G'bye, Dwinzle dearest! Come back safe!" A plump mousewife with drooping whiskers waved her handkerchief about, wiping away tears with her other paw.
"Now, now, Frim. Our son is a brave 'un. He'll come back safe with young Callie I'm sure." Bunder, Dwinzle's father, patted his wife's shoulder comfortingly as he watched Dwinzle wave back at his huge family as he disappeared slowly from sight.
Sister Jacelyn, Brother Truff, and Bildy Hallow stood next to Dwinzle's family and waved also as Skipper Jon and Abbess Rinn discussed urgently in the background.
"I think there is a reason that the vermin took Callie," Rinn said worriedly. "Do you think that there are more vermin in the woodlands that are part of the vermin troupe's horde, or something like that?"
Skipper Jon's brow furrowed and he let out a sigh. "Maybe. Maybe not. I'm guessin' that those vermin might be reportin' back t' their leader or summat. We never know. Would ye like me crew to stand guard on the walltops, just in case?"
Abbess Rinn nodded and took one last glance at the disappearing search party. "Please do, Skipper. I'll make some of the other creatures to help if you want." Abbess Rinn thanked Skipper Jon gratefully and turned back to the Abbey, feeling stressed for the first time in a couple seasons.
Dwinzle padded softly through Mossflower Woods with Rupple, Trakko, and Twinge. Trakko lead the way, his big nose twitching as he sniffed the air. Rupple checked the sun constantly, checking the time, and Twinge gathered any herbs or dockleaves that she could find and stuffed it into her pouch. Dwinzle did nothing in particular. He felt slightly useless, so he looked around for things to do, but finding none, sighed and went on.
"I smell somethin' burnt," Trakko muttered as his nose twitched momentarily. "D'ye smell it, Rupple?"
The otter pushed a long thorn bush branch out of his way with his javelin and sniffed experimentally. "Nah."
"Well I c'n smell it alright," Trakko said as he trudged on.
Time went by slowly, and Dwinzle's paws were starting to ache as he walked. "Twinge, are you tired?" Dwinzle asked as he hopped about on one paw.
"Can't you see with your own two peepers that I'm tired?" Twinge snapped as she lagged behind the group, her tongue lolling out of her mouth as she panted.
Rupple took a look at at the two tired creatures and halted Trakko. "It seems Dwinzle and Twinge are frazzled a bit. A liddle rest won't hurt us, eh?" Rupple asked the bellringer hedgehog casually.
The tough hedgehog was determined to find out about the burnt smell and Callie, but he nodded reluctantly and slung his haversack off his back.
Dwinzle and Trakko sighed and slumped to the ground in relief. Rupple seemed to be the only one not panting as hesat down and cheerily pulled out a few scones out of his haversack.
"Here, ye young scallawags! Have some o' Friar Edwin's blackberry an' honey scones! It'll put the strength back to your wobbly limbs!" Rupple said as he handed out the scones, grinning cheerfully as he usually did.
The mouse, the dormouse, and the hedgehog accepted the scones gratefully and started to eat.
Not too far from the resting creatures, a few sables and a pine marten peeked cautiously out of the cover of a few bushes and ash trees, staring hungrily at the scones.
"Ah'm hungry," A sable grumbled, only to be dealt with a sharp slap on the head from a tall female sable.
The female sable seemed to be in charge of the ragtag bunch. She was tall and sleek and had glittering pale gray eyes that struck fear into the hearts of creatures. She growled angrily at the sable who had spoken: her own mate. Her mate was tall, but plump.
"Don't speak too loud, Tamik! What if'n those woodland bumpkins hear us?" The female whispered loudly.
"Yowch! Ah'm sorry, Snowfang. Don't 'it me! Ah'm yer mate!" Tamik whispered back.
Snowfang rolled her eyes and turned to the pine marten. "Oi, Viko Ashtooth. We've let ye join the Harron Clan, but ye have not shown us yer ability in battle yet. Prove yerself to us, and you'll be in good shape, agreed?"
The pine marten's war paint smeared features cracked into a lopsided grin. "Indeed, Snowfang," Viko rasped as he fondled his war club, eager for a fight.
Snowfang smiled grimly and nodded. "Look at 'em havvysacks. There might be lotsa good things in it. If we loot well, Chief Jinclaw will be pleased."
Soon enough, the creatures of the Harron Clan had silently surrounded the search party, stealthy as a thief and camouflaged with the lengthening shadows.
The four travelers were unaware of the Harron Clan until they were attacked. The nine sables and the pine marten crashed out of the bushes, flinging leaves and flattening foliage as they thundered into the clearing, weapons drawn.
Rupple was the first to get his mind straight. He shook his head in disbelief and scrabbled upright, grabbing his javelin and whipping out at his attackers blindly. "Dwinzle, Trakko, Twinge! Up on yer hunkers an'-"
Rupple gasped as Viko's war club rammed into his side. The otter stumbled because of the pain and fell to his knees, but he still managed to lash out at the sables. One unlucky sable was dispatched by the swinging wood, but his partner threw himself on Dwinzle, and the young mouse cried out in terror and he screamed as the blade of the sable nearly missed his neck and dug deep into his shoulder.
Trakko and Twinge both tried to fend off the sables with their staves, but they were overwhelmed by the mass of creatures.
Rupple saw the sables attacking his mates and a rush of adrenaline filled his veins like rushing water and a loud shout escaped his mouth, "Reeeedwaaallll!" His eyes blood red, Rupple dashed into the fray, javelin held high.
Rupple was like a mad beast as he attacked the sables ferociosly. He killed the sable attacking Dwinzle with a quick thrust of his weapon and threw himself on the creatures that were surrounding Trakko and Twinge, stabbing wildly and exchanging fist blows.
Soon enough , the sables were done for by several quick thrusts, and Rupple glared with the demented bloodwrath eyes at the three remaining creatures: Snowfang, Tamik, and Viko.
Snowfang shuddered at the sight of the raged otter, her paws shaking and her teeth rattling. What had happened? The otter had been defenseless just moments ago! Snowfang bit her lip and whispered out of the corner of her mouth at her mate. "Tamik! Get those havvysacks while I distract the otter!"
Tamik looked confused for a second, but he nodded and slowly walked away with Viko in tow as the female sable waved her spear threateningly at Rupple.
Then Rupple lunged.
Snowfang let out a shriek of utter terror as Rupple bulled into her. The two tumbled through the bushes and started to attack each other ferociously. Sonwfang fought with a force that she never knew she had, due to the will to survive. She didn't want to die by the paws of a berserk otter yet. She dodged and thrust and cut and swung until the otter finally crumpled to the ground, his eyes turning to a normal colors as he did so.
Snowfang let out a huge sigh of relief as soon as Rupple was defeated. Breathing raggedly, she put down her spear and called Viko and Tamik over. The two were prodding at the unconscious Dwinzle, Twinge and Trakko.
"Git over here and leave the miscreants. Let's get back to camp fast! I'm injured." Snowfang ordered as she clutched at a cut in her side that she never knew was there.
Tamik and Viko nodded, carrying two haversacks between them. They came to Snowfang, and the trio limped away, leaving the carcasses of the fallen sables behind.
"Here 'tis," Captain Kovva pointed at an elaborate purple tent that was guarded by two alert stoats.
Brakk and his troupe approached the tent, pulling Callie between them. Vlade took a look at the tent and then at Rotback. "So this is Valer's tent, eh? Is he yer leader?" Vlade asked.
"Shure he is, Rotback answered.
"Then excuse me, fair rat," Vlade muttered and he started to dash headlong towards the tent as Rotback and Kovva screamed from behind him. "No, you imbecile! What are you doin'? Come back!" Rotback bellowed. Vlade ignored the fiery tempered rat and tripped the stoat guards with his whip. Then he flung open the tent flaps and yelled out in a singsong voice. "Brudder, I'm home.!"
Valer jumped in surprise in his chair and his head whipped over to face the creature who had broke into his tent. "What in the name of...."
Valer had been talking with Shenza the Harron Clan mercenary until Vlade had come. He tried to keep a cool face as he grasped Shenza's arm. "Kill this crazy intruder who managed to defeat my best stoat guards, will ya?" Valer muttered as he glanced at Vlade. Where had he seen him from?
Shenza could feel that Valer was really unnerved at Vlade's appearance, but he didn't say anything about it. He nodded curtly at Valer's request and drew his sword.
But he was interrupted as Kovva's yell could be heard from outside. "Chief, please don't do anythin' yet! Brakk and his troupe have come with some information and a hostage and that crazy fox followed them!"
"Indeed, indeed, Lissen to the weasel captain and don't do anythin' rash" Vlade said cheerily as he eyed Shenza.
Suddenly Valer's eyes widened slightly and a mysterious smile crept onto his face. "Alright then crazy fox, or whatever you are," Valer said as he beckoned Shenza over to him. " come in Brakk and yer troupe!" Valer called.
As soon as Valer called out, Brakk and the others walked in and tried as best as they could to bow respectfully as Callie continued to struggle with the ropes. A kick form Brakk sent the mouse toppling face first to the floor and Valer looked amusedly at it all.
"So Brakk," Valer Swiftshoot addressed the rat who was busily tugging at the ropes that bound the young mouse.
"Yes, cheif?" Brakk asked
Valer grinned. "You can tell me all the information yoa have gotten while roamin' Mossflower. And that liddle mousey...." Valer then grinned broadly at Shenza. "You can interrogate her"
A slight murmur rose up from Brakk's troupe. Shenza was infamous for his ruthless interrogation and the pain he caused. Slyvan knawed nervously at a claw and whispered to Maren, "The mousey is dead for sure."
Maren merely shrugged. Memories were filling into her brain like floodwater. She remembered the first time that she had come to Valer Swiftshoot with Kovva. Her hometown had been destroyed. Her and Kovva had been beggar orphans that roamed the woodlands, and then they had been found by Valer's horde and tied up, just like Callie. And then... Maren shook her head swiftly, trying to push the accursed memories back into the crevices of her brain. The weasel then rose a paw silently.
Valer saw her and nodded, giving her permission to speak. Maren pointed a claw at Vlade who gave her a why-do-you-point-at-me-like-that-I-am-innocent look.
"What are you goin' to do with this ruffian over there, Chief?" Maren asked with contempt thick in her voice. She had loathed the crafty fox ever since they had met, and now was a time to get hopefully even.
"Oh, do you mean Vlade Swiftshoot otherwise known as Vlade Brackenclaw? I'm gonna talk to him later. Alone," Valer said casually in a low voice. He had just figured out who Vlade was, but he was hiding it well.
"No wonder Vlade looked familiar. They were brudders!" Maren thought to herself in silent shock along with the rest of the troupe. They stared open mouthed at one fox to the other.
Valer leaned back in his oak chair, his stormy gray eyes never leaving Vlade's electric yellow ones. "A reunion with a long lost relative. How fun, how fun! I have so much jokes to tell this feller. Indeed. Heheheh."
Glunny and Ro the shrew scouts inspected the four unconscious travelers from behind the shelter of a sturdy ash trunk, rapiers drawn. The blades glinted dangerously in the light of the silvery moon that was hidden by floating wisps of gray clouds.
Glunny took a cautious step forward, but he stepped back immediately as he trod on the face of a fallen sable. His fur bristled and he leaned against the trunk of the tree, heaving a sigh. "There must have been a fight here for sure. Log-a-log 'eard the commotion from far off," he commented as he sniffed the air.
"That's why we were sent 'ere," Ro responded in her gruff voice. "Ah, don't you remember that lousy cook Teevo? 'E burned up five fishes while cookin' 'em, and the smell was horrid I tell ya!"
Glunny wrinkled his nose in disgust and knelt down to inspect the sable. "Yeah. 'Twas horrid indeed. Everybeast within one hundred paces or more coud've smelled it too. Now's not the time to talk about this however. This sable's not been dead for long seeing as his wound is still fresh and no creepy crawlies are eatin' him."
Ro nodded, but she was staring worriedly at the woodlanders. "It's an otter an' a mouse, an' a 'edgepig, an' a mouse with a floofy tail," she said urgently, pointing at the creatures.
Glunny walked over to inspect the foursome also. He knelt down next to Rupple and took a good look at his stomach wound. Dried blood had crusted over the wound and flecks of red were splattered all over the surrounding shrubbery.
"The floofy tail mouse is a dormouse by the way, idjit," Glunny smirked as he leaned over Dwinzle.
Ro's expression looked quite embarrassed, but she quickly pointed her rapier at the snickering shrew. "I knew that so shaddup!" Ro snapped in a loud whisper.
"But 'ow do we take four injured beasts back to our camp?" Glunny suddenly asked. "We can't just leave 'em here."
Glunny and Ro turned around swiftly, to be face to face with a groggy looking Twinge. She had been dealt with the least of injuries due to the fact that Trakko had shielded her from most of the attacks coming from the sables, so she was the first to get her consciousness back. She surprisingly looked fine except for a jagged cut that run along her left arm.
"Floofy tail mouse, yer alive!" Ro exclaimed in a hushed yell. "Ya okay?"
Twinge shrugged, then rolled her shoulders and stretched out her limbs, slight cracking noises emitting from the joints. Then she looked around her haversack containing the herbs. She would treat Trakko, Rupple, and Dwinzle immediately. She could not find them anywhere however. Holding down an emotion of panic, Twinge quickly pointed at Ro, her grogginess forgotten. "I'm Twinge! Who are you?" Before Ro could even answer, Twinge went into action. "You can help the mouse up to his feet, and you can help the hedgehog! I'll support the tall otter known as Rupple as he is the largest, and you shrews are to short to help him or anything of that sort. We'll supposrt them back to your camp if it's not too far."
Glunny looked slightly annoyed at the sudden orders directed at them. He was about to step forward and argue but Ro clamped a paw over Glunny's and pulled him back fiercely. "Just do as she says. She knows what she's doing," she grunted.Glunny let out a slight sigh and rolled his eyes, but he did approach Trakko. Avoiding his spikes as best as he could, he lifted the slightly conscious beast into a stooped standing position and put an arm around him to steady him. Glunny grimaced as a few spikes pricked his flesh. Ro did likewise to Dwinzle, except with more ease.
Twinge held tight to Rupple's back, steadying him. "This might be hard," she breathed out, already feeling tired as the weight of the otter pressed onto her skinny frame. "How long until we reach our destination?"
Ro sighed in relief as Dwinzle's eyes fluttered open slowly. "Half a day's march," Ro guessed as she slowly let go of the mouse. He teetered precariously on the tips of his paws before he balanced himself into a standing position.
Twinge smiled grimly. "Half a day's march. Shoot. I was hoping we could reach the camp afore midnight. Let's do this then. No time to dilly-dally. Oh and Dwinzle, you okay?"
Dwinzle's paw shot up to his bloodied shoulder and he let out a yawn and then a groan. "Where in the name of...?" Dwinzle muttered before glancing at Rupple. The events of the day started to flash by in his head showing him one by one the disappearance of Callie to the fight with the sables, refreshing his memory completely. Letting out a shuddering gasp, he slumped over and Ro caught him before he could fall to the ground. The haversacks had disappeared. He couldn't see them anywhere. They had disappeared and his marble was in one of them.
Callie lay on the hard ground outside Valer's camp. Her footpaws were bound together with a nearby thin tree. Callie lay there groaning, her right cheek pressed to the earth. Her heart pounded loudly, hammering jolts of pain into her head. The mouse was covered with fresh cuts that covered her body like grotesque tattoos.
Shenza had said that he had gone easy on her during the interrogation. Callie closed both eyes. She didn't want to think about it. She didn't want to let out secrets of Redwall to the enemy, but she knew the torture was going to get worse tomorrow. It was open your mouth or die. Callie wanted to die now, but not in a painful way. She wanted to die in her sleep right now so she wouldn't have to endure more pain the next day. What would have Martin the Warrior done if he was in this situation? Callie reminded herself she had to be strong. The Redwallers would save her or she would save herself. Despite all the positive thoughts she was trying to think up, death seemed to looming over her, casting a shadow on her. Callie slipped into a troubled sleep slowly, never recognizing the beast that approached her.
The beast stopped a few pawsteps away from the mouse and stared into her face. It reminded her of days long gone. This mouse reminded her of herself. The beast let out a sigh. Was she becoming soft?
The beast was holding a ragged brown cloak in one paw. She quickly flung the cloth over the sleeping mouse's body. Now she would be warm. Taking one last glance at Callie, the beast scampered off into the darkness.
Dawn light speed through the trees of Mossflower. The light was still yet pale and gloomy as thick wisps of clouds were drifting through, covering up the sky in a blanket of pale gray. The trees cast eerie shadows on the leaf scattered ground and yellowish-green grass rustled as the wind swept through them softly.
The silence was broken by a curse that escaped Snowfang's lips as she approached the Harron Clan camp. She was leaning heavily on Tamik, who stumbled awkwardly beside her. Snowfang was limping heavily because of the injuries given to her by Rupple. She cursed the otter under her breath every time she felt a jolt of pain. At least the otter was dead. She had stabbed him.
Viko grinned as the Harron sables' tents came into view.They were made of a thick cloth that was waterproof and light. They were the right tents for the nomadic clan. Viko swung his war club in greeting at a young female sable that was sitting on a rock outside her tent. She was busily grinding some basil leaves in a stone bowl, her brow furrowed in thought.
"Oi, Senna! It's nice to see ya here! Snowfang's injured. Ya better 'elp 'er quick-like." Viko interrupted the healer sable rudely as he bonked her lightly in the head with his club.
Senna looked up, startled. The trio was a bedraggled and dirty bunch as they had been walking almost all night to get to camp after being beaten by Rupple. Senna nodded wordlessly and sat Snowfang on the rock she had been sitting on. Then she turned and looked at Viko and Tamik solemnly. "Git some rest ye two. I'll treat Snowfang first." She said and gingerly touched a deep slash on Snowfang's paw.
Snowfang yelped and let out a stream of curses. Stifling a sigh, Senna pulled out some bandages and was about to get to work when Viko quickly took the stolen haversack from Snowfang. He dug in it for a few seconds and then pulled out an object roughly and slipped it into Senna's paw. "'Tis a liddle present for ya. It's one of our loot. It's useless, but pretty, eh?"
Senna stared at the marble that rested in her cupped paws. She held it up to the light and the glossy shell of the marble gleamed in the sunlight. It was a shade of light green with swirls of white and a bit of black speckled across it. It was made out of some kind of agate no doubt.
Senna thanked the pine marten and put the small marble in her pocket. It was pretty indeed.
Senna the noticed the absences of the sable soldiers that had accompanied Snowfang, Tamik, and Viko. If they had all lost them or got them killed, they would have a lot of explaining to do to the Chief Jinclaw. She shook her head sympathetically at Snowfang and quickly applied a bandage to Snowfang's paw.
Vlade Brackenclaw awoke from his slumber groggily. His yellow eyes blinked slowly as he tried to recall what he had done yesterday. Vlade sat up, he was lying in a tent, a small one too. He got out of the warm blankets and stretched.
Vlade looked around until he found his trademark hat, whip and dagger. Collecting his items, he crawled out of the tent and strolled through the camp, thinking. Valer had had a long talk with him last night, reminiscing the days they had spent together as young fox pups. Everything had seemed to be going well for the young Vlade until his parents had abandoned him for being weak and runty. Valer had reminded him that fact coyly last night. Vlade remembered that he had attacked his older brother in a blind rage until he had been knocked out with a swift blow to the head.
Vlade snapped out of his troubled thoughts as soon as he saw the two creatures standing guard at the outskirts of the camp. Arma and Grubnose were sitting with their backs against an old coniferous tree, snoring with their spears held loosely in their paws.
Grinning, Vlade crept over stealthily towards Arma, and at the right moment, tackled her.
Arma woke from her slumber with a start as Vlade's bulk pushed her to the ground. Arma's one good green eye stared in shock at Vlade's yellow ones. Vlade grinned wider, his arms around Arma's neck. "Sorry to wake ya from yer beauty sleep, but I think ye should have woken up sooner afore Kovva or Rotback could've got you!"
Arma suppressed a smile that was going to show on her face and pushed the other fox off of her roughly. "Geroff me, you good for nothin' ankle-biter!" Arma growled.
Vlade was still grinning like a fool as Arma pushed him. He stood up and proceeded to tackle a still asleep Grubnose.The rat was bulled head over paws into some nearby foliage by the bigger fox. Vlade emerged from the bushes seconds later, laughing heartily, followed by Grubnose, who was grumbling with an ornery look on his face.
Vlade saw two plump stoats approaching Arma and Grubnose, each holding crude spears. "Finally our shift is coming!" Grubnose yelled in relief.
Vlade nodded, but his eyes seemed to catch something moving in the trees behind the stoats. His nose twitched momentarily. Had he seen it in his head?
Gaffa Woodjumper moved like a miniature red lightning bolt though the trees, sweeping by swiftly with hardly a sound emitting from her. She rested momentarily on the tree that she was on presently, breathing deeply the cool forest air.
Gaffa parted the covering of leaves blocking her vision and stared down at a tear-jerking sight. Callie was staring in fear at Shenza's cold glare that could have penetrated into her soul. He was holding a curved dagger, twirling it idly in one paw. The mouse pulled her blanket-cloak close to her body and let out a sigh. She closed her eyes and then opened them. There was a light of determination in them.
Callie leaned against the very tree Gaffa was hiding in. She fingered her bound footpaws distractedly. After a few seconds haunting silence, Callie opened her mouth.
"No, I will not tell you anything about Redwall or Mossfower."
Gaffa grimaced as Shenza's face contorted into a malicious sneer that could have been the face of Vulpuz himself. The dagger flashed. Callie cried in agony. The squirrel bolted off with one thought in her mind: Go get help!
Author's Note: Anyone wanna be updated? Leave a comment below. And special thanks to Redmight for creating the awesome Vlade. ed.