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The Juskamor had come to Mossflower Woods! They were from the south, where it was all too peaceful and quiet, so they decided to come to Mossflower, where they knew was the fabled Redwall Abbey! Redwall was famous for their hospitality and good food. Aye, the Juskamor had come to Mossflower!
Trumin Mor was the clan leader of the Juskamor. He was an evil stoat, and deadly with a cutlass and two daggers, each with a pattern on the hilt with two red stones. He was grey all over except for his brown head, which made him odd out of the whole clan. This was made more barbaric by his tattoos on his face. He was short but sinewy, and his eyes were green. His horde was full of murdering foxes, stoats like himself, ferrets, rats and weasels, each of them born killers, but none like their Taggerung. The Taggerung was a weasel called Trun Juskamor Taggerung, or Trun for short, which was his original name as a babe. He had had an argument with the old Taggerung, and the old one had thrown a dagger at him, but Trun had ducked and run the old Taggerung through. He had grey eyes, so grey eyes that they looked like black. His fur was a reddish brownish colour, one of his footpaws were black and the other white. He was a better fighter than Trumin, though no one could best Trumin but Trun. Trun used a long sabre. The clan was fivescore altogether. They had been travelling for a few days in Mossflower when they came to a ford. They made camp there and started fishing, while some collected berries and edible roots to eat. Others collected cool sweet water in tankards, bowls and tins. Trumin sat in his tent trying to figure out what to do. Finally he gave up and went outside. He snatched a few berries and took a gulp out of a tankard. He shouted out for the horde's attention.
"Juskamor!" They turned and looked at their leader. "Juskamor! This will be our main camp, because there is water and food here. I will select a score of the best to scout out the land around and beyond us, and I will go along. My captain, Klotch, will be in charge of this camp while we're away. Our Taggerung, Trun, will come with us too. If Klotch reports any mutinous talk or rebellious things in this camp, I will deal with them." Trumin then picked the score and set out, exploring Mossflower.
Redwall Abbey gleamed in the sunlight. It was mid afternoon, and the night before there was a huge storm, and the garden and the lawns needed to be cleared up. The Head Gardener, a middle-aged mouse named Brother Dermin, had everybeast out and helping, even the Dibbuns, which are the Abbeybabes. Abbott Merlo watched as everybeast dashed about. He was an old mouse, and he soon was going to retire, and pick another Abbott or Abbess. He was so old that he needed a strong yew staff to support him wherever he went. The Skipper of Otters, a male named Romarc, got his otters to clear the debri that were floating on top of the pond's surface. Foremole Munjil and his crew were picking the unripe fruits and nuts that had fallen into wheelbarrows. The rest of the Abbey, which included the Dibbuns, cleared the branches and leaves that lay strewn on the wet grass. The Dibbuns were running around willy nilly, running and jumping on the leaf piles. The elders were getting frustrated, and had to keep sweeping up the leaves, which were just jumped on again. Finally the Abbey's cellarhog, Pirrel Barrbrew, straightened things up.
"C'mon ye rascally Dibbuns, I know that Friar Nirpol has baked some damson and cream pudden, mabbe if ye help us clean up these branches and leaves, and stop jumping on them, I'm sure he'll let ye have some pudden!" This got the babes excited, and they started running around collecting leaves and twigs to dump on the piles. An otterwife, Felia, whose husband was Skipper Romarc, with their fifteen season old daughter, Melba, and Melba's ten season old brother, Dayl, were helping to clear the leaves. Dayl was very energetic, and was the fastest runner in the whole Abbey. He could swim as fast as his dad, and he could throw a dagger accurately, which Skipper had taught him to do, and he practised on a leaf pinned against a tree trunk. He was that good! Melba had her father's eyes, but her mother's gentle and kind personality, while Dayl had his mother's eyes and was becoming muscular and sinewy for a young one. He was tall and had blackish greyish fur, while Melba was light brown and nearly cream coloured. Abbott Merlo walked up to them.
"Hello you three. Good to see you helping out. Enjoying it?"
Dayl pulled a face and replied, "No Father, not one little bit. I'm bored and my paws hurt from carrying tree branches." Abbott Merlo patted Dayl's head and smiled.
"Helping doesn't do any harm Dayl. Help others as much as you can and you'll get rewarded by being admired by elders and young 'uns. You'll be teaching Dibbun's good manners. But you are growing up, and the elders need somebeast young nearby to help them out sometimes. Don't forget what I just said to you, young Dayl, because it will help you throughout life."
"I promise I won't forget what you said Father, but I'm still young and want to play before I'm too old like you to play any more."
The Abbott chuckled and replied, "You are like an old head on young shoulders!"
Next Abbott Merlo went up to Skipper Romarc, who had finished fishing everything out of the pond, and said, "Your Dayl and Melba are rare treasures Romarc, you are lucky that they are your son and daughter." Skipper puffed his chest out proudly. The Abbott continued. "I heard Sister Alkina say that she needed some herbs, because she is running out. I was wondering if you would like to go with Melba and Dayl to pick some. Would you consider it?" Skipper replied.
"Hm, yes, they would love a walk outside the Abbey, they haven't been anywhere y'know, I think they'll love that very much Father!"
Abbott Merlo nodded. "Good. Pick half a score of your otters to go with you, in case you run into any trouble. I'll write down the things you need to get. Don't forget to bring Hunto along!" Huntilop Crunsaw Kerscutt, or Hunto for short, was the resident hare of Redwall. He was an unusual creamy brown in colour, and had arrived at the Abbey covered in wounds and bruises from a fight with a pack of toads. A while later they set off with a list of the supplies they needed, some afternoon tea packed by Friar Nirpol, a few tankards of dandelion and burdock cordial and cold mint tea and a basket to carry the herbs in. Dayl carried his dagger, which was not a fancy blade, just a normal dagger with some patterns on the hilt. Melba carried a sling which was loaded with a pebble. Skipper and the rest of the crew carried throwing javelins, pointed at each end. Soon they had the herbs they needed.
Meanwhile, Trumin and the score of hordebeasts had got a sack of crab apples growing wild north of their camp. Trumin bit into one, the juice squirting from the apple. He munched thoughtfully. Soon he would try to conquer Redwall Abbey, but he was not going to be added to the lists of dead warlords who tried. Cluny, Gulo, Kurda, Slagar, Vizka Longtooth and others. He had heard that there were many warriors in there. He decided he shouldn't try until he had at least tenscore more warriors.
Skipper told the gathering party to sit and have a bite to eat. Everybeast immediately flopped down, and started unpacking the food. There was new baked bread with some cheese, some berries and nuts, apples, and dandelion aand burdock cordial and cold mint tea to wash it all down. They ate quickly and soon they cleared up.
Skipper winked at them and said, "C'mon mates, lets go home now." They had walked only a couple of spear lengths when suddenly they walked right into Trumin's group.
At first there was confusion, then Skipper roared, "Vermin! Up an' at 'em mates! Redwaaaaalllllllll!!"
Trun started drawing his sabre and yelled, "They're on'y riverdogs! Charge!" Melba started swinging her loaded sling, thwacking at the foe. Dayl didn't know what to do, but he saw his sister and his father fighting, so he started to parry and thrust, which Skipper hadn't taught him yet. Suddenly something came over him, and he saw the weasel fighting his dad with a long sabre. He had no idea what he was doing, but he threw his dagger at the weasel. Trun ducked from a thrust and stood up. He stopped and gurgled, Dayl's dagger in his throat, and fell dead. Skipper recognised his son's dagger and looked at Dayl, suddenly realizing what he just did.
Dayl tried to run, but Trumin shouted, "Capture the liddle riverdog! Quick! 'E just killed the great Taggerung!" A fox came from behind Dayl and brought his sling crashing down on the young otter's head. Skipper could feel his rage boiling when he saw his son being knocked out cold, and he charged, biting and kicking, snapping everything that came to cut him.
He shouted out, "Daaaayyyll!" But it was too late. Melba screamed as she saw Dayl being dragged away. Something hit her on the head, then she fell unconcious. Trumin had ordered his crew to knock out the otters, and they ran back to their camp. But Skipper had not been knocked out. He lay stunned, tears running down his face, mingling with the blood that was around. Then he wept, weeping for his captured son, Dayl, whom he would probably never see again. Weeping for his lost son, Dayl.
Trumin and the group didn't stop running until they were just half an hour's walk from their camp, half dragging and half carrying Dayl with them. They sat breathing heavily, eating crab apples to calm them down. Trumin inspected their prisoner. He was wearing a dirty habit which he wore to go out in. Trumin could see that he was a good swimmer, because of his thick rudder. He would have to test him in running. Trumin could not believe that this young otter was to be their new Taggerung, but he did half believe it because he had seen Dayl throw the dagger, and it hit Trun right on the throat. But the otter was only about ten seasons old, so how could he kill a living beast? Trumin told himself that Taggerungs showed talent at an early age. He suddenly remembered the otter's name. The big otter had shouted out his name, which was Dayl. Trumin smiled. A good name for a Taggerung. When they got their breath back, they started to walk back to camp. They arrived panting, and ran to the ford. But the rest of the camp could only stare at the otter prisoner. Trumin's Seer vixen, Zarol, could see that Trun was not there.
She approached Trumin and spoke, "Where is our Taggerung, and what have yew brought here Sire?" As she kicked Dayl's footpaw. A hush came over the horde.
They had to wait until Trumin had finished drinking his fill of water and replied, "This riverdog killed our Taggerung." There was a shocked silence. Trumin continued, "We walked right into a group of riverdogs, from the Redwall Abbey I assumed. They charged at us, and we started fighting. This young one threw a dagger at Trun's throat, and it got him right in the gullet. Trun fell dead, and he was fighting a big riverdog, this one's dad I think. Anyways, we knocked him out cold, and the big riverdog started shouting 'Dayl!' and so I figured out that was this one's name. We knocked all the other riverdogs out, so they couldn't follow us back. So this is our new Taggerung." The was a silence.
Zarol walked up to Dayl respectfully, and even though he was unconcious, she spoke out loud, "Dayl Juskamor Taggerung!"
Skipper Romarc was still weeping when the others awoke. They saw their chieftain crying. Melba started crying when she realized Dayl was gone, and she sobbed next to her father. The rest held a repectful silence until Skipper stopped. He dried his tears, and clenched his fists.
He shouted to the heavens, "Dayl, I promise that one day, I will find you and kill the scum that took you! I will make that promise to you my son! Dayl!" He stood up, shaking with rage. He calmed himself down, and said, "Pick up the basket. We're gonna have to tell them the news." On the way back, Skipper stopped talking to everybeast. He had his paws clenched the whole time, and his teeth gritted. He kept whispering to himself, "I will find you my son. I will find you." They arrived at the Abbey. Abbott Merlo had noticed they had been gone for a long time, and he organised a party to be on the walltops to see if they were coming back. One of the party, a squirrel named Regan, dashed down the steps and opened the gates. Soon Abbott Merlo was there with Felia. She could see that Skipper had been crying. When she was about to ask why, she noticed Dayl was not there. She cried out and flung herself into Skipper's arms, crying into his shoulder.
Abbott Merlo didn't know what the crying was about, so he asked, "Felia, why are you crying?" Skipper replied for her.
"Dayl was captured by some vermin. We fought with 'em, and suddenly he threw his dagger at a weasel that I was fightin'. Got him right in the throat, Dayl's a real thrower. Anyways, he kills the weasel, and I realize what he did. "He has never harmed anybeast, I swear, but he killed a weasel! Then I think the leader of the group shouted out, "Capture the liddle riverdog! Quick! 'E just killed the great Taggerung!" and then they knock Dayl out cold, and I charges at them, but they knocked out all of us. They hit me with a stone, but I was just stunned. Then they retreated, the cowardly scum! And Dayl with 'em!" His voice rose to a deafening roar. Then he broke down sobbing. "Why Dayl, why, why must they take ye from us! Oh Dayl!"
Suddenly the Abbey's Recorder, a middle-aged bankvole called Grollen called out, "Excuse me Skip, but what did the vermin look like?" Skipper looked up surprised that he should ask.
"Well, they were tattooed like Juska clans, they had two black rings on their cheeks, with orange dots in the middle of each one, then a strip of red going down from their forehead to the nose, with green circles around the eyes and I think thats it. Why?"
The Recorder answered promptly, "Well, Skip, as you said, Juska clans have some sort of clan tattoo. So the Juska clan that took yore son is the Juskamor! And also, I remember reading somewhere that a Taggerung is a warrior, somebeast who can outrun the wind, swim as fast as a pike, has eyes as keen as a hawks, and can be silent as a shadow. It also said that if the Taggerung gets killed by another beast, the beast who killed it becomes Taggerung himself!" A gasp arose from the crowd.
Skipper yelled out, "So that means that my son is a Taggerung of the Juskamor! As soon as we can, we're setting off to find this Juskamor, and get my son back!" Abbott Merlo stepped forward.
"But Skip, our Abbeydwellers are not warriors. There is only your otters and Foremoles crew, besides some others. We have no idea how many Juskamor there are Skip, we cannot just dash out and start fighting. I'm sorry Skipper, but maybe we won't be able to until we get enough warriors." Skipper saw that the Abbott was right, and they walked back to the Abbey, for it was getting dark and it was near dinnertime.
Dayl woke up to a massive headache, but he could not remember his name, where he came from or what had happened. He pushed himself upright and looked around. He was in a cave, and a vixen and a stoat were watching him.
He looked around in confusion and said, "W-who am I? Who are you? Where am I?"
The stoat glanced at the vixen and said to her, "Thank goodness he has amnesia. What a fortunate thing!" He turned to the bemused otter. "Can yew not remember who yew are? Or where ye from?" Dayl shook his head. The stoat continued, "Yew are the greatest warrior of our clan, Dayl Juskamor Taggerung, an' yew are ten seasons old. We was out scouting when yew were 'it on the 'ead and knocked out cold." Dayl clasped his paws to the side of head and fell back on to the pillow and groaned.
Trumin and Zarol rushed over and said, "Are ye alright Dayl? Is ye head painin' ye?" Dayl slowly nodded and closed his eyes. Zarol soaked a towel in a bowl of cool water and layed it on Dayl's head. "Are ye tired Taggerung?" Dayl nodded again. Zarol and Trumin crept out and sat drinking water and nibbling some cooked fish that some Juskamor had caught.
Dayl fell straight asleep. In his dreams a mouse walked up. He was dressed in armour, and in his paw he held a magnificent sword. He looked strong and firm, but yet friendly and kind, and for some reason, Dayl seemed as if he had knowned him for countless seasons, and his face was familiar, but he could not remember where he had seen it.
He said to Dayl, "Dayl."
Dayl answered back, "Who are ye?"
The mouse shook his head angrily and said, "Do you not remember me Dayl?" Dayl shook his head. The mouse started fading away.
Dayl shouted, "Come back! What is your name?" The mouse did not reply and faded away altogether. The dream turned pitch black and Dayl tossed fitfully for the remainder of his sleep.
He was woken by Zarol, and she asked, "Is yore headache still hurtin' yew?" Dayl shook his head. Zarol lead him outside in the warm night. Everybeast was chatting, eating or sleeping. They all grew quiet and watched their new Taggerung.
He sat down next to a dish of roasted trout and a tankard of water from the ford layed out for him, and he picked up the fish and started nibbling and commented, "This is good fish. I like it." He resumed eating it and spat out some bones. A while later it was gone, and he was swigging water. He sighed contentedly.
Trumin nodded at Zarol and she said, "Now is the time to realize yew are the true Taggerung of our clan." She held her paw over the campfire and suddenly opened it, and the fire rose in a green flare. She started to chant:
- "Who can run like the wind,
- Yet turn on a single leaf?
- Stand silent as a firefly,
- And steal the breath from a thief?
- The Taggerung!
- Who can outswim a pike,
- Has eyes as keen as a hawks,
- Who brings death in his wake,
- Yet leave no trail where he walks?
- The Taggerung!"
Zarol started painting the clan's tattoo on his face. A black circle on each cheek, a blue lightning bolt in the middle of each one instead of an orange dot, to signify that he was different. A red stripe going down from his forehead to his nose, and green circles around his eyes. Dayl had been staring right into Zarol's eyes, and he sat there unblinking while she painted his face. His eyes meant that he was scared of nothing. They shone brightly, the campfire reflecting in his eyes. Zarol shuddered. They were so...intimidating. Nearly hypnotising. Dayl was now part of the Juskamor clan! His face was a frightening sight. They were made more frightening because of his blackish greyish fur, and you could hardly see him if it was pitch black. He melted right into the shadows of trees, bushes, and shrubs. Trumin went into the cave, and swigged some grog, thinking on what to do next. He would have to gain more hordebeasts if he wanted to conquer the Abbey. He suddenly realized that the Abbeydwellers would probably come out and search for him and the Juskamor, looking for Dayl. He decided he would tell his clan on the morrow.
Skipper Romarc could hardly eat anything, nor could Felia or Melba. She had been treated by Sister Alkina for a few cuts and bruises, so was Skipper. Abbott Merlo could not help but notice their faces, and he put his paw on Skipper's shoulder.
"You are welcome to take your crew out tomorrow and search, but you can't fight them. Just spy on them, and see if your son is there." Skipper nodded but said nothing. He could not even eat a bowl of watershrimp and hotroot soup, which he loved the most. Dayl's best friends, a squirrel named Brill and a mousemaid called Swerl sat stone faced. They were the same age as Dayl, but they could not get over their best friends capture. Brother Junish, an old mouse, shook his head sadly.
"Pore Skip and his lovely wife Felia, Melba and Brill and Swerl too. Pore beasts!"
Sister Velio the hedgehog answered, "Aye, what a shame. They'll never get over it. Dayl was the nicest Dibbun, never upset or down." Skipper pushed away his plate of food, and Hunto the hare shot off with it. Normally Skipper would have shouted and chased him, but today was different. Hunto noticed this, and he came back with the food, munching on the salad leaves.
He sat down next to Skipper and said, drooping his ears down, "Are you alright Skip? I know you lost yore son an' all that, but ye need to at least flippin' eat sumthin' y'know, otherwise how are you gonna find yore son on a empty stomach? Food is jolly well important doncha know?" He left off eating and brought Skipper a bowl of shrimp and hotroot soup with heaps of hotroot, a beaker of elderberry and burdock cordial and a few scones spread with rosecream and plum preserve. He tried to coax Skipper to eat, and everybeast watched in astonishment as the hare of Redwall got Skipper Romarc to eat a few scones.
Hunto continued, "I have seen many mates of mine lose their son or daughter, but they still eat so they could hunt down the foebeast, and that they won't die of starvation and not find they're son or daughter at all. Which one would you prefer, sir, t'flippin' die of starvation and not find yore son at all, or bloomin' eat somethin' so you can track the foebeast down and get yore son back? Which one would you prefer, eh Skip?" Skipper, for the first time since Dayl's capture, smiled and started spooning shrimp and hotroot soup down.
Hunto nodded and said, "Good, I like t'see that, mind if I take some of yore soup, mate?" Skipper had no time to reply when Hunto grabbed a spoon and ate the spicy soup.
He stayed still for a moment, then you could see his face go red as a strawberry, and he ran outsde, clutching his throat, yelling, "Me pore mouth! Its burning! Its on fire! Hothothothot! Ouch! Oowww! Me burning mouth, move out of the way, chaps and chappesses, a hare is coming to the pond! Me throat's on fire! Heeelp!" He made an undignified charge at the Abbey pond and made a dive, well, more like a belly flop.
He started drinking it, and then he was flopping his arms around and shouted, "Help! I'm drownin'! I can't swim! Skipper, come an' help yore ole mate Hunto out o' this flippin' pond mess! Huh, leavin' a drownin' chap in the bally pond! Cads! Why aren't ye helpin' a chap? Heelp! I'd rather die from eating too much flippin' hotroot soup than die from drownin'! I'm gonna get eaten by the flippin' grayling! Ahhhh!" Everybeast watching could only laugh helplessly, and Skipper was laughing so hard he could hardly dive into the pond to fish Hunto out. In the end Skipper just managed to control his mirth and dove in to save the 'drowning' hare. Hunto had drunk so much pond water that he had gone slightly green in the face.
He said weakly to Skipper as he was hauled out and lead dripping to the infirmary, "If ye ever eat shrimp and hotroot soup, don't drink the bloomin' pond. Its not for drinkin'! Uh, does this mean I have to go to the infirmary? I'd rather die drownin' than take a fizzick from that Sister Alkina! Blurrggh! I sure don't want a dose of agrimony and nettle soup! Take my advice ol' chap, never take a fizzick, wot!" Unfortunately the hare did go to the infirmary. When he realized this, he started to struggle, but Skipper had a strong grip on him.
When they got to the infirmary, Sister Alkina said, "Open your mouth wide Hunto!" The hare refused and shut his mouth. Sister Alkina nodded to Skipper. Skipper held Hunto's nose until Hunto took a quick breath. The Sister poured near half a bowlful of the strong medicine down Hunto's throat. The hare's ears shot straight upright and he leapt out of Skipper's hold and ran out.
He ran to the kitchens and said to Friar Nirpol, "I need somethin' to eat! Jump to it sir! The taste of that fizzick near killed me, wot! I was nearly killed by eating shrimp'n'hotroot soup, I nearly drowned and I was just fizzicked by the Sister!"
Friar Nirpol, the middle aged squirrel, chuckled and replied, as he set some cheese and bread out for the hare, "I see Hunto. I would die of anything than get physicked by that old mouse."
The gluttonous hare shoved it into his mouth and said, "I'm grateful to ye, old chap, grateful for these vittles!" By then it was late in the night, and everybeast was starting to go to their beds and sleep. Melba could not sleep that night, so she wandered down in front of Redwall's greatest treasure, Martin the Warrior's tapestry.
She stared at him and softly asked, tears coming to her eyes, "Martin, where is my brother Dayl? Will Dad, Mum and I never see him ever again? Please tell me Martin." She stood there waiting for an answer, and when she decided he was not going to reply, she went back to her bed and cried herself to sleep.
Dayl immediately made friends with a ferret called Juvern. Juvern was about the same age as Dayl, and his fur was a orange reddish colour, his eyes were as blue as the deepest ocean, and his weapon was a wooden club. Trumin gave a kilt and a brown belt to Dayl to put on, so his habit didn't give away that he was an Abbeybeast. The next morning, Trumin roused the tribe with a kick of his footpaw.
"Up on yer hunkers, ye lazy beasts, or I'll bury yew alive where yew sleep!" The crew hastily gobbled down some water and roots. Dayl was the only one who got some apple and a porridge made by Zarol. Trumin shouted, "We are goin' to march south for a week, then return here, explore the land a bit. Any objections?"
Some of the non brighter ones, such as a weasel like Fretrip, asked, puzzled, "Why are we goin' south again Chief?" Trumin answered, rolling his eyes, "'Cause I said we are goin' to explore a bit, and 'cause those are my orders. Understood?" The weasel nodded. "Now, let's go! March!" The Juskamor set off at a fast pace, going south.
Skipper had his crew search around the Abbey and nearby areas until lunch. With no luck, the dispirited searchers wandered back to the Abbey. Abbott Merlo welcomed them with a worried look on his face.
"Still no sign of him?" Skipper shook his head and let a tear drop from his eye. "Don't worry, you tried your best, all of you did." They walked to Great Hall for lunch. The rest of the Abbey were eating anxiously for Skipper and his crew. Melba and Felia were picking at their food and playing with it, and when they saw Skipper, they knew the search was in vain.
Melba sighed wearily and said, "I wonder where he is. I miss him."
Felia answered sadly, "I miss him too Mel, we all miss him." Skipper sat down and munched on a leek and mushroom pastie.
"Ye still have t'eat, otherwise Hunto will be after ye!" The trio chuckled, remembering the nights events.
"I heard that y'know, ole chap, these earlugs o' mine haven't failed me yet, wot wot!" Hunto came over to them with a massive plate of salad, cheese, bread, a few scones, a carrot and turnip turnover, a huge slice of woodland trifle, some pear crumble, some bilberry pancakes with syrup and cream and a beaker of dandelion and burdock cordial. He sat down next to Melba and devoured the carrot and turnip turnover in a matter of seconds. Melba watched in amazement as he ate his salad with surprising speed and started on the crumble.
Melba asked, "How could you eat that much sir?" Hunto answered while nibbling on a scone.
"I just get really hungry at mealtimes. Don't ask me how, even if I'm just readin' somethin', I always feel a little peckish. Weird, eh wot?" Melba brought up a subject that interested the gluttonous hare immensely.
"It's soon going to be autumn, and we're going to have our Nameday feast soon, how long 'til, Mama?"
Felia answered, "I think its about a week and a half. I wonder how we're going to get through it without Dayl." There was an awkard silence.
Hunto interrupted it by saying, "Well, if its a feast, I'm jolly goin' to be there, wot! I won't miss it for nothin', absobloomin'lutely nothin', wot!"
Friar Nirpol was walking by just then, and he clapped a paw to his head, remarking, "If that hare is goin' to be at the feast, I'll just go on a holiday on some rainy isle away from that hare. I'd much rather do that then cook for an Abbey for a feast plus a hare!" Everybeast who heard the remark laughed.
Trumin had ordered his weapon master, a fox named Shawrin, to instruct Dayl the use of swords, spears, slings, bow and arrows, and to teach him strategies and skills. Dayl was willing, and he learned quickly. He soon was challenging the best fighters in the clan. Klotch, Trumin's captain, was fighting Dayl. The vermin had formed a ring around them, and Dayl and Klotch were circling each other, blades flickering, looking for an opening. Trumin was watching his Taggerung and his captain. Suddenly Klotch charged at Dayl, and he locked blades with him. They parried and thrust, Klotch with the upper hand. Klotch thrust his rapier at Dayl's head, but Dayl ducked and punched Klotch in the stomach. Klotch wheeled back, gasping for air. That was when Dayl made his move. He charged at Klotch, and Klotch managed just to block his adversary's cutlass from slicing his head off. But he could not block his opponents fierce onslaught. Their blades locked, then Dayl disarmed Klotch with a flick of his wrist. Klotch's rapier flew through the air and landed outside the ring of watchers.
Dayl smiled and said, "D'ye still want to challenge me?" Klotch stubbornly nodded.
But he added, "Yew must fight widout any weapons now, 'cause me rapiers gone. Deal?" Dayl answered by giving his cutlass to Juvern.
He turned back and and said, "I'm ready for ye now." Klotch ran at Dayl with his claws stretched. Dayl skipped to one side and his rudder dealt a blow to Klotch's legs. Klotch collapsed and fell down. He turned over as Dayl's rudder hit the space where he was a moment ago.
Dayl placed his grey footpaw on Klotch's chest and said, "D'ye still want to fight Klotch?" Klotch was panting, and he shook his head. Dayl smiled and took his footpaw off his chest. He helped Klotch up and said, winking at him, "Ye lucky that yer not my enemy, otherwise you'd be dead by now."
Klotch grinned back and said, "Yer a tough riverdog no mistake, mate, we're lucky to have ye in our clan!" Dayl retrieved his matching daggers which Trumin had given to him and cutlass from Juvern and gave Klotch's rapier back.
Trumin walked up to him and said, "Yew are getting very strong for yore age and size Dayl. When yore fifteen seasons, imagine wot yew will be like!" Trumin indicated a few crab apples and some water. "Thats the only thing we got, sorry, yew'll be without some nice food for a few days."
Dayl replied munching an apple, "No problem Chief." He walked over to Juvern, who was leaning against a broad oak. "Did I have a good fight back there mate?" Juvern shook his head in wonder as he hefted his club.
"I've never seen anybeast as strong as yew Dayl. No wonder you're Taggerung!" Dayl laughed, took out his two daggers and started twirling them, a two mini blurring circles of light. His friend watched as he weaved patterns with them, and suddenly he threw both of them at Juvern. Juvern yelled, covering his eyes, not wanting to see where they landed. Thunk! Juvern slowly opened his eyes and saw the blades quivering next to his whiskers. He jumped forward and peered at them.
"Hell's Teeth! They took off some off me whiskers! No wonder yew are Taggerung!" Dayl tugged his fancy daggers out of the tree and put them back in his belt, patting them.
"I'm sure you'll be as good a fighter as me when we're older mate!"
Skipper and his crew searched for days on end, each time returning to the Abbey fruitless. Skipper was on the verge of giving up, and constantly he wondered where his son was. Abbott Merlo was glad when the feast preparations were beginning, to help Skipper take his mind off things. It was a day before the Nameday feast, and Abbott Merlo had asked him and his crew to make some shrimp and hotroot soup for the feast. Skipper obliged and instead of catching shrimp in the pond, they were frolicking around, splashing water at each other and having a good time. Felia was helping Friar Nirpol and his assitants with Melba to make all the delicious food. Pirrel Barrbrew was sampling drinks with different cheeses. The rest were helping to put up decorations up on the lawn and the Dibbuns' were just playing freely around the pond and eating strawberries from the orchard. Abbott Merlo was thinking about what the Autumn season was to be named. Skipper Romarc had finished catching watershrimp and now sat down with the Abbott in the orchard, sitting under the shade of a damson tree.
Skipper asked, "Whats on yore mind, mate?"
The Abbott replied steadily, "Just thinking up a name for the feast Skip. I have no idea what to call it." Skipper stroked his whiskers thoughtfully.
Then he said, "Well, whats been happenin' over the past few days, Father?"
Abbott Merlo replied knowingly, "Dayl was captured vermin an-I know what we'll call it!"
Skipper chuckled and said, "Aye, the Autumn of Dayl's Capture!" The mention of Dayl filled Skipper with sadness, but he didn't let it show. Suddenly there was a shriek, followed by screaming. Some of the Dibbuns' were playing in the pond. They were supervised by a molemum named Furbee and she was now waving frantically and shouting for help. Skipper jumped up and ran. He was guessing what had happened. He saw Bynio, a small mousebabe, floating on a piece of wood in the middle of the pond, screaming. Then he saw it. A silver fin shining in the sunlight. That could only mean one thing. Grayling! Skipper ran faster and did a long powerful dive over the rest of the Dibbuns' heads. He struck the grayling with his rudder on its head, stunning it. It wasn't stunned for long. It retaliated quickly and charged at Skipper, bulling forward. Skipper swam to the side and dealt a blow with his rudder on the graylings stomach, winding it. But it wasn't finished. One of Skipper's crew, a female called Grentail had fished Bynio out while the fight was on below. Skipper punched the grayling on the eye. It bit him on the rudder and wouldn't let go. Skipper roared with pain, but water came rushing into his mouth. Then a male otter called Trumlin dove in, sensing something was wrong. He saw the grayling and headed straight for it. His rudder hit the grayling on the nose making it release Skipper. Together they wrestled the grayling until it swam away. Skipper was fast losing conciousness, drifting to the bottom. Trumlin towed him along, and they broke the surface, and Skipper was taken to the infirmary. Trumlin nodded at Grentail.
"The liddle tyke alright mate?" Grentail smiled and nodded.
"Right after was tryin' t'bite my paw. Liddle rascal!" Felia came up and plonked herself in between the two.
"He'll be alright after Sister Alkina gives him a dose of her medicine! The feast is nearly ready for tomorrow. If only Dayl was here to enjoy it too." Grentail put an arm around Felia's shoulder.
"Don't worry marm, I'm sure he'll turn up sooner or later." Felia sighed and closed her eyes.
"I hope you're right Grentail." Hunto walked up and sat down next to Grentail.
"Pore Skip. He just had a dose of fizzick! I just went to check on him and he looks green as a frog! Um, you'll excuse me marm, but what kind of food will there be at the feast?" Trumlin playfully whacked Hunto with his rudder.
"Just wait an' see, you greedy hare, you eat way too much!" Hunto feigned hurt, and he stood up.
"Hmph! Not very much help! Just a simple question, wot!" Just then the Matthias and Methuselah bells rang, indicating afternoon tea. Hunto shot off, and nearly collided with Friar Nirpol. The friar looked at him.
"Hello Hunto, I'm guessing you'll be going to Great Hall for tea?" Hunto nodded and shot off again. Friar Nirpol chuckled as his helpers came out from behind the building and set up a buffet on the lawn. Felia, Grentail and Trumlin were leaning on each other laughing.
Friar Nirpol asked with a twinkle in his eye, "What are you three laughin' about then, eh?" Felia doubled up laughing.
"Oh hahahaheehee, you just told Hunto, hahaha, that tea was in, haha, Great Hall!" Friar Nirpol twirled his reddish brown bushy tail, smirking like a Dibbun who escaped bath time.
"At least I don't have to cook for him!" Everybeast sat down and started eating. There was a strawberry and candied chestnut trifle, raspberry cream turnovers, damson tarts, bilberry scones with meadowcream and plum preserve, arrowroot cake, carrot and celery pasties, oat farls, bread with cheese studded with nuts, raspberry jelly, October Ale, strawberry fizz for the Dibbuns', dandelion and burdock cordial, cherry wine and pear cordial. Then out of Great Hall stomped Hunto, with rage on his face.
He confronted Friar Nirpol and said, "You, sah, are a fiend! Telling a chap that tea is in Great Hall! Pish an' tush sir! Cad! How dare y-you tell me that tea is in Great Hall!" Friar Nirpol looked up from his carrot and celery pastie and said, "Well, after you sped off to Great Hall, Father Abbott told me that tea was to be served on the lawns. So I set it up here, and I was so busy I forgot to remind you. I'm dreadfully sorry sir." Hunto was not impressed.
"Hmph! Robbin' a chap of his food. Leavin' somebeast out who has hardly a crumb to keep fur an' bones together. Flippin' ungrateful of y-"
"Excuse me Hunto, please do accept our apologies, maybe you would like some trifle to make up for it?" Felia asked, holding a plate of trifle out. Hunto immediately grabbed the offered plate of trifle and gobbled it down, leaving some cream on his whiskers and paws.
"Bless ye marm, of course! Er, is that arrowroot cake marm? D'ye think I could have a slice?" Felia cut a piece and let him try it. The hare's eyes lit up and picked some crumbs from his whiskers. "Just nice. Now I'll show you a trick or two." He got two slices of bread with cheese. On one slice he put a carrot and celery pastie, some arrowroot cake, a turnover, an oat farl and a piece of trifle. Then he put the other slice of bread on top, making it a massive sandwich. Everybeast watched in amazement as he ate it with relish, and it was gone in no time. He licked his paws and said, winking at them, "Best snack ever, eh wot!" Then he filled a beaker with some October Ale and drank it in one gulp. He patted his stomach and said, "That fit the bill nicely, wot!"
Shawrin, the weapon master, was reporting to Trumin. The fox shook his head in amazement.
"'E's the quickest learner I've ever seen Chief! He just got a bow and arrow, and fired it all in a split second! And he got bullseye each time! Same with a sling and spear! 'E's a quick runner, swift swimmer, and accurate. I fought him in a sword fight, with wooden swords o' course, and he beat me, prodding me everywhere, even though I used all the tricks I know. He was dodging every single blow I tried, 'e's a good fighter!" Trumin nodded his head in satisfaction.
"Good, good. Today we are going to march back to the ford. That's our main camp. Yew can go now." Shawrin left the tent. Some of the vermin had set up a competition, seeing who could hit a small vervain flower in the middle, growing against the trunk of an elm. A line was drawn on the soil and they had to throw their weapon from that line. The prize was a small cask of some grog. Some tried, but failed. Juvern the ferret, Dayl's friend, threw a dagger. It whizzed through the air and hit the elm, just to the left of the flower. Juvern tugged the blade from the trunk, grinning broadly.
"I'm winning so far! Who can beat that, eh?" Nobeast objected.
Then a voice said, "I might be able to, if I give it a go." There stood Dayl, one of his throwing daggers' in one paw. He walked up to the line, then took five paces backward.
The judge, a rat called Grunge, inquired, "Are yew throwin' from there Taggerung?" Dayl nodded and started twirling the dagger. It slowly spun, getting faster until it became a blur to the audience.
They watched as he stayed there for a few moments, then suddenly he shouted, "Hup yaaah!" He threw the dagger. It spun through the air, clearing the distance in the speed of a lightning flash. The audience watched with mouths hanging open as the dagger hit the flower. Grunge scurried to inspect it.
After a few moments, he shouted, obviously overawed, "'E's 'it it! The Taggerung wins!" There were wild cheers from the vermin, and they patted Dayl's back as he went to retrieve his dagger.
Juvern grinned at him and said sorrowfully, "I would love a sip o' that grog, pity, I thought I was the only one who could hit it. Well done mate!"
Dayl put a paw around his shoulder and said, offering the grog to Juvern, "Well, I'm not a grog drinker really. You can have it if ye want."
Juvern gave a shout of joy and hugged Dayl, grabbed the cask and opened it saying, "Are yew sure Dayl?" The otter nodded and Juvern swigged it, a grin plastered on his face. "Thanks pal, yew are a real mate, Dayl!"
It was time for the Nameday feast! Everybeast was chatting excitedly, combing their fur and whiskers, washing their paws, dressing in a clean smock. The cooks were preparing the food, putting final touches. Dibbuns were being washed, yelling and screaming. Skipper, Melba and Felia tried not to think about Dayl, and set about being busy. Soon everybeast was ready. They went to the orchard and stood by the tables set up. Abbott Merlo rang a bell and they fell silent, waiting for their Abbott to speak.
He spread his paws wide, and said, "Friends, welcome to the feast. This season will be called, 'The Autumn of Dayl's Capture'. Now, a toast to all our good helpers, Friar Nirpol, Felia, Melba, Skipper, Foremole Munjil, and others to numerous to mention. A toast to our helpers!" "To our helpers!" They sipped their drinks. Now the Abbott said the grace.
- "Grace this table,
- With food and drink,
- Flowers filling every corner,
- Eat your fill but before think,
- Who helped us grow these fruits,
- And helped us make our October Ale?
- Why Mother Nature of course,
- Every breeze and rain and gale,
- Was made by Mother Nature. Amen."
"Amen." The Abbeybeasts sat down and filled their plates high with various foods. There was nutbread with fruits and nuts inside, bilberry scones with thick Abbeycream and plum preserve, a massive pot of shrimp and hotroot soup, deeper'n'ever pie, a leek and mushroom stew, a huge woodland trifle, mint potato and leek pasties, fruit flans, celery and carrot turnovers with onion gravy, apple puddings, summercream pudding with syrup poured over it, damson tarts, pear and rhubarb crumble, arrowroot cake and other delicacies. There was October Ale, strawberry fizz, cold mint tea, pennycloud cordial, apple cider, damson wine, greensap milk, horsechestnut cider, pear cordial, dandelion and burdock cordial, elderberry wine, plum cider and many others. The Dibbuns ran around the tables, snatching food off and smearing their face and paws with whatever food they got.
"Hmm, plum pudden, my favourite!"
"Anythin' is yore favourite food Hunto, anythin'!
"Here Felia marm, have some crumble!"
"Thank you Grollen, heres some trifle!"
"Melba, I saved some scones for you before they got eaten up by Hunto!"
"Thanks Swerl, I love scones!"
"Have shrimp and hotroot soup Skip, and a beaker of October Ale, they go well together!"
"Thanks mate, I'd have died if there hadn't been any left!"
"Try some stew Sister Velio, its very good!"
"Thank you Pirrel, I'm sure it is!"
Soon everybeast had stopped eating except Hunto, who was finshing some pudding. They watched as he demolished a leek and mushroom turnover, followed by some scones, salad, a flan, a slice of cheese, some bread, and then when he had finished all that, he got a beaker filled to the brimm with some elderberry and plum cider and drank it in one draught, finally satisfied.
Skipper put his paws to his mouth and shouted, "Walltop race everybeast! Sign up now if ye want to be in it!" There was a rush as Melba, Felia, a squirrelmaid called Binna, a mouse called Bron and a hedgehog called Bretor signed up for the battlements. The Dibbuns, Foremole Munjil, a few other moles, Swerl, Brill, Friar Nirpol, his assistant, a quiet squirrelmaid called Frella signed for the ground race. They took their places.
Brother Nyton, a hedgehog, who was the starter, shouted, "Ready...On y'marks...Get set...Go!" They shot off, starting at the north wall. Melba was neck to neck with Bretor, Binna and Bron. On the ground Friar Nirpol was in the lead with Foremole Munjil, Frella, Brill and Swerl slightly behind. They were now on the east walltop. The Dibbuns were running willy nilly, some stopped by the strawberry patch, others ran the other way, a few started playing by the pond, and a few were still running. Binna, Melba and Bron were on the south walltop now. Frella had caught up with Foremole and Friar Nirpol, and they tried to over take each other. Bron, Binna and Melba were racing, panting heavily. They were on the west walltop, when Melba and Binna sprinted full blown to the finish line. Bron was slightly behind, and he put all his strength and stamina to his footpaws, sprinting in front of the rest and across the finish line. Frella and Friar Nirpol were coming to the finish line, when Friar Nirpol put on a bit of extra speed. Frella gave a great leap and landed on the finish line, a pace before Friar Nirpol. Brother Nyton held both the winner's paws up and shouted, "Bron and Frella win the race!" There were great cheers and back slapping, followed by drinks to celebrate. Next was the greased pole competition, the prize a huge packet of candied chestnuts. Mainly the Dibbuns took part, and some young ones like Swerl and Brill. They teamed up with Frella, and stood on top of each other. Brill was at the bottom holding the pole, while Swerl clambered up onto his shoulders and stood there, while Frella climbed on top of Swerl, trying to reach for the packet. She was desperately trying to get the packet, which was only a few inches from her fingers. Then the squirrelbabe Rena climbed on top and took a leap, and grabbed the candied chestnuts, but the packet could not come off, leaving her dangling by the candied chestnuts. Then Frella jumped and snatched both the packet and the Dibbun, landing on the soft mat which was under them for safety.
"Frella, Brill, Swerl and Rena win the candied chestnuts! Divide it by four." It was getting to late afternoon, and now there was entertainment. Sister Velio got out a reed flute and played a little ditty. She had a jolly voice, and sang prettily.
- "There was a mousemaid, called Primlin,
- Whose friend was a frog, I'm sad to say,
- Her mama was cruel, her papa was greedy,
- She was beaten and whipped everyday!
- Then one day she ran away,
- And left a little note,
- It said 'I'm off for a journey,
- With me hat and me rotten coat!'
- Her parents cried, all night of course,
- For their daughter that ran away,
- They forgave her and said when she came back,
- 'We'll feed ye and pamper ye anyday!"
The Sister winked at the Dibbuns and said, "Thats why yore mama's look after ye so well!"
A small mousebabe wrinkled his nose and said, waving his tiny paws around, "But our muvvers are crool, 'cos dey make us have a baff!" There was a moment's silence, then everybeast who had heard the remark cracked up laughing.
Melba clapped her paws and shouted, "Lets do 'Dancing in the Reeds!'" Skipper's crew whooped and jumped up, grabbed paws, formed a circle and waited until an otterwife called Teloni got the notes on her flute. She nodded in satisfaction at the tune and did a brief introduction. Then the dancing and singing started.
- "C'mon mates, lets dance in the reeds,
- You stand here and I'll stand there!
- Clap your paws, stomp yore feet, turn and bow,
- Around once more and jump like a hare!
- Dancing in the reeds, in the reeds,
- Twirling and swirling in the light,
- Wave yore rudder, tap yore snout, hop once more,
- Lets dance in the reeds until its night!"
They did it again as an encore, but faster, and they collapsed laughing on top of each other, calling for drinks. Some dandelion and burdock cordial was brought out, and raspberry cream pudding with honey poured over it for anyone who wanted something to nibble on. Hunto took a slice big enough for two Dibbuns to live on for a two days. He poured so much honey on it that it looked like it was swimming in the sweet liquid! He took a huge spoonful and drank a beaker of dandelion and burdock cordial all in one go. Candles were lit and the entertainment continued through to near midnight, when the Dibbuns were being carried off to bed. They cleared up and went inside Great Hall. Skipper Romarc threw a paw around his daughter and wife's shoulders.
Melba said, "The feast was great! I wish Dayl was here though."
"It would have been better. Dayl would have loved it." A great yawn escaped from Melba's lips.
Felia ushered her up to the dormitories calling, "Can you help Friar Nirpol take out the loaves and scones from the ovens for breakfast?" Skipper nodded and went to the kitchens, wandering where his son was at that very moment.
The Juskamor had wandered back to the ford. They arrived when it was twilight, and they set up tents. Some started fishing for any dace or trout by the river bank. Others went foraging for berries and edible roots, and any herbs they could find. Sitting in one part of the camp were two squirrels, chained to an oak. They sat there slumped, unconscious. One was a small squirrelbabe, a Dibbun. The other was a young squirrelmaid. Dayl presumed that the squirrelmaid was the sister of the younger one, though he felt sorry for them. Suddenly the squirrelmaid came to and clasped her paws to her head, moaning and groaning pitifully.
"Ooh, my head hurts! Where am I?" She glanced at the squirrelbabe. She cried as she saw the bruise on the babe's forehead. One of the guards, a stoat called Wipback, started prodding her into silence with his spear.
"Silence, treemouse! Otherwise me spear will do it for yew!" The stoat kept prodding her until Dayl shoved his way over until he was by the squirrelmaid's side.
"Leave them be mate. Be about yore duties." Wipback nodded and returned to the campfire. Dayl squatted in front of the squirrelmaid. There was something in his eyes that told her to trust him.
She held her silence until Dayl asked, "What's yore name and how old are ye?"
She trembled as she whispered, "Rosie, I'm ten seasons and this is my brother, Sholler. Um, could you please get some herbs for my brother's bruise?" Dayl nodded and returned a while later, carrying some dockleaves and sanicle. Rosie set to work. Soon that was a bandage to Sholler's head, and she nodded gratefully at Dayl.
"Thanks. May I know where we are?"
Dayl answered, "You are in the Juskamor's camp, in Mossflower."
She asked, "But you're an otter. What's an otter doing in a vermin camp?"
"I don't know. Long story mate. I have no idea what's going to happen with you an' yore brother, but I'm sure you'll be free soon. Don't worry, I'll talk with our chief and see wot he says." The squirrelmaid sighed.
"I wish we were at our home. Our mum died y'see, our dad had to looked after us. We lived in the Northlands, a terrible place. Then one day our dad took us away from there. There was cannibal toads and lizards who took over, we had to flee. We made our home just south of here, then we were captured by your clan, dad was collecting firewood." Dayl listened to the squirrelmaid's sad tale. He felt sorry for them.
He winked at Rosie and asked, "How old is yore brother?"
Rosie promptly replied, "Two seasons a week ago."
"I'll go see our chief an' see what's going to happen with you an' young Sholler." He walked into Trumin's tent. Trumin was drinking some grog that he had found amongst the crew.
He looked up and said, "Yes Dayl?"
"What will happen to the two prisoners?"
"I don't know. I guess we could keep them. Whadda'ya say, Taggerung?"
Dayl scratched his head as if he was thinking and replied, "I says we keep 'em alive. Feed them and give them water. Doesn't harm us does it?" Trumin shook his head and continued drinking his grog. Dayl walked back to anxious Rosie.
"Ye won't get killed Rosie. You're being kept alive. Lucky, eh?" Rosie sighed in relief. She looked up at Dayl.
"Thanks. By the way, what's your name?" Dayl was beginning to like the squirrelmaid.
"Dayl Juskamor Taggerung, but just call me Dayl. I'm ten seasons too!" The squirrel's eyes widened.
"Taggerung?" Dayl raised an eyebrow.
"You know what a Taggerung is?" Rosie nodded vigorously and explained.
"Our dad told us." Juvern came striding over.
He looked at Rosie then at Dayl saying, "Wot are yew doin', Dayl mate?"
"Talkin' t'Rosie." Juvern looked at Rosie suspiciously then laughed. He extended a paw and bowed, making what he thought was an elegant leg.
"Welcome to the Juskamor camp Rosie mate, me'n'Dayl 'ere will look after ye! I'm Juvern." Dayl pushed his friend over and laughed, making Juvern fall into the ford. Dayl pulled him out, dripping wet. Rosie and Dayl laughed at Juvern, who was mock scowling at Dayl.
Rosie said, grinning, "I think we'll be great pals, eh?"
Laughing, Juvern replied, "I don't normally make squirrels me friends, but yes, we'll be great friends forever!"
Everyday since Dayl's capture, Melba had been asking Martin the Warrior where her brother was. Each time he had not answered. Melba would stand on the cold stone floor, waiting, until she decided that he would not reply to her. One day, she stood there, waiting patiently. She yawned from lack of sleep and focused her eyes on Martin's sword. It was an awesome weapon, from is lethal sharp blade, to its red pommelstone. She gazed at it, going over in her mind its history and its bearers. Dandin, Samkin, Matthias, Mattimeo, Martin II, Arven, Dannflor Reguba, Deyna, and when she reached Deyna, she remembered from Abbeyschool that he had once been a Taggerung. She told herself that her brother was a Taggerung, the mighty warrior of a clan. Did Martin nod, as if agreeing that Dayl was a warrior? Or was it just a breeze? She sighed and went to the kitchens to help her mother make lunch.
It had been seven seasons since Dayl had joined the Juskamor, late spring. He was now a fully grown otter, muscular and sinewy, deadly with any weapon that touched his paw. Rosie and her brother Sholler, now nine seasons, were allowed to wander freely around the camp, provided that they didn't escape and didn't cause any mischief. Dayl, Juvern and Rosie had become close friends over the seasons, seen everywhere together unless one of them had to do something for Trumin or the crew. Juvern had discarded his wooden club; he now carried a scimitar, which suited him well. He was not as tall as Dayl, nor was Rosie. Sholler had learnt to be a healer; he learned quickly and willingly, taught by Zarol, the old Seer vixen. Dayl had taught Rosie how to use a sling, and soon she was a deadshot with it. Most of the clan had got plumper, just drinking grog and eating fish. Dayl and Juvern did not. They practised fighting regularly with wooden swords or their daggers. Usually Rosie watched them, cheering each of them on. Most of the time Dayl won, but he would go easy other times and let Juvern win. They were both fearsome fighters, both never having killed a living being before. Trumin had gained twoscore and a half of recruits over the seasons, not gaining much because of the fact he was not known around the land much and that he had grown slightly fatter. He swaggered about, giving orders, swigging wine and tearing at fish with his teeth. Dayl and Juvern had come to dislike him, though they never showed their contempt. He had grown more harsher, angrier, always giving punishments if things weren't done his way.
One day Trumin was toying with his cutlass, when a rat guard came panting up and said, "Chief! We found a few mousies that we took prisoner. Shall we show yew?"
"Bring 'em 'ere Bloodclaw. I'll deal with them!" Bloodclaw saluted and came back with two mice who were huddling together, frightened at the sight of Trumin. Most of the crew had heard about the prisoners and they watched as the trembling mice were forced to kneel in front of him, terrified with tears running down their faces.
Trumin asked harshly, "Who are yew mousey?" The older one, a male mouse, looked at Trumin in the eyes, gritting his teeth but fearful inside.
"I am Prengal, and this is my sister Daffie. What do you want with us, vermin?" Trumin raised his eyebrow and chuckled evilly.
"Hoho, tough are yew? I'll show yew tough when I'm done with yew! Yew'll be crying for yore mammas! Where do yew live?" Prengal closed his eyes and sighed, clamping his mouth shut. Trumin saw this and he beckoned to two ferrets.
"Grogtail, Mudbail, tie this mouse to that rowan over there. Give 'im twenty strokes o' the whip. We'll see if yew can talk after that, eh?" He turned to the small mousemaid.
Prengal was dragged off shouting, "Don't tell 'em anythin' Daff! Absolutely nothin'! D'ye hear? Don't tell the blaggard anythin!" He was swiftly bound to the tree by the strong ferrets, and they whipped him across his chest, face, arms and legs. In the end he was covered in gashes and cuts, blood pouring out of them. Still he was silent, glaring hatred at his captor.
"Now, liddle mouseymaid, where do yew live, eh? Yew can trust me, I won't harm yew. C'mon, don't yew trust me?" Trumin asked, stroking his blade. The mousemaid shuddered but kept silent, thinking what her fate would be. Trumin poked her neck with his cutlass, whispering softly, his voice deadly.
"I'll give yew one hour. If yew don't answer by then, then I'll slit yore throats, both of yew!" He signalled for the two unfortunate mice to be tied to the rowan, hanging by their paws on a broad limb. Dayl felt sorry for them, hanging helplessly. Trumin came up to him and chuckled, rubbing his paws together. Rosie, Juvern and Dayl had watched the whole thing on the sidelines, watching it in silence.
"Been a while since I killed a living thing. Dayl, me ole Taggerung, would ya like somethin' t'kill t'night? A few mousies p'raps?" Dayl immediately caught on. He was stunned; he would soon have to kill somebeast!
He blustered for answers, "Well, er, uh, I don't, um, know if I really want to, er, Chief..." Something in his eyes told Trumin that it was obvious Dayl didn't want to do it.
He threw a paw around Dayl's shoulder, cackling, "Cummon matey, it'll be fun! I promise yew, it'll do yew good! Its time you slew somethin', yew're a warrior remember? Set an example to the younger ones, teach 'em how a real warrior does it!"
"No, you do it Chief, I'm sure it'll be more fun to you than me!" Trumin stared at him in disbelief, then shook himself.
"Alright, I'll do it. I haven't killed anythin' in five seasons!" He walked to his tent and began sharpening his blades for the execution... if there was going to be one. Rosie, Sholler and Juvern had heard Dayl refusing to kill the captives. They walked over to him acted as if nothing happened.
"D'yew know wots happenin' with the prisoners, Dayl?" Dayl nodded and looked in Trumin's direction.
"Aye, and its not good. Trumin asked me to kill them, but I refused. He's gonna kill 'em himself!" There was a gasp from Rosie. She looked in the Prengal and Daffie's direction, shaking her head.
"Poor things. We have to help them! But how?"
Dayl clenched his paws. "I don't know. We could help them escape I suppose, but not now. We'd get caught instantly by the guards."
At Redwall Skipper Romarc, Felia and Melba were relaxing by the pond's surface, breathing in the spring air after the day's hard work. They often wondered about Dayl, though they never spoke about him or mentioned his name. To them it was too hard to forget him, he was always at the back of their mind. They wouldn't say if he was dead or alive, though somewhere in their hearts they believed he was alive. Hunto flopped down next to them and skimmed a pebble out on the water. It bounced five times, making Skipper pick up a stone and fling it across the pond. It skipped seven times, and Skipper smiled triumphantly.
"Hoho, I beat you Hunto!" He turned to Melba and Felia. "You try." Melba picked up a flat pebble and threw it wildly. It hit and bounced six times.
Hunto sighed and said, "I was always bad at skimmin' stones. I say you chaps, I'm absoflippinlutely hungry, wot!" Skipper smiled at the hungry hare.
"You feedbag, stop thinkin' about food all the time! Dinner will be ready soon, so don't go runnin' willy nilly all over the kitchens and steal!"
At that moment, Friar Nirpol came outside and shouted, "Dinner's ready! Come and get yore vittles!"
Hunto sprinted off towards Great Hall, saying, "Good! I'm bally famished like a lizard who hasn't eaten in a whole bloomin' season!" Skipper groaned as he tried to catch up with the sprinting figure.
"Oh no, look out, he's goin' t'clear all the food before we even reach there! Cummon mates, hurry and lets get our dinner afore he eats it first!" They took off and when they arrived, Hunto was already eating. His plate was so high with food you could only see the tips of his ears! He had a huge slice of trifle, lots of salad, some scones with blackberry preserve and meadowcream, a massive mushroom and carrot pastie, a raspberry and apple crumble, plum pudding with syrup poured over it and a few damson tarts with a beaker of dandelion and burdock cordial to top it all off. The food was vanishing into the hare's mouth rapidly, and soon the plate was empty. He looked around for more food but saw the stern Sister Alkina watching him. He decided he would go and get more cordial and snatched a few candied chestnuts from a bowl. Everyone was either laughing, eating or drinking, patting each others backs. Abbott Merlo watched this. He knew that soon he would have to step down as Abbott and pick another Abbess or Abbott. The problem was he had no idea who he was going to choose!
It was near twilight. The Juskamor were getting ready to watch the execution of Prengal and Daffie, who had not spoken a word to Trumin or the guards. Everybeast crowded around as Trumin strode through the crowd, his cutlass in its scabbard. He confronted the frightened mice, and the clan grew silent. Dayl, Rosie and Juvern were watching at the front. They had racked their brains for a plan until they could not think clearly. They watched as Trumin drew his cutlass, tickling the throat Prengal. The young mouse looked at Trumin in the eye.
Trumin brought his face close to Prengal's, and hissing in a soft voice, "Well, me liddle mousey, are yew ready to speak or ready to die?" Prengal shut his eyes and felt Trumin's breathe on his face.
"I'll give yew one last chance, otherwise its bye bye to yew! Now, tell me, where do yew live?" Prengal opened his eyes and glared at Trumin, his voice angry.
"I will never tell you where I live, vermin. Go on, kill me! But you will never find out where my home is!"
Dayl saw the stoat raise his cutlass for the kill, and suddenly the mouse who had visited him in his dreams seven seasons ago, appeared and said urgently to him, "Save them Dayl!" The strong otter ran towards Trumin and bulled into him, shouting, "Noooooo!" Trumin's cutlass accidently sliced through the ropes holding Prengal and Daffie.
"Run for it!" Dayl whispered to them, and they fled into the shadows wordlessly. Trumin was on the ground, lying on his back, stunned by the fall. Dayl pressed his grey footpaw on Trumin's chest, and said to him, "I stopped you from killing them because they do not deserve to die, you've grown too bossy for your own good Trumin. I'm leaving the Juskamor forever! I'm no longer yore Taggerung from now on!" He brought his cutlass hilt down on Trumin's head, making him fall unconcious. Dayl walked backwards, his blade flickering. "Try to chase me, and I'll kill you all." He melted into the shadows. Rosie, Sholler and Juvern quickly sprinted towards him, leaving behind an unconcious Chieftain, and the clan that they had stayed in for several seasons. They caught up with Dayl, who had found Prengal and Daffie hiding in some bushes.
"Its alright, I'm no vermin, I'm an otter." He looked up and saw Juvern, Sholler and Rosie. "Hi mates." He introduced them one by one, and they were chatting as if they had been friends for a long time.
"Where do you live Prengal?" Rosie asked.
"We live in just north from here, but we were attacked by a few rats, so we had to go," Prengal said. Dayl looked up at the moon.
"We have to travel fast. Trumin will be after me when he wakes up. He'll have a rare ol' headache. If he wakes soon, we have to hide. But if he's searching for us, where will we hide?"
"Hide from what, young 'un?" a voice said. Then a old squirrel popped out of the ash that the group were walking under. He looked at them one at a time, and when he decided they were not vermin, he introduced himself. "I am Varbol Strongbow, and I'll gladly hide you from whatever you're hiding from." They shook paws with them and walked back to his dwelling while introducing themselves.
"I'm Dayl, and these are my friends Juvern, Sholler, Rosie his sister, Prengal and Daffie. Nice to meet ye sir." He told them what had happened, and Varbol listened carefully. They came to a small cave which was covered by bushes. It was a homely place, and there were weapons that hung on one wall of the cave, and on the other pictures and decorations. Varbol went to a cauldron bubbling over a fire and filled six bowls to the brim with a stew. They ate hungrily and they were served beakers of mint and comfrey tea. He watched as they refilled their own bowls, asking him questions.
"So, Varbol, why do you have so many weapons?" asked Prengal.
"I lived with my family, these were all their weapons. One day we were attacked by a gang of vermin, and most of us got killed. I'm the only survivor. You're welcome to look at their weapons." The group gazed around. There were cutlasses, rapiers, sabres, slings, bows and arrows, spears, axes, pikes and daggers. Daffie yawned and lay down on a rush mat.
"G'night missie, all of ye should be gettin' some sleep too," Varbol said. They lay down and closed their eyes, falling to sleep instantly.
Everybeast were already in their beds at Redwall. They dreamed their own dreams; some dreamed about food and drink, others about what adventures they would have in the future. Melba was not one of these. In her dream she was in the orchard, sitting by the pond's edge. She saw Martin the Warrior glide over the water and stop in front of her, with his great sword in one paw.
He said, "Listen to me Melba. This season will be different from all the others. Listen to me Melba."
- "Soon this Abbey will go to war,
- As it has done many times before,
- Five will come in time of need,
- They are friends, shelter and feed,
- One a ferret, a former Juska,
- Two otters, one a former warrior,
- Two squirrels, both of same kin,
- None of them have done any sin!
- They are fated to come here,
- By the time an enemy is near!"
Martin faded away and Melba continued to sleep peacefully for the remainder of the night. When she woke up she felt bad, as if something was going to happen. She couldn't recall anything about the dream, or she would've gone straight to her father or Abbott Merlo. She continued to feel that way until she went down to Great Hall for breakfast. She lined up at the end of the queue, with Hunto in front of her. She watched as he piled some salad on to his plate, a bowl of porridge, with dried fruits and berries sprinkled on top, some scones, an apple turnover and a beaker of October Ale. She got her breakfast and sat next to Swerl and Brill.
She asked, "So what are you two up to today?"
Brill replied airily, "Nothin' much. I don't really know what to do. What should we do Swerl?" The mousemaid looked up from her beaker of strawberry fizz.
"Um, we could always help in the kitchens, or pick flowers, or help Pirrel brew October Ale and strawberry fizz, dandelion and burdock cordial, or we could get up to tricks, or we could play with the Dibbuns. Can you think of anything else Brill?" The squirrel shook his head.
"So what do you want to do Swerl?"
"Well, I always wanted to learn how to brew things, do you want to?" Brill finished his breakfast and nodded eagerly. The pair went off, paw in paw, to seek out Pirrel. Melba decided to help her mother in the kitchens. Skipper Romarc was out fishing for watershrimp for some shrimp and hotroot soup. She found her mother helping to make loaves for lunch.
Melba went up to Friar Nirpol and asked, "Could I be of any help here Friar?" The squirrel swept a paw across his forehead.
"Yes please Melba, I could do with some help. After your mother has pulled the loaves from the ovens, help her to make a damson and plum pudding, with lots of meadowcream and honey in it." She obliged cheerfully and helped to mix the ingredients. After that the pudding was a real beauty, with syrup poured over it. They gazed at it admiringly for a few moments.
Then Felia said, "Now, Melba, I'll show you how to make my special fruit pie. Pass the apples please." They put apples, plums, damsons, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and pears, chopped roughly, in a bowl. They made pastry, and they put it on a dish. They spread the mixture of fruits on it, pouring lots of honey over it, so they wouldn't fall apart. They spread the pastry over the top and put it in the oven. When the product was finished, the crust was golden brown, perfectly done. By then it was near lunch, and Friar Nirpol decided to have lunch in the orchard. They set up a buffet on the lawn, near the blooming fruit trees. The Dibbuns were made to wash their paws and faces in the pond, supervised by the elders so they didn't get up to mischief. There was Felia's fruit pie, the damson and plum pudding, a carrot and leek stew, celery and mushroom pasties, shrimp and hotroot soup, deeper'n'ever pie, a strawberry trifle, scones, pear and damson crumble and the freshbaked loaves with cheese studded with chestnuts. To wash it down was hot mint tea, dandelion and burdock cordial, October Ale, strawberry fizz, pear cordial, cowslip wine, elderberry wine, pennycloud cordial and apple cider.
"Hmm, that fruit pie that we cooked was delicious, wasn't it Mama?"
"The best one I've ever cooked so far!"
"Yippee! Me luvly trifle!"
"Don't 'og it all Hunto, leave some fer us too!"
"Nothin' like crumble wid lots of meadowcream over it!"
"Aye, washed down with some October Ale, thats the stuff!"
"Dis is good stoo, me likey it!"
"Troi some o' dis poi Rena, 'tis gurtly tastiful!"
Soon everybeast was chatting and laughing, frolicking in the pond, sleeping or playing games. Abbott Merlo was sitting under his favourite plum tree, listening to the sounds of his Abbey. He kept thinking over and over again. Who to pick to be the next Abbess or Abbott? He was thinking so hard that he didn't notice Pirrel, the Abbey's Cellarhog sit next to him.
"Ahoy there Father, what are ye doin'?
The Abbott looked up, startled, "Oh, what? Oh, er, nothing much, just thinking."
"Thinkin' about what Father?"
"Thinking...oh never mind. Lets go see what the Dibbuns are up to." They strolled over to the Dibbuns, who had made a ball out of moss. They were flinging it all over the place, jumping around. They were in a circle, and there was a few Dibbuns in the middle. They were trying to catch the ball, but failed. Abbott Merlo and Pirrel chuckled. The Abbott then sat down under a pear tree. Pirrel sat down next to him.
"Ahh, thank the seasons we're not young any more, eh Father? Father?" Abbott Merlo had fallen to sleep. Pirrel quietly got up and tip toed away, so not to disturb him.
Dayl woke up around late morning, and he saw Varbol was no where to be seen.
He saw the note on the table and it said, "Gone to get some water. Theres some cordial in the jug and oat farls in the oven. Be back soon. Varbol". He shook his friends awake, and they ate the food hungrily. Soon Varbol came walking in, with canteens and a basket.
He winked at them and said, "Got some stream water. I caught a few trout and dace hangin' about too. That'll do for our lunch." Dayl shook his head.
Sorry mate, we've gotta go. Trumin will be after us."
"Alright Dayl. I'll pack some haversacks for you." They sat silently, and when Varbol finished, he quickly wiped a paw across his eyes, lest the friends saw him sad.
Dayl got up and said, shaking Varbol's paw, "Goodbye mate, good fortunes to ye, mayhaps we'll meet again?"
"Hopefully eh? If ye want, you can take some weapons. Go on, they're good an' strong. Pick one!" Dayl and Juvern didn't need any more, and they waited as Prengal, Daffie, Rosie and Sholler chose some. Prengal chose a dagger and a pike, Daffie a sling, Rosie a sling and bow and arrows and Sholler a dagger. They set off, waving goodbyes to the old squirrel.
Trumin woke up to a aching headache. He was lying in a bed, and when he remembered the previous night's events, he shot up and went outside. His crew was sleeping.
Trumin roared, "Up on yer hunkers, fools! How dare yew sleep away the day! Its near midday and all yew can do is sleep? Get up!" At the first words of Trumin's burst of outrage the clan was up and about, and Zarol walked up with a plate of roasted fish and a beaker of grog.
"Here Chief, some roasted fish for yew!" Trumin grabbed the plate and flung it away, anger blazing in his eyes.
"Yew fool! Why was everybeast sleeping eh? Tell me!" He grabbed Zarol by the throat and shook her. Zarol gurgled and struggled. Trumin realized what he was doing and dropped her to the ground, gasping for breath. He ordered, "Gather the Juskamor an' get ready to march! We're goin' after that coward, Dayl and his pal, Juvern! They're traitors! Cowards!" After a while when everything was organized and ready, Trumin drove his clan onward in the direction that Dayl and his friends had taken. His headache forgotten, they marched until late afternoon. They rested for a while, before they started marching again.
Dayl, Prengal, Rosie, Sholler, Daffie and Juvern sped up their pace, knowing that Trumin was near. They sat down and had some cold cordial and some sandwiches that Varbol had packed for them. They continued walking until they came to a group of ten of mice, who were quarreling over something. They crouched behind some bushes watching the commotion.
Dayl cautioned his friends, saying, "Stay put mates, they could be dangerous."
But Prengal and Daffie recognised them. They shot out from cover, yelling, "Uncle Mettar! Auntie Poline! Its us, Prengal and Daffie!" The mice stared at them for a moment, then rushed towards them, and hugged them tightly.
"Prengal, Daffie! What happened? Why are you travelling with vermin? Where's your father?" There was a silence.
Prengal said sadly, "Papa is dead. We were ambushed by rats." Then he brightened up. "These are not vermin, they are my friends. Dayl, Juvern, Rosie and Sholler!" They shook paws with each other. Auntie Poline was still suspicious about Juvern and Dayl, but when she saw that they were great friends, she relaxed a little. Prengal and Daffie introduced them to their cousins, and they invited them back to their home. They arrived and saw a little hut made of wood, and they were brought food and drink. Dayl and Juvern explained what had happened, and the mice listened carefully. When they finished, most of them were sorry for the friends. To brighten them up, Uncle Mettar brought out a fiddle and tested it.
"Good tune, nice. Well, Daffie me liddle niece, are ye goin' t'sing a liddle song for us? Don't be shy!" The others started coaxing her on, and she obliged shyly. She had a soft voice, clear as a new day and as pretty as a skylark. Uncle Mettar did a brief introduction, then Daffie started singing.
- "Over the hills and valleys,
- Through the wood and the streams,
- Where flowers bloom and birds do trill,
- Is where the sunlight beams.
- My spirit lies in the garden,
- Of where I used to play,
- Don't be sad, my little one,
- Be cheerful each new day."
Uncle Mettar sniffed and sighed.
"Me late brother wrote this liddle song. 'Tis me favourite one too!" Dayl got up and shook Uncle Mettar's paw.
"I'm afraid we've got t'go mate. Trumin gets closer every minute!" Auntie Poline rushed about and filled their haversacks with provisions.
"If you've got to go, you got to go. Good luck go with you!" Juvern looked around and spotted Prengal and Daffie.
"Are yew comin' with us mate, or are yew stayin' here?"
"We'll be stayin' here Juvern. Goodbye friends!" They hugged and soon the four friends set off, laden with provisions.
"Fare ye well friends! Good luck!" The mice stood outside their hut until the four figures were mere dots in the distance.
Trumin had driven his clan hard, and now they lay panting by a small stream. Trumin prowled around, watching his crew as they sipped water gratefully from bowls or beakers. He sat down on a log next to Zarol.
"What have yew seen in yore omens, vixen?" Zarol threw her bones, sticks and shells, closing her eyes.
She opened them and said, "See the red shell, over there?" Trumin nodded. Zarol then lifted a small stick and four ants crawled from under it. She smiled and said, "Those are the ones who we're looking for. Juvern, Dayl, Rosie and Sholler!"
"What happened to the two mousies?" Trumin growled. Zarol shrugged her shoulders and continued.
"Now watch the four ants." The ants crawled in the direction of the red shell, then another ant joined them.
"What does this mean Zarol?" Trumin asked, curious.
"This means they might be going to Redwall Abbey!" Trumin chuckled evilly.
"Good. I was thinkin' of conquering that Abbey. I need reinforcements though. Get a score organized and tell them to gather new-"
"Maybe you would like to help me conquer that Abbey too?" Trumin whirled around, face to face with a fox. The fox smiled disarmingly.
Trumin asked surprised, "Who are yew fox?" The fox bowed.
"I am Brolun the Pike, and I asked, would yew like to join forces and conquer that Redwall Abbey?" Trumin decided he did not like the grey fox, but he did not show it. He sat stroking his chin, thinking of an answer.
Finally he said, "How big is your horde?"
Brolun spread his arms wide and said, "I've got about tenscore. What about yew?"
"Sevenscore and a half. Where do yew camp now?" Brolun waved his paw.
"Just a mile south from here. Would yew consider it friend?" Trumin saw the fox was holding an single bladed axe. He realized if he didn't join Brolun's horde, then he would most probably be killed and then his forces would join Brolun. He turned to Zarol.
"Rouse the crew. We're joining forces with Brolun." He turned back to Brolun. "Lead the way!" After a while they arrived at the camp. Trumin saw that Brolun's horde were much better fighters, his horde was fat and lazy.
"I'll get yew a separate tent," Brolun said. He saw that Trumin's horde backed away from his fighters as they bared their fangs at them. Brolun smiled to himself.
"Scared of a few teeth showing? Huh, a bird would be less frightened than that!" Brolun thought. Now he knew that Trumin's clan were weak fighters.
Melba sat picking at her lunch, wondering what the reason was for her sudden out-of-sorts mood. She couldn't quite put her mind to it, but she decided that she would leave the matter at the back of her mind. Hunto was hovering nearby, watching as Melba made her salad into random patterns on her plate.
"Um, I say ol' gel, er, d'ye mind if I have yore plate o' salad, wot..." Melba pushed her salad towards him, and he dashed off with it, shouting, "Thank the fates that there are souls as kind as you to make a chap happy and his tum full o' good food, most charitable of ye, miss!" He collided with Skipper, making him upset the plate of food all over the floor.
Hunto gulped as Skipper lifted him clear off the floor by his collar, and shook him, saying, "Pray, tell me Hunto, who gave ye permission to eat some more, eh? You've eaten four portions of woodland trifle, two bowls of carrot and celery soup, an over heaped plate of salad, seven scones with honey, two mushroom an' leek pasties, two raspberry and apple turnovers an' to top all that off two, no make that three, three full flasks of dandelion and burdock cordial. What do ye have t'say fer yoreself, ye great empty sack on legs? Should I make ye drown in the pond?" Hunto shook his head vigorously and Skipper released him, watching as he scurried outside into the orchard. He and Melba bent to pick up the salad which lay strewn on the stone floor. A few minutes later they were still picking the lettuce leaves up when Hunto was dashing back into Great Hall, holding a mint potato and cheese pasty in one paw. Friar Nirpol came sprinting in, waving his ladle at the gluttonous hare.
"Come back, ye greedy hare, or you'll feel my wooden ladle on ye! Those pasties are for dinner!" Hunto then saw Skipper and Melba ready to catch him. He swerved to the side but Skipper tackled him to the floor. Melba picked the pasty from his paws and returned it to Friar Nirpol, who was panting heavily. Skipper hauled Hunto roughly off the ground by his ears, and gave him a severe lecture. Melba and Friar Nirpol fell about laughing at the scared face of Hunto and the outrageous face on Skipper.
"You great big famine foodbag, what made ye think you have a right to steal from the kitchens, eh? You've eaten so much I think ye deserve a blinkin' physick from Sister Alkina! A few doses of nettle compound with squashed dockleaf and agrimony shouldn't harm ye! Come now sir, if ye hadn't stolen from the kitchens then this wouldn't have happened at all!" Hunto was half dragged half marched to the infirmary, protesting loudly.
"I say Skip, put me down, you great thicktailed riverdog lump! Agghh, don't bring me to the flippin' infirmary sir, be like yore daughter here, kind and considerate, eh? Put me down at once! I'm not going to be bloomin' fizzicked by that ole relic again sah! Yaaggghh!" He struggled and kicked wildly but to no avail, and the infirmary door slammed shut, followed by shouts of Hunto. Melba and Friar Nirpol giggled helplessly. A few minutes later Hunto came charging out and grabbed the now cold pasty from Friar Nirpol and shoved it into his mouth, grimacing from the taste of the foul concoction.
"I say, grmmff mmmff, this pasty tastes nice after that, sninch grmmm, 'orrible fizzick, never take a fizzick from that, snch grrawwff, ole mouse relic, ever!"
The four companions travelled until sunset, making camp by a great elm. They built a campfire, and warmed oatcakes and apples and drank fruit cordial. They sat eating silently, watching the sun go down behind a hill. They began talking about their old days with the Juskamor, laughing at funny memories.
"Remember when Klotch got a termite sting on his footpaw? Zarol had to bandage it up and all the way Klotch was screaming like a madbeast! I swore that he would've won a compettion for the loudest and highest scream!" Juvern said, laughing.
"Aye, Zarol nearly got kicked and battered by him. After that Klotch kept glaring at Zarol, his face looked like it would bring the world crashing down on us," Rosie giggled. They grew silent once more, each other in their own thoughts.
A while later Sholler asked, "Dayl, why did you save Prengal and Daffie?" Dayl stared into the fire and shrugged his shoulders.
"I don't know really. Before Trumin struck, a mouse warrior flashed in my vision. He had a great sword in his paw. He said to me, "Save them Dayl!" Then the next thing I know is I smash into Trumin, then you now the rest." He changed the subject. "C'mon mates, we should be gettin' some sleep. I'll take first watch, Juvern second, Rosie and Sholler third. I'll wake you guys up at dawn or a little bit later. G'night!"
"G'night Dayl mate, have a nice first watch! Don't fall asleep!"
"Aye, otherwise we'll wake up and batter you! Goodnight!" A few minutes later they were snoring. A thought suddenly sprang into Dayl's mind. Who were his parents? He pondered this for a while. Did I have a sister or a brother? Where did I live? Who am I? Two hours later Juvern woke up and relieved his friend. Dayl fell into a deep sleep. In his dreams he was in a red stone building, and there were three otters, one an ottermaid, one a full grown male and the other a female. Then the mouse warrior strode up to Dayl.
"Do you still not remember me Dayl?" Dayl shook his head. The mouse pointed his sword at the otters. "Do you remember them?" Again, Dayl shook his head. "They are your kin Dayl. Go to the red stone building. Remember their faces!" The dream faded, and Dayl was left to dream a dark, dark sleep.
Brolun had his guards set up a tent for Trumin and Zarol. They sat eating a fish porridge and swigging ale. They had just finished when a rat guard came in without acknowledging them.
Trumin rose and snarled, "Don't just come in without knocking, rat! What do yew want?" The rat looked in Trumin's eyes and spoke without apologizing.
"My Chief would like to see you in his tent now." Trumin brushed aside the rat. He walked into Brolun's tent. Brolun looked up and greeted him with a cold smile.
"Now, we are a day's march away from the Redwall Abbey. When we reach about five minutes from it, I will send out scouting patrols. They will see if the Abbey has any real warriors, anybeast who can defeat us. They will look for ways in there. Agreed?"
"Agreed. What next?" Trumin asked.
"We parley with them, ask them to surrender, see if they have any great treasure. If they don't surrender, we make war on them. Are yew with me?" He held out his paw. Trumin wordlessly held out his paw and shook paws with Brolun. Brolun was about to leave the tent when Trumin stopped him.
"Am I still in charge of my clan?" The fox smiled.
"Why of course, my friend, yew are leader of yore horde." Trumin left the tent. The sly fox stroked his axe, whispering to it. "In less than a day I'll be in charge of yore clan, my foolish stoat friend. Yew'll be left for the ants when I'm done with yew!"
Dayl woke up an hour after dawn. He rekindled the fire and set out leek and potato pasties with beakers of cordial. He gently shook his friends awake.
"Wake up mates, we have to get travellin' soon." Juvern yawned and eyed the pasties.
"Aww, I was havin' a nice dream there. After we've had brekkist, where do we travel to?" Dayl shrugged his shoulders as he bit into his pastie, gravy dripping out.
"Anywhere, away from Trumin. D'ye know if theres a place nearby Rosie?" The squirrelmaid took a sip out of her cordial.
"Well, I do remember my father saying that theres a place called Redwall Abbey. I remember he told me that it was huge, with lots of good food and drink, babes to play with, and endless joy." Sholler watched as Juvern wolfed down his pastie.
"Well, then lets get travellin'!" They packed up and continued walking. Dayl took out his matching pair of daggers and started twirling them slowly, looking for a target. He saw a rowan and speeded up his spinning. He threw them suddenly and they thudded into the trunk, quivering. Sholler and Rosie shook their heads in amazement as he tugged them out.
Juvern was still full of wonder for his friend, yet he remarked casually, "That was a good throw mate. Though I'm still mystified on how yer do it."
"Aye, best one I've ever seen. Better than anybeast at my holt!" They whirled around at the voice. A pretty ottermaid came out from some bushes. She was wearing a plain blue dress and a leather belt, a throwing knife in it. Across her back were two scabbards, twin swords thrust in them. Dayl could not help but stare at her. She was the prettiest otter he had ever seen, from her blue eyes to her light brown fur. He did not notice Juvern introducing them.
"I'm Juvern, this is Rosie and Sholler, and thats my mate Dayl. Dayl an' I were formerly of the Juskamor, we ran away. What about yew?" He nudged Dayl. Dayl snapped out of his trance and blushed, embarrassed. The ottermaid looked at him and smiled.
"I'm Brendila Rivergale, from Holt Rivergale, but call me Bren. My father's the Chief. I ran away too, 'cause my holt's law is that ottermaids have to be at least twenty seasons old to fight, while the male otters can be fourteen seasons to be able to fight in battles. My uncle gave me these swords, said that no matter how old you are, you can still be a warrior. My parents say that I'm too young to kill and take part in battles, which is true if its my holt's law. I'm only sixteen seasons and a half. But I want to be a warrior and have adventures! Not wait until I'm twenty seasons old. I'm not goin' to pick flowers and cook for three and a half seasons more!" She changed the subject. "So, where are you guys goin'?"
Sholler replied, "Redwall Abbey!" Brendila's eyes became dreamy.
"Redwall! I've always wanted to go there! Can I come with you?" Juvern bowed.
"Always like to make new friends, mate. You're comin' with us!" They continued their journey, Juvern and Dayl telling their new friend about their life with the Juskamor.
When Melba woke up that morning she still had that same feeling, though only stronger. She was sitting in the orchard watching everything around her when her father flopped down beside her.
He said, "Whats wrong Mel? D'ye feel sick or somethin'?"
Melba answered, "No, but I've had this weird feeling for a few days. I don't know what it is though."
Skipper put a paw on her shoulder and said, "Forget it Mel. Today is a good day, I can feel it in my rudder. Enjoy it me beauty!" Melba rose with a sigh.
"Alright, but I can't get rid of it. It gets stronger by the minute!" They walked to the kitchens. As they neared they could hear a commotion inside.
"Get out of my kitchens, all of you Dibbuns, especially you, Huntilop Crunsaw Kerscutt! Out, I said!" In a rush they were bowled over by the Dibbuns and Hunto, all of them covered in flour and ingredients. Out came Friar Nirpol, Foremole, Felia and Frella, waving ladles at the raiding party. Friar Nirpol glared at Hunto furiously. Hunto quivered under the squirrel's outraged face.
"You should be ashamed of yoreself, you gluttonous hare, leadin' a raidin' party with the Dibbuns into my kitchens! Setting a bad example to the young 'uns, should be thoroughly ashamed of yoreself, sir! Oh no, don't give me that innocent look, Hunto, it wasn't any of the babes' fault, 'twas all yore idea and you lead them! Between you and the Dibbuns' you upset a sack of flour, spilt soup all over the floor, gravy on the walls, jam smeared on the tables, fruits and nuts fallen everywhere, and honey on every single handle! Why, y-y-you hare!" He stomped his footpaw down angrily. Skipper, now having heard the full story, grabbed Hunto by the ears and yanked him off the floor.
Skipper roared at him, "You great big glutton! Lots of washing greasy pots an' pans fer you today! Clear this mess in the kitchens up, make sure everything is scrubbed thoroughly! Also, a wash for you would be good! These Dibbuns too! Sweep the infirmary thoroughly, make the beds in the dormitories, otherwise you'll be physicked by Sister Alkina or drowned in the pond by me!" The Dibbuns started giggling, but stopped when Frella, Melba and Felia herded them into the Abbey.
"What are you guys laughing about? 'Tis no joking matter, its bath time for you!"
"Aye, with lots of soap and a scrubbing brush. Lookit the mess of you lot! Don't fall behind, otherwise we'll bathe ye twice!" With that threat the Dibbuns fled squeaking, not wanting to be washed two times. Skipper and Foremole made Hunto wash the flour off then pushed him towards the kitchens, watching sternly as he wash and scrubbed the walls, floor and tables. After that, he swept the infirmary, watched by Skipper. Then he made the dormitory beds. When he had finished, he was sorry that he had even come into the kitchens. He fell to his knees and sobbed in front of Skipper.
Skipper eyed him and said, "Well, are you ready to apologize or do ye want more chores?"
"Yaagghh, I'm sorry, very bloomin' sorry. I won't ever raid the kitchens, ever again! I'll never put a flippin' footpaw near it again! Ever! Waaaaaa! Spare me!" Skipper felt sorry for the hare and helped him up, half convinced that the hare was true to his word.
"Alright matey, go an' play now, but just don't raid the kitchens!" Frella, Foremole, Felia and Melba sat by the pond's edge. Skipper sat down next to them, putting his paws into the cooling water. Foremole shook his head.
"Hurr hurr, did ye see thoi face on Frior? Hurr, Hunto serpintly learnt his lesson, don't think he'll raid from thoi kitchens, hurr hurr!" Frella nodded.
"Friar Nirpol was so furious, I thought he was going to explode! Poor Hunto, though he did deserve it, the glutton!" A few minutes later Hunto came racing out of the Abbey, a turnover in his paws. Friar Nirpol was chasing him, shouting threats.
"Come back thief! I'll tan the tail off you! I'll chop your ears off! I'll cut off your nose! Come back!" The group put their heads in their paws.
Skipper groaned, "Some creatures never learn!"
Trumin slept heavily until two hours after dawn. He was woken when Zarol was prodding him and shaking him; he rolled over and snarled at the Seer.
"What d'yew want now vixen?" Zarol shoved a plate of fish in front of him and a beaker of elderberry wine.
"Here's some food Chief. Brolun wants the horde up and ready in an hour's time. After you finished yore brekkist, he said to wake the Juskamor up." Trumin gobbled the fish down and slopped wine into his mouth. He sighed in satisfaction, then stalked outside where the horde lay resting. Brolun was out there; his horde was already having breakfast. Brolun was watching Trumin carefully. He followed close behind as Trumin roared at his crew.
"Wake up, yew sleepyheads! Why are yew sleeping? Yew should be havin' brekkist by now! Hurry up!"
"Thats not how I treat my horde," Brolun said coolly. Trumin whirled around and glared at him.
"I'm in charge of my clan, you're in charge of yores! I'm givin' the orders to my crew! Unless yew want to challenge me for leadership of this horde?" Brolun whipped his axe out. This was the moment he had been waiting for! His horde sniggered.
"A fight to the death ye say? Alright mate, a fight for leadership!" Trumin drew his cutlass and snarled.
"I'm no mate of yore's, fox, come an' deal with me!" Vermin leaped out of the way as Trumin charged towards his opponent. Brolun side stepped and brought his axe crashing down on Trumin's back. The stoat screeched as he fell to the ground. He rolled over as Brolun's axe came down on the place where his head was a moment ago. Trumin jumped up and swung his cutlass as Brolun's head. The fox ducked and punched Trumin in the stomach. Trumin wheeled back, gasping for air. Brolun advanced, baring his teeth into a wild grin. He hacked and chopped at Trumin; the stoat was trying his best to defend himself. Brolun's horde was cheering wildly for their leader; the Juskamor was sitting silently, watching their chieftain. Brolun rained blows on Trumin. They both had huge wounds and gashes. Trumin was backed up on a tree as Brolun raised his axe for the final blow. Trumin's instincts told him to duck, which he did. Brolun's axe thudded into the wood above him. He scrambled out into the open space and stood waiting. Brolun wrenched his axe out and charged at Trumin.
"I am Brolun the Piiiiikkkeee!!" Steel clashed steel; they parried and thrust, waiting for each other to make a wrong move. Then Trumin ducked a blow and slashed Brolun's legs. Brolun retreated and came back with a snarl. Both were getting tired by the second. Trumin tripped over a protruding tree root. Brolun was upon him, and he raised his axe for the kill.
"No one can best me. I will be conquering Redwall Abbey alone! Tell Vulpuz when yew reach Hellgates Brolun the Pike sent yew!" Trumin's head lay severed from the rest of his body. The Juskamor sat silently, knowing from now on that their leader was Brolun the Pike!
The five friends stopped for lunch, seeing the Abbey was in sight. They ate quickly and packed up, eager to get to Redwall. Juvern winked slyly at Dayl and spoke out a challenge.
"Right. Whoever gets to the Abbey last is a smelly toad. On y'marks, set... Go!" They charged off towards the main gate, laughing. Dayl was in front by five paces. Juvern, Rosie, Sholler and Brendila raced after him.
"Slow down, yew thicktailed riverdog! We can't run as fast as yew!"
"Aye, you're a Taggerung, we're not!"
"Cummon mates, lets catch up!" Dayl was waiting for them at the gate. They arrived laughing breathlessly, leaning against the doors to regain their breath. When they had, they let their gaze wander over the walls and the doors.
Dayl shouted, "Ahoy in there! Anybeast home? Hello?"
Melba and Felia were taking their afternoon stroll on the walltops when they heard Dayl shouting. They peered over the battlements and looked at the small group.
"Who's that? Who are you? What do you want at our Abbey?" Felia shouted. Melba was in a world of her own. Her dream came back to her like a thunderbolt.
Dayl answered, "We are not vermin, there are vermin chasing us! I pormise we won't hurt any of your creatures! Please let us in!" Felia sat undecided, but Melba hauled her to her feet.
"Let them in! Quickly!" Felia looked at her in surprise.
"Why?" Melba was swiftly descending to the lawn.
"I'll explain later." She unbarred the gate and opened it. Dayl and the friends stared around, gazing in awe of the Abbey. A group of Redwallers were walking in the orchard. Skipper was one of them. He bounded over to Melba.
He stared at the small group and said to Melba, "Who are these creatures? Why did you let them into our Abbey?" Melba recited the poem Martin had said to her.
- "Soon this Abbey will go to war,
- As it has done many times before,
- Five will come in time of need,
- They are friends, shelter and feed,
- One a ferret, a former Juska,
- Two otters, one a former warrior,
- Two squirrels, both of same kin,
- None of them have done any sin!
- They are fated to come here,
- By the time an enemy is near!"
Skipper stared at Dayl. He remembered those tattoos. But where? Dayl was staring at Felia, Melba and Skipper. His dream came flooding back.
Remember their faces! They are your kin! Those were the otters in his dream! Juvern, Brendila, Rosie and Sholler were looking at Dayl strangely. He was mumbling under his breath. Skipper suddenly remembered the tattoos. The Juskamor! He went over to Dayl and lifted his face up.
"Who are ye?" Dayl smiled into his face, a tear running down his cheek.
"Father!" Skipper was taken back at what the otter had just said to him. Realization dawned on him.
Skipper smiled through tears, "Son! My son Dayl! You're back!" Felia and Melba realized who the strange otter was. They flung their arms around him.
"Dayl! You've come back! Dayl!" Skipper released Dayl. Juvern looked at Dayl in surprise.
"You know these creatures? But you've been with the Juskamor your whole life!" Dayl shook his head.
"These are my kin Juvern." He explained his dream to his friends. Dayl introduced his friends. "This is Juvern, Rosie and Sholler, we escaped from the Juskamor. This is Brendila Rivergale." They shook paws. Abbott Merlo stepped forward.
"Do you remember me, my son?" Dayl smiled. Memories of his old life came back.
"Tell me Dayl, what happened when you were taken from us?" Skipper asked. Dayl looked at him puzzled.
"I'm not sure. I remember waking up in a cave, not remembering who I was."
"You must have had amnesia then," Abbott Merlo said. Skipper lead them back to the Abbey, talking. Dayl fell behind the others, next to Brendila.
"I faintly remember this place. This was my old home Bren. Would you like to live here?" Brendila took his paw in her paw and squeezed it.
She whispered, "I would love that Dayl." Dayl blushed slightly.
Dayl, former Taggerung of the Juskamor, had returned home to Redwall Abbey.
Log-a-log Frun and the Guosim were going to Redwall. They had heard of Brolun, and were going there to see if there was any trouble. They had hidden their logboats, now they were marching. They were nibbling some wild apples that some scouts had found when they bumped into a several crews of otters. First there was confusion. Then Log-a-log saw a creature that he knew.
"Haharr, 'tis me ole matey Drandle Rivergale! How's yore missus and yore daughter?" They slapped each others backs.
"Log-a-log Frun, me hearty, I haven't seen ye fer a while! Well, about my daughter, she's run off. Wants t'be a warrior that 'un.' His face creased in a fond smile as he thought about Brendila. "Aye, we're searchin' for her." Log-a-log looked around.
"But you don't need so many otters to search for an ottermaid!" Drandle chuckled.
"We're going to Redwall. There's a chance she went there. 'Ave you heard about that fox, Brolun the Pike? That's why I've got so many otters with me. We want to see if we can be of any help there."
"That's what I'm doing, mate. We'll travel together, eh? I reckon we'll reach there in about half an' hour's time." Drandle nodded and gave orders to his otters.
"Get a move on mates! We gotta get to that Abbey, fast!"
"Up on yore footpaws, Guosim, think of all that lovely grub when we reach there, eh?" The otters and shrews marched together, Log-a-log and Drandle at the front, singing a marching song in deep voices.
- "March, me cullies, march!
- I want to see yore paw rise'n'fall,
- Hard and in time while standin' tall!
- March, me cullies, march!
- Don't lag behind, or else you'll feel,
- A whip and yore fur will start to peel!
- March, me cullies, march!
- Eat on the go, don't sit an' chatter,
- Or you'll grow thin and ev'ryone fatter!
- March, me cullies, march!
- If you're bored, then go back home,
- Or have adventures to where we roam!
- March, me cullies, march!"
They came to an abrupt stop. The Abbey was in sight! They marched quicker, speeding their pace up, excited. They came to a halt in front of the Abbey gates.
Log-a-log puffed his chest out and roared, "Skipper Romarc! 'Tis yore ole matey Log-a-log Frun! Open the gates for us!"
Skipper was sitting by the pond with Dayl and Brendila when he heard Log-a-log's shouts. He ran to the gates and opened them. The Guosim and the otters poured in, greeting each other. Drandle and Skipper shook paws.
"I'm Drandle Rivergale, chieftain of Holt Rivergale. I was looking for my daughter, Brendila. Have you seen 'er mate?"
"I'm Skipper Romarc. Brendila, y'say? She's over by the pond with my son right now, matey. I'll bring ye to her." They walked over to where Dayl and Brendila. When she saw her father, she put her head in her paws and groaned.
"Oh no, its my father, Drandle. Wonder if he's gonna tell me off?"
Dayl put an arm around her shoulder and said, "It'll be alright mate. Doesn't look like he's in a bad mood, the way he's talking to my father." They got up and walked towards them.
Drandle ran over and hugged his daughter tight, saying, "Brendila! Me an' yore mother were worried sick about ye! Who's yore mate there?"
Dayl held his paw out and said, "I'm Dayl. Please to meet ye sir." Drandle looked at him.
"Why is yore face tattooed? Were you with the Juska or somethin'?"
"Aye, I was with the Juskamor. I was their Taggerung since I was ten seasons old. Then my mates and I ran away 'cause we had captured two mice. Our chief was gonna execute them but but I fought with him and we came here. We met Brendila on the way." Drandle nodded.
"Interesting." He turned to his daughter.
Brendila stamped her footpaw down and said angrily, "I'm not going back to the holt! I don't want to wait a few seasons more to become a warrior! I won't! You can't make me!" Drandle shook his head, smiling.
"Just like yore grandfather. Stubborn and warrior born, that was wot he was. As fer goin' back to the holt, I'll have to think about that 'un." Brendila sighed in relief.
"Now, can we have some vittles mate? I'm starvin'!" Drandle said, as he stomach rumbled. They laughed and walked towards the buffet that had been set up in the orchard. Melba, Felia and Friar Nirpol had made a feast from scratch, to celebrate Dayl's return. There was nutbread, oat farls, chestnut and leek bake, shrimp and hotroot soup, deeper'n'ever pie, carrot and mushroom pasties with hot onion gravy, damson and plum tarts, seedcake, woodland trifle, raspberry jelly, sweet arrowroot cake, turnip and carrot turnovers, honey scones with meadowcream and blackberry preserve, a fruit salad with honey drizzled all over it, apple and greengage crumble and massive pot of skilly and duff which the shrews had cooked. Pirrel rolled out barrels of strawberry fizz, dandelion and burdock cordial, hot mint and rosehip tea, October Ale, apple cider, horsechestnut beer, cherry wine, pennycloud cordial, cowslip wine and blackberry wine. Everyone dug in heartily, sampling new foods. Skipper lead a group for ale and cheese tasting. Melba and Felia encouraged their new guests to try each dish, pointing out which dish went with which drink.
"Here Rosie, try some of the woodland trifle with strawberry fizz."
"Mm, thats lovely! Whats that soup over there?"
"You don't want to try it, its shrimp'n'hotroot soup. Otters favourite food, it is!"
"Those tarts go well with dandelion and burdock cordial. Try some!"
"Here's a bowl of shrimp and hotroot soup you two. Good with October Ale!"
"Whoo! That soup is spicy! Pass me some scones will ye Bren."
"Skilly'n'duff! Best thing in the whole of Mossflower!"
"Burr, cut me a slice o' that deeper'n'ever poi, will 'ee Burclaw." When everyone had finished, Hunto set about finishing the remaining food. Rosie, Sholler and Juvern stared at him, watching as the hare went at it with a will.
"Pass me the rest of the fruit salad, will you Skip. Waste not want not, wot! Ahem, chuck that flippin' bowl of trifle this way, Sholler. Leave those pasties alone will ye, I'll deal with 'em later. Nothin' like crumble with good tea, I always say! Now, where was that seedcake? My mater made the best, doncha know. Aha! Arrowroot cake with lots of syrup over it, downed with cherry wine. Are those oat farls over there? Pass 'em, I'm still flippin' hungry, wot!" Sister Velio rapped his paw with a table spoon.
"You greedy hare! Stop eating or else you'll swell up then we'll have to bring you to the infirmary!" That did it. Hunto paused with a slice of seedcake heading for his mouth, then he dropped it and shot off.
"Don't bring me there again! Don't even mention it!" Skipper looked towards Drandle and Log-a-log.
"Off yer hunkers, mateys, aren't ye goin' to entertain us?" The shrew leader got up and signalled his crew.
"Alright, ye planktailed villain. Are ye ready Frentil?" A shrewmum nodded as she pulled out her reed flute. "Right. We'll do 'Wundle Jun'. Ready, set, go!"
- "Wundle Jun was a fat lazy shrew, lazy shrew,
- He ate skilly'n'duff and slept all day, slept all day,
- He was no fighter or warrior, warrior,
- Bees and wasps flew over where he lay, where he lay!
- His wife did all the cooking, all the cooking,
- While he sat there calling for a beer, for a beer,
- She fed their pet frog, their pet frog,
- But he always would sneer, always sneer!
- One day he went out on a small stroll, a small stroll,
- Which he rarely even bothered to do, bothered to do,
- He met a foxmaid, a little foxmaid,
- Who was wielding a rusty knife, rusty knife!
- He shot off like a rocket, like a rocket,
- And hid in some dark tunnel, dark tunnel,
- His wife celebrated, celebrated,
- 'I'm free! I'm free! Free from tyrannyyyyyyy!!"
They sat down and gulped drinks amid applause and laughter. Skipper turned to Drandle.
"Now, are you gonna sing a song fer us mate?"
Drandle stammered, "Well, er, I'd rather not, uh, Skip, don't know any good ones." Skipper looked at Dayl, who was sitting with his friends and Melba.
"What about you, Dayl? I'm sure ye know a few." Juvern, Rosie and Sholler exchanged winks with Dayl.
He stood up and said, "Not really Dad, but I'll show ye a trick or two." He pulled out his daggers and held them in both paws. He addressed the audience. "Now, watch both blades. See if ye can spot where it lands." He started twirling them in his grey paws, getting faster and faster until they were shining blurs. Suddenly he threw them in opposite directions. Everybeast ducked and had lost sight of the daggers when he had thrown them, and they sat scratching their heads.
"Hey, where did it go?"
"Don't ask me, I'm just as puzzled as you are."
Juvern knew where it had landed.
Skipper came up to him and said, "Do you know where it is, mate?" Juvern shook his head, feigning puzzlement.
"Nope. Tell us where it is Dayl."
Dayl smiled secretly and said, "Look at the table legs." Everybeast looked under the tables and gasped. The two daggers were stuck in the wood, one in each end of the table. Log-a-log shook his head in disbelief.
"Hell's Teeth! Where did ye learn to do that, Dayl?" Skipper puffed his chest out proudly as Dayl answered.
"My dad taught me before I was taken to be Taggerung of the Juskamor." He sat down with his friends once more. Brendila shook her head and smiled.
"Should've seen the look on my dad's face. Bet he wishes he could have a thrower like you in our holt!" Dayl stared at the ground, trying to hide his blushing face.
Brolun stood over the body of Trumin, panting heavily. Kicking the carcass contemptuously, he signalled to two rats.
"Throw this in the bushes. The ants will finish 'im off." He turned to the Juskamor.
"As yew can see, yore leader is dead. I'm yore new chieftain, Brolun the Pike. Yew will obey my orders, an' do it without question. If I says march, yew march. If I say sleep, yew sleep. If I say eat, yew eat. And if I say fight, yew fight. Understood?"
"Yes Chief!" Brolun cackled.
"Haha, yew guys are quick learners! Right crew, we march to Redwall on the double! We will conquer it, and when we do, you'll get lots of booty. And some of yew might become captains. But if yew betray me, rebel and fight against me, I will slit yore throats. Who is yore leader?"
"Brolun the Pike!"
"Who will lead yew to victory?"
"Brolun the Pike!"
"I am Brolun the Pike! Redwall, we are coming!"
"Brolun! Brolun! Brolun the Piikkkeee!!" They stampeded through the woodlands, getting closer and closer to Redwall with each step. Brolun the Pike was coming to Redwall!
Drandle's wife, Tyla, sat down next to Dayl.
"Are ye goin' to have those tattoos for the rest of yore life mate?"
Juvern interrupted, "Well, we have to. How do yew get 'em off?"
"My great ancestor knew how to. It was passed on from generation to generation. Do ye want me to take them off?"
Dayl smiled and said, "Thanks Tyla. We'd be grateful if ye could."
"The Juskamor would recognize us straight away. We're gonna be killin' our clan, Dayl. We're against them! But then, we never had any friends," Juvern said.
"Aye. Are we gonna wait here until we're old and have grey whiskers?"
Tyla chuckled and ushered them towards the infirmary.
"Let's do it in here. Hopefully the Sister won't mind." The infirmary was empty. They closed the door and sat down on the beds. Tyla began.
Brolun could feel Redwall was close. They rounded a corner and stopped, gazing at the sight before them. The Abbey was in the distance! They quickened their pace, Brolun racing out in front.
An hour later Dayl looked at himself in the mirror. There was no trace a tattoo. He looked at Juvern.
"Yer look pretty different without yore tattoos, mate."
"Well, so do yew Dayl. Thanks Tyla, we look great! Cummon, lets go downstairs." They reached Great Hall.
Skipper stared at them and said, "What happened to yore tattoos?"
Drandle said, "My wife probably removed them. She can remove tattoos and put them on and remove scars, y'know!"
"This is a miracle! Thank ye Tyla. Well, now that ye look like a proper Abbey warrior, ye should take Martin's sword." Skipper lead them to the tapestry. Dayl and Juvern stared at the sword.
"Where did yew get this beauty of a sword?" Juvern gasped as he touched the sword's hilt.
Skipper answered, "It's said that it was forged from a fallen star by a Badger Lord. It's yore's now Dayl. Defend the Abbey with it." Dayl took down the sword from it's pegs and swung it carefully, balancing it. He buckled the scabbard on and thrust the sword inside.
"I don't think I'll need my cutlass or daggers any more now I've got this."
"Keep it in case there's a war," Log-a-log said.
"Martin said an enemy would be near when they came to Redwall!" Melba cried.
"Are ye sure Mel?" Skipper asked concerned.
"I'm positive!" she said.
- "Soon this Abbey will go to war,
- As it has done many times before,
- Five will come in time of need,
- They are friends, shelter and feed,
- One a ferret, a former Juska,
- Two otters, one a former warrior,
- Two squirrels, both of same kin,
- None of them have done any sin!
- They are fated to come here,
- By the time an enemy is near!"
There was silence.
Sister Velio said, "What are we going to do?"
Drandle said, "Drive 'em off, but Martin said 'Soon this Abbey will go to war'. So that means we have to fight!" Abbott Merlo stepped forward.
"But we don't have enough warriors."
Drandle said, "Log-a-log and I will help. Right mate?"
Log-a-log said, "Right." Skipper took a count on how many fighters there would be.
"There's fifty shrews, sevenscore otters, my crew which is two score, Drandle's holt which is twoscore as well, Foremole's crew which is a score, a score of Redwallers on the walltops, and a score of Redwallers in the open. How many were in the Juskamor Dayl?"
"Er, about sevenscore, unless they joined another horde..."
Suddenly Grollen the Recorder came rushing in.
"I was walking by the gatehouse when I heard knocking on the main gates. I went to the walltop and saw a vermin horde!" he cried.
Drandle roared, "Grab anythin' ye can throw! Stones, spears, javelins and arrows!" Dayl raced outside, followed by Juvern who was carrying his scimitar. Rosie brought her sling and bow and arrows she had got from Varbol. Sholler brought his sling, and Brendila carried a light throwing javelin in one paw and a loaded sling in the other.
Brolun could see otters, squirrels, shrews, mice and moles on the battlements, carrying slings, spear and bows.
Dayl stood next to Skipper and shouted, "What do ye want here, vermin?"
Brolun answered, "Let me see yore leader!"
Dayl answered coolly, "Why should we?"
"I only want to parley!"
"Then parley with me. As I asked, what do ye want here, vermin?"
"Surrender this Abbey to me, and you'll be unharmed."
"And... if we don't?"
"Then yew will die a slow and painful death! Or yew could let us come in and see what we fancy. Then we'll leave yew alone. How about it, eh?"
"I am Dayl, Warrior of Redwall! We will never surrender, or let you into our Abbey, scum! We won't leave Redwall in the paws of you!" The former Juskamor gasped. That was their Taggerung! Brolun pointed his axe at Dayl.
"And I am Brolun the Pike, Warlord of this horde. There's no turning back, riverdog. When I am victorious over this war, yew will not be slaves to me. Yew will die a painful death! I, Brolun the Pike, will kill yew!"
"Redwaaaaalll!" An unexpected salvo of slingstones, arrows and spears pelted Brolun's horde, killing several. Brolun just managed to dodge the arrow that nearly pierced his shoulder.
He shouted, "Retreat! Back out of arrow range!" The war for Redwall had begun!
The Redwallers kept firing until Brolun was out of range. They camped at the north wall, out of arrow range. Dayl came down from the walltops, his friends waiting for him.
"Juvern, I saw a few of the Juskamor!"
"I know, I did too!"
"Did ye see Trumin?"
"Nope. Otherwise he would've been at the front. D'yew think that Brolun fox challenged him and killed him?"
"Probably." Skipper posted otter sentries on the wall and ushered the group down into the orchard. By now it was dusk, and everybeast went inside Great Hall for dinner. Moles pushed trolleys up onto the battlements, serving hot vegetable soup and warm bread to dip in. They ate silently as they watched the campfires being lit by vermin guards, wondering what Redwall's fate would be.
Brolun sat in his tent, thinking of a plan on how to conquer the great Abbey. He called his horde captain, a rat called Fangeye.
"Fangeye! Come 'ere will ye!" The rat came into his tent.
"Tell the crew to chop down a tree to make a battering ram. Tell them to make lots of grappling hooks."
"Also, send Burnpaw and Dragtail in here."
"Now go." A few minutes later a ferret and a weasel came padding softly in.
"Ye wanted us Chief?" Brolun leaned forward.
"Both of ye are good at picking locks, right?" The ferret Burnpaw puffed his chest out.
"Of course, Chief."
"Good. Now, tomorrow, an hour after dawn, I want yew guys to search around the Abbey. Bring threescore with yew. The horde is chopping down a tree to make a battering ram, for the main gates. They are also making grappling hooks, to throw over the east wall. I want yew guys to go around to the south wall and try to unlock those liddle wallgates while they're doing all this. Sneak in and kill everyone, then unlock the main gates. Got it?"
"We won't fail ye Chief!" Brolun patted their backs.
"If ye do this well, I'll promote ye to captains. But if ye fail me, it'll be a worse fate for yew than the Redwallers. Dismiss!" Zarol the vixen came in, carrying a dish of roasted bird and a beaker of blackberry wine.
"Here's some dinner for ye, Chief." Zarol had been glad that Brolun had killed Trumin. She had always disliked the stoat. Brolun grinned at her.
"Zarol, its yew. Come, sit down. Pour yerself a bit o' wine." Zarol gratefully sat down and sipped her wine.
"You want me to do something for you. I know. What is it?"
"Haha, yer a sly vixen Zarol. Tell me, d'ye know anythin' about Redwall?" Zarol stared in the fire, thinking.
"Well, it is said that Redwall has never lacked treasure. Many warlords have tried to conquer Redwall, or at least get some treasure. Each have failed. Two of these treasures are a great tapestry, and a sword, some say it is magic. The tapestry carries a picture of a mouse. It was he who freed the land, and built Redwall. The sword was his, forged by a Badger Lord from a falling star. They are the greatest things they treasure. Great warlords who tried to get this Abbey, were driven back and killed by the warriors in there. But I know you will be able to win Redwall, Chief." Brolun nodded in satisfaction.
"Good. Yer can go." The Seer walked out.
Grentail the otter, was sitting with Trumlin on the north wall. They sat spooning down vegetable soup and drinking hot dandelion cordial. Grentail looked towards the horde's campfires.
"What do yer think they're up to mate?"
"Well, if they're fires are burnin' bright, means they're wide awake."
"I wonder wot they're doin'?"
"Thinkin' o' plans to get in this Abbey o' course." Inside the Dibbuns were being put to bed, but they were protesting loudly, as usual.
"Why do we have to go to bed, Skippa?"
"'Cause ye needs yore sleep, to grow big'n'strong like me. Now go to sleep!"
"But how come you guys don't go to bed?"
"Because... Oh Felia, just sing 'em a lullaby, will ye." His wife obliged cheerfully.
- "When the night comes to darken the skies,
- Sleep, little one, sleep,
- The stars shine brightly next to the moon,
- Sleep, my dear, sleep,
- Bells ring o'er the woodlands softly,
- Streams and brooks rush towards the sea,
- Leaves rustle and trees wave in the breeze,
- Everyone is asleep, everyone but you, my dear."
They tip toed quietly from the dormitory, leaving behind babes snoring quietly under their blankets. Felia chuckled.
"I remember Dayl was like that when he was young." They walked down to Great Hall. Dayl, his friends and Drandle were admiring Martin's tapestry. Sholler was asleep in the dormitory. Skipper stood next to Drandle.
Drandle said, "Earlier on, you guys kept saying Martin said that an' stuff. Who's Martin?" Skipper pointed to the heroic figure in the tapestry.
"That's him. He was the co-founder of this Abbey. His spirit lives on, and when there is danger, he will come to a young Redwaller and speak to him or her. He came to my Mel." Drandle shook his head in amazement.
"He looks like a real warrior alright." He hefted his javelin. "My javelin would break just from a single swipe of that weapon," he said, looking at the sword. Dayl yawned.
"I think we should be getting some sleep mates. Got a big day ahead of us tomorrer." They went off to their beds. Skipper and Drandle relieved the sentries and put new ones. Tomorrow was going to be a big day!
Brolun woke an hour before dawn, looking at the wallgates, inspecting the main gate and checking the grappling hooks, making sure they were firm and didn't break when stretched taut. He roused his crew quietly, munching on a russet apple. They sat silently, drinking water and nibbling on some dandelions. Finally, after what seemed like forever, Brolun signaled his horde.
"Now, Fangeye, yew are in charge of the battering ram. Take a score and keep running it into the gates, hard as ye can, keep goin' no matter what. Burnpaw, Dragtail, yew know what to do. Hurmgal, Greval, take twoscore and the grappling hooks to the east wall. Throw them all on to the wall, an' climb up. The rest of yew, surround the Abbey except the south wall an' keep firing stones, arrows and spears at 'em. They'll have their paws full, tryin' to defend. Got that?" The vermin nodded, eager to get started. Brolun gave them a final warning. "If yer succeed, you'll be promoted Captain and get lots of treasure from that Abbey. But if ye fail me, I'll slit yore throats. Now go!" The horde slipped off.
A shrew called Yarri yawned and looked down from the east walltops, remarking to another shrew.
"D'you think they'll attack soon Kirt?" The older shrew nodded.
"Aye mate, soon. I feel it'll be sometime today." Suddenly something whizzed by his head, missing him by a fraction. He leapt up and drew his rapier.
On seeing the grappling hook, he yelled in a gruff voice, "Logalogalogalogalooogg!!" He sliced the grappling hook off and said urgently, "Quickly, get more help. Go!"
Yarri dashed off, shouting, "Attack! We're under attack!" A few more shrews came racing over and started slinging stones at the vermin below. Another shout came from the east wall.
"They've got a battering ram, mates!" An otter yelled. On the east wall and west wall, Redwallers were throwing weapons at the enemy. There were only a few otters and shrews by the south wall. Dragtail the weasel shoved his dagger in the gap between the door and the wall. He grunted as he levered the dagger up and down, finding the bolt. With a wrench he thrust the dagger up; the bolt slid from its hold. The weasel tried pushing the little wall gate. It didn't budge.
"Hmm, must be another bolt there." He searched for the other bolt. It came off. He grinned triumphantly at Burnpaw. "In we go!" They opened the door slowly and peeped. There was nobeast in sight. Burnpaw sighed in relief and opened the gate more, allowing the threescore of armed vermin in. Skipper and Drandle came from around the building and caught sight of the eager vermin. A score of shrews and otters were following them. They rounded the corner and saw the enemy. They drew their weapons and charged the vermin.
"Redwaaaaaallll!! Rivergaaaallleee!! Logalogalogalooooogg!!" They slashed and bit, kicking and flailing their weapons. Dragtail knew their plan had been ruined; he tugged Burnpaw's tunic.
"Best get outta here; it's not gonna work out now." Burnpaw saw the sense in his friend's statement. They started slinking towards the gate. Drandle saw them and bounded towards them. The pair did not see the brawny otter coming until they heard his warcry:
"Rivergaaaaalllee!! Come to me, ye vermin!" They fell dead with a slash of his javelin. More help came; the shrews and otters fought ferociously. They slew half the remaining vermin as the rest fled. They hauled the bodies outside into the woodlands. It was now late morning.
Hurmgal and Greval, the two stoats in charge of the grappling hooks, kept urging their soldiers on to the ropes and climbing up. Each time the rope was slashed by a blade and the vermin on the ropes would fall to earth, screaming. They had lost fifteen. Yarri and Kirt, the two shrews, swung their slings, with their warrior blood roused. The score of shrews who had come to help kept slashing at the grappling hooks. Each time they smiled a grim smile at the screams of their foe. Hurmgal and Greval knew their plan had failed; yet they kept pushing their soldiers forward. They were down to twenty now. Finally Greval sat down.
"Give up. We'll lose all of 'em if we keep doin' this." His pal sat next to him.
"Yore right mate. Let's get go-" A heavy stone came hurtling through the air and struck Hurmgal between the eyes, slaying him instantly.
Greval stared at the body, then ordered, "Quickly, get back to camp unless yew want to be slaughtered!" They fled into the cover of the trees.
The battering ram had made some small cracks in the main gate. Moles and otters slung stones at the vermin. Brolun wondered why Dragtail and Burnpaw had not yet succeeded in killing the Redwallers. He drove his crew harder on the battering ram. A few had been slain by the stones and spears thrown by the Redwallers. Just then Greval came in panting at the head of his depleted group. He shrank back at the sight of Brolun, but the fox hauled him roughly upright.
"Where's the rest and Hurmgal, eh? Did the plan fail?" The stoat nodded, too terrified to speak. Brolun threw him to the ground. "Did yer see Dragtail and Burnpaw?"
"No Chief. No sign of 'em!" Brolun stamped his footpaw down on the ground angrily.
He snarled, "I bet their plan failed! Right, get yore group on this battering ram. Move it!" They hurried to do his biddings.
Foremole had discovered two whole buckets of old vegetable oil and rotten compost.
"We could give thoi vermin a taste o' this, burr aye!" Log-a-log grinned at him mischievously.
"Teach 'em a lesson, eh? Good idea! C'mon mates, to the main gate!" They rushed to the battlements and stood the buckets on the wall. The Redwallers had stopped their slinging and chuckled at the plan. The vermin were charging at the gate now. Bam!! Juvern winked at Log-a-log.
"May I?" Log-a-log bowed to the ferret.
"Be my guest!" Juvern tipped the buckets on to the battering ram, making the vermin drop it on their footpaws. They leapt about holding their injured limb, Brolun shouting at them in a thunderous voice.
"Idiots! Pick it up an' try again, fools! Why did ye drop it?"
A rat called Swit whined, "Chief, they poured oil and rubbish on the battering ram. It's too slippery and wet!" Redwallers began their slinging again, only harder and faster. They barely had time to dodge. Brolun yelped in pain as a stone got him on his right footpaw.
"Haha, got ye that time bottebrained raggedy fox!" Brolun sneered at Brendila standing next to Dayl.
"Watch yore mouth riverdog; it could be the death of yew!" He managed to duck at one of Brendila's stones as it nearly struck him on the head.
"Why don't ye try, vermin!"
Brolun limped off shouting, "Retreat! Back to the camp!" The horde fled back to their camp as Redwallers cheered.
"Good work, chaps, wot wot!" Hunto said, back slapping everyone.
The remaining party whose leaders were Dragtail and Burnpaw ran back to the camp, afraid that the Redwallers were chasing them. They arrived when Brolun and the rest of the horde had just come in. They stopped abruptly and stood there, afraid of what Brolun would do to them now that their plan had failed.
Brolun strode up and said, "Well now, wot do we have 'ere? What happened to Dragtail and Burnpaw and the rest of ye?" A burly rat called Trigga spoke up hesitantly.
"Well, er, we got in, y'see, by the liddle wallgate. We crept in quiet like. Then suddenly a whole group of big fierce riverdogs and shrews ambushed us. They killed Dragtail and Burnpaw and slew some others. So we got out quickly and ran back here, so ye wouldn't lose a score and a half more soldiers." He gulped and winced as Brolun sank his claws into his shoulder.
"Some others, eh? Ye call a score and a half good troops some others? How many riverdogs and shrews were there?" Trigga was lost for words.
"I don't know Chief. I didn't count them." Brolun roared angrily and smashed Trigga to the ground.
"Fool! I didn't ask ye to count them one by one, I meant how many did ye estimate! So let me ask again, how many were there?" His eyes glittered dangerously. Trigga knew his life depended on his answer.
"Er, about thirty Chief... Yaahh!" Brolun had slain the rat on the spot, picking him up and twisting his neck with a vicious flick of his paws. He whirled around to face the stunned group, looking at their former comrade's body.
"Yer let thirty stupid riverdogs and shrews kill ye? And I thought you were all ready to kill and plunder on my word! But no, ye had to run away from some silly otters. I am shamed to call ye part of my horde! Tell me, why should I not slay all of ye on the spot, right now, eh? Tell me!"
A ferret spoke, scared out of his wits, "So yew don't lose more soldiers and so we can win over this Abbey, Chief." There was a dangerous moment of silence, then Brolun patted the ferret on the back.
"So yer right, mate, so yer right. Now, let this be a lesson learned, or you end up like that fool there." He indicated Trigga's carcass. "Throw that thing into the bushes. I'll be in my tent if anybeast needs me." He swept off, limping into his tent. The group sighed in relief and sat down next to the rest of the horde, thankful that the wrath of Brolun was over. For the moment.
Trigga's mate, a female called Vurnis, spat into the fire.
She said, "'E slew my mate for nothin'. Trigga answered as best as he could, though he was never a bright 'un. I reckon Brolun's gettin' too bossy and big fer 'is boots." The ferret looked up from some dandelions he had been nibbling.
"Don't talk about him like that, Vurnis. Ye know one of his loyal members will find out and tell him, then we'll all be slain an' tortured." Vurnis snorted contemptuously.
"I'm not scared of Brolun. One night, I'm gonna creep into his tent while he's sleepin', then avenge my mate Trigga's death. You'll see! I vow this upon my mate's body!" They did not notice Zarol walking past them as Vurnis made this promise. She hurried off towards her master's tent.
Foremole and Skipper Romarc were checking the main gates. Abbott Merlo wrung his paws anxiously.
"Is there a lot of damage done Foremole?" Foremole patted Abbott Merlo's back lightly.
"Nay zurr, only a few scratches an' cracks in 'ee gate. Oi wouldn't worry thoi head over it too much, burr aye!" Skipper nodded.
"He's right Father. Not much damage done to the gate. It would take more time and stronger creatures to knock our gate down!" Abbott Merlo sighed in relief.
"Good. Post more sentries so we see if the vermin are going to mount another attack. Right friends, let's go for lunch!" They walked off towards Cavern Hole. Some kitchen assistants brought trolleys of food up to the walltops for the hungry sentries, watching the flatlands for any sign of a vermin attack. Hunto was on sentry duty as well. He watched anxiously as the other otter and shrew sentries got their share of food first.
"I say, you chaps, leave some of those flippin' scones and that large chunk of cheese for me, will ye. Ahoy there, laddie buck, young shrew. Leave that portion of trifle for me, wot. Pour me some of that elderberry cordial for me, Drandle. Need somethin' to wash all this lovely scoff down. Grmmff snimmff mmmff! That hit the spot nicely, wot!" Drandle managed to clear the remaining food from his reach.
"Leave the rest of it, ye great glutton. Keep watch for vermin instead of stuffing yore face with grub."
Hunto stalked off, muttering to himself, "Huh, that was hardly enough for me starving tum. An otter chap stuntin' me growth, I hardly had a crumb to meself! Hardly enough to keep fur an' bones together!" Drandle chuckled as he reached for a scone.
Brolun had a hard time of thinking up a new plan. He pondered until he could think no more. Suddenly, Zarol came in.
Brolun said, "What d'ye want, Zarol? Sit down and tell me." Zarol sat down.
"Chief, just after Dragtail and Burnpaw's group came in, after you dealt with Trigga, his mate, Vurnis, vowed to avenge Trigga's death. By killing you!" Brolun chuckled, as if this was just a normal problem.
"Good work, Zarol. See if ye can find out more information, like when its going to happen. Though I have a rough idea when. Probably at night, when I'm sleeping, and when the rest of the camps' asleep. Can ye bring some food for me? I'm famished." Zarol bowed.
"I can get you some fruits. And a beaker of grog. Is that good?" Brolun nodded and lay back.
"That would be fine Zarol. Remember wot I said, try and get more information. Now go!" The vixen left the tent. An idea suddenly popped into Brolun's head.
"Fire! Of course! Why didn't I think o' that before! Now, pile lots of sticks, twigs, dead leaves, dry branches in front of the main gate, then get a fire arrow into the rubble! That should work, surely! Maybe we could have that as a diversion, then try get in by one of the wallgates again, capture a Redwaller, then we have a hostage! Then parley, saying we'll kill the prisoner if they don't surrender the Abbey to us! Brilliant idea! Hahahahahaha! Now watch out stupid Redwallers, Brolun the Pike is coming! Hahahaha!" He started dancing around. Troops and soldiers stopped and listened at the crazed laughter from their chief. They looked at one another and all pondered the same thought. Had Brolun the Pike finally become mad?
The rest of the day passed uneventfully. Each creature wondered what the next move the vermin would make. It was now dusk. They were now eating dinner. Brendila, Melba, Juvern, Dayl, Rosie, Sholler, Drandle and Felia all sat next to one another, talking and laughing. Hunto was always nearby, ready to take any leftover food pushed his way.
Felia said, "D'you know, I nearly forgot after all the excitement, that summer is actually only two days away. That means Nameday is the day after tomorrow!" Hunto perked his ears up, straining for more information.
"Are ye sure marm?"
"Positive! Can ye cope with that Friar?" The squirrel nodded.
"O' course marm. Two days is more than enough to make a feast. I'll get started tomorrow. Let Father Abbott know, will you. Righto, I'm off to my kitchens!" Friar Nirpol walked off. Hunto wriggled his ears in delight.
"A feast! Another flippin' great feast! I'll be there, you can bet on that!" Brendila giggled.
"Lucky Friar Nirpol had gone off, or he would've fainted I think!" The group fell about laughing helplessly, imagining Friar Nirpol's face. Outside Log-a-log Frun was on sentry duty on the south wall.
He remarked to Skipper, who was also on sentry duty, "Huh, I bet everybeasts' stuffin' their faces with lots o' grub. Ooh, my grumblin' stummick!" Skipper nodded, looking over the wall.
"Aye, mine is too. Oh look, here comes supper. Damson and greengage crumble with honey, some hotroot soup, mushroom and onion pastie with good old October Ale! Prime vittles for us, eh mate?" The Guosim Chieftain was gobbling down hotroot soup despite its spiciness. He lifted a beaker to his lips and blew the froth off, then gulped it.
"Ahh, thats better. Pass me some crumble. Nothin' like good Redwall vittles, I always say." Skipper nodded.
"Aye, I'm glad I live here. Sometimes when it's a feast, I think of you, feeling sorry that yer not there to enjoy it!" Log-a-log pushed Skipper playfully.
"Go away, you great big lump!" They laughed. Log-a-log said, "D'ye think they'll attack tonight?" Skipper scratched his rudder.
"Maybe, though two attacks in a day makes it hard to recover. I doubt it, though always keep on watch." They fell into silence, and wondered what the Abbey's fate would be.
Brolun waited until it was dark, so it was hard to see. He called Fangeye to him.
"Tonight, I want you to get lots of dead branches, leaves, twigs, grass, anything, to pile up against the Abbey gate. But before you do, I want you to get our two best archers and kill the sentries that are guarding the gate. We then retreat. Make sure this is done quickly and quietly. Don't light any torches or campfires until I say so. Leave about ten here, so they keep the fires bright, so the woodlanders think we're still here. Get our best archer to shoot a fire arrow into the dead branches, so the gate catches fire. Shoot lots of fire arrows. I want the rest of the horde there. We'll see if the Redwallers' can fend off the flames! Send Grippler in here as well. Do I make myself clear?" Fangeye saluted with his spear.
"Dismissed." The rat left. Soon Grippler, a burly stoat, came in and saluted.
"Ye wanted me Chief?"
"Yes I did. Tonight, when we get ready to attack, I want ye to take a score of ye and go around to the south wallgate. Try and unlock it. When ye do, lie in the shadows. When no one is looking, capture a Redwaller, then quickly get out and come back. Got that?"
"Now go!" The stoat left. Brolun sighed in satisfaction. Soon Redwall would be his!
It was now close to midnight. Brolun gathered his horde and told his plan to them. Now they knew what they were going to do, what part they had to play. They armed themselves for the night ahead. They crept out on to the flatlands, and saw two sentries, two shrews. Vinol the ferret, the best and deadliest archer in the whole horde, along with his mate Frudin, notched arrows to their bows and aimed at the two shrews. They sighted and fired all in a split second. Their arrows found their targets. The first shrew fell down, crumpled with Vinol's arrow in his neck. The second shrew turned and looked at his companion, shocked. Before he knew what was going on, Frudin's arrow thudded into his chest. The shrew slid down the walltops, setting into a sitting position, so that from far off, it looked like he was sleeping. Then half the horde sprang up and searched for branches and dead grass, twigs and leaves, piling it high against the main gate.They lit a small fire out of sight, then Vinol took an arrow from his quiver, making sure it was straight and its point sharp. He wrapped an oiled rag around the point, lit the arrow, sighted and fired.
One of the shrews, Bragle, who was high ranked in the tribe, looked towards the two figures on the west walltops.
He frowned as he said to another shrew, "Look, Hytan and Drikler seem to have fallen asleep. Dozin' on sentry duty, eh? I'll fix 'em up!" The other shrew, a male called Crisor, chuckled.
"I'll stay 'ere Bragle." Bragle scampered towards the bodies, but as he neared, the first shrew, Hytan, was seen clearly slumped across the battlements, an arrow in his neck. Bragle's keen eyes didn't miss a thing. He caught sight of smoke rising from the main gate.
Drawing his rapier, he bellowed, "Logalogalogaloooog!" The abbey was immediately roused and came outside to see what the fuss was about. Skipper, Drandle, and Log-a-log came bounding up on to the battlements and sighted Bragle. Foremole seemed to know what was happening. He ordered his crew to get a water chain going up on the walltops, putting out the fire that was going to burn the gate down.
Brolun signalled to Grippler. The strong stoat nodded and crept off into the woodlands, behind him a score of trained warriors who carried two sacks and a rope. They reached the south wallgate. Grippler threw himself at the wallgate. It opened slightly. The locks had not been so strong after the first break in. Grippler poked his head in and looked around. There was nobeast in sight. He let the rest in and they waited behind some bushes, waiting for a creature to come by. Grippler had left the wallgate lightly ajar, so they would escape easily.
Juvern, Brendila, Dayl and Rosie hurried towards the main gate. Dayl had Martin's sword strapped to his back, Juvern had his scimitar, Rosie had her sling and Brendila had her twin swords. Sholler had stayed in the infirmary, tending to cuts and wounds. Dayl and Brendila were pounding behind the others. They did not notice the group of vermin who were hiding by the south wallgate. The others were ahead by a good ten paces. The two otters passed by. Grippler suddenly lunged out of hiding and grabbed Brendila. Dayl had run ahead a few paces before he could see his friend was not with him. Looking back, he saw Brendila struggling and kicking in Grippler's hold. Suddenly forgetting Martin's sword was strapped to his back, he roared and jumped. He was in midair when Grippler's paw came in contact with the young otter's head. Dayl fell to the ground, his head throbbing. He watched half dazed as Grippler knocked Brendila out, bundled her into a sack and tied it up. He swept off, limpeared into the dark woodlands, closing the gate behind them. Dayl could not keep conscious any longer.
Before he fell into darkness, he gasped out, "Bren, I'm coming!" His head fell to one side as blackness filled his mind.
Brolun was pleased when Grippler returned, with two vermin carrying a heavy sack.
Brolun shouted, "Our work here is done. Back to camp now!" His horde scurried off into the shadows. They arrived back, the ten guards who had been left behind were piling logs on to the fires. Brolun said, "All of ye can sleep now. Grippler, take off the sack and lets see wot we've got." Grippler untied the sack and Brendila rolled out. Brolun took away her swords and said, "Tie this riverdog to that beech over there. Come in and wake me when she woken up. All of ye can sleep now, except for a few sentries. I'll be in my tent." Brolun strode into his tent, but did not lie down. He put a bunch of rags under his blanket, making it look like he was sleeping. Then he crept into hiding, waiting. Vurnis the rat, Trigga's mate, waited until everyone was asleep. She took out a dagger and touched the blade, making sure it was sharp. She crept past the two stoats who were on sentry duties, and peeked through a gap in Brolun's tent flap. She saw he was sleeping. Chuckling evilly, she padded softly up and raised her dagger, and plunged it deep inside the blanket. She didn't hear a gurgle, or a sigh. Everything was too quiet for her liking. She pulled out her dagger. And looked at it. There was no blood trace.
"I hear you wanted to avenge Trigga's death. Well, here I am, try to kill me now!" Vurnis whirled around and saw Brolun standing in by the table. Her mouth was dry with fear.
"N-n-no of c-c-course not Ch-chief..." She stammered, dropping the dagger. Brolun advanced, and suddenly his axe was in his paw.
He raised it and swung it hard, saying, "I know what goes on in this camp. No one can escape from me!" Vurnis's head thudded to the floor. Brolun tossed it outside into the bushes, chuckling. No one would know of this incident. One of the stoat guards came running up to him.
"Chief! The prisoner had woken up!" Brolun walked over to Brendila.
"So riverdog, you're awake. You're the one that threw that stone at me and insulted me. I don't like that. You'll pay the price!" Brendila looked up and snarled at him.
"Go on, kill me, ye vermin, do whatever ye like. What do ye want with me? Gimme my swords back, and we'll fight, just you'n'me!" Brolun shook his head.
"No, I've got other plans for you. You'll find out in the morning!" Brolun walked off. Brendila sighed and lay back.
Dayl woke up in the infirmary. It was an hour after dawn. His head was feeling better. Sister Alkina walked in with a tray of food.
"Are you feeling better Dayl?"
"Yes, thank you Sister." Skipper, Juvern, Melba, Felia and Rosie were hovering in the background. Suddenly Dayl remembered the night's events. He looked around wildly and said, "We need to go save Brendila! She was captured and..." Abbott Merlo put a paw to his lips.
"We know Dayl. Juvern here realized you weren't there and saw you lying unconscious by the south wallgate. I'm glad the main gate didn't burn thoroughly. We just managed to put it out." Dayl put his tray to one side and heaved himself from the bed. His head didn't pain him any more. It was something else that pained him. It was the feeling on whether Brendila was alright.
He looked at everyone and said, "We need a plan. We need to hold a Council of War right now, in Cavern Hole. Tell Log-a-log and Drandle. Tell everyone who is going to fight. I'll meet you there." He walked out, his friends following him. A while later all the able bodied creatures who wanted to fight were seated in Cavern hole, sipping October Ale and mint tea. Skipper stood up and addressed them.
"Alright, we need a plan on how to rescue Brendila, Drandle's daughter. Any ideas?"
Suddenly Grentail the otter came rushing in and said, "That fox is outside, he wants to parley. He's got Brendila!" Dayl barged through and ran up onto the battlements, peering down at the sight below him.
Chapter Twenty One
Grippler was holding a white rag on a stick, a sign of truce. Brendila was gagged and held up by two strong weasels, Vinol notching an arrow to his bow behind her back.
Dayl roared out, "Release Brendila now, you scum! What do you want?"
Brolun said, "If you want yore friend back, surrender this Abbey and all of you will go unharmed. But if you don't, it's bye bye to yore liddle pal!" Dayl was stuck for words. Skipper stepped in.
"We'll never surrender!" Brolun waved his paw.
"Alright. You don't care for yore liddle ottermaid friend..." Vinol aimed his shaft at Brendila's back.
Dayl shouted, "Don't harm a single hair on her! Ye hear me?"
Brolun said, "We'll give you until tonight for yore answer. Agreed?"
Drandle said, "Tomorrer morn is our answer."
"Fine. Tomorrer morn. We'll be here!" They swept off back to their camp. Log-a-log sighed.
"Let's get back to our Council of War. Somebeast tell Friar Nirpol to prepare some brekkist. I'm hungry!" They walked back to Cavern Hole. An idea was starting to glimmer in Juvern's head. When they were seated in Cavern Hole Juvern stood up.
"I just thought of an idea to get Bren back. It's a bit risky, but worth a try..." Hunto leaned forward.
"We're all ears mate! Tell us yore super wheeze, wot!" Juvern outlined his plan.
"Right. Tonight, when the vermin least expect it, we'll ambush 'em. We creep up, surround their camp. How many warriors were there again Skipper?"
"About two hundred an' eighty. The vermin have around that number as well. Carry on mate."
"We leave around midnight, and fifty will go around to where Brendila is and wait until the rest distract and charge the vermin from the front, away from Brendila. That would leave her unguarded, so then that fifty would release her and attack the vermin from the back. This would make them surprised and confused. Then we just finish the battle there and then. I expect we're not going to keep prisoners, right?"
Drandle nodded, "Right. We finish 'em off, there an' then! Its risky o' course, but I'm willin' to do it. Anythin' to get my Bren back! So tonight ye say? Every able-bodied creature, sharpen yore blades, check yore quivers, make sure you've got plenty of 'ard stones to chuck at 'em. Any Redwallers who would like to fight?" Pirrel Barrbrew stepped forward.
"I would like to, sir. Even though I've never been in battle before, I'll give those vermin a beating, to show us Redwallers aren't so easily defeated!"
Skipper asked, "What would you be wielding Pirrel?" The burly Cellarhog shrugged.
"I'll use me spikes by rollin' around, or I can always use a weapon, like me mallet." He brought forth a huge coopering mallet. "I can give the scum a few whacks with this!" Drandle nodded.
"Every liddle bit 'elps. Right, get ready for the battle ahead! Get some brekkist down yore gobs, then have a liddle nap. You're gonna need it, there's no rest in between fightin'. Get movin'!" Friar Nirpol and his kitchen helpers served oatmeal porridge to the sentries and the hungry Redwallers.
The guards who were watching Brendila had confiscated her twin swords. They now kept it out of her reach, by the fire. Zarol came up and thrust a beaker of water and some berries and roots at her feet, smirking.
"Git that lot down yore throat riverdog. Bet yore friends aren't goin' t'care whether ye die or not. Brolun'll make ye die nice an' slow, he's good at that! Aye, he'll kill ye right in front o' yore pals. He'll skin ye nice and slow, alive, then carve ye into different shapes. Heehee, I'll be lookin' forward to that! Hahaha!" Brendila closed her eyes and ignored her tormentor's threats. Zarol kept prancing around her, sneering into her face.
"We'll make ye into crowmeat! Yore friends still won't care probably. We'll have to think o' ways to kill ye, nice and slow!" Suddenly something inside of Brendila snapped, and she lunged at Zarol's paw, which was near her mouth, waving about wildly. Zarol screamed and shrieked in agony. Guards and soldiers came running to see who was being tortured. Brolun came sprinting towards the pair. He punched Brendila hard on the jaw, making her release Zarol's bleeding paw.
He said, "What's goin' on? I told ye to give her food!" Zarol nursed her limb.
"She bit me Chief! I was givin' her food, then for no reason she bit me!"
Brendila growled, "Liar! You were telling me threats! Well, let me tell you something, fox. My friends care about me, not like you. You wouldn't care about anythin' else except savin' yore own hide! Huh, you're nothin' but a whinin' coward, threatening, torturing and killing. If yer so brave, come and fight me! Gimme my swords, and I'll give yer a taste of yore own medicine! You're only a lily-livered blitherin' smelly-pawed thievin' coward!" Zarol snarled and rushed towards the ottermaid, but Brolun knocked her aside.
"Leave her alone Zarol. Keep an eye on her, you two guards!" The two rats who were guarding Brendila saluted. Brolun swept off to his tent, Zarol following, watching Brendila contemptuously. Brendila sighed and slumped back. After all that excitement, she felt quite tired. It was getting to late afternoon now, there was nothing for her to do except sleep. She closed her eyes. In her dreams, she was still chained to the tree, vermin watching her. Martin the Warrior came striding through and the vermin parted for him, recoiling from his sword and his touch. Martin walked up to Brendila and spoke.
"Help is coming my young friend. Be alert in the late night. Help is coming. Stay strong inside, show no fear." Everything faded and Brendila continued sleeping a dreamless sleep.
Chapter Twenty Two
Brendila woke up. She looked up and saw the sky. The sun had set. It was starting to become dark. She thought of the Abbey and her friends. Would she ever see them again? Her father, her mother? Tears started to prick her eyes. She closed them and clenched her paws. No! They would rescue her, she was sure of it. She licked her lips. She was hungry and thirsty. She looked at the two guards. They were snoring away, a cask of grog in their paws. Brendila tried to bend her head down and cut the rope with her teeth. She groaned. The rope was tied around her stomach and pinned her arms to the tree. It was too far down. She sat back up. Her dream came back to her.
Help is coming. Be alert in the late night.
"They will rescue me when it's around midnight," she thought. Brendila sighed. There was nothing for her to do until then.
The army of woodlanders stood in the orchard. They had a quick and light dinner and stood ready and armed, two hours before midnight.
Skipper shouted, "Remember the plan mates. We see where Brendila is held captive, then Dayl and Drandle's group stay behind. Remember to wait an' lie in the shadows. The rest will charge from the front. When ye see Brendila unguarded, give her this sling and cutlass and free her." He handed Dayl the weapons. "If there are still vermin lurking around, kill 'em. Then charge from the back. No quarter, no surrender. Take no prisoners! Slay every single piece of scum! Make sure none leaves alive!" Each warrior received hugs and gifts from the friends and families. Felia and Melba hugged Dayl and Skipper.
"Come back safely okay?" Drandle kissed Tyla.
"I promise I'll bring Bren back. Don't worry yore head about her." Grollen opened the gates and the army marched out. They marched quietly to Brolun's camp. They knew silence was needed. One mistake and it would be all over. They stopped and waited while Skipper, Dayl, Hunto, Juvern and Drandle crept up behind some bushes. They peered at the sleeping vermin.
Skipper murmured as they gazed around, "Looks like we got our paws full tryin' t'fight this lot." Hunto waggled his ears. For once his mind was not on food.
He said, "The more the merrier, wot! This'll be the best blinkin' battle I've ever fought in! Let the flippin' lollop-eared vermin blighters come, wot!"
Dayl pointed and whispered, "Look! Brendila's tied to that tree over there. I can see that she's awake. See those two rat guards? They have her swords." Drandle nodded.
"Aye. Think they're all asleep yet?"
Juvern whispered, "I think so. Might've been smart enough to post some sentries though. Aha! See that tent, over there? I can see a shadow of a fox inside. I think it might be Brolun!" Hunto nodded and brought a sling out.
"That's the fox alright. I say, when can we charge, wot?" He loaded the sling with a big pebble and swung it impatiently. Skipper hefted his javelin and grinned.
"How about now, eh? Let's go tell the others. Remember to make sure they stay silent, otherwise we're crowbait." They crept back and signalled silently to get ready for the battle. Drandle and Dayl shook paws with Skipper, Hunto and Juvern.
Juvern said, "Good luck to ye mates. Remember the plan! See ye after the battle Dayl. If we're not dead, that is." Dayl shoved his friend lightly.
"Don't talk like that matey! We'll both live, see if we don't!" Juvern hefted his scimitar and saluted with it, a smile hovering on his lips.
"Alright. Well, you'd best be off Dayl. Give 'em blood'n'vinegar!" Dayl nodded and disappeared into the undergrowth with Drandle and their group of warriors behind them. Dayl and Drandle lead them to where Brendila sat captured. They waited, weapons ready, faces grim, knowing that some of them would not be there to see the sunrise the next day.
Brolun felt that something was amiss. He swung his axe experimentally. It whistled through the air. He smiled. The Redwallers would surrender their Abbey to him the next morning!
Skipper waited until he judged the time was right. He chose the spot from where they would ambush and signalled for the army of woodlanders to get ready.
He whispered, "Now mateys, get ready for the biggest battle in yore life. As ye know, some o' us will not make it through. But by the thunder we'll take as many as we can before we go to Dark Forest. Some of ye might be wondering why we can't kill the scum right now, while they're sleepin'. Well, that's not how we fight. We'd be the murderers, killing 'em in cold blood. Now enough o' this chatter. Are ye ready?" They advanced.
Pirrel murmured to Skipper, "I don't know if I want to do this Skip." The burly otter patted Pirrel carefully, so his spikes wouldn't get embedded in his paws.
"Don't worry mate. You just stick by me and give a few good whacks to the vermin!" Skipper waited until they were at the edge of the camp. They stood silently, waiting for the signal. Skipper took a deep breath, and tightening his hold on his javelin, he held it aloft. He pointed it towards the vermin and shouted, "Chaaarrggee!! Redwaaaaallll!!"
"Logalogalogalooooogg! Redwaaalll! Eulaliiiiaaaa!!"
Chapter Twenty Three
They stampeded into the camp of startled vermin, some rubbing their eyes and looking around confused before being slain. Brolun dashed out, axe in one paw. He cursed under his breath.
"Quickly! Everybeast fighting! Charge them!" Pirrel bellowed and swung his mallet, sweeping vermin out with a single swipe.
He stood back to back with Skipper, both roaring lustily, "Redwaaaalll! Give 'em blood'n'vinegar! Redwaaaalll!" The Guosim parried and thrust quickly with their rapiers. Hunto was a whirlwind of destruction, swinging his loaded sling, eyes filled with bloodlust.
"C'mere, yer flippin' vermin! I'll teach ye how to fight properly! Eulaliaaaaa!" He ducked an enemy spear and punched the wielder in the stomach, then knocked him out with his sling. He plunged headlong into a group of rats. Brolun raced around at the back, shouting.
"Kill them, fools! They're only woodlanders! Kill them!"
Skipper laughed wildly, "Aye, you scum, we may only be woodlanders, but braver than you cowardly lot! Redwaaaalll!" Stabbing frenziedly, he hacked and chopped. Log-a-log was fighting madly, surrounded by a group of sneering weasels and stoats. Juvern took a fox out and battled his way to the shrew's side. Together they fought and finished the last one. Log-a-log grinned at Juvern lopsidedly.
"How about we give some o' those vermin a good beating, eh?"
"Sounds good t'me, mate. Redwaaall!" They dove into the wild fight.
The guards had immediately joined the fight, and now Brendila sat unguarded. She could see her swords lying by the fire, the flames reflecting off the blade. Suddenly there was rustling and Dayl and Drandle were beside her.
"Brendila!" They exclaimed together. They cut the ropes binding her and waited as she massaged her limbs back to life. Dayl offered the cutlass and sling. Brendila shook her head.
"I won't be needing them, mate. My swords are here." She picked up her twin blades and gripped them fondly. She brandished them and said, "Right, let's go!" They started charging, fifty shrew and otter warriors behind them.
"Redwaaaalll! Rivergaaalllee! Logalogalogalooogg!" They clashed with the vermin, at once slaying five. Dayl swung his sword, slaying vermin with his legendary blade. He saw familiar Juska faces, giving no second thought to them. They all recognised him and tried to get away, aware that he was against them. Juvern fought his way over to his side. They fought back to back, talking casually as they took vermin out.
"Hello matey. How's the battle goin'?"
"Hi Dayl. Y'know, these vermin aren't bad fighters."
"Aye, but they're no match fer me." They parted. Dayl looked around for Brolun while fighting alongside Brendila. He sighted Brolun fighting a shrew who was losing badly. Killing a fox who was sneaking up behind Brendila, he charged at Brolun.
"Redwaaalll!" Brolun heard the otter's warcry and turned. Seeing the Abbey warrior coming for him, Brolun readied himself for the combat. Clash! They locked blades. Brolun tried a downwards slash. His battleaxe met air. He stumbled. He managed to protect himself as the sword of Martin came whistling through the air and nearly chopped his head off. Dayl tried a swipe at his opponent's footpaw, trying to make him fall. Brolun took a pace to the side. Dayl tugged his sword from the ground. That took him the time which Brolun needed. Brolun bulled into Dayl, sending the otter crashing and stumbling into a tree.
Brolun whirled his battle axe, yelling, "Go to Hellgates, otter! Nobeast can beat me!" He let go and the axe sailed through the air. Martin flashed in Dayl's mind.
"Duck, Dayl!" Dayl ducked as the axe thudded in the trunk above him. He scrambled out into the open. Brolun retrieved his axe and charged. Dayl just managed to block the blows which his adversary rained upon him. Brolun quickly disarmed Dayl and Martin's sword sailed through the air, landing point first a few paces away. Brolun tripped Dayl and the otter fell on his back. Brolun raised his axe for the final blow.
"He spat out, "Any last words, otter?"
Dayl glared at his enemy and shouted, "Redwaaaaaallll!!" Brolun was about to bring the axe crashing down when the shout was answered.
"Rivergaaaalllee! I'm coming Dayl!" Drandle thundered towards Brolun, javelin in one paw, ready to throw. Brolun looked around wildly and saw a spear. He picked it up and threw it at Drandle. The spear thudded into Drandle's chest, but the maddened otter chief kept charging. He dropped the javelin and bulled into Brolun, sending the fox flying. Dayl hurried towards his sword and swung it aloft, his eyes red with bloodlust. He charged. Brolun quickly glanced around. He couldn't get his axe, it was too far away. He could see his horde, battling desperately. He knew the battle was lost. He turned and started sprinting away. Dayl was close behind him. The young otter had brought his matching daggers with him. Pulling one out, he threw it at Brolun. It embedded itself into the fox's back. Staggering a few paces, Brolun collapsed and lay still, eyes misting over. Dayl stood gasping, glad that his work was over. He had slain Brolun the Pike!
He staggered back to the scene. Vermin bodies lay scattered everywhere, mixed with the bodies of shrews and otters. Juvern and Brendila were severely wounded, lying next to each other. The ones who weren't so badly wounded assisted the badly wounded ones into a group. Pirrel and Skipper carried Brendila and Juvern to where Drandle lay. Brendila cried out when she say her father's body.
"He's not dead! Don't die Dad, please!" Drandle had managed to stay alive for a few more moments. He took his daughter's paw.
"Ah, Brendila. Don't cry. It's not so bad, for an old riverdog like me. My time has come." He moved slightly and screwed his face up in pain. "I've thought about lots of things. I've decided, that you don't have to go back to the holt if ye don't want to." Brendila looked at her father in shock.
"I-I don't?" Drandle shook his head.
"No. You don't." Brendila felt tears running down her face. "No Bren, don't cry. Would you rather be still sittin' captured in this camp? No. Enjoy life as much as ye can, Bren. I'll still love you and yore mama, even when I'm in Dark Forest." Everybeast started sniffing and weeping softly. Drandle shook his head weakly, smiling a little. "Now now friends. Look at the sky. Look how pretty it is." Everyone looked at the sky. It was dawn. Birds chirruped and sang short melodies. Leaves rustled on the breeze. The sky was a pink yellow colour, the perfect sunrise. Some otters and shrews started weeping openly. Brendila felt her father's paw go limp and looked down at his lifeless face. He was smiling. Brendila kissed his paw and lay it across his chest.
"Goodbye Dad. I'll never forget you." Suddenly she swayed a little and fell unconscious. Juvern was unconscious too. They lay side by side, both gripping their weapons. Somebeast must have gone back to Redwall, because out of the trees came the Brothers and Sisters, bearing stretches. They lay the wounded on them and carried them back to the Abbey. The Matthias and Methuselah bells tolled out happiness, sadness and victory. The day had been won at a bitter price.
Seven days laters, Juvern awoke to find several Dibbuns bouncing up and down on his infirmary bed. They giggled and put a paw to his lips. He glanced around. Brendila was on the bed next to him. Dayl was sleeping on a truckle bed. Sister Alkina the Infirmary Keeper was dozing on a chair. Suddenly she woke up and saw the Dibbuns.
"Out, you naughty Dibbuns. Don't wake my patients. Go on!" The Dibbuns scurried from the infirmary as the old mouse tended to Juvern.
"How are you feeling Juvern?"
"Pretty good, Sister." Dayl woke up and saw his friend awake. He rushed over. Rosie and Abbott Merlo came in, bearing trays of breakfast. Brendila woke up and sniffed the air.
"Mmm, something smells good." Rosie smiled at them.
"I'm glad you feel better. You were all at the gates of Dark Forest. Here, have some bread." She tore pieces of nutbread up and gave them each a piece to try. Juvern wolfed his down.
"That's nice nutbread. Isn't it summer now?"
"Yup. We've haven't done Nameday yet. We were waiting until you guys woke up," Rosie said.
Juvern said, "Can I get out?" He sprang out of the bed and hobbled from the infirmary, laughing. Brendila whipped the covers off and jumped out, trying to catch up with her friend.
"Wait fer me matey!" Dayl and Rosie caught up with them and laughed, going out into the orchard. Sister Alkina was about to go and get them back when Abbott Merlo stopped her.
"Don't Sister. Let them go. Let them enjoy their youth."
Sister Alkina muttered as she cleared the beds, "Hmph, should be resting and healing those wounds, instead of dashing around like a mad rabbit. Indeed!" Outside, Rosie and Juvern dashed to the pond and splashed each other. Dayl and Brendila walked behind, talking.
Dayl said, "So are you going to live here Bren?" Brendila looked at Dayl and smiled.
"Of course I am mate. I wouldn't want it any other way."
"I'm glad yore going to stay here Bren."
"Me too. Here, with you." They sat at the pond's edge, watching their friends frolick around.
Extract from the writings of Grollen, Recorder of Redwall Abbey.
It has been five seasons since that fateful battle, when our army came back victorious. Many shrews and otters died, among them Brendila's father Drandle. We buried him under an ash tree, near the pond where he belonged, near water. Holt Rivergale has a new chieftain, a strong male otter called Windspear. That summer was named the Summer of the Pike's Death, a fearsome title, but suitable. That Nameday feast would never be forgotten, even the Dibbuns will remember it when they grow old. What feasting it was! There were twelve kinds of bread and cheese, October Ale, strawberry cordial, damson wine, mint tea! There were huge bowls of salad, mintcream wafers, skilly'n'duff, which the shrews cooked, pots and pots of shrimp and hotroot soup, basins of deeper'n'ever pie, woodland trifle, nutcream and damson pudding and so many others I cannot write them down! There were games, music and songs, even Hunto couldn't eat another mouthful, which is very rare. Friar Nirpol, Frella and Felia certainly did us proud! That summer, Dayl and Brendila were wed! They now have a small ottercub, a little male called Moonwind, aptly named because he has a moon-shaped birthmark on his neck. Some say he is the spitting image of Drandle. Others say he is a reflection of Dayl. I, myself, am not sure. Everybeast is certain that he will succeed his father in becoming Champion of Redwall. Now, on to some other news. Abbott Merlo has stepped down from Abbott! We now have a new Abbess, Abbess Rosie. Her brother, Sholler, is now fourteen seasons. He has become a Brother and Sister Alkina has given him the title of Infirmary Keeper! I assure you that he is absolutely delighted. His assistant is Tyla, who has decided to stay here since her daughter is here. It is most unusual, but Swerl and Brill want to help Pirrel in the cellars. Pirrel was pleased; they showed great enthusiasm. Well friends, I can hear the Matthias and Methuselah bells ringing, indicating supper. I have to finish writing and go wash my paws. I'll bid you a good evening and be off. And, if you are ever passing by, just knock on our gates. Our Abbey is always open to you, my friend.
Grollen, Recorder of Redwall Abbey in Mossflower Country.