Chapter One

Gorath the Flame sat on a rock with his back turned to his beloved Salamandastron. He was a massive badger, and he lived with his daughter, Rowanbloom and his wife, Lady Salixa. They had just returned from their four season visit of Redwall Abbey, but they stayed an extension of two seasons. Unfortunately, on their trek back to Salamandastron, Gorath had caught a sickness, from where nobeast knows. The best healer at Salamandastron did not know what it was. And it was in the same condition everyday. Gorath let out a feeble cough. He heard pawsteps, then his daughter Rowanbloom was standing next to him. She offered a paw to let him up.

"C'mon Dad, its dinner inside and everybeast is wondering where you are," she said gently. Gorath got up. Rowanbloom was twenty seasons old now and she was just slightly smaller than him. They walked into Mess Hall. The Long Patrol hares stopped eating, all saluted Gorath then went back to eating and insulting each other across the room. A hare scurried forward, took his paw and lead him to his chair.

"M'lord Gorath, come and have something t'eat, wot!" he said. He put mushroom and leek pasties, Mountain Salad, cheese with chestnut flakes in them to go with freshly baked bread and a beaker of Mountain Ale in front of Gorath. Gorath patted his paw.

"Thank you Sarn't Furps," he said, nodding his thanks. Sergeant Furps bowed and returned to his seat. Gorath ate in silence. Lady Salixa, his wife, put her paw on his shoulder.

"Are you alright Gorath?" she asked. Gorath nodded and back to eating. He was oblivious to everybeast, silent, not wanting to talk.

After they ate, Gorath went to sit on the same rock with Tung, his pitchfork. He sighed heavily. The warm summer sun had a spell on him, and soon he was asleep. In his dreams, he saw a mouse with a sword standing next to him. He recognised him as Martin the Warrior. Martin spoke. His face was serious and stern.

"Gorath, wake up! There is danger coming to the mountain! Wake up I say!" Martin started prodding Gorath with his sword. "Awake Gorath! Danger is coming! Awake!!" He jabbed at Gorath, until he started bleeding. Gorath roared. He pushed Martin away. Gorath awoke. His leg was bleeding because his pitchfork's prongs had been jabbing his leg every time he rolled. Gorath was puzzled. "What danger? Where?" Gorath sighed. At that point, he looked to the setting sun. Gorath looked closer. There were shapes on the horizon. He realized they were vermin ships! He hobbled back to the mountain.

He burst inside and shouted, "There's seven vermin ships headed here and they're only four nights away! We need a Council of War immediately!" He banged his paw down on the table.

Thrila Deathslayer was an evil wildcat, who came from the Northlands. He was pure black, except for a white stripe on his forehead. He was exceptionally skilled with a single bladed battleaxe, nobeast could outmatch him. He had fought many battles, winning every single one. His reputation grew far and wide, and beasts began to fear him. After each battle, he would mercilessly slaughter the remaining beasts who fought against him, no matter how much they pleaded and begged to live. He would make sure each one would die a long, slow death. He would find a building, made of wood or anything that was flamable, put the captives inside and burn it. He loved to hear the screams, it was like music to his ears. And at the moment, he was just sailing in his gigantic ship, the pride of his heart, the Blackblood. He had half a dozen other ships, all headed for Salamandastron, with fivescore on each one.

The lookout sentry shouted down to Thrila,"Der's da big rock mountain just ahead Chief!"

"I'm not blind Bloodeye! I can see!" He turned to his big crew of tenscore. "That," he said, pointing dramatically at Salamandastron, "is where the badgers and rabbits live. I've heard stories about the mighty badger lords there, fearless warriors, defeat warlords and kill them. The rabbits are great fighters. But have I been ever defeated?"

There was a big chorus of "No Chief." Thrila winked at them.

"Exactly. We will be there in four nights. I vow that I will conquer this rock mountain! We will kill every single rabbit and badger! Nothing can stand against me! I am Thrila Deathslayyyeeerrrr!" His voice rose to a roar, and every ship took up the cheer.

"Thrila Deathslayer! Thrila Deathslayer! Kill kill kiiilllll!!!"

Inside Mess Hall, the hares, Rowanbloom, Lady Salixa and Gorath gathered. Gorath was panting hoarsely, due to his sickness. Everybeast waited patiently until he got his breath.

"Ok, there's seven vermin ships headed here. We need to think up battle plans. We have four nights. Any ideas?" A hare proposed an idea.

"They'll come to parley with us, t'ask us to surrender. Of course we'll flippin' say no, then we drive 'em back to their blinkin' ships with bow'n'arrows, spears, stones and anything we can drive 'em off with, but not too much because we'll run out of flippin' weapons, wot!" Gorath nodded.

"A sensible suggestion Lightpaw. We'll do that. We can build catapults with piles of rocks or boulders next to them on each side of the mountain facing the coast. We need to prepare the sickbay for injuries, store food and drink in case of a siege. Every hare old enough to fight will choose their weapons tomorrow morn." There was a shudder of excitement from the young hares, never being in battle. Gorath continued. "We'll keep the young and old 'uns inside the mountain, make sure none get out of the mountain. If the old 'uns are willing, they can fight if they want to, because I don't want to risk their lives, so the choice is up to them. We can think up of more plans sooner or later. Come now my friends, it is late in the night. Go and sleep, dream up more plans. We'll solve the problems as they come." The hares quietly departed.

"Are you going to fight Dad?" Rowanbloom asked.

"I have to lead my hares into battle Rowan, even if I'm sick. But you can't fight!" Gorath said.

"Yes I can Dad. I can use a sling and help throw things from the windows!"

"I can help sling too Gorath," Salixa said. Gorath chuckled.

"What a fighting family we are! Alright, but not out in the open. I couldn't bear it if something happened to you two! Now, go and sleep, both of you."

"Don't worry about us Dad, you just worry about yourself!" Rowanbloom smiled and walked off. Salixa smiled.

"What a wise daughter we have Gorath." Gorath coughed and nodded.

"You go to sleep. I'm not a bit tired yet," Salixa said. She watched as her husband lumbered off to his room. She wished desperately that when the battle started, Gorath would be better. Otherwise, what would happen to him?

Chapter Two

The four days and nights passed like a lighting flash. The hares had prepared everything to move, in case anything happened. They had built the catapults just as Lord Gorath had instructed them to. Gradually, oh so gradually, his health was getting worse. Each side wondered, who, would be the new leader of Salamandastron. On the fifth morning, it was a cool, breezy day. The Long Patrol came out in full regalia, all armed to the teeth. Gorath was dressed in full armor, with Tung supporting him. Gorath issued hares Captain Valpo Grubwaithe, Corporal Crumpaw, Colonel Grapil, Maudie Mugsberry Thropple, a friend of Gorath for seasons, his daughter and Lady Salixa to the windows which had rubble, slingstones and arrows. Thrila turned out his full army, intending to scare his foe. Lord Gorath came forward and spoke.

"I am Gorath the Flame. Who are you and what do you want from us, scum?" Thrila answered with a hint of contempt in his voice.

"I'm Thrila Deathslayer and you know very well what I want! I want this mountain! The treasure, the armor, the weapons, the lot! You must surrender and serve as slaves to me as well. I have eight hundred at my back! But if you don't surrender, and I defeat you, which will of course happen, you won't be slaves to me. You'll be bones when I'm finished with you!" Gorath remained calm. Thrila's threat remained unconcerned in his mind.

"We will never surrender to you without a fight Thrila. I have a thousand at my back! So don't get too confident." Thrila spat ill-temperedly. He pointed a curved claw at Gorath.

"Then you will suffer! I have beaten and fought many battles in my life, winning every single one of them! I've fought more battles than you have eaten hot dinners! I, Thrila Deathslayer, declare war on you! Death awaits you! I am Thrila Deathslaaayyyyeerr!!" The air rang with the vermin's warcries, and they charged. The Long Patrol had not expected it, but they were ready for the incoming horde. They had dug pits with sharpened stakes in them covered with rush mats, and the vermin fell in them, screaming. The hares, Rowanbloom and Salixa from the windows battered at them with the slingstones and arrows. Thrila inwardly cursed himself because he had not been careful. He managed to jump over the stakes, taking off for the badger. Gorath inside, was boiling with anger, he just wanted so much to rid the land of evil, and for once since he battled with Vizka Longtooth, took on the Bloodwrath!

They charged, shouting, "Eulaliaaaaaaaaaa!" The armies clashed, slashing, biting and kicking. Gorath saw the wildcat through a red mist.

A badger was travelling to Salamandastron. He was only two hours away. He sat against an ancient oak, sipping from a cask and eating carrot and leek pasties. He was a huge, young badger, and his muscles bulged under his skin. He had not a bit of spare flesh. Laying next to him was a humongous, great battle sword. He had had it since his parents death the previous summer, who were killed fighting Thrila Deathslayer. Both his parents were warriors, and the sword had belonged to his father, and his father and so on. He feared nothing, not even an adder. He had helped woodlanders in their time of trouble, fighting off the enemy. His name spread far and wide. His name was Alutar the Fearless. He had heard that Thrila was going to fight Lord Gorath at Salamandastron. His mind thought only one thing. Revenge! Revenge for his parents! Alutar packed his things and looked towards the mountain of Salamandastron. His keen ears detected warcries. He picked up his sword and saw a battle. And Thrila.

His eyes started to mist red, and he charged towards the mountain, his footpaws pounding up the sand as he shouted, "Eulaliaaaaaaaaaaa!"

Gorath threw vermin from in front of him, barging through to get at Thrila. Tung was a blurr, whizzing and sweeping vermin to the side. Gorath forgot about his sickness. Thrila and Gorath met headlong. Thrila swung his sabre at Gorath's head, but Tung blocked it. Gorath disarmed his foe with a flick, and pinned him to the ground. Thrila's sabre was only a spear length away.

"If only I could reach it," he thought. Bloodeye saw his chieftain in trouble, with Gorath's back facing towards him. He finished a hare off with a thrust of his dagger and threw it at Gorath. Gorath stood stock still and dropped his pitchfork, a dagger between his shoulder blades.

Chapter Three

"Fatheeerrrrrr!" Rowanbloom had glanced to check on her father, and saw Bloodeye throw the dagger. Her scream alerted Thrila. He scrabbled and reached his axe, jumped up and plunged it deep inside Gorath's chest. Rowanbloom saw that too. She started slinging like a madbeast, screaming for her father, a spine chilling scream.

Thrila shouted, "Retreat! Back to the ships!" In a trice, every single vermin was gone. They had anchored their ships around the north point. Every hare came down to see their Badger Lord. He was still alive, but only just. A female hare named Suntrel, the healer, and Salixa were examining Gorath. Rowanbloom was weeping heart brokenly holding her father's paw.

Suntrel shook her head sadly and looked at Salixa.

"What do you think?" Salixa sighed and a tear rolled down her face.

"I don't think he'll make it," she whispered, "and I don't want to make him suffer with his injuries inflicted and his dreadful sickness." She joined Rowanbloom and cried silently. Gorath spoke weakly.

"Now now my friends, if its time for me to go, its time for me to go. For the past few nights, I had dreams telling me that a new Badger Lord was coming. I was puzzled, because I thought I had many seasons before me. Now I understand what they were telling me. You know he will be the Badger Lord becuse he carries a great sword and he will want to fight Thrila. Maudie Thropple, you were my best and valued companion for seasons, and you will treat the new Lord how you treated me, all of you." Maudie sniffed.

"Yes sah, I'll do m'best sah, though he will never be like you, wot!" Gorath continued, his voice getting weaker.

"You were all ever faithful to me. I need to say something. You still have to battle Thrila Deathslayer when I go. Salixa and Rowan, you know that I love you, and don't spend your days weeping for me. Look cheerful to each new day. Now, I hope soon we will all meet again in Dark Forest." Gorath, Lord of Salamandastron, closed his eyes for the last time. At that moment, Alutar arrived. Everybeast looked up and saw this massive young badger, panting and gasping for breath. He looked around the scene, and on seeing the lifeless body of Gorath, he roared angrily.

"Thrila Deathslayer! You will pay the price! You killed my parents, you massacred my village and home! Now you slay the Lord of Salamandastron! I swear on my sword, I will rid you and your evil scum horde! Eulaliaaaaaaaaa!" The hares on the shore, along with Salixa and Rowanbloom, yelled the warcry. Alutar strode through the crowd, reaching Gorath. He threw a warriors salute and bowed.

"Rest in peace, my Lord," he murmured. He looked up and saw Rowanbloom and Salixa, still weeping. He put a paw on each of their shoulders and said, "Please stop crying. He died fighting, just like the way he wanted to, isn't it?" Rowanbloom nodded and dried her tears a hankerchief.

"Yes, and we'll always miss him. And by the way, Father said that a new Badger Lord would be coming. I think that Badger Lord was you, sir." Alutar now saw that Rowanbloom had dried her tears, a pretty badgermaid. He couldn't take his eyes off her and when she spoke, her voice was soft and gentle, it had sort of a music note to it. He snapped out of his trance.

"Well I don't really know, I mean, I only wanted to avenge my parents so I came here. And forgive me for not saying earlier, but my name's Alutar the Fearless." A hush came over the shore.

Maudie called out, "Salute your new Badger Lord, Alutar the Fearless!" There was cheering and whooping and calls of, "Eulaliaaaaaa!" Rowanbloom smiled.

"I'm Rowanbloom, but call me Rowan, and this is my mother, Lady Salixa." Maudie came over and saluted.

"I am Maudie (The Hon) Mugsberry Thropple, and I will be your aide, and you can ask any flippin' questions from Lady Salixa, Rowanbloom, and myself. I will show you a tour of the jolly ole mountain after we've cleared all this mess up." Rowanbloom interrupted.

"Don't worry Maudie, Mum and I will show him around. Clean Dad's wounds and dress him in his finest robes, and once you've cleared up, prepare for the burial ceremony." Maudie nodded in acknowledgement and walked off. Rowanbloom took Alutar's paw and started leading him, leaving Salixa behind. She laughed.

"I'll just help clear up, leave them two alone for a while."

Chapter Four

Thrila and his horde had a long way to run, and when they got to their ships, they all flopped down. The injured were tending to their wounds, and Thrila got his healer and Seer vixen, Yurnel, to bathe his wounds. Thrila's arm was covered in deep cuts, he had half an ear missing and his footpaw was cut to the bone.

He gritted his teeth and said, "I will not surrender until that mountain is mine! I won the battle, because I killed the badger, but I have not won the war yet! I will win in the end! But I'll make them die long, slow deaths, oh yes I will! I'll make sure of that! They won't be slaves of mine, I'll make them go crying to their mamas, even when they're dead! Huh, that badger was not much of a fighter, no one could ever best me, Thrila Deathslayer, not even a badger and his rabbits! If no one could ever defeat a badger, no one could ever defeat me, because I killed one! Hahahaha, no one can ever defeat me, the mighty Thrila Deathslayer!" Yurnel let him prattle on, and he didn't even know he was being bandaged up. A weasel captain named Trelp strode into his tent and gave his report.

"There are a score an' a half dead Chief, an' twoscore wounded." Thrila spat and gave his orders.

"Get a search party organised. You are to lead it and search for any new recruits who would like to join my horde. Weasels, stoats, ferrets, rats, foxes and also get a foraging party organised. Get another group aboard the ships and bring out the food an' drink, tents and weapons. We are going to be here for a long time. Pitch the tents and make sure there is a stream around 'ere, so we don't die of thirst. Go!" Trelp bowed and left. Thrila turned to Yurnel.

"Have you seen anything of late?" Yurnel threw her stones and charms, closed her eyes, and thought deeply. Her voice had a rasping grating sound, like she had a cold. She opened her eyes and spoke.

"Today I saw a group of ants huddled together. I saw a big ant come forward. There was another group of ants and another big ant came forward. They started fighting. In the distance, another ant was coming. The second big ant killed the other big ant. The big one killed was the badger. You were the one who slew it. Then the big ant in the distance, scurried towards the battle. We were retreating when it came. The big ant was another badger, though this one is bigger, fiercer, and younger than the one you killed. So in the next battle, I think you will have to fight another badger!"

Thrila snorted, not impressed.

"I can still defeat the badger and his rabbits." He lied down and said, "I'm taking a nap, so don't wake me. Prepare me some lunch while I'm napping."

Yurnel bowed and left the tent. Outside she was Thrila's eyes and ears, listening for any trouble. As she walked past a group of vermin, a stoat whined.

"Huh, lookit us mates, we're sitting 'ere lickin' at our wounds, when Thrila gets the best of everythin'. Good food an' drink, an' he gets his healer t'bandage up his wounds. An' he lost the battle! Huh, I thought 'e said 'e was never defeated!" A ferret spoke.

"Quit yer whinin' Groggle, though yer right about what ye said. But I saw him slay the big stripedog! So I don't think we lost the battle." Yurnel ignored their complaints, and she went to get her sling and stonepouch to kill a woodpidgeon for Thrila, remembering to tell Thrila what she had heard.

Chapter Five

It was early afternoon when Rowanbloom finished the tour of the mountain with Alutar. The hares had cleaned Gorath of his wounds and dressed just as Rowanbloom and Salixa wanted them to. Maudie came up to Alutar and saluted.

"Sah! There are a score wounded and half a flippin' score killed. Just thought you'd like t'know, wot. Sah!" Alutar nodded.

"Thanks Maudie."

Another hare came up, and said, "All present sah, ready for the bloomin' burial ceremony, and I'm Captain Valpo Grubwaithe by the way, but call me Cap'n Val for short, wot wot!"

"Thank you Cap'n Val, we'll be there shortly." Alutar turned to Rowanbloom. Whenever she looked at him, her deep dark brown eyes seemed to melt him. He breathed in the summer air, and said, "Surely I'm not the next Badger Lord of Salamandastron, I mean, your father didn't even know me, yet he knew that I was the one. How?" Rowanbloom answered, as they walked into the cave where Gorath was to be buried.

"There is a room, where only Badger Lords are allowed to go. In that room is a throne, and on it sits the first Badger Lord, Lord Borcktree. He created the Long Patrol. Only his bones remain in his rusted armour. But his spirits live on, just like Martin the Warrior's at Redwall Abbey. Have you heard of Redwall?" Alutar nodded. "The long dead spirits of past Badger Lords visit a certain beast, to go on a quest or to find the next Lord. The spirits came to Lord Asheye, who was my dad's predeccesor. He sent Maudie when she was young to find Gorath, so he could become the next Lord. So the spirits came to my father, saying that a new Badger Lord was on the way, and that he carries a great sword and to find Thrila and avenge his parents. That badger was you. And also in that room, a wall is covered with drawings. No one knows who drew them, but the drawings are always right. When Martin the Warrior came to Salamandastron, he carried a sword handle around his neck. When he came out, he caarried a brand new sword. The pictures are like Seers, they forsee the future." All the time they had been walking, Alutar had been fascinated with the information, but he was constantly gazing at Rowanbloom. They arrived at the cave where the dead were going to be buried. The hares went silent. An old hare started beating on a drum, going at a steady beat. Bong!Bong!Bong! Each body was gently laid down in the their holes, wrapped in white sheets. Lord Gorath was the last. When all of them were laid to rest for the last time, everybeast started reciting a dirge which Alutar didn't know.

"Thy memory stays midst friends,
'neath sand thy body lies,
thy spirit lives, a warrior star,
set high in darkened skies.
I'll look for thee when day is done,
thou jewel in night's crown,
a fearless legend, burning brave,
forever shining down."

A silence was held for several minutes, then the hares departed, sniffling, with tears crawling down some faces. Lady Salixa couldn't help but break out sobbing, putting her head in her paws. Her body shook with grief, and Rowanbloom started crying with her. Alutar tried comforting them.

"Now now friends, Gorath wouldn't like it if he knew he made you unhappy." Rowanbloom looked up at him with her tearstained face.

"I know, but we'll miss him and life won't be the same without him." Alutar took their paws and lead them out.

"Don't worry, you have me, Maudie, Cap'n Valpo and all the others, and you need to keep fighting for him, don't spend your time weeping for him, and continue life. Time will heal everything." Salixa dried her tears with her handkerchief and stepped out into the sun.

"You're right Alutar, thank you for your words." The dinner bell sounded, and all the hares rushed to Mess Hall. Rowanbloom, Lady Salixa and Alutar walked in and sat down. Salixa showed him his seat.

"This is where the Badger Lords sit at mealtimes, unless you want to sit somewhere else." Alutar nodded his thanks and sat down. The cooks started putting all kinds of food on the table. There was mushroom, carrot and leek pasties with onion gravy, freshly baked bread with cheeses studded with nuts and celery, oat farls, mint potato and leek turnovers, a Summer Salad, oatcakes and more, with Mountain Ale, dandelion and burdock cordial, strawberry fizz, pennycloud cordial and cold mint tea to go with the food. The hares started eating like they had just faced a seven season famine, stuffing food in their mouths.

"Ahoy there Harler, pass me a flippin' apple pie will you!"

"Come an' get it yoreself Dunlop! I ain't yore bloomin' mother, wot!"

"Who's that big badger sittin' next to Lady Salixa and Rowan, wot?"

"It certainly ain't you Flosspaw, but I heard that he is the new Badger Lord, Alutar the Fearless!"

"Thats a pretty cool name, if'n ye flippin' ask me!"

"Look at the blinkin' size o' him! He must take a lot o' feedin, wot!"

"Huh, the cooks are just havin' trouble just feedin' you alone Creshpaw, you can finish off a hundred flippin' apple puddens and ask for more!"

"Mmmmm, pass another of those flippin' leek an' carrot turnovers Melro!"

"I can't, 'cause Brumble ate the last one, unless you want me to cut open his gut and take it out for you!" This remark caused great hilarity among the young hares. Maudie shook her head as she munched on a scone.

"Bad manners, absolutely bloodthirsty, wot! I'll introduce the officers of the Long Patrol now, you'll learn the young ones names soon enough!" Maudie pointed out the hares as she went along. "The sandy furred one there is Lieutenant Sunpaw, that cove there is Sergeant Furps, one sitting next to him is his flippin' sister Sergeant Tringle, Cap'n Valpo you already know, Corporal Crumpaw, Colonel Grapil, Major Drolter is the the one with the scar on his forehead, than theres me, Colour Sergeant Raphael and thats about it, wot!" Alutar nodded. By then, everybeast had started to leave. Alutar stood up.

"Officers of the Long Patrol, stay here. We will hold a Council of War."

Chapter Six

Outside Thrila's tent, Trelp, who had gathered fivescore new recruits, lined up by the campfire. Thrila came out, dressed in his armour, his face painted with dyes of red, blue and green. This made him even more fearsome with his battleaxe. There were mostly rats and weasels, but there were a few ferrets and foxes and the occasional stoat. Thrila walked around the camp, looking at each new soldier carefully.

He suddenly shouted out, "Have any of you ever been in a battle?" There were a few nods. "Raise ye paw if you haven't been in a battle!" A number of paws shot up. Thrila laughed ruthlessly. "From now on you are under my command. We will teach you to fight, and we will conquer this mountain of Salamandastron! These are your captains. They take their orders from me. I have never lost a battle or war. You can ask any of my crew, they've been with me for a number of seasons. If any captains hear of mutinous talk, gossiping behind my back, they will tell me, and I, personally, will deal with them. You will end up like the badgers and rabbits, dead. But you will die a far slower death. Now let me hear who you serve."

"Thrila Deathslayer!"

"Who will lead you to victory?"

"Thrila Deathslayer!"

"Who will you fight to the death for?"

"Thrila Deathslayer!"

"Thats right, for I am Thrila Deathslaayyyeeerrr!" The shore rang with the dreaded name. Thrila Deathslayer!

Thrila beckoned his weapon master, Rekfur to him.

"Rekfur, I want you to teach all of them to fight, properly." The weasel bowed. "Nugry!" A rat scurried over.

"Yes Chief?"

"How many soldiers do we have in this army?" Nugry answered promptly.

"Just a bit less than a thousand Chief." Thrila nodded.

"Good, good." He walked into his tent and started explaining his plans to attack Salalmandastron to Yurnel. The vixen had killed a woodpidgeon for Thrila and had cooked it. Now Thrila teared at it with his teeth and claws. He started explaining in between chewing and spitting out the bones. "Tonight, when everyone is asleep, I will wake the troops. I'll split them into groups, and tell them to search for weak spots into the mountain. When we find that spot, we will dig our way in. On the day of battle, we will line the troops up in front of the mountain, ready to fight, so not to be suspected. I will detail a group of fivescore at the hole, and they will make their way into the mountain, killing any rabbits or badgers we find. They will then appear at the windows, and when the badger and his rabbits are fighting, we will show that their precious mountain is conquered! We will make them drop their weapons and I'll see to it that each of them will die a horrible death. Is this not a good plan Yurnel?" The vixen nodded.

"Thou art a wise planner!"

In Mess Hall, Alutar addressed his officers.

"Now, what do vermin warlords try to do when they want this mountain?" Lieutenant Sunpaw replied, "Why, they usually dig into this bally rock, wot!" Alutar nodded.

"Exactly. From now on, I will post guards to watch night and day and if they see a group of vermin walking around the mountain, they will come immediately to me. Understood?" There was a wave of nods. "Good. I will post extra sentries and if they see the vermin digging somewhere, they will report back to me again. The guards must be well hidden though, otherwise Thrila will make another plan, if he knows we were watching him. On the day of battle, I will leave tenscore hares in charge of the mountain. They will heat a cauldron of boiling water and oil, and when the vermin get through into the mountain, we will pour it into their hole, killing many. To do that we will need to calculate how many days it will take to dig their way in. Can anybeast do that?" Colonel Grapil put his paw up. "Good. There will be others at the windows, ready to fight at a moments notice. They will have slings with them and bow and arrows piled at each window with stones. Lady Salixa and Rowanbloom will help. The vermin will probably look for a weak spot to dig at night, maybe even starting tonight. So the sentries posted tonight, will alert me. I will be in the forgeroom. Now, how many warriors do we have, Colour Sergeant Raphael?" The sable furred hare answered.

"H'about one thousand h'and fivescore, maybe h'a bit more h'if the old 'uns h'are willin' to fight. Sah!"

"Good. Well my friends, I think its time for us to go to bed. Colonel Grapil, Corporal Crumpaw and Lieutenant Sunpaw, you will take first watch. We'll take it in shifts. Maudie, Major Drolter and Colour Sergeant Raphael, second watch. Sergeant Tringle, Cap'n Val and Sergeant Furps will take third watch. Goodnight to the rest of you!" The hares departed, leaving Alutar alone. He sighed. Soon he will be able to get his revenge on Thrila!

Yurnel had told Thrila of the mutinous complaints that Groggle had said that afternoon. Thrila had just smiled, showing his fangs, and said, "Leave him to me." They assembled the army outside. "Today, my Seer Yurnel heard one of you saying mutinous things. And she said it was a stoat." Groggle trembled. "She said that the stoat said that I got the best of everything. Maybe I do sometimes, but other times, I receive the same as the rest of you. Isn't that right Groggle?" The stoat nodded vigorously, too scared to speak. "Even sometimes I might not have dinner so I can save some food for my faithful horde. So Groggle, would you like to challenge for leadership of this horde or not? We can do it anytime, y'know." Groggle saw him pull out his battleaxe, and cried out, "No! I didn't mean those things, Chief! I seriously didn't! Honestly Chief! Don't kill me!" He fell to the ground and whimpered. Thrila sheathed his axe.

"Have you learned your lesson then Groggle?"

"Yes I have Chief, just don't kill me! I swear that I'll serve you until I die!"

"Good. If you betray me though, yore head comes off with my axe! Does anybeast foolish enough to fight me for leadership? Because this is the perfect time. Anyone else?" The camp stayed silent. " Now, tonight we are gathered so I can tell my plans, and they start tonight!" He explained his plans, and the vermin watched their chief in awe. "I'll organise a group and they will go around the mountain for weak spots. They will come back to me when they find it, and they'll start digging. I'll put them in shifts, so you can have some sleep. Now, Trelp, get a score and go around the mountain. When they find it, report back to me."

Chapter Seven

Colonel Grapil looked at the vermin camp. Their fires were burning bright, and the colonel wondered why. They had been on patrol for about two hours, when suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted movements in the darkness. His eyes looked closely, and he could make out a score of vermin. He assumed that these were the ones who were looking for an opening into the mountain. He rushed towards the forgeroom and burst inside.

"Lord Alutar, there's a score of blinkin' vermin outside, I think they are looking for an opening!" Alutar was sharpening his blade. He looked up and replied, "Let the other hares know. Have extra guards posted around the mountain and when there are some signs that they are starting to dig, or sending a runner back to Thrila, report back to me." Colonel Grapil saluted and left. The news spread quickly around, and soon fivescore were watching the shore, and around Salamandastron.

Trelp had split the score up into four groups, each on one side of Salamandastron. They saw no one was watching. Little did they know. So far they had no luck with weak spots.

Suddenly a fox came running up, panting. "Captain! Bruvder found some loose rocks and pulled them away and the dirts quite easy to dig on the east side! 'E said to come quickly!" Trelp immediately started berating the fox. "Sharrup you fool! Do you want to attract the rabbits and stripedogs awake? Show me where it is Bloffrot!" A while later, Trelp was inspecting the rubble and sand in the ground. Trelp turned to Bruvder, the fat ferret who had found it.

"Run back to Lord Thrila and tell him what yew found! Hurry up!" The ferret nodded and dashed back to the camp.

Thrila was dozing by the fire when suddenly Bruvder came, gasping for breath.

"Chief! We found some loose rocks and they were pushed away and the dirt is quite easy to dig there!" he said in a rush. Thrila jumped up and gave orders.

"Run back and tell them to start digging, but do it quietly. We don't want the badgers and rabbits to hear, do we Bruvder?" The wildcat showed his fangs. Bruvder gulped nervously. "I'll be coming to look at it. Now go!" He turned to his Seer. "Come with me Yurnel, we will look at this spot. Vurgall!" A stoat came and owed to Thrila.

"Yes, Chief?" Thrila replied.

"You are in charge of this camp while I am gone. You shall be rewarded well when we capture the mountain." They started towards Salamandastron.

Lieutenant Sunpaw was watching the shore when a robin landed on her paw. She stared at it, then laughed in relief.

"Juntie Burnwing! Good t'see ye, I'm sure! How are ye, you feathery old rascal?" Juntie blinked and answered.

"Why Lieutenant Sunpaw, I'm good, glad to see you again. I've got some some news for you, as long as you give me a candied chestnut!" Lieutenant walked inside and to the forgeroom. "Yes of course, m'friend." She knocked on the door, and Alutar answered.

"Yes Lieutenant? Whose that robin?"

"This is me friend, Juntie Burnwing. He says he has some news for us." Alutar nodded and beckoned them to come in and sat them down.

"What sort of news?" Juntie replied, his mouth full of a candied chestnut that Sunpaw had given him.

"Well, I saw a score of vermin, and they found a weak spot on the east side of the mountain. Then I flew back to their camp and heard their leader, I think his name is Thrila, say that he was coming and to ask them to start digging. So I came to warn you. Thats about it."

Alutar said, "Thank you Juntie, for warning us." He turned to the lieutenant. "Now we know where they are digging, but we still need sentries around the mountain, because it might just be a false trail, and it could set us on the wrong path. Keep watch on the vermin, and try to guess where they will dig through. But as its on the east side, there's only one place the tunnel could end up, and I think I know what it is." Lieutenant Sunpaw had no idea, and she asked.

"Where Sire?"

"In the cellars!"

A while later, Thrila was inspecting the rubble. He turned to his captain.

"Get twoscore working on this tunnel. I need it in a few days, but if its not completed, I will slit yer gizzard!" Trelp gulped and nodded vigorously.

He shouted out gruffly, "Up on yer hunkers! Lord Thrila wants this completed in a few days! Start digging with yore paws, daggers or anything! 'Urry up! A score will secure the tunnel as we go along. Move it, or Lord Thrila will personally deal wid yew!" The hordebeasts hastily set to work, and in two hours, the tunnel had gone about eight spear lengths. Trelp kept shouting at them, though he felt like he was going to collapse and faint from fatigue. "C'mon! Dig!" They continued for about an hour more before Thrila signalled them to stop. It was an hour before sunrise.

Thrila said, "Git back to camp and detail twoscore more so they continue while the troops and ye have a liddle rest. I will wait here." He turned to Yurnel. "Let us go and see how long this tunnel is." They walked inside and it was pitch black. Thrila lighted a torch and waited while it started up, then continued exploring the tunnel. They reached the end, and it was blocked with rocks and small boulders. Thrila gave the torch to Yurnel and started removing the rocks one by one. Soon it was clear to dig again, and Thrila started digging with his powerful claws. He spoke as he dug, "Go an' see if the two score had arrived yet. Leave the torch here." Yurnel bowed and left the tunnel. It was dawn, and the pink sky was filled with birds winging low and the sounds of them chirping and whistling tunes. Vurgall, the stoat Thrila had left behind at the camp, came panting with twoscore behind him.

"They are all willin' and ready t'go an' start digging Yurnel. Where's Thrila?"

Yurnel waved a paw and replied airily, "Oh, just digging a little in the tunnel." Vurgall lead the group in, and signalled them to their positions.

Chapter Eight

Alutar and all the officers were down in the cellars. Colonel Grapil held his ear to a wall and put a paw to his lips. They stopped talking and waited for an answer from the colonel. They didn't have to wait long.

He looked up and said, "There's a scratchin' noise over to the far wall." They walked there and the colonel listened again. This time he sounded more confident. "Aye, they're digging towards here alright. They're be here in a flippin' day or two, if ye ask me, wot wot!" Alutar shook his paw.

"Thank you Colonel. If they put more beasts to dig, they will come faster though. I want you to fill two cauldrons of boiling water and oil here the night before the battle, so they're good and hot. Maybe Thrila will try to parley with us if he knows when they are going to dig through, so he can work out when the battle will be. Now, do you know exactly where they will come through?" Colonel Grapil drew a mark with a charcoal stick indicating where. Alutar nodded. "Good."

At that very moment, Thrila was deciding to exchange words with Alutar. Trelp had said that they would break through in a day's time. Thrila wanted it in less than a day's time.

He was watching the twoscore dig, when he said to Yurnel, "Get another score to come an' help these doddering idiots." Yurnel bowed but before she could leave Thrila added, "Actually, bring fivescore more along. Leave the rest in charge of the camp. We're goin' to do some parleyin'!" Yurnel hurried back to the camp and told them of the orders. In a short while, a score of vermin were lined up in front of the mountain. Thrila had told the hordebeasts working on the tunnel to continue to dig quietly.

Alutar was tasting some cowslip wine in the kitchens when Sergeant Tringle came in and shouted, "Sire! Thrila's army is lined up in front of the flippin' mountain! I think they want to parley, wot!" Alutar put his beaker down and hurried out.

He said, "Inform the others! Get twoscore armed with bow and arrows in case they want to fight! Tell them to meet me at the entrance. Go!" Sergeant Tringles sprinted away. Alutar went to his chamber and put his battle armour on. He tested his sword, licking the edge to see if it was sharp. Then he went to the entrance.

Thrila waited patiently until he could see a group of twoscore hares and Alutar emerging from the entrance. He nodded to his captain. Trelp waved a flag of white on a stick to signal that they were truce.

Alutar spoke carmly, fighting his anger inside him. "What do you want Thrila?"

Thrila answered, "Put those bow and arrers down. As you can see, we are truce. We are not armed." He waved his paw over a pile of weapons. He continued, "Tomorrow we shall have our battle at midday. Agreed?" Alutar nodded.

"Agreed." Thrila held out his paw. Alutar shook paws with his enemy, his bloodwrath threatening to overcome him. Thrila retreated back to his camp. Alutar walked back into Salamandastron. Thrila smiled to himself. Tomorrow, that stupid badger won't know what happened to his precious mountain!

Alutar put a list up in Mess Hall. It said that hares over thirteen seasons over, were to come choose their weapons at Alutar's forgeroom. Twoscore and a half hares walked up to the forgeroom talking excitedly Alutar was looking at the weaponry when he heard a knock at the door. He opened it and the hares filed in, gazing in awe at the weapons. They tried to take as much information as they could. Rowanbloom and Lady Salixa popped their heads around the door.

Rowanbloom said, "Hello. Whats going on in here?"

Harler, the young hare, said, "We're choosing our weapons 'cause the battle is tomorrer, doncha know?" Salixa shook her head.

"We woke up a bit late. Do you know Thrila's plan?" Alutar answered as he watched the hares choosing their weapons carefully.

"He's planning to dig in." Salixa nodded.

"Okay. Do you need any help from us?" Alutar shook his head. Rowanbloom and Salixa went away, doing their own things. Later Alutar trained the hares who had chosen swords as their weapons in how to use it wisely and carefully. He sent the bow and arrow hares to Corporal Crumpaw, spears and lances to Captain Valpo, boxing hares to Maudie, whom he knew was a champion boxer, and slinging hares to Sergeant Furps. Soon they were all practising as if they had been fighting for seasons.

Chapter Nine

The rest of the day was spent eating, polishing armour, weapons and practising with their new blades. It was dinner when suddenly Alutar got a flash of an idea in his mind.

He turned to Maudie and said, "Maudie, d'you think the vermin will be awake tonight?" Maudie answered, devouring a carrot and leek pastie in surprising speed.

She munched thoughtfully and said, "Well, I think there'll be some flippin' sentries around but not the whole camp would be awake. Why?"

Alutar said, "What if we burn their ships so they can't get away?" Maudie's smile slowly turned into a grin.

"Capital idea, wot! Absolutely spiffin'! At midnight, when they are all asleep, we could maybe kill they're sentries and then put fire to the ships!"

Lieutenant Sunpaw had overheard the conversation, and she interrupted, "Excuse me chaps, wot, maybe Juntie could spy to see if they're awake, wot?" Alutar smiled.

"Yes, then we won't have to sail after them!"

Lieutenant Sunpaw said, "I'll just go call the ol' feathery fraud." She went outside. Juntie had a special way of people calling him. If somebeast needed him, they would split a leaf and blow, making a sound like a whistle. Lieutenant Sunpaw now did this, and she did two short whistles and a long one. A few minutes later, Juntie came flying to land on the lieutenant's shoulder. She walked inside, saying to him, "Afraid we need yore help, ol' chap. Need some spyin' from you, wot!" Alutar then explained their plans to Juntie, and a while later, he winged off to Thrila's camp. He flew overhead and peered down. Several campfire's were lit, and there were a few sentries around the camp, though some were dozing. He then saw Thrila sleeping by the main campfire, then flew back to Salamandastron. Alutar and the officers were awaiting the arrival of Juntie. They had informed the others of their plans.

Juntie landed on Alutar's paw and said, "There are only a few sentries around, some are dozing and other are just leaning on some trees. Thrila was dozing by the main campfire." Alutar nodded and gave Juntie a candied chestnut for his effort.

"Thank you Juntie." He turned to his group of officers. "All of you will take part in this. Kill the sentries, make sure you wait until you are behind the ships, then set some torches alight and burn them. You can also make holes in the sides. Bring some weapons if you need it. When you have done this, come straight back. Understood?" There were nods from the hares. "Now, good fortune go with you and come back alive!" A while later, the hares departed. They tread carefully over the sand, careful not to let the foebeast see them. Finally they reached the camp. Most of the sentries were asleep. Only one or two were awake, and they were sipping grog. Major Drolter threw his dagger at one of them. The vermin, a stoat, slid down the treetrunk without a sound. The tankard of grog slipped from his grasp and fell, spilling it all over the sand. He retrieved his dagger and cleaned it of blood traces. Corporal Crumpaw notched an arrow to his bow and fired at the other sentry. The vermin fell down and the grog fell on to the treetrunk, making a noise. The hares froze and waited to see if anybeast woke up. They stood still for a good ten minutes when they decided it was alright to proceed with their plan. They quickly and silently slew the dozing sentries and got back to the shore. They waded noiselessly into the water. Two hares went to each ship and threw grappling hooks up. They climbed up on to the deck, made a small fire from broken furniture and lighted a torch. They set fire to the sails and let the fire do the work, watching as it spread around the ship. They slid back into the water and quickly holed the ships and waded out of the water. Then, as a group, they sprinted back to their home.

Thrila awoke to find smoke billowing all over the camp. He looked over to the ships. They were on fire! Thrila roared angrily and ran to the waters edge, regardless of the heat. He watched his most prized posession, the Blackblood, burn down. Everything was on fire, all his ships were. Thrila cursed the sentries for not warning him. He ran up to the guards and shook them, but to his surprised they fell dead, one with an arrow in his back and the others with a dagger thrust. So thats why they didn't tell him! Thrila looked back to his beloved ships. Everybeast was starting to wake up. But there was nothing they could do to save their leader's ships. Thrila roared with rage and instantly knew that Alutar was behind this. Thrila took in deep breaths to calm himself down. After a while, he remembered the tunneling party. He ran to Salamandastron, and soon saw the group. Everybeast fell silent as their chief walked through, inspecting the tunnel. He lighted a torch and went inside. Vurgall was looking at something when Thrila appeared beside him. Vurgall jumped and when he saw it was Thrila he saluted smartly.

"Chief!" Thrila nodded at him.

"What were you lookin' at Vurgall?" Vurgall pointed at small hole.

"I think we've broken through!" Thrila patted his back.

"Well down Vurgall! I now promote you to Horde Captain! You have done a lot of things for me Vurgall, and you deserve it!" Vurgall puffed his chest out proudly and saluted.

"I won't fail ye Chief! What are your next orders?"

"Just before midday, bring fivescore here and wait for the battle to start, then dig out. Once you do that, kill the rest of the badgers and rabbits in the mountain, then go to the windows, open them, and shout, signal, sing songs, make as much noise as you can, and the badgers and rabbits fighting will see that their beloved Salamandastron is captured! Got that Captain?"

"Yessir! I mean, Chief!"

Chapter Ten

The mission was successful. Having a small victory midnight snack, the hares went and started boiling water and oil to the sides of the hole, where the vermin couldn't see it. They could see a small hole in where they were going to break through, so they were certain that the vermin were coming from there. Shifts of five hares at a time were tending to the cauldrons, making sure they didn't spill over accidently. Soon it was daybreak, the day of reckoning had come. The excited hares could hardly eat anything at breakfast, while the older hares, who were experienced, ate as much as they needed, seeing as they won't get lunch.They tried encouraging the younger hares, and in the end they ate a small meal, too excited to eat because of the big battle ahead. Soon midday was upon them. Ten hares went to the boiling pots of water and oil, and fourscore and a half hares were at the windows, piled high with slings, stone, rubble and bow and arrows. Alutar changed into his battle armour, while the hares of the Long Patrol wore their uniforms. They said goodbye to their families and shook paws with their friends, knowing some of them would not make it through the day. Rowanbloom was crying into Alutar's shoulder, fearing that he would not be alive by the end of the day. They had grown immensely fond of each other, anc were never seperated. Rowanbloom dried her tears and waved goodbye to Alutar, watching as he disappeared on to the shore. Lady Salixa and Rowanbloom walked up and got their slings ready, loaded with stones.

Thrila lined his horde up, waiting for Alutar and his Long Patrol to appear. Vurgall had brought fivescore to the tunnel as Thrila had told him to, and now waited for the battle to start. Alutar and his one thousand hares waited at Alutar's back. They waited in the hot midday sun, and waited for Thrila to make his move. Then, Thrila's horde advanced.

Alutar said calmly, "Half pace running, Long Patrol," They started running towards the enemy. "Speed it up Long Patrol." They were near the foe. Alutar shouted, "Charge! Eulaliaaaaaaaa!" Battlecries filled the air.

"Forward the Buffs! Eulaliaaaaaa! Blood'n'vinegar chaps! Eulaliaaaa! Eulaliaaaaa! Eulaliaaaaaaa!"

Thrila's army charged, shouting, "Thrila Deathslayer! Thrila Deathslayer! Kill kill kill! Thrila Deathslaaayyyeeerrr!"

When Vurgall heard the warcries, he knew the battle had started. Without any hesitation, he lead the group into the tunnel and came to the end. He started ordered them to dig until they were out, and have weapons ready when they did. There was sand and rubble coming down on them, but Vurgall pushed them on, convinced he would get a whole lot of treasure for succeeding in the tunnel.

Alutar had left Corporal Crumpaw, Lieutenant Sunpaw and a few young hares in charge of the boiling cauldrons. They heard scraping noises and nodded at each other, signalling to keep silent and out of sight. They had long poles to push the pots over, so as not to burn their paws.

Vurgall saw the hole and he dug furiously, not seeing where he was digging because of all the sand and grit flying into his eyes. Suddenly there was light, and he looked up. He could not see anything because of the sand which made his eyesight blurry.

He heard a voice saying, "Now troops!" He looked to the side and caught a glimpse of two bubbling cauldrons being poured onto his body before he died. There were screams as the vermin tried to get out of the hole, but it was too crowded and killed every single vermin. Every last one of them had been scalded to death! There was steam rising from the hole, and now the hares shook paws.

"Well done! Nothing else will come through while there is all that hot water and oil in the tunnel. Good work! Lets go join the battle!" They rushed up to the upper levels of the mountain and started fighting.

Alutar saw his enemy at the end of the horde, urging them on. He roared and charged into the fray, killing five with a single sweep of his sword. His eyes started becoming red, Alutar had the Bloodwrath! He was hacking and slicing madly, only seeing his foe. Thrila was wondering where his new captain Vurgall had gotten. He would have control on the mountain by now! He concentrated on the badger. Alutar was picking up vermin as if they were dolls and flung them back into their own horde, slowing them down. His blade was everywhere at once, cutting and slashing. Thrila saw his eyes were blood red. He felt something that he had never felt before. Fear! Thrila clenched his paws and thought, "I will win this mountain! No badger can defeat me!" He saw the hares overwhelm his soldiers, and being killed mercilessly. He realized that they were fighting to the death , no surrender no quarter. He cursed himself inwardly.

He said to his captain, Trelp, who was standing next to him, "Gather a score and meet me behind that rock," he said, pointing to a large rock nearby. Trelp nodded and gave a piercing whistle, which the horde knew. Soon the score was gathered and nobeast saw the group saunter away. Alutar was too busy trying to hold off the vermin that were swinging their weapons at him. Above they were being pelted by stones by the hares in the mountain and Rowanbloom and Salixa.

Thrila saw this and hissed to the group, "This mountain cannot be won. We will go away for a few weeks and come back with another horde, bigger than this one. Then we will be able to conquer this mountain!" Trelp and Yurnel saw this was a plan to escape and run away, though he did not say anything. They slipped into the water and waded until they were out of sight, them sprinted for the woods.

Alutar had finished dealing with the vermin who had been fighting at him and stared at the spot where Thrila had been. He roared angrily and slashed his way there. Thrila was not there. He looked around wildly and noticed that there was only about fivescore vermin left, his hares had killed everybeast else. Alutar knew Thrila did not drown. He wandered back to Salamandastron, while the hares finished the vermin off. There were bodies of hares and vermin scattered around, though more were of thrila's horde than the Long Patrol. Alutar was covered in dozens of wounds. He was limping from a slash on his footpaw, and his sword dangled from his paw. Rowanbloom came running with Lady Salixa behind her, but stopped when she saw the worried look on Alutar's face.

She asked, "Whats the matter Alutar?" Alutar shook his head and gazed out onto the water.

"I didn't reach Thrila. Some inner instinct has told me that he has run away with a few others. I have to go after him." Rowanbloom took his paw and lead him to the sickbay.

"You can do that later. You have too many wounds to travel anywhere." Salixa and Suntrel put poultices of dockleaves and sanicle on his injuries, and stitched him up.

Alutar clenched his paws and said, "I will avenge my parent's death. He will not get away from me." He hobbled to the window and roared, "D'you hear me Thrila? I will not let you get away from me! Thriiilllaaaa!!" Maudie came limping in with Corporal Crumpaw supporting her.

She saluted and said, "All of Thrila's horde dead sah, and fifteen score hares dead with tenscore with wounds and casualties. Sah!"

"Thank you Maudie. Tomorrow at dawn I will get a party gathered and find Thrila. Each minute he gets away further and further. I will not let that happen."

Chapter Eleven

Thrila and the score ran until they were a few miles from Salamandastron. They stopped by a river and sat down by it, lapping up the cool water. Thrila knew that Alutar was going to be out searching for them soon.

He let them rest awhile than he got up and ordered, "Up on yer hunkers! We are going to get more recruits, to help get this mountain. Lets go!"

He walked forward when a voice said, "I'm not goin' wid yew Thrila. Yew ran away from da battle. Yew were scared of da big stripedog. Yew are a coward Thrila!" A ferret stepped forward. Thrila roared angrily.

"Nobeast calls me a coward!" He charged at the ferret, and the unfortunate ferret died on the spot, a huge wound on his chest. He fell down, his tongue lolling. Thrila sheathed his axe and spat hatred on the body.

"Dead! Nobeast calls me a coward! Nobeast!" He heard a scattering of paws and looked up. His crew had deserted! He saw them sprinting madly in any direction, even his Seer Yurnel. He knew he could not catch up with them, they had a headstart. He sat down wearily and drank some water. He saw a wild pear tree, and started ravenously eating them, the juice running down his jaw.

He grumbled to himself, "Huh, who needs them anyway? I can do without them. I'll hunt them down one by one, killing each and everyone of them slowly. Even Yurnel. All of 'em traitors!" He sat there for another hour, unsure of what to do. Finally he got up and started walking away from Salamandastron. He decided he would find a horde himself!

"Of course everyone will join me. Everybeast has heard the name Thrila Deathslayer before. They will join me!" he thought. He saw a score and a half of vermin up ahead. They were sitting around a campfire, shoving food down their throats, gossiping and drinking grog. "Ahah! Theres the start of my horde!" He swaggered up to them.

A big fox who noticed him, got up and said menacingly, "Who are yew and whadda'ya want wid us, wildcat?" Thrila smiled his deathly smile and replied, flourishing his axe.

"I'm Thrila Deathslayer. I was wondering if ye would like to join me in conquering Salamandastron?" The group laughed aloud, the fox the loudest. Thrila waited until they stopped, wiping tears of mirth from their faces.

The fox said, drawing his sabre, "Yew aren't Thrila Deathslayer. Yew are an impostor! If yew were Thrila Deathslayer, show us yore mighty horde then. Where is it then, eh?" Thrila was bewildered, though he did not show it. He blustered for words, then fell silent. The fox nodded to two weasels.

"Gringle, Swabb, chain this wildcat to the tree over there." Thrila struggled and kicked, but he could not get out of Swabb and Gringle's grip. They chained him to the tree and took his battleaxe from him. He sat there silently. The fox walked up to him, tapping his sabre on a rock.

He brought his face up to Thrila, snarling, "I am Fron, clan leader of this group. Yew are our prisoner for now." He shoved a bowl of muddy water and some stale bread in front of Thrila. "Thats yore food for now. Eat up, or I'll force yew to eat it!" Fron walked back to the campfire. He posted three guards watching Thrila, noting his every move. Thrila sighed and shoved the food into his mouth. He sipped a bit of water, then spat it out. He watched as Fron tore into a woodpidgeon, swigging seaweed grog. Thrila closed his eyes and tried to get some sleep. He knew he would need it if he was going to escape.

Alutar was sleeping in the sickbay, his chest rising up and down slowly. He awoke as there was a knock on the door.

"Come in." The door opened revealing Maudie with a tray of food. She sat down on the bed and watched as he heaved himself up.

"Dinner sah. Its evenin' now, dinner in Mess Hall doncha know. Theres carrot and leek pasties, salad, some scones with cream and strawberry preserve, a russet apple and a flask of elderflower and dandelion cordial there." Alutar nodded his thanks as he tucked into his food.

"I'm going search for Thrila tomorrow morn. Have you buried the dead?" Maudie nodded. "Good. At dawn we will gather a score of hares to search for him. He will not escape me. I will avenge my village's death, and Lord Gorath's." Maudie picked up the tray, seeing Alutar had finished, and walked out the door. Alutar sighed. "Thrila will soon be mine!" That night Alutar could not sleep. He had a restless energy, he turned and tossed fitfully. In his mind the scene was bloodshed, hares and vermin dying, screams and battle cries, vermin in the tunnel being scalded to death, then Rowanbloom screaming for Gorath, and finally, himself, barging through to get at Thrila, roaring and bellowing. He saw his parents die in front of his eyes, he was wounded, lying there helplessly with vermin holding him until he wrenched himself free and rushed to his parents aid, then a spear sticking out of his mother's chest, Thrila's axe buried in his father's back, his mother dead, his father dead, then he plunged into the group of vermin, roaring, "Eulaliaaaaaaa!" A blade cut him on the leg, he whirled and the vermin scattered from his reach, he turned for Thrila, but he wasn't there. The vermin overwhelmed him, making him fall on to a spear.

"Be still ye silly badger, hold him still now, while I get this nasty thing out of him!" Alutar opened his eyes. Salixa, Rowanbloom, Maudie and Suntrel were standing over him, Salixa prying something out of the Badger Lord's chest.

Alutar looked at them, bewildered, "W-what happened?" Maudie shook her head.

"You must have had a bloomin' bad nightmare, roaring and kicking like a madbeast. Must've fallen off the flippin' bed and got a huge splinter on your chest. Are you alright sah?" Alutar winced as Salixa got the splinter out and held it in front of him.

"Look at that 'un. Biggest splinter I've ever seen!" Rowanbloom patted Alutar's paw.

"Only a nightmare Alutar. It's dawn now." The four looked out the window. The sky was a soft pink, orange and yellow, the perfect sunrise.

Alutar clenched his paws and said, "Today is the day when I avenge my parents. We will leave in an hour's time. Got that Maudie?" The boxing hare nodded. "Pick a score of fighters and we will track Thrila down."

Chapter Twelve

Thrila had woken in the middle of the night, and he tried to unlock the chain holding him prisoner with sticks, twigs, small rocks, and he even tried to reach for a dagger that one of the guards had dropped. He failed. He sat there waiting for the sunrise. A good two hours later, Fron awoke. He roused the group and on seeing Thrila, he brought another bowl of muddy water and a few roots and stale berries to nibble on. The group scoffed food and swigged grog, watching their prisoner. Thrila could feel Fron's eyes boring into him, so he tried to go to sleep. He wished he had never set his eyes on Salamandastron, thinking that it brought him bad luck. He sighed and listened to the vermin's chatter, gossiping and trading information. He tried desperately to think of a scheme to get out, but his brain was too tired, and he started dozing. In his dreams there were old and young woodlanders on a ridge. They watched him as he proceeded walking on the wet grass. There was his horde. Some were burnt, and Thrila recognised one as Vurgall. He noticed the deserters, Yurnel and Trelp. He looked at the woodlanders. He knew these were the ones whom he had slain mercilessly. He whimpered as his horde and the woodlanders advanced on him, surrounding him. He grasped at his battleaxe, but it wasn't with him. He tried breaking through the ranks, but they overwhelmed him. Then he saw Gorath and Alutar. Alutar walked forward, his eyes turning red. He roared and charged at Thrila. He had no escape, and he whimpered in fear as Alutar's blade came whistling through the air, nearly chopping his head off.

Gorath said to him, pointing his pitchfork straight as Thrila, "All these creatures are those who you killed, young and old, mercilessly slaying them. They are watching from above, they know your fate. Your horde died and deserted you because of your greed, they left you to die. Soon your fate will be sealed!" Suddenly they faded away, and Thrila snapped his eyes open. He sighed in relief.

"It was only a dream," he thought to himself. But he knew it wasn't.

Maudie picked the hares and set off with two ration packs. Soon they found the vermin tracks. They followed it until it came to a stream, and they waited patiently while Suntrel re-bandaged Alutar's wounds. They had a small snack and set off again, Alutar leading by five paces, striving to keep his Bloodwrath under control. They saw Fron's camp two miles away. They marched for it, Alutar eyeing Thrila's black figure chained to a rowan.

Thrila had finally thought up a scheme. He immediately tried it out.

"Fron, let's make a deal. Give me my battleaxe, and we'll duel, fighting to the death. If I win, you let me go. If I lose, you keep me prisoner. Deal?" Fron answered by unlocking Thrila's chain and giving him his axe. They circled each other, waiting for the other to make the first move.

Suddenly Thrila bared his fangs and yelled, "I am Thrila Deathslaayyyeeerrr!" Fron stood transfixed, then took off, followed by his crew. Thrila laughed aloud.

"Hahaha, they were scared from me! Me, Thrila Dea-"

"Eulaliaaaaaa! Thrila Deathslayer, you will pay for your crimes! Eulaliaaaaa!" Thrila turned around. Alutar was pounding towards him, with a score of Long Patrol hares behind him. Thrila took off, sprinting with his tail flying behind him, holding his axe tightly. His eyes flicked left and right. There was the sea was in front of him, there were trees on his right and some hares had run around to his left side. He stopped and waited for Alutar to fight. Alutar came, panting, froth flecking from his mouth. His sword was ready in his right paw, ready to strike. Thrila stood ready, and they looked for an opening. Suddenly Alutar slashed slashed sideways at his foe, and although he was ready for it, Thrila could feel the numbness in his paws from the vibrations. Alutar could feel it too, though he continued, chopping and hacking madly. Thrila defended himself as best as he could, blocking each blow. They parted, taking a slight breather. Then Thrila charged, his axe swinging in a downwards slash. Alutar skipped to the side and brought his sword down on Thrila's back. Thrila screeched in pain and collapsed. He rolled over as Alutar's sword came down on the spot where he was a moment before. He scrambled upright and charged at Alutar. Alutar took a pace to the left and tripped Thrila. He thudded to the ground. Alutar raised his sword high for the kill, Thrila's eyes filled with fear. He sprang up and slashed at Alutar's legs. Alutar roared in pain as the blade cut his leg to the bone. He carried on, his eyes filled with bloodlust. They circled, both of them with huge wounds and panting heavily. The Long Patrol hares stood on the sidelines, watching their Badger Lord. Alutar advanced, sword flicking towards his adversary. He kept walking until they were touching the salt water. It stung their wounds, but knew they fighting for their life. Like all wildcats, Thrila was afraid of deep water. They were knee deep now. Alutar thrust his sword. It locked with Thrila's axe, then Alutar disarmed him. Thrila's eyes were wide with fear; he had met his match. He trembled, and Alutar locked Thrila to his chest, noses nearly touching. His paw was crushing Thrila's back, tightening his grip.

Thrila whimpered, "Mercy! Mercy! Please! Let me go!"

Alutar growled, "Everybeast who you killed, woodlanders, young and old, are watching from above. They are waiting for your death. So they will get their wish and rest in peace from now on!" Thrila gurgled, then slid from Alutar's grasp, lifeless. Alutar drew his sword from Thrila's chest and waded to shore, suddenly exhausted. He collapsed on the sand, unconcious.

Maudie took charge immediately. "Cap'n Valpo, Lieutenant Sunpaw, run back to the mountain and get Lady Salixa and Rowanbloom. Get ten more hares and a stretcher. Quickly!" She tended to Alutar's fearsome wounds, making him as comfortable as possible. Soon they arrived, and Alutar was carried back to Salamandastron, Rowanbloom holding his paw the whole way.

A few days later Alutar awoke. He was in the sick bay, and Rowanbloom was sitting by his side. She sighed in relief as she checked his wounds.

"Alutar! Thank the fates that you're alive! Thrila is gone now, you killed him! No, don't sit up, your wounds won't get better if you keep moving about. Now let me redress those dreadful wounds. Keep still now!"

Alutar chuckled. "You're treating me like I'm a little cub and you're the mother. Instead of doing all this, maybe you could get a tray for two? I'm absolutely famished!" The sick bay rang with the badger's laughter.


The old badger closed the heavy book. Around him were hares, young and old, who had decided to listen to the tale of Alutar.

A leveret piped up, "Did Alutar and Rowanbloom get married Lord Ritnor?" The badger nodded slowly, reaching for a beaker of mint tea.

"Aye, they were my great-grandparents. Alutar and Rowanbloom now lie buried in the caves where Lord Gorath is. Next to them is my grandsire, then my father, my son who died in battle, Lord Mouloner, and soon I'll be joining them. Then Luntor will be the next Badger Lord after me." He nodded over to a young male badger. Old Lord Ritnor sighed and folded his battle-scarred arms on his chest. "Alutar's sword was mine, his armor was mine, but now they will be passed on to you, Luntor, unless you want to wield another weapon." Luntor walked over to Lord Ritnor and placed the old badger's paw on his head.

'Grandpa, your sword will be mine, your armor will be mine, I won't wield another weapon, unless I have need of it. I have Lord Gorath's and Lord Alutar's blood in my veins, and it is an honour to be part of the family tree. Lady Salixa and Lady Rowanbloom were great healers, I will learn to help others, to care for the sick and wounded, yet be a warrior. I will read and write, and have knowledge. I will do all these things, I promise!" Lord Ritnor lifted Luntor's head up and looked into his eyes.

"I know, Luntor. I know you will." Then he turned and brought something from behind him, which was wrapped in some cloth and bound with string. He presented it to Luntor, saying, "Here is your weapon. Use it wisely and carefully." The young badger untied the string and opened the package. There lay Alutar's sword, its lethal sharp blade shining, the hilt leather bound and its grip firm. Luntor turned it this way and that, swinging it in all directions, careful not to hit any of the hares or Lord Ritnor. Satisfied, he layed it on the table. They went outside in the warm summer sun, and looked to the sea, glistening in the sunlight. Lord Ritnor winked at the hares.

He did a very good imitation of a hare, saying, "C'mon chaps, lets give a jolly ol' warcry to those who fell in battle, wot!" The shore rang with Salamandastron's battlecry, which had been used for thousands of generations.


Thanks to all those ppl who read this story. Thanks to everyone who wrote comments, tips and advice to help me. I know this fanfic was a bit short, but I ran out of ideas. Anyway, see ya around soon!--Laria Wavedeep Beware of my sling and I! 03:11, March 28, 2010 (UTC)

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