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The Son Of A Warrior

Note: Please do NOT read this until you have read Redwall's Taggerung, because this is a sequel. If you want to be updated, tell me so I can add you to my update list. Feel free to comment! Thanks and happy reading!--Laria Wavedeep Beware of my sling and I!

  • This story takes place twelve seasons after Moonwind is born. He is now twelve seasons old. Now on with the story...


The night was dark and moonless. The leaves rustled in the breeze. The air was filled with an uneasy feeling. The bankvole scurried along, paws padding softly on the loam as his hooded figure weaved in and out of the trees. A breeze came, making the trees look as if they were dancing. The bankvole lifted his head and stiffened. Something was not right. He sniffed the air and stayed still for a couple of minutes. A wave of cautiousness fell over him as he crept forward towards his home. When the presence of evil had lifted, he walked quickly and silently, reaching his home, a tree with which the entrance was covered with bushes. He walked down the tunnel which went downwards, the fur on his neck rising. He quickly hurried until he reached a door. Opening it, he went inside and took off his coat, shuddering. He warmed his paws by the fire and tried to stop his shaking paws. He felt as if he had been followed. He curled up and fell asleep. Outside, the wind had stopped. A pair of glowing eyes watched the hidden entrance to the bankvole's home. The creature got up from hiding behind a bush and turned, walking back the way the bankvole had come. It veered off and disappeared into the blackness of the night.

Chapter One

Thunk! The dagger thudded into the tree's trunk, pinning the leaf, quivering. The onlookers applauded loudly as Moonwind tugged his dagger from the tree, smiling modestly. He went over and sat down next to two otters and a ferret.

"How did I do Dad?" He asked. Dayl smiled.

"I think you're just as good as me, son. Let's have a competition, eh?" The female otter chided him.

"Oh Dayl, that's not fair. You always beat him. You've had more experience than him, you were a Taggerung!" Moonwind passed his father one of his matching daggers which had belonged to Dayl.

"You go first Dad. See if ye can hit the leaf." Dayl started twirling the dagger, getting faster and faster as Moonwind watched him admiringly. Suddenly the dagger whipped off into the air, covering the distance faster than greased lightning. Dayl walked over and pulled the blade out of the tree, smiling at his son's admiration. He nudged the young otter.

"Yore turn now." Moonwind threw the dagger and it hit the leaf to the side. Moonwind retrieved his dagger. Juvern nodded.

"Yore getting better Moonwind. In a few seasons time I think you'll just be as good as yore dad." Dayl had taught Moonwind everything about weapons and how to use them since he was walking. Moonwind had grown up around swords and weapons. Felia and Melba came over, a plate of scones in their paws. Felia was starting to bend with age. They sat down. Melba offered the plate.

"Friar Nirpol wants you to try his hazelnut scones. They're nice with meadowcream and plum preserve, washed down with good dandelion and burdock cordial." They all sampled a bit and immediately voted it delicious. They walked over to the pond, where the Dibbuns were splashing about, supervised by Abbess Rosie and Skipper Romarc. Abbess Rosie pulled a face as they sat down next to the pair.

"Whew, those Dibbuns are more trouble than a hundred toads." Skipper nodded, wet from rescuing a squirrelbabe.

"Aye mate. They certainly are lively today. Ahoy, Moonwind, laddie buck, did ye beat yer dad at a throwing competition?" Moonwind shook his head ruefully.

"Nope. I'll never be able to beat him!"

"Of course you'll beat me one day. When I'm old and grey that is." Dayl dodged Brendila's rudder as she playfully swiped at him.

North of Redwall Abbey evil was in the air. Varlidass Bloodheart had come! The tall sinewy weasel had an army of backstabbers, murderers and deadly killers at his command, tenscore in all. It was not a full army, but each fighter was worth two. There were some that were not up to his standard, so he killed them. He would take on any kind of vermin gang and add them to his horde, test them and see if they were good enough. The lucky ones who got through would later watch in horror as their new leader would torture their former comrades, by skinning and burning them alive. Some others would be drowned, suffocated or whipped, then sluiced in salt water, repeated until the screaming soldiers were dead. The whole army were scared of their leader, and his moods could be unpredictable. His name was feared throughout the Northlands. He was a dark brown colour, with green eyes. He wore a tunic most of the time, and a black cloak with a shining silver clasp. His weapon was a sabre, with an emerald set in the hilt. He was deadly with it and it was always by his side, lest there were any problems within his horde. Not that were many.

He had decided to try his luck down south, where food was plentiful and where there were places to conquer. Like Salamandastron and Redwall Abbey. He decided Redwall Abbey, knowing that there were no woodlanders who would stand in his way. Even if they were foolish enough to try, his horde would kill them. Right now they camped by a pike infested stream, which they had no knowledge of. Some tried putting together lines and dangled them into the water, hoping to catch a meal. Varlidass sat in his tent, waiting for his tracker, a stoat called Crooktail to report to him. Unlike other warlords, Varlidass had no Seer. He had no wish for one, deciding that he didn't need to know his fate. One of his warriors had brought down a fine plump woodpidgeon, which was stuck on a spit, roasting over a fire. It was brought to him, slightly charred, served with a beaker of elderberry wine. He ate it, tearing at it with his teeth and claws. Before he had finished, his stoat tracker, Crooktail, came into the camp. He was let into the tent and was starting to shake, knowing that he could be dead if his news wasn't good. He gulped nervously as Varlidass picked at his teeth with a dagger. The stoat waited until the weasel had finished.

Varlidass asked, "Well? Are ye going to report to me or just stand there lookin' dumb?" The stoat took a deep breath.

"I followed the bankvole all the way to his home. It's a big oak with a hidden entrance at the base of it. It's half a day's march southwest." Varlidass's sabre neatly clipped a whisker off Crooktail. He lightly tickled the stoat's neck.

"Good work, Crooktail. Will you lead me and the horde to it?" Crooktail nodded vigorously. Varlidass sheathed his sabre. "Dismissed, tracker." The stoat left the tent in a hurry, not wanting to see if Varlidass required anything else from him. Outside, a thin rat was suddenly pulled into the stream. He was one who had wanted to fish, greedily looking into the water to see if any fish might bite his hook. A small pike had pulled the unsuspecting rat into the stream, and now he was splashing about, wailing as the pike closed in on him.

"Help!" He screeched. "Pull me out before they eat me!" Some of his comrades were laughing and pointing at the fish. Others tried to help the rat. Varlidass was out of his tent in a flash. In one swift movement he hauled the screeching rat out. At the same moment a pike leaped out of the water and tried to catch the rat's long tail. Varlidass's sabre was suddenly in his paw and he sliced the pike in half before it splashed back into the water. Its blood slowly swirled in the water as the other pike tried to tear at it, biting each other in the process. Before long, the water was red with pikes blood. Varlidass sheathed his sabre.

"If any of ye are foolish enough to try an' fish again..." He held up the terrified rat and held him above the water. "I'll feed ye to the pike. They ain't fussy on wot they eat. Got that into yore thick 'eads?" Everybeast nodded, trying to stop their shaking paws. Varlidass wasn't called Bloodheart for nothing!

Chapter Two

Moonwind's best friends, a squirrelmaid called Ferna and another young otter, Naldin, were helping in the kitchens, having found an interest in cooking. Friar Nirpol was delighted to have such keen learners. He had showed them how to make a damson pudding, and they had helped him finish it. The three friends now headed towards the pond. Hunto was there, singing, comically pulling faces and flopping his ears up and down to go with the actions while skimming stones. They stifled their laughter as they neared.

"Scoff, oh beautiful scoff,
The wonders that it can do,
This chap is hungry and he wants
A measly crumb or two.
Oooh, what I wouldn't give
Fer a slice of apple pie,
Or maybe a nibble instead of a fiddle
Of some scones I'd like to try!
That blackberry tart looks delightful,
You had better save some for me,
Or the fruit salad with the honey on top;
I pray you weren't stung by a bee!
I hope you liked my ballad,
About me, poor and starvin',
Let me die and bury me quick,
Afore somebeast eats the pudden!"

Hunto turned around.

"Oh hello. Do you know when tea will be, wot?" Moonwind shook his head.

"Soon, I hope, before you die of hunger!" They fell about laughing as Hunto stomped off.

He muttered to himself, "Some chaps don't know how jolly important it is to eat! I'm bloomin' famished!" He walked towards the kitchens, the smell of a huge carrot, mushroom and leek pastie reaching his nose. He sniffed. He crept quietly towards the entrance. The aroma of hot foods tore at him, urging him to go in. He was about to go in when Skipper Romarc walked up.

Sensing the hare was about to steal, he asked sternly, "Hunto, wot are ye doin' near the kitchens, eh? Plannin' on how to steal a couple o' scones, I'll wager!" Hunto stared at the floor, scuffing at it with his footpaw.

"Er, no, of course not, uh, Skip, I was just walking by, wot! How dare you accuse me of such a crime, sah! I would never, never steal from a kitchen!" Skipper patted Hunto's back, his strong paw making Hunto stumble and gasp as the air was knock from his lungs.

"Good work Hunto. Tea will be in a few minutes, I think." Skipper started to lead the reluctant hare away. Hunto was hanging back, the aroma of the pastie still in his nose.

"I say, Skip ol' lad, where are we going?"

"Just to the orchard matey, where tea will be held." Hunto wriggled his ears in delight. There was a buffet set up on the lawn, and most of the Abbeybeasts were already there, taking their tea and sitting down in the shade of the fruit trees.

Varlidass and his horde were marching, lead by Crooktail. The stoat was by his leader's side, scared that the deadly sabre would be at his throat at any moment. It was near evening when they reached the bankvole's home. Varlidass made the camp ten minutes away. Taking five of the soldiers with him, they hid behind bushes. They didn't have to wait long. The bankvole came from the opposite direction of the vermin camp. Unaware that five creatures were watching him, he pushed aside the shrub which covered the entrance, revealing the tunnel. Carefully covering the hole, the bankvole disappeared. Varlidass took note of the shrub which covered the entrance. They waited for a few minutes before venturing out. Varlidass led the group, shoving the shrub aside. He crept down the tunnel, candles lighting it up. They came to the door. It was slightly ajar. Varlidass pushed it a fraction. It did not creak or squeak. The weasek peaked through the gap. The bankvole was sitting in a a wooden chair, close to a fire. His back was facing the door. Varlidass inched the door open slowly until it was big enough for everybeast to get through. Varlidass crept up to the chair and drew his sabre out, slowly and silently.

The bankvole felt the fur on his neck rise again. He was about to turn when suddenly Varlidass's paw gripped his shoulder, digging his claws in. Holding the sabre to the frightened bankvole's neck, the weasel whispered dangerously.

"Don't move, or yore dead meat, bankvole. Wot is yore name, woodlander?"

The bankvole replied in a shaky voice, "Hyton, sir." Varlidass pushed his sabre more, causing his victim's neck to start bleeding a little. The bankvole whimpered, "Please don't kill me. I haven't harmed anybeast, I swear!" To his surprise the sabre was sheathed back in its scabbard. Varlidass stood in front of Hyton, smiling evilly.

"I won't kill you. Yet. I've got plans for you. Tell me, are you hungry or thirsty? I'll bring you back to my camp. You can have anything you want, if you answer the questions I have in store for you. But if you don't, or don't know the answers..." He took out his sabre and toyed with it, suddenly clipping off a whisker off Hyton. Hyton was shaking with fear.

"I'll answer everything! Anything you ask me!" He cried out. Varlidass sheathed the blade and nodded to the five. They swiftly binded the bankvole with rope, gagging him. Once that was done, they marched out, covering the entrance. Two walked behind, clearing up the traces and pawprints of vermin. Once it was finished, the place looked like Varlidass had never entered the tree. They had been and gone.

Chapter Three

They arrived back, pushing and prodding Hyton with spears and swords. Two rats tied Hyton to a tree near Varlidass's tent. Varlidass started questioning the bankvole.

"Answer truthfully, you'll live. If I find out yore lying..." He brought out the sabre and started sharpening it on a rock. He looked up and smiled evilly. "Now for some questions. Do you know the building called Redwall Abbey?" Hyton nodded vigorously, too scared to speak. "Good, good. Have you ever been there? Answer me!"

Hyton replied shakily, "Uh, n-n-no s-sir, never!" Varlidass lazily flicked up the sword point, the end piercing Hyton's throat. He tickled the bankvole's throat. He enjoyed his captive's fear for him.

"Are ye sure? You don't seem very sure. Speak the truth. Have you ever been there?"

"No sir." Hyton forced his tongue to speak, his voice was barely audible. Varlidass held his patience.

"Do you know how many are allies and friends of Redwall?" Hyton hesitated, but then saw the blade in the weasel's paw.

"Well, there's the shrews, Guosim, there are other shrews too, the Guosssom, then there's tribes of otters, lots of them, there is a squirrel colony more to the south and... I think thats it. There are always other woodlanders too, like maybe hedgehog, mice and mole colonies." He fell silent. Varlidass pressed the bankvole.

"Do you know how many are in the Abbey?" Hyton shook his head.

Suddenly a wave of anger come over him, and he said aggressively, "I will never tell you how many, how little or how good the warriors at Redwall are, you vermin. They have always been kind to me and-" The realization of what he had just said made the bankvole's blood turn cold and he started shaking, not daring to look into the eyes of his tormentor, knowing that he didn't have many more moons to live.

Varlidass pointed at Hyton, saying with a snarl, "I knew you were lying to me. I think you have just signed yore death sentence. But I won't kill you now. Not yet, but soon, slow and painful, I'll make you scream and curse the day you were born." He nodded to a ferret and fox.

"Mudclaw, Barbtail, hang our prisoner up and give him some water and some edible roots. Then give 'im twenty strokes o' the whip, for lying to me. We'll see if he can last on a feast of that!" The horrified bankvole was dragged to his spot and tightly bound. At the end of the ordeal Hyton was cut on his arms, legs, chest and face, blood oozing out of the wounds that the whip had made.

The Redwallers sat on the lawn, tea having finished. Naldin, Moonwind and Ferna were sporting around, laughing as they chased each other around. Moonwind was never caught; he was slower than his father, but still faster then everyone else. They collapsed by the pond, panting heavily. Then Naldin started splashing Ferna, and Ferna splashed Naldin back, spraying droplets of water on to Moonwind. Moonwind thumped his rudder down hard on the water, splashing everybeast nearby. It started a huge water fight. The Dibbuns, who were being bathed, had escaped from the tubs of water, sponges with soap suds and their mothers, who started chasing them. They ran towards the pond, leaping in and jumping up and down. Dayl, Skipper Romarc and some of his ottercrew bounded in, making sure the babes were safe and didn't go into deep water. Juvern, Brendila and Abbess Rosie laughed as the otters attempted to herd the Dibbuns back to the building, but they kept evading their grasp. When all the splashing had stopped, Naldin, Moonwind, Ferna and the Dibbuns were dripping wet, giggling. Brendila wagged her paw at the babes.

"Who started this water fight?" Everyone pointed at Naldin, who was grinning. A smile spread over Brendila's features.

She shook her head and said, "Go have a bath, all of ye, afore ye catch a cold." A wail of dismay came from the Dibbuns.

One molebabe piped up, "But us'ns have already got h'a barth, boi bathing in 'ee pond! Oi bain't havin' h'another wash, you'm bee gurt naurty beasties if'n you make us have h'another one!" To emphasize the statement he shook a stick at them. Skipper winked at the ottercrew and Dayl.

He said, "I heard Friar Nirpol was makin' a nice plum and raspberry pudden, with lots o' candied chestnuts too. 'E said that if you babes don't have a bath, he won't give any to ye!" Then, winking and whispering to them like it was secret, "I also heard that there's some strawberry cordial." The Dibbuns started rushing to the Abbey, squeaking.

"I'm gonna have a bath first, then I be the first to git some pudden!"

"No you bain't, Oi'll be gettin' 'ee pudden first, you'm gurt naurty squiggle!"

"Haha, you others are so slow! I'm gonna be there way before you!" They disappeared into the Abbey. Juvern nodded at the three young friends.

"You'd better dry down. Yore all drippin' wet!"

Moonwind said, "C'mon mates, let's go." The trio plodded towards the Abbey. Pirrel the Cellarhog, who had watched the whole thing, came up to them.

He said, "Those three are fine young creatures. They won't go wrong in life!"

Chapter Four

Varlidass sat in his tent, thinking. The weasel would probably need more fighters if he was to conquer the Abbey. Even if one soldier was worth two, the Redwallers had lots of allies around Mossflower. He also wanted a way to parley with them, but without seeing the horde. He did not want them to know how many were in it. He decided he would have to get a party searching for recruits. He got up and left his tent, his cloak waving in the breeze. Over near a campfire a dispute seemed to be going on. A stoat and a rat were fighting over something. Varlidass quietly sneaked up and watched the argument. A crowd had gathered to watch it as well, and Varlidass blended in well. A bird on a spit was roasting over the fire.

The stoat, Gridder, said angrily, "I caught the bird, not yew, thief! Go git yer own vittles!"

The rat, Ludbail, spat and said, "I'm no thief, yew rotten liar! Yew haven't got any proof dat yer caught the bird! This bird is mine, I killed it wid me sling!" He punched Gridder's nose. The stoat stumbled back, clutching his bleeding nose.

He snarled, "I'll git yer fer dat!" Wham! Gridder did a terrific uppercut to the rat's jaw. It started into a fight. The watchers yelled out shouts of encouragements. The pair threw themselves at each other, trying to reach their swords as they punched and bit at each other.

Ludbail snorted, "Hah, yew ain't much of a puncher, big fat picklenosed snubears!" Gridder grinded his teeth in rage and sprang at Ludbail, claws outstretched.

"Ho, it's insults now, eh? Well, come 'ere gobbysnouted bottlebrained lardbarrel!" Ludbail screeched in pain as Gridder drove his claws into his chest. He retaliated by punching Gridder in the eye. They continued to fight, oblivious to the advice given to them by their comrades.

Varlidass shouted, "Ye both are the worst fighters I've ever seen!" That stopped the fight. Varlidass didn't mean that they were bad fighters. Both were one up to Varlidass's standards. They glared furiously at the crowd, ignoring their wounds, scratches and bruises.

They yelled out, "Who said that?" Varlidass stepped out, and at once the camp was silent and still.

He said calmly, "I will not have fights in my army. If I find any more fights around... I'll carve the arguers into shapes. Got that? A third time an argument, fight, or dispute happens, I will personally deal with them. You have my oath on that. I let you off on the fishing, and this will be the last time. I'm giving you chances to get that into yore brains. Mutineers will have a worse fate. Many of you have seen how I deal with mutineers and warriors not up to my standard. You will only do what I ask you to do. If I say sleep, then sleep. March, then march. Fight, then fight. Eat, then eat. If you want to do something, then ask me. But do not think that I am stupid. If you ask to go gather herbs or get food, I will send a spy to make sure you do not run off." He turned to the trembling Gridder and Ludbail. "Yore lucky I left you off this time. Next time it happens, I will slit yore throats..." He took the bird of the spit and threw it away. He swept off, cloak swirling behind him, paw on sabre. Gridder and Ludbail mournfully stared at each other.

"Huh, we could've just shared the bird between us instead of Lord Varlidass throwing it away. Ooh, I'm starvin'!" Ludbail said.

Gridder searched for some herbs for his wounds and said, "Oh well, can't eat it now. Lucky ants!"

Moonwind, Naldin and Ferna sat under a damson tree. Moonwind toyed with his daggers; they were extremely bored and didn't know what to do. Naldin took out his sling and fondled it. His parents had died in a vermin raid, and he had been picked up and brought to Redwall. He had been only one season old, but he remembered everything. Memories clouded his eyes, and he thought about who had been the leader of the vermin. A fox called Drintag Bladestone. Naldin closed his eyes and lay back, immersed in his own thoughts. He started to doze.

A female otter carried a sling over her back, an otterbabe in it. A big, strong male otter ran up, concern in his eyes. He unwounded a sling and loaded a stone in it.

"Teran, what's going on?" The female otter asked. Teran shook his head, ushering her along.

"Quickly Derla, there's not much time. That fox and his vermin scum are coming. We need to get away and hide." Derla looked about wildly.

"But where?" Wild laughter and the pounding of footpaws came closer to the couple. Teran gritted his teeth.

"Anywhere, before they get to us!" Suddenly a fox carrying a shining sword, followed by fifty warriors appeared.

The fox shouted, "There are the two riverdogs! Get 'em, my warriors!" Warcries filled the air as they charged to the two otters.

"Bladestone! Bladestone! Drintag Bladestoooonnneee!" Teran swung his sling and let fly, the stone striking a rat on the footpaw. He fell, and the others who had been behind him tumbled over. Derla put aside the otterbabe and got out a sling. The pair loaded and slung stones until the vermin were almost upon them. Loading a final stone into their slings, they hurled themselves into the enemy, outnumbering 25 to 1. They stood back to back, fighting desperately. The babe watched as the vermin parted and made way for the fox, who bounded in. Swinging his blade, the otterbabe watched as he confronted the two exhausted otters.

He said, "Give up riverdogs?" Teran groaned in pain, eyes filled with hatred.

He shouted, "Never! We will fight to the last!" Drintag Bladestone shrugged and turned around. Suddenly spinning around, he ran Teran through. Derla screamed and got up, teeth bared.

"Die fox! You killed Teran, now I will kill you!" She jumped at Drintag. The orange fox side stepped and watched Derla fall to the ground. Before she could get up, he stabbed her in the back, twice. Derla went limp and lay still. The babe started wailing, and Drintag pointed to the bundle.

"Knock that babe out before it gives me a headache." A stoat walked over and crouched down. The babe stared at him with tear stained eyes.

The stoat poked the babe's cheek and said, "Huh, yore lucky Drintag ain't killin' ye. Very lucky indeed!" The babe growled and bit the stoat's paw. Hard. The stoat screeched in pain.

"Youch! Owwowow!"

"Ouch! Get Naldin off me afore he bites me flippin' paw off!" Naldin woke up to find himself biting Hunto's paw, and he released immediately. Hunto massaged his injured limb.

"You must've had a bloomin' horrible dream, biting me like that, wot!"

Naldin apologised, "Sorry Hunto, it was a bad dream." Pain filled his eyes. Skipper and Dayl hovered around.

"Are ye alright matey?" Skipper Romarc asked. Naldin nodded.

"I'm fine thanks." Hunto, Skipper and Dayl left, walking back to Great Hall. Moonwind looked at Naldin.

"What was that about, mate?" Naldin shook his head, his eyes returning back to the deep brown colour.

"Oh nothing mate. Just a bad dream."

Chapter Five

Varlidass prowled around the camp, making sure that all was well. His horde did not dare to look him in the eye; they were too fearful about what would happened, and knew his moods. Varlidass strolled to where Hyton was strung up by his paws, on the thick limb of a beech. The bankvole was unconscious and was covered everywhere in cuts and wounds. His eyes were crusted with dry blood from a head wound. Varlidass beckoned to a fox who had been guarding him.

"Sharg, get a bowl of cold water and bring it to me." Sharg soon came back with the water. Varlidass signalled to him to throw the water over the bankvole. Whoosh! Hyton came to, coughing and spluttering.

Varlidass asked, "I'll wager you still aren't going to tell me how many Redwallers there are. Am I right?" Hyton glared at Varlidass with hot fevered eyes but kept silent. Varlidass continued. "I knew it. Well, I have a way to let them know I am here. A plan that includes you." Hyton stared at him through half closed eyes. "Oh yes. In the end, all of your friends in the Abbey will be dead. Slain, and I'll be the new ruler of all Mossflower. Aye, and those still left alive, will be my slaves, licking the dust of the floor and polishing my guards weapons. I can see that you are staring at me, hatred and pain in yore eyes. Yore hatred will not go away, but yore pain will. Soon, after I am done with you. Every creature dwelling here in these parts, will fear me and know my name. Varlidass Bloodheart! After I have conquered this Abbey, I will capture the woodlanders who are still here and they will be added to my slaves. They will know my strength and serve me." He turned to Sharg. "Give the bankvole another ten strokes. The sight of him hurts my eyes." He walked back to his tent, laying out his plans. He called his second in command, a black ferret called Zandor. Zandor wad deadly with a mace and chain. He padded into the tent and saluted.

"Ye wanted to see me, Lord?" Varlidass nodded and sat.

"Yes. I want you to organise a score of our warriors, and scout out Mossflower. Gather as many recruits as you can. Bring them back here. I will not test them, because I need as many as I can get. Tell them that you serve the mighty Varlidass Bloodheart, that if they serve me they will get great rewards, and if they do not want to be part of my horde, kill them. If they have families, all the better. Threaten that you will kill their wives and children, the youngest first. Keep killing them until they serve me. I trust you, Zandor."

Zandor bowed and said, "I only live to serve you, Lord. I will not fail you!" The black ferret left.

Naldin kept repeating the name over and over again in his head. Drintag Bladestone, Drintag Bladestone. He picked at his food. Moonwind noticed this.

"Naldin, what's wrong?" Naldin forced himself to take a bite out of a pastie.

"Nothin' mate. I think I'll go to bed early. I'm tired." He got up.

"Alright matey. We'll see ye in the mornin' then." Naldin nodded and faked a yawn. Moonwind turned to Ferna, whispering.

"I don't like this, somethin' is bothering Naldin." The squirrelmaid nodded.

"I know, but it might be private Moonwind. Leave him be."

"Alright, but I can't help noticing his mood. I hope he's better in the morning." Dayl and Juvern were trying their best to keep control of their mirth as they watched a squirrelbabe and a molebabe putting a full ladle of hotroot into Skipper's already spicy shrimp and hotroot soup when he was talking to Pirrel. They giggled a bit and poked Skipper until he turned around.

"What, ho, its Trenn the squirrelbabe and Mogger the molebabe. Yes, liddle mateys?" Trenn giggled and pointed to the soup.

Mogger said, "Burr, your zoop be's a-growin' cold jus' sittin' there, zurr. You'm had better eat et h'all oop!" Skipper grabbed a spoon and started eating it. He slowed down.

"Did somebeast put more hotroot in my soup?" He scowled at the babes. They put on an innocent face.

Trenn said, "We didn't Skippa, honest!"

"Yurr, we wudd have told 'ee if'n we did, zurr. Us'ns never lie!" Skipper drank a tankard of October Ale in one gulp.

"Whew, its spicy! Pour me more of that October Ale, will ye Pirrel." The hedgehog obliged just as Grentail and Trumlin struck up a song about the soup, and soon everybeast was joining in by clapping their paws.

"Hotroot, hotroot, hotroot soup,
It'll make yore rudder curl in a loop,
It's got flavour and it's got spice,
We eat it once then we eat it twice!
Me grandma and grandpa were very old,
They had thick blankets but still got cold,
Then one day me cousin came and said,
They shouldn't be lyin' so long in bed!
He made a great big pot of boilin' soup,
This one had lots of spicy hotroot,
With shrimp and radish, wild ransom too,
They ate it and jumped out with a shout and a boo,
And now, since then to this very day,
They are very wise and they just say,
"Eat hotroot soup and grow big'n'strong,
You'll live for a few more seasons long,
On just good ole hotroot soup!"

There was applause by the Redwallers as they finished their meal. But soon, the peace would be shattered and made into war.

Chapter Six

Varlidass was still awake at midnight. He decided he would put his plan into action. Drawing his sabre, he walked outside to where Hyton was tied. The bankvole was once again unconscious, licking his dry lips in his nightmares. Varlidass grabbed a whip from one of the guards and woke the bankvole with a few whacks.

Hyton lifted his head and said hoarsely, "Water... must..have..water." Varlidass chuckled wickedly. Hyton sensed something bad was about to happen.

Varlidass whispered in his ear, "Oh, don't worry about that, friend. After this, you won't be needing water any more, for the rest of yore short life..." The weasel quickly gagged Hyton with a piece of cloth and raised the whip, striking the bankvole.

Naldin woke before dawn; he changed into his habit and slipped on his sandals. He crept around, seeing if anybeast was awake. He walked down to Martin's tapestry. He stared at the warrior mouse, wanting to be like him. Strong, firm, but yet kindly.

He spoke, "Oh Martin, I wish I was like you, strong and brave. I know I never will be, but who knows? Drintag Bladestone is still out there, killing many others. Among them were my parents, my family. I only remember having an older brother, who was killed before my eyes, like my parents. I want to avenge their deaths, but I'm no warrior. Even if I was, where would Drintag be? He could be anywhere." Naldin stood and admired the sword. A figure appeared before him, one he recognised as Martin the Warrior. Naldin turned to face him.

Martin said, "Don't fight for revenge, fight for justice Naldin. Inside you, you are a true warrior, but you just haven't proved it to yourself. Your father was a champion slinger, just like you are now. Come with me, Naldin." Naldin followed Martin in a trance; across the lawn and orchard, up to the west battlements. Martin pointed with his sword down on to the path.

"Look there, Naldin, and get the others. Remember, I will always be by your side. Now go, tell them." He disappeared and Naldin snapped his eyes open. He looked to where Martin pointed; and gasped. A bundle lay on the path, hooded and covered with a cloak. Naldin raced down the steps and didn't stop running until he burst into Skipper's room.

Speaking breathlessly, he said, "Skip, there's a bundle on the path outside the main gate!" Skipper got out and carried his javelin.

He said, "Get Dayl, Juvern, Abbess Rosie and Brother Sholler. It might be an injured beast. Bring them to the main gate. Go!" Naldin raced off to do his errand. Skipper ran and unbarred the main gate. On seeing the bundle, he ran to it and knelt down. Slowly, he uncovered the cloak and gasped in shock. He sat there, trembling slightly, staring at the gruesome body of Hyton. The bankvole had been flogged many times, and blood was all over the cloak. It was also wet, from the water that had been thrown over Hyton. There were huge wounds on mainly his chest, some teeth were broken and him gums were bleeding. His eyes had been punched repeatedly, so they were black and blue. On his back were sword wounds, deep cuts from the sabre. His arm was twisted in an unnatural angle, broken by Varlidass. A huge wound, running down from the top of his leg down to his knee, was crusted with dry blood. There was a cut from his left ear to his jaw. The rest arrived and stopped, staring at the scene before them. Dayl quickly turned Naldin away, lest he saw the mangled remains. Hyton was barely identifiable as a bankvole.

Abbess Rosie gasped, "Who would do such a thing?" Skipper looked up, a tear running down his cheek.

He whispered, "Remember Grollen's cousin, Hyton? This is him. Always such a nice bankvole, he didn't have to go this way. Grollen will be heartbroken. Who will tell him the news?"

Dayl said, "I will Skip." He shook his head sadly. "Cover him and bring him inside. We don't want anybeast to catch us out here." They walked slowly, carrying the bundle. It was past dawn now, and most of the elders were awake. They rushed towards the group and tried to catch a glimpse of the covered bundle they were carrying.

"Wots in there, matey?" Pirrel asked Skipper.

Skipper answered, "You'll see soon enough mate. 'Tis gruesome. I have a feeling in my rudder that evil will soon approach Redwall." They carried Hyton into the gatehouse, away from curious eyes. Grollen was in there, tidying up the shelves and table.

"Oh hello. What's that you're carrying? Why the mournful faces?" At a nod from Skipper, Dayl took a deep breath.

"Okay Grollen. I need to talk to you outside. Just you an' me." Grollen looked puzzled but followed the otter. Skipper shut the door and uncovered the body. They all flinched when they saw Hyton again. Pirrel at once recognised the dead bankvole.

He broke down sobbing, "No, no, no, its not true, Hyton, please don't be dead! My poor friend!" The big hedgehog shook with grief and sorrow. Skipper suddenly spotted a bit of parchment which had rolled out from his sleeve. Skipper picked it up and scanned the message.

Juvern said, "What's that you got, mate?"

Skipper growled, " A letter from a vermin." He read it aloud.

To the Redwallers,

I am Varlidass Bloodheart, terror of the Northlands. My horde and I have come to Mossflower to rule Redwall Abbey. Here are the conditions:

You must surrender and leave with yore belongings, beside your food and water. You will go some place else to live, for Redwall will be my fortress. You will go unarmed, and won't be harmed. If you don't surrender, we will cause war on you. You don't have any warriors, but I have a fighting horde, which will terrify you. We will overrun you and kill you, or make you our slaves. Those who defy me and are disobedient, will die a slower and more painful death you could possibly imagine, like this bankvole. We will meet tomorrow morning, under a flag of truce. We will parley and you will give me your answer.

The future Ruler of Mossflower,

Varlidass Bloodheart.

Chapter Seven

Skipper growled, "Vermin! I just knew it!" He threw the parchment on the ground and crushed it with his footpaw.

Brother Sholler said, "There's naught to do with Hyton but clean these horrific wounds and bury him."

Abbess Rosie said, "There's going to be a war again. What are we going to do?"

Juvern said, "Get help, of course! There's always the Guosim and Holt Rivergale, plus other shrews and otters I'm sure. D'you know any other allies Skip?" The big otter thought for a minute, then answered.

"Well, it really depends how many is in that horde. But we could always do with extra help. There's a squirrel and hedgehog colony somewhere around, I know 'cause I've visited them many times on my travels. With yore permission, Mother Abbess, is it alright after the parley that I gather help around Mossflower? I'm sure anybeast will be willin' to help, knowing Redwall." Abbess Rosie nodded.

"Permission granted Skip." They walked outside and was met by Dayl. The otter glanced at Grollen on the Abbey steps.

"Pore thing, he's cryin' his heart out," he said.

Juvern said, "I reckon we should have a Council o' War. We need to be ready for the vermin. Gather all the able bodied beasts, and get them in Cavern Hole. Somebeast tell Friar Nirpol to bring out some brekkist, too. I'm famished!" Hunto suddenly popped out of nowhere and startled the ferret.

"Well, at least I'm not the only beast who's hungry around here! What's this Council of War thing, wot?"

Skipper said, "You'll find out soon enough matey."

Varlidass paced around impatiently for the recruits which he had told Zandor to gather. He waited until midday, when Zandor came into camp with five of the score which had been sent with him.

Varlidass greeted him harshly, "Where's the rest and the recruits, ferret?" Zandor waved a paw airily.

"We stumbled upon another horde, of about sixscore well trained fighters. They were lead by Drintag Bladestone, a fox. I told them that I was from yore horde, and that we were going to conquer Redwall. He has the fifteen others and wants to see you, Lord."

Varlidass grinned, "Drintag Bladestone, my best friend from my younger days! How nice! He will help, I'm sure o' that! I will come. Stay here and make sure there are no mutinous creatures or talking behind my back. Where is he camped?"

"Just southwest of here, Lord." The weasel buckled his sabre on and donned his best cloak. He started walking and went southwest for about ten minutes when he reached the camp. He stepped in and suddenly everything was quiet.

A rat brandished a sword and said fiercely, "Who are ye and what do you want with us?"

The weasel's paw strayed to his sabre as he snarled dangerously, "You are brave to challenge Varlidass Bloodheart. Where is Drintag, my old friend?" A fox came out of a tent and waved to Varlidass.

"Varlidass, is that really you, my friend? Blide, be about yore business. Where have you been, you baggedy weasel, eh?" Varlidass made his way over to Drintag, pushing Blide the rat.

"Drintag! Well well, you haven't changed much from the old days, eh?" Drintag let Varlidass into his tent. He gestured for him to sit down.

"Neither have you, Varlidass. We used to be under ole Wasgar Swordcross. Ah, memories. Now, you were going to conquer Redwall? Well, we're joining you, mate! We'll lead the horde together, eh? When are ye gonna parley wid them?"

Varlidass replied, "Tomorrow morn. I wanted recruits, but now I don't need any. As you said, we'll lead together. We have stronger and wiser plans then. We'll sweep those Redwallers out. They'd be pretty stupid to cross blades with the mighty Varlidass Bloodheart and the great Drintag Bladestone! We'll discuss more tonight. Come on Drintag!"

Drintag went outside and shouted, "My warriors, we are going to join Varlidass and his horde in conquering Redwall Abbey. When we do, we will get treasure! Are you with me?"

"Yes Chief!" A roar answered him.

"March on, my fighters!"

Chapter Eight

The elders and able bodied creatures assembled in Cavern Hole, food on the table with drink.

Skipper yelled above the noise, "Silence! Is everybeast here? Good. Now, let us begin. Today at dawn, young Naldin spotted a bundle on the road. It was Hyton, dead with wounds." There was a shocked silence "Yes. With him was a note." He signaled to Dayl. Dayl read the note to the horrified Redwallers. When he had finished, there was some sobbing.

Juvern said, "There is no need for concern. We have fought many warlords off, none have succeeded yet. Please, do not gossip about this to anybeast but amongst yourselves. Tomorrow is our meeting day."

Grentail shouted, "I'm not surrenderin' this Abbey to some vermin warlord! If'n they wants war, by the gates of Hellfire we'll give 'em war! Who's with me?" Angry shouts and protests answered her until Skipper thumped his paw down on the table.

"Quiet! It won't help if we keep this screaming and shouting up. Of course we aren't surrenderin'. I would rather go out fighting to the death than surrenderin' like some coward! Now, tomorrow by dawn, we must be ready. We don't want any elders or Dibbuns up on the walltop. Only the able bodied creatures will be up on the battlements, slings, spears and bows ready in case the vermin want to try a charge. Hopefully they won't. I want everybeast practising throwin' and slinging. Make sure tomorrow that yore quivers are full, pouches full of stones and plenty of spears and javelins. Got that?" There were nods from everybeast.

The silence was broken by Hunto saying, "Can we eat? I'm bally famished!" There was laughing as they started piling their plates. Skipper sighed. He hoped that Varlidass wasn't strong and that the peace wouldn't be destroyed. Otherwise, what would happen to the Abbey?

The rest of the day went like a lightning flash. Drintag's horde had settled in fine. Drintag and Varlidass were sitting in the weasel's tent, planning.

Varlidass said, "Right. How many do we have in our horde now?"

Drintag said, "Three hundred an' twenty, Varlidass. Should scare the Redwallers a bit, eh?"

Varlidass chuckled, "Yes. I know they have a lot of allies around Mossflower, though. Shrews, otters, squirrels and hedgehogs. Got any ideas?"

The fox pondered and said, "How about, when we go to parley, set aside about a score. Keep 'em hidden in the trees, out o' sight. If the Redwallers don't surrender, we get the score to sneak in somewhere and capture one. Then we could parley again and make a ransom, eh?"

"Good plan Drintag. I know they have wallgates, I spotted some. They could sneak in by the west one and kidnap a Redwaller. It would be better if it was one of their young ones."

"Yes. Though the Redwallers would be thinking that we might mount an attack on them. Remember, its under a flag of truce. No weapons. We could always hide them, though."

"Aye. I think we should parley about dawn, mabbe a bit later. When we have our prisoner, we'll parley probably tomorrow evenin'. D'you think the Redwallers will try to attack?"

"Nah, they'll stick to the rules. Though we should be ready for it in case they do, though they'll only attack from the walltops." Varlidass got up.

"I think I might go out for some fresh air. Seems quiet out there, eh?"

Drintag laughed, "Of course mate. They're probably sleepin'. Time for me to sleep too. Oh well, g'night, wake me up!" Varlidass shook his head at his best friend and strode outside. Just as Drintag said, everybeast was asleep, save for the sentries. Varlidass sat down by the fire, laying out his blade and admiring it. Just across the camp, the rat Blide, who had threatened Varlidass, peered at the weasel through half closed eyes, anger and hatred radiating from him.

"I'll get yer fer dat, weasel, don't think yore so good'n'nice. Oh no, one night I'll stick a blade 'twixt yer ribs, ye have me oath on that!"

Chapter Nine

Before long it was dawn, birds chirruping their short tunes. The Abbey dwellers stood at the ramparts, slings loaded and shafts notched to their bows, spears and javelins gripped tightly in one paw. Those who were nervous shuffled around and whispered to their companions. Skipper went around to each one, speaking advice and encouragement. Soon they sighted a dust cloud on the path, and held their silence, waiting to see the enemy. Varlidass and Drintag halted the horde and stepped forward, unarmed. There were a few more moments of silence.

Skipper shouted, "I hear you've come to fight for this Abbey, vermin. Now, which one is Varlidass Bloodheart?"

Varlidass stepped forward and said, "I am. We will not parley with you until you let go of those slings and spears you've got." The Redwallers had no choice but to carefully put down their weapons.

Varlidass continued, "I hope you have read my terms and conditions riverdog. So, are you ready to give me yore answer?" There was a hush. Nothing could be heard, except for the birds.

Skipper took a deep breath and roared out, "We will never surrender! Many have tried to conquer this Abbey, but none have succeeded! What makes you think you can, eh?"

Varlidass sweeped a paw over the horde, saying calmly, "Each and every fighter here is worth two of yore stupid woodlanders. There for that would make us stronger. If you do surrender, remember you will be unharmed. Your loved ones would be safe. Are you sure you won't surrender?"

Dayl interrupted, "We have answered you once, weasel, we aren't going to surrender!" Nobeast noticed the group of vermin sneak off towards the west wallgate, hidden by the shadows of the trees. Naldin had been staring at the fox. Something in his brain told him he had seen the fox before, but where?

Skipper yelled, "Be off with you before we try to attack you!" Drintag stepped forward, sneering.

"But you can't, because we are under a flag of truce. And we are unarmed, so stow those silly ideas of yores into that thing you call a brain." Skipper was boiling with rage, but just managed to control himself from flinging himself from the walltops.

"And pray, who are you to tell me what to do?"

Drintag said, "I am Drintag Bladestone." Naldin clenched in paws and shoved his way through.

Without thinking, he shouted, "You were the one who killed my parents! I swear I will kill you before this war is over!"

Drintag retorted, "So you think you could kill me, riverdog? Well, you are incredibly stupid and reckless. I would make crowmeat out of you before you raised a paw to struck me! We will kill all of you and torture you before you die!"

Juvern said, "Enough of this ceaseless prattle! Be off with you vermin!" Varlidass and Drintag marched back and they turned around. The horde marched back to the camp without another word. Skipper assigned sentries on the walltops. The rest walked down into the orchard.

Skipper asked Naldin, "How did you know the fox?"

Naldin sighed and said, "I think its time for me to uncover the truth." He explained his parents' death, about his dream, about his past. When he had finished, everybeast felt sorry for the young otter. Most went to have breakfast. Moonwind, Naldin and Ferna walked around, talking.

Naldin said angrily, "He'll pay for my parents' death. I won't stop until he is dead!"

Ferna shook her head, saying, "He looked a lot stronger than you Naldin. What if we lost this war?"

Moonwind said, "Don't say that, Ferna. We won't lose this war. Dad and Skip have fought many battles before, and so has Juvern. They are experienced." Naldin and Ferna sat down under a pear tree, but Moonwind remained standing up.

He said, "I think I'll just take a stroll around the Abbey. I need to think for awhile. I'll meet you at breakfast, okay?" His two friends nodded. Moonwind walked slowly around the Abbey, taking in the scent of flowers, the sight of trees, the pond with the grayling. What if they lost the war? What would happen? Everything would be destroyed, his home in pieces. He was determined not to let that happen. He sat down against the trunk of a beech tree, sighing.

Chapter Ten

The leader of the capture group, a brawny stoat called Bucknose, stood at the west wallgate. They stood aside as a skinny rat called Frumptail went to work with his small dagger, trying to unbolt the wallgate. He gave a small cry of triumph as the wallgate swung slightly open. Bucknose peeked through the hole and was relieved to find that nobeast was there. Opening the wallgate more, he crept in with some of the soldiers, peering around cautiously. Bucknose sighted a young otter, sitting against a tree. Checking to see nobeast could see him, he sneaked up to the otter and quickly dealt a blow to his head. The otter slunped forward, a sign that he was unconscious. Bucknose quickly dragged him out and closed the wallgate. Quickly binding his paws and footpaws, they put him in a sack and carried him away back to the camp.

They arrived and Bucknose went to his master's tent.

He bowed and said, "Lord, we have successfully captured Redwaller. Would yew like t'see 'im?" Varlidass and Drintag got up and patted the stoat on the back.

"Lead us to him, will ye," Drintag said. Bucknose showed him where Moonwind sat unconscious, bind to an oak, next to a hare who had a several cuts on his face and arms. Varlidass grinned evilly at Drintag; soon the Abbey would be theirs.

Naldin and Ferna did not see their friend at the breakfast table, but they didn't worry too much, think that Moonwind was still walking around the Abbey. They did not show concern until midday, when Brendila and Melba were looking frantically looking around.

Brendila asked, "Do you know where Moonwind is? I haven't seen him since you told us about yore parents!"

Ferna replied, "Sorry marm. Last time we saw him was after that. He said he'd take a walk around the Abbey. We haven't seem him either."

Melba said, "Ooh, wait until I get my paws on that young rascal. We've searched everywhere!"

Naldin inquired, "Have you checked the pond?"

Brendila said, "No, he's never in the pond without company. Tell Skipper, Dayl and Juvern. Go!" The pair ran off, and when everyone knew that Moonwind was missing, they joined the search for the young otter.

By mid afternoon everybeast had nearly given up, convinced that Moonwind was not in the Abbey.

Skipper said, "I wonder where he is. He wouldn't have gone out the Abbey without telling us, and besides, he knows wot sort of dangers are lurking out there!" Brendila was struck with a sudden thought.

"What if he's been captured by Varlidass and Drintag?" Dayl shook his head.

"I don't think so, but we'll have to wait an' see if there vermin turn up. They might want a ransom, or worse, if they did have Moonwind, they might..." He shuddered.

Melba said, "Don't think about that. Hopefully Moonwind will turn up soon." They sat silenced, emersed in their own thoughts.

Moonwind woke up to a throbbing headache. He tried to move his paws, but found that his arms were pinned tight to his body. He glanced sideways. A strong looking hare was chained next to him, unconscious. He had a red tunic on with breast pockets and silver buttons, with a gold trimming at the bottom and the collar. Around his waist was a brown belt. He had brown fur, speckled with dots of a slightly lighter brown. There were cuts on his face and he had a head wound, dried blood around it. Moonwind took in his surroundings. He realized he was in the vermin camp, stuck with Varlidass, Drintag and a hare prisoner. Moonwind groaned as he moved, his head sore from the blow. Suddenly the hare woke up, blinking as the sunlight filled his vision. He saw Moonwind staring at him and winked.

"Och, sae now yore captured too. Sae, Ah might as weel introduce mahself. Ah'm Satius Malicton, from the Northlands like these wee vermin laddies. Who are ye, me bold bucko?" Moonwind took an immediate liking to the hare.

He replied courteously, "I'm Moonwind from Redwall Abbey. Are you a warrior, sir?"

Satius replied dreamily, "Ah, Redwall Abbey. Ah was goin' t'go there, but before Ah could Ah got captured. Yes, Ah'm a warrior, does it no' look like it?"

Moonwind said, "Oh yes, you look every inch like a warrior, sir. How long have you been in the camp?"

"Call me Satius, Moonwind. Ah lived with mah family an' friends in the Northlands. It was noon, an' Ah was oot gettin' some wood. I dinnae realize that Varlidass had sent a scoutin' party o' a score oot. When Ah got back, everythin' was gone. They had killed mah family an' friends. Ah could see 'em watchin' me. Ah saw the black ferret, an' straight awa' Ah knew he was the leader. I can still remember his name, Zandor, as Ah recall it. Ah swore I would avenge mah mates, and Ah've been followin' them all along until they caught me. Ah dinnae realize Ah was here until they knocked me oot cold. Huh, when Ah woke up Zandor decided to play with me, sae Ah tripped him up, taught 'im a lesson, ye ken. That black vermin will pay. Aye, Ah'll git that wee blighter back, Ah'll bide me time. Ah can wait!" The fierce light in Satius's eyes made Moonwind look away.

He asked, "What do you think they'll do with us, mate?"

Satius shrugged and said, "Ah don't know, mebbe kill us, ye ken. Don't ye worry, we'll git oot o' 'ere somehow!"

Chapter Eleven

Everybeast had given up hope that Moonwind was still in the Abbey, but they continued searching half heartedly until late afternoon. Felia and Skipper flopped down next to Brendila, Dayl, Juvern and Abbess Rosie, who were sitting by the pond. Hunto came up and sat with them as well, a purloined turnover in his paws. Skipper was too sad and frustrated to chide and scold him.

Hunto nibbled on his turnover and commented, "Its a fine day, isn't it, wot? Wish those vermin cads would just pack their flippin' bags and scoot off! The sun in the sky, not a bloomin' cloud, perfect weather, destroyed by the arrival of some blinkin' vermin. 'll teach 'em to ruin a beautiful day like this, wot!"

Dayl said, "Aye, mate, an' I wish I could find my Moonwind too. If he was captured, how? How did they get into this Abbey? How?" He threw a pebble on to the water with some force, splashing droplets on everyone.

Abbess Rosie said, "Mayhaps the vermin will come again. D'you think they'll attack sometime today or tonight?"

Juvern replied, "Probably, though they could always change their minds. I hope they aren't too strong." For a while there was no conversation, just silence, as each creature thought the same thing. Who would win in the end?

Satius and Moonwind had fallen asleep, and were shaken roughly by a rat.

He snarled, "Get up, yew two, or I'll flail yer alive!" The two prisoners were prodded and marched until they were outside the Abbey gates. They watched as some sentries ran down from the battlements to warn the Redwallers, and soon Moonwind saw his father and mother, Skipper, Juvern and Abbess Rosie on the walltops. Skipper's ottercrew, Pirrel and some squirrels and mice were standing with them. At once Dayl saw his son.

He roared, "What do you want? Don't harm a single hair on my son, or you'll die slowly!"

Drintag chuckled, "Yore son will die if you do not surrender now. Surrender, and remember you will go free and unharmed. This is yore last chance."

Skipper growled, his voice rising to a bellow, "We have told you our answer many times, fox, we are not surrenderin'! If you do not go, we will kill you all!"

Varlidass said, "You have just signed yore death sentence, riverdog. No, we aren't surrendering. This is war! Yer heard me, war! Now watch wot happens to yore son, riverdog, when you disagree with me!" Varlidass raised a wooden club and brought the club down hard on Moonwind's head. Moonwind slumped forward, his head drooping, a huge wound with blood on the back of his head. Dayl was blinded with hot tears and helpless rage as he watched his son being carried off. Varlidass and Drintag motioned for the horde to retreat back to camp. Dayl rushed down from the battlements and buckled Martin's sword on, and dashed out by the west wallgate before anybeast realized he was gone. He ran and ran, ripping through Mossflower to find Varlidass, not knowing where he was going.

The wallgate swung shut by a sudden breeze. A mousebabe and a hogbabe sat near the gate, playing. They had seen Dayl rush out, but continued playing, unaware of the things that had just taken place.

The mousebabe said, "I 'ungry and firsty. I wanna go to strawbee patch an' make some strawbee fizz!"

The hogbabe said, "Okay, better not let anybody see, or we get send straight up to bed for stealing strawbees and eating!" They started toddling towards the strawberry patch when they were suddenly swept up in Felia's paws. They stared at her and looked at Juvern, Skipper, Brendila and Abbess Rosie, who were standing behind the old otterwife.

Felia asked, "Where are you two off to, my little buttons?"

The mousebabe said, "Want some strawbee fizz! We 'ungry and firsty." Felia started walking back to the Abbey.

"I'll come with you and ask Friar Nirpol if he has any strawberry fizz and candied chestnuts left. How would you like that, eh?" Juvern turned to Skipper, concern stamped clearly on his troubled face.

"I wonder where Dayl is. I noticed Martin's Sword missing from Great Hall. D'you think...?" Abbess Rosie walked over to the wallgate, and pulled it gently. It swung open easily. Brendila immediately spotted the tracks which Dayl had left. She rushed over and examined them for a few seconds, then stood up, glancing worriedly at the woodlands.

"I think he might have gone out and tried to track down Varlidass. We've got to find him fast!"

Abbess Rosie said, "But how? He could've gone anywhere!" Brendila walked back quickly to the Abbey.

"We follow the tracks o' course. Who's with me?" Skipper followed with Juvern.

Juvern said, "We're comin', matey. Skipper, go get some o' yore crew, Foremole Munjil and Brother Sholler. Tell them to get some light weapons and Brother Sholler to get some bandages and herbs. Dayl might have broken a bone or two. I'll get some provisions. Meet at the wallgate." Skipper nodded and ran off. Juvern hurried to the kitchens and packed some travelling food into a haversack, plus some drinks. He was about to go out when Hunto came in, and the hare saw the bag Juvern was carrying.

He said, "Stealing some vittles, are ye? What's the bloomin' rush?"

Juvern explained briefly, "Dayl's gone missin', we're goin' out to search for him."

Hunto said excitedly, "Oh, good, I'm comin' too! Never missed an exciting adventure, wot!" Juvern met his friends at the wallgate, scimitar in his scabbard. Brendila had her twin swords, Skipper a javelin, Hunto a sling and Foremole a sling. They set out, tracking the Abbey Warrior before he injured himself. Or worse.

Chapter Twelve

Dayl ran forwards, tearing through the bushes and shrubs blocking his way as he continued to blindly crash through Mossflower. All he saw was a red mist in his vision. Dayl hadn't brought any food or drink with him, forgetting all else as his mind set itself on one goal; to find Varlidass and kill him. He rushed onwards until he was stopped by a protruding tree root, tripping over it. He fell and thudded to the ground, gasping for breath. He lay in the dust for a couple of minutes, regaining his breath. He closed his eyes and sighed deeply, feeling a tear threatening to drop from his closed eyelid.

"Hey Snubtail, lookit wot we found! It's a riverdog! I've never tasted one before!" Dayl snapped his eyes open and found himself surrounded by ten vermin. He got up and drew his sword, looking at each one before speaking.

"Who are ye and what do you want with me? Speak up!" A lean fox drew a crude sword and snarled nastily.

"Don't talk to us like dat, riverdog. I am Mezzar, and this is my gang. You are in our territory, riverdog, and yew must pay for dat!" He held his free paw out. "Hand me da sword an' yew go free. Deal?"

Dayl growled, "Never! Mossflower never belonged to anybeast! Redwaaaaallll!" He charged, swinging his sword in an downwards slash.

Mezzar dodged and shouted, "Kill him! Kill da riverdog!" They surrounded him and slashed at him, trying to do their leader's order. Mezzar was jumping around outside the circle, wondering when the otter would die. Dayl could not block all the blows at once; many cut him and wounded him badly. He felt his energy surge up and he turned ferociously on a rat, blocking the thrust aimed at him and ran the rat through. He turned on the rest and bared his teeth, going after them. They saw their friend lying slain on the ground and ran off, determined not to let the berserk otter get them. Dayl collapsed, gripping the sword tightly. He had horrific wounds, huge gashes on his back, chest and face. Dayl put a paw on his chest, feeling warm sticky blood come away. Weak, he tried to push himself upright, but his arms failed him, giving way. He fell back down and entered a world of darkness.

Moonwind saw nothing but blackness in his mind. Martin's figure slowly appeared, and spoke.

"Moonwind. Live, Moonwind. Be strong, my young warrior. Live." Martin disappeared and Moonwind heard someone calling his name in some distant land.

"Moonwind! Moonwind!" The young otter woke up, his head one throbbing mass. He sat up and Satius was sitting next to him, a worried expression on his face. Moonwind groaned in pain as he instinctively put a paw to the back of his head. Satius restrained him and picked up a bowl of water, pouring a bit into Moonwind's mouth. Moonwind realized everybeast was sleeping.

Satius whispered, "Och, I was sae worried that ye might no' have made it. How's yer head?"

Moonwind said, "Bad, matey. Where'd ye get the water from?"

Satius replied, "Our rations. Ah saved some, and managed tae find some herbs around 'ere. We're goin' tae escape tonight, bucko. I managed tae get one o' the guard's daggers, ye ken." He produced a delicate knife with a fancy hilt. "Aye. If yon vermin are goin' tae attack the Abbey, Ah reckoned we might get some help. How does that sound?" Moonwind lay back. The sky was beginning to darken already.

"Good mate. Should we escape now, since everybeast is sleeping?" Satius glanced around. There were sentries, but they were snoring blissfully, tankards of grog in their grubby paws. He turned back and nodded. He sliced the rope holding him to the tree, and after rubbing some life back into his limbs, he cut Moonwind free. He steadied Moonwind as the otter nearly fell over one of the vermin.

Moonwind turned suddenly and whispered, "Should we steal some weapons?" Satius gave Moonwind the dagger and he crept over to a sleeping stoat, who was gripping a claymore. Satius gently prised open the stoat's paw and took the claymore, fondling it.

He said, "They took mah claymore. Now Ah'll take it back, thankee." Moonwind went over to a ferret and carefully slid a rapier from his scabbard, tip-toeing back to Satius.

Satius glanced at Moonwind and said, "Don't swing that thing around. Ah hope they don't hear us." They crept quietly towards the edge, not daring to breathe. They were nearly out of the camp when suddenly the stoat rolled over in his slumber and by accident put his paw on one of the burning sticks in the fire.

"Yowch!" In an instant the camp was lively.

Varlidass and Drintag stumbled out of their tents as a guard shouted, "The prisoners are escapin'!"

Varlidass bellowed, "Cummon, they're only a couple o' prisoners, get 'em! Hurry up, you clotplodded fools!" Vermin started getting up from their interrupted slumber and gave chase.

Satius pulled Moonwind and said, "Better get a move on, Moonwind. Hurry!" They stumbled through the undergrowth as they heard vermin shouts and the pounding of paws getting louder. Satius tripped and fell. Moonwind stopped just as a score of vermin were nearly upon them.

Satius yelled, "Run for it, laddie! Go, Moonwind! Leave me and Ah'll hold 'em off!"

Moonwind pulled his friend up and said, "I'm not leavin' yore side Satius. Too late, get ready mate! Redwaaaallll!"

"Come and meet this hare, vermin, and Ah'll give ye somethin' tae weep about! Malictoooonnnn!" The stood back to back, surrounded by sneering faces and threatening blades. They were nearly overwhelmed when another warcry filled the air.

"Rivergaaaallllleeee! We're comin' mates! Rivergaaalllleee!" Otters came out from behind trees and bushes and attacked the vermin, slashing and cutting with their javelins. Several vermin departed and sped off into the night, too cowardly to face the brawny otters. Finally the last of the score was slain and Moonwind and Satius were tended to. A large sinewy otter smiled at them.

"Well, if it ain't young Moonwind! How are ye, matey? How's yer father an' mother?" Moonwind smiled back.

"Hi Windspear. I'm fine, despite these wounds. This is my friend Satius Malicton, from the Northlands. My parents are back at the Abbey. I was captured and taken prisoner with Satius and we decided to escape tonight." Windspear nodded briefly, face grim.

"Was it Varlidass Bloodheart and his scum who had ye captives?"

"Aye mate. There's another one too, by the name o' Drintag Bladestone. Heard of him?" Windspear shook his head and glanced around.

"We should be gettin' back to the holt, mates. We'll tend to yore wounds there and hear stories too. Don't want more reinforcements from their camp. Come along then. You can have a nice supper o' shrimp'n'hotroot soup, eh?"

Satius looked puzzled and asked, "By mah blade, what's shrimp an' hotroot soup?" Windspear winked at him.

"If'n ye don't know, you'll have a nice surprise mate!"

Chapter Thirteen

Skipper looked up at the dark sky, some stars shining brightly, others faintly.

He said, "We might have to stop until its light again, mates. We wouldn't be able to track at night. Wouldn't you agree?" Foremole Munjil nodded his head.

"Burr aye, et be's 'ard, though zurr Dayl moight be's a-lyin' out thurr in 'ee wuddlands. What do you'm say, miz Brendila?" Brendila replied firmly.

"I think we should keep goin'. Foremole's right, Dayl could be lying out there injured or unconscious, or maybe even slain. We need to find him. I say we should have somethin' to eat, then make a torch and continue searching. Agreed?" Juvern nodded.

"I'm with ye, Bren." Skipper and Foremole nodded.

Hunto immediately made for the haversack, saying, "I'll make us somethin' absoballylutely delicious, wot!" He was about to make a grab for it when Skipper held him back by holding his ears.

"No Hunto, I'll set out the food. Meanwhile, you can just sit here an' wait to get yore fair share. Alright?" Hunto stared at the ground, muttering.

"Huh, bloomin' cad, not lettin' me have somethin' nourishin', wot! Soon I'll die of hunger, then you'll be sorry!"

Skipper leaned towards Hunto, squinching one eye and saying, "What was that, Hunto? Did ye say somethin'?"

Hunto mumbled, "No, no, not at all." They were each given an apple and a chunk of cheese with some water. Hunto stared mournfully at the frugal snack. "Y'mean that's it? I say, Skip is becomin' rather flippin' strict, wot! That's not enough for my young growin' body!" Everybeast had to stifle their laughter as they continued listening to the chunnering hare.

Windspear led them back to the holt's dwelling, a large cave with a small stream running next to it. It was cleverly hidden with overhanging vines and plants, as well as bushes, shrubs and small trees. They entered, and was greeted by an aroma of shrimp and hotroot soup. Families of otters welcomed Satius and Moonwind warmly, some recognizing Moonwind from his infant days. They sat down on woven rush mats and were served food. Moonwind eagerly took his bowl of shrimp and hotroot soup. Satius however, eyed it and simply stared at it, trying to make sense of this new food. There was also cold stream water and elderberry cordial, and a stew which had radish, scallions, leek, celery, potato, carrot and shrimp. Otterbabes clambered over to him and stroked him, never having seen a hare in their short lives. Satius enjoyed it immensely and didn't move an inch, lest they got frightened. Otterwives chased them away, chiding them.

"Come away now, Greet, yore meant to be asleep now! Stop bothering our guests!" Moonwind had downed a bowl of the spicy soup, and started on a bowl of stew, gulping a tankard of cordial. Satius didn't touch his soup until he was encouraged by several otters.

"Cummon mate, it ain't gonna hurt ya, though it might burn a liddle!"

"Have a go, Satius, you'll get used to it!" Finally he tried a spoonful and nearly gagged, immediately pouring a beaker of water down his throat.

"Och, ye sneaky beasts, this stuff is burnin' mah throat! Though it tastes nice. Ah think Ah might leave that an' try some stew."

Many creatures were still eating. Others lay back and listened to a song, sung by a handsome otter who had a nice baritone voice.

"When I was twenty seasons old,
I sailed away so bold,
Leavin' my ma and pa and diddly da,
I sailed away so far.
I met a scary shark,
Who gave me ship a mark,
I boffed it's eye and gave a sigh,
And then I threw a pie!
I saw a stinkin' stoat,
Who was wrestlin' with a coat,
He threw it down upon the ground,
On to a giant ant mound!
I sailed back home that day,
Vowing never to go away,
Pa nailed the door and then I saw,
Me ma who had holed the floor!"

There was applause and laughter as he bowed and returned to his seat. The babes, who were too excited to sleep, started begging for a weapon exhibition. Finally Windspear consented and stood up.

He said, "Whoever can hit the pattern on the wall in the middle wins a slice of plum and honey trifle!" Many otters lined up for a go, eager to win the food prize which they craved. None of them hit it, either with sling stones, spears or daggers.

Satius nudged Moonwind and whispered, "Not havin' a go, laddie?" Moonwind did not take his eyes of the competition as he whispered back.

"I might, if nobeast gets it soon. I wouldn't mind some trifle!" He toyed with the dagger that Satius had given him when they escaped. Windspear noticed him and came over.

"Why don't ye give it a go, Moonwind? Go on!" The young otter sighed and stood up. Some otters smirked a little, not expecting a young otter would be able to hit a target. He smiled confidently and eyed the middle of the leaf pattern, which had been carved into the wall. He drew his arm back and suddenly the dagger whipped off into the air, thudding into the wall. There was a moment of silence, then wild cheering. Moonwind was swept off his footpaws as he was lifted shoulder high and carried around the cave. After a while the excitement died down. Everybeast started to make themselves comfortable as soon as the babes were asleep. They piled wood on to the fire. Moonwind waited until there was silence, the audience gazing at him, waiting for him to relate his tale. He took a deep breath and started, telling them about his life and the things that had happened since Varlidass Bloodheart came to Mossflower.

Chapter Fourteen

The group had given up searching through the night, finding it difficult to track. They had stopped and taken shifts keeping watch, catching much needed sleep. They woke up at dawn and started searching again, eating an apple while walking. Finally, just as they gave up completely, Brendila spotted a piece of material on a branch.

She said excitedly, "Look! This must have been torn off from his tunic! Its the same colour and material!" They started walking again, fired up and convinced Dayl had gone that way. They continued walking until midday, when Hunto spotted something.

"He said, "I say you chaps, I think there's a form lyin' over there, it's not close enough to see what it is, wot!" Brendila saw it and started running towards it.

Skipper yelled, "Stop Brendila! We don't know what it is!" They chased after her. Brendila stopped and kneeled by the still form. The rest arrived breathless and stared at the wounds inflicted on Dayl. Brother Sholler started putting out herbs.

"Skipper, see if you can find any water near by and fill up a canteen. Bring it here quickly." Skipper came back in a few minutes and gave the water to Brother Sholler. The squirrel cleaned Dayl's wounds and wiped off the dry blood. He put some herbs on his wounds and bandaged them. All this time Dayl had not woken up.

Brendila asked anxiously, "Is he okay?"

Sholler said, "He's got a bad fever and these wounds. That's all. How will we get him back to the Abbey?"

Hunto waggled his ears and said, "We could make a bloomin' stretcher or just carry him, wot!"

Foremole waved a digging claw and said, "Oi says we should carry 'im. Et take too long to make 'ee stretcher, and we can't go back to 'ee Abbey."

Skipper nodded, "He's right. It would take too long to make a stretcher and we can't go back to the Abbey." They lifted Dayl and started walking back in the direction of the Abbey. A voice startled them, and they whirled around. Standing there was Mezzar and his gang.

Skipper growled, "What do you want, eh?"

Mezzar said, "Put down da riverdog. You ain't taking 'im nowheres." Skipper narrowed his eyes and turned to his friends, gripping his javelin tightly.

He whispered, "Go back to the Abbey, I'll hold 'em off." Brendila was about to object, but then saw the fierce light in Skipper's eyes. He turned to face Mezzar as the Brendila ushered them towards the Abbey, not bearing to look back as tears filled her eyes.

Mezzar yelled, "Hey, where are ya takin' da riverdog? Charge him!" They advanced towards Skipper and tried to slash at him.

Skipper shouted, "Redwaaaallll! Get Dayl away from 'ere, mates! Redwaaaallll!" He stabbed and hacked with his javelin, whirling around. A stoat stabbed him in the arm. The otter caught the sword the stoat was wielding and thrust with his javelin, killing the stoat. His paws were bleeding badly, but he took no notice, eyes fixed on the fox. Snapping his javelin in half, he charged, Bloodwrath taking over him.

"Redwall! Redwall! Redwaaaaaalllll!" He bowled over the rest as he seized Mezzar. The fox struggled and stabbed Skipper in the stomach frenziedly. The otter crushed Mezzar's back and with the last of his energy, threw Mezzar into a tree, killing him instantly. The ones who were still alive, which was only three, turned and ran for their lives. Skipper staggered to where Mezzar lay and collapsed. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes for the last time. He lay there for a few moments, shuddered, and went limp. Thus Skipper Romarc died, giving time for his friends to get away. A warrior to the last, a true friend forever.

Chapter Fifteen

The horde stood stock still, lined up in front of their leaders. They looked straight ahead, fear building up inside as Varlidass and Drintag prowled in front of them, too angry to speak. Finally, after what seemed like ten seasons, Varlidass spoke, his voice rising to a full throated roar.

"So, who were the sentries on guard? Speak up, ye mangled birdbrained clods, or I'll find out who ye are and flay ye alive!" Timidly a few paws were raised in the huge crowd.

Drintag ordered, "Line up right here, and explain to us why ye didn't see the prisoneres escapin'. Go on!" The seven sentries wordlessly lined up and stared at the ground, fervently wishing they were dreaming and sleeping. But this was real.

Varlidass strode up to the first one, a stoat, and poked him in the chest, saying, "Tell us, or I'll run ye through with this sabre! I ain't afraid to use it, ye know!"

The stoat looked straight ahead and answered in a quivering voice, "Lord..." Varlidass moved the sabre up until it was touching the stoat's neck.

"Go on!"

The stoat gulped and closed his eyes, saying, "Lord, I..I fell asleep by accident. Please don't kill me!" He fell to his knees and sobbed.

Drintag walked over and drew his own sword, shouting, "Stop this wailin' or ye won't see the end of this day!" He turned to the rest of the trembling soldiers. "I'm guessin' you all fell asleep too?" They nodded furiously. "What should we do with them, Varlidass? Kill them?"

Varlidass said slowly, "No. But they must be taught a lesson. Give them thirty strokes of the whip then sluice them in salt water. Then hang them up for a day with no food or water. That should be sufficient enough." He turned to Zandor. "Hear that Zandor?" The black ferret nodded and started to lead the unfortunate guards away. Varlidass said, "Let that be a lesson to all of ye. Dismissed." There was a huge sigh of relief from everybeast as they went back to their duties. Varlidass went into his tent, followed by Drintag.

Drintag asked, "Why did you suddenly want Redwall, eh?" Varlidass sighed.

"Remember when we were still serving Wasgar? You recall my brother, Cresuvor?" The fox nodded. "When he ran away, I followed after him, leavin' behind ol' grumpy Wasgar. Never liked that 'un. Anyways, I followed him. He gathered his own horde and tried to conquer Redwall. He brought somethin' too, somethin' very important to me. He lost it when the Redwallers defeated him. Now I'm sure they have it in their Abbey. It was a dagger, with a bronze hilt and a green emerald set in it. You would recognize it immediately, it was very unique. Now I must get it!" Drintag pressed more questions on to the weasel.

"How long ago was this?"

"A long time ago Drintag. When I was only twelve seasons old, and me brother was twenty seasons. We need a plan to get inside. Any ideas?"

Drintag said, "We can sneak up at night and unlock one of the wallgates. We need to be camouflaged, and kill the sentries one by one. Then we open the Abbey door and kill them! Easy an' simple." Varlidass nodded slowly, still taking in the plan.

"We'll go by that plan. Tonight we go."

Dayl saw Martin the Warrior in his dreams, holding his fabled sword in one strong paw and a dagger in the other. The dagger had a bronze hilt and a green emerald set in the hilt. Martin spoke in the form of a riddle.

"Do not fear for your son,
The Lord has not yet won,
Search for the thing he holds dear,
This is your first clue,
Then I'll leave the rest to you.
Look hard in the old gatehouse,
Seek the writings of recorder mouse,
Before the vole, in times of war,
The Lord's brother, Cresuvor."

Martin disappeared and Dayl continued dreaming a dreamless sleep, tossing and turning fitfully.

Chapter Sixteen

Moonwind woke up slightly after dawn, with Satius snoring softly beside him. Moonwind sat up and rubbed his eyes, sitting there for a few more minutes, taking in the smells of the breakfast which the otters were already cooking. He went outside and knelt beside the stream, splashing water on his face to waken him up fully. He went back into the cave and gently shook Satius awake.

"Wake up Satius, it's past dawn." The Northern hare slept on still, turning over and mumbling in his sleep. Moonwind shook him again, though a bit more roughly. "Satius, get up! Yore the last one sleepin'!" Again Satius continued snoring. Moonwind gave an exasperated sigh. "Oh c'mon, Satius, can't ye smell the food? I though you were a hare! Hare's are always hungry!" At the sound of the word 'food', Satius opened one eye and glanced at Moonwind.

"Och, why did ye wake a body up when Ah could have had more sleep? Ah smell somethin' a-cookin' somewheres!" Moonwind turned his eyes upward as the rest of the holt laughed. Satius bounded up to Windspear. "What's fer brekkist, m'good laddie?" Satius tried to peek at the meal the cooks were preparing. Windspear mock scowled at Satius.

"Cabbage pudden and muddy water fer you, ye big greedy foodbag!" Satius pulled a face.

"Ach, yer big planktailed rogue, Ah'd sooner die than have that, ye ken!" Otters were lining up to get served, Moonwind and Windspear joining them. Satius hurried after them. It was a thin kind of pancake, with wild berries and meadowcream next to it, washed down with a beaker of warm dandelion cordial. Windspear put the berries on to the pancake and spread it thick with meadowcream, then wrapped it up into a small roll. Taking a huge bite, he winked at them and took a swig of dandelion cordial.

"Best brekkist so far, 'sides Redwall vittles. Ah, when I grow old I'll go there and live me days out, eating, singing and sleepin'. That's the life fer me, mateys!" Moonwind turned his back to the crowd of otters, tears filling in his eyes as he thought about his beloved home, Redwall Abbey, and his friends, Naldin, Ferna, and his family, Felia, Brendila, Dayl, Melba and Skipper Romarc. Would he see them again? Moonwind tried not to think too much to think about it as he sat eating his meal in silence.

Dayl woke up, first feeling himself on top of a soft mattress. He opened his eyes fully and looked around, seeing Juvern, Felia, Melba, Brendila, Abbess Rosie and Brother Sholler next to his bed. When he spoke, his voice sounded strange, like it was a stranger's voice.

"Unnhh, what happened?" Brendila took his paw as Abbess Rosie explained.

"You went after Varlidass and got knocked out fighting a bunch of vermin." Her paw quivered. Dayl noticed this and realized his father wasn't there. His next question nearly brought tears to the eyes of everybeast present.

"Where's Skipper?" Felia nodded at the rest and they moved out of the infirmary. Felia sat down on the edge of the bed and started explaining the fate of Skipper.

When Felia left quietly, she was sniffing and was trying hard not to let her grief show. Dayl sat up in his bed, sobbing heart brokenly. Finally he stopped and stared ahead, as if he was daydreaming. His tears had all been cried out, his mind filled with sorrow and grief. He slowly got out and opened the infirmary door. Standing outside were his friends, comforting Felia.

Dayl said, "I need to have a meeting in the gatehouse. If anybeast has seen Grollen, send him in as well. Brother Sholler, would you be so kind as to tell Friar Nirpol and his helpers to bring tea for eight." The squirrel nodded and hurried off. Dayl went outside and walked towards the gatehouse, his friends puzzled. Dayl opened the door and found the Abbey Recorder in there. Grollen had been rarely seen outside the gatehouse since his cousin Hyton had died. The poor bankvole had still not overcome his sadness. Hardly looking up to greet the group, he stared at a dusty scroll on the old wooden desk.

He said quietly, "Is there something you need, friends? I'll help you in any way I can." Juvern entered, followed by Friar Nirpol and two young molemaids, carrying trays of food.

Juvern grinned, "Plum and raspberry crumble with blackberry sauce and cold October Ale. Have I missed anything?" Dismissing the cooks with a wave of her paw, Abbess Rosie sat down on a big comfy amrchair.

"Nope. We haven't even started yet. Now Dayl, what was it you wanted?" Dayl explained the dream and Martin's riddle. In the silence which followed, nothing could be heard but Grollen sipping the October Ale quietly.

Chapter Seventeen

For that whole morning Moonwind and Satius played with the babes and young ones, an chatted with the elders. When they were in the middle of lunch of a hot leek and onion soup, Moonwind noticed a lone otter sitting in the far end of the cave, eating his food quietly.

Moonwind nudged Windspear and said, "Who's that otter over there?" Windspear glanced at the otter.

"Oh, him. He's Lardon, we found him two seasons ago. We found him lyin' near a small cave, we assumed that was where he lived. He was covered in 'orrible cuts and wounds, bleedin' everywhere. There was a young otter too, and a female one, probably his missus and son. They was dead, the mother killed by a dagger thrust and the young 'un was sliced right 'cross the chest. Lardon was near Dark Forest; we took him in and fed him. He's never spoken a word to anyone since that day. He's a mighty fighter though, one o' the best. He did speak a bit though, when he woke up; we asked him questions and the like. He said a whole score o' vermin had ambushed his home. They took a precious thing too, a dagger. Then he said no more. I saw his eyes blaze up, like what those Badger Lords have. Y'know, Bloodwrath? Aye. Nearly charged off even when he was still injured." He fell silent. One of the otterwives had struck up a tune on her reed flute; the young and agile otters were dancing and twirling each other around the floor. Even some older ones had started dancing, whirling and hooting.

"An otter aboard the ship Shiny Pearl,
Jiggin' with a hedgehog with a cask o' good ale,
Singin' with a squirrel an' givin' a whirl,
With a mouse clingin' tight to the tip o' her tail!"
"A hawk with a big golden eye,
It watched the otter with a small sad sigh,
"The wee riverdog has gone dreadful mad,
Ah hope its alright, the poor liddle lad!"
"A crazy hare joined him with right good will,
"I'll eat up the food until I've had my fill,"
A badger with a rose clamped between her teeth,
Placed on the otter's head a pretty rose wreath!"
"The madbeasts danced throughout the dark night,
It was done and ended at dawn's first light,
My my my, it was a grand grand feast,
Fit for only a crazy otter beast!"

The crowd of dancing otters fell into a heap, laughing and breathless. Moonwind and Satius clapped and called for more. Windspear turned to Satius and winked mischievously at Moonwind.

"Are ye gonna play a song for us, Satius, or are ye just keep on stuffin' yerself with food?" Satius shrugged. "Do you know how to play a fiddle or a flute?"

Satius replied, "Och, I cannae play a flute, but Ah can play the fiddle. Would ye like tae hear it, ye ken?"

Windspear said, "Would ye like me to hear it?" Shouts of encouragement echoed through the cave.

"Go on, Mister Satius, give us a liddle ditty!"

"Aye, or yore a pickle-nosed swabble-pawed muck-eared famine face!" There were roars of laughter at the comment.

Satius dusted his tunic down and said, "Are ye ready?"

"A bonny wee lass saw two handsome mice,
Arguin' over somethin' which wasn't very nice,
She bidded them good day when one did say,
"It ain't none of yer business so go away!"
She grew sae angry she hit 'im on the heid,
"Ah see ye need some manners, off ye go to bed,"
He saw stars and fell as she whirled around,
Dealt a blow to the other and he fell to the ground,
Sae now you've learnt a lesson my bold brave friend,
Cross a liddle maiden and that's how you'll end.
Next time ye see a pretty wee maid,
Run away 'cause that's the price you've paid!"

Satius bowed and sat next to Moonwind. Windspear spoke, his face suddenly taking a serious expression.

"Right, let's get down t'business. Moonwind, ye said the Abbey was in trouble. Varlidass Blooheart eh? We're with ye all the way mates. We're movin' out in soon, while there's still daylight left. How many were in the blaggard's horde Moonwind?"

"About fifteenscore. Y'think we can get an army of that number?"

"Hm...maybe. I know some tribes, I'm sure they'll help. And there's the Guosim as well. How many warriors at Redwall?"

"Not many, that's for sure. Only fivescore able-bodied creatures. And Varlidass could always get more recruits and soldiers until he has as many as he wants!"

Satius butted in and said, "Och, we'll gather all the bonny woodlanders an' goodbeasts until we have as much as them. Ah'll wager we'll have as much as them when we're finished!"

Windspear shouted, "Attention, Holt Rivergale!" The noise ceased imediately as the holt members looked at their chieftain. "Get everythin' ready to march! We're gonna help Redwall defeat that spineless coward Varlidass Bloodheart! Who's with me?" Wild cheers and warcries broke out as they rushed around to get things organised for the long trip ahead.

"Rivergale! Rivergale! Rivergaaalllee!"

Chapter Eighteen

Silence remained in the gatehouse.

Brendila said, "What does it all mean?" Grollen had written it down on a piece of parchment and read it out loud.

He said, "Well, the first line indicates that Moonwind is safe." Brendila fell into Dayl's arms and wept joyfully. Grollen continued, "The second line I don't have a clue. Who's the Lord?"

Brother Sholler suggested, "A Badger Lord maybe?" Felia shook her head slowly.

"I don't think so. It might be Varlidass, perhaps?" Abbess Rosie nodded her excitedly.

"That's it! Its Varlidass!" She pondered. "What about the third line? Look for the thing he holds dear?"

Grollen took a sip of his tea and said, "Well, what is the thing he holds dear?" He tapped the parchment with his quill. "We'll find out. Martin is giving us a clue, then we have to find out the rest for ourselves. The sixth line says, Look hard in the old gatehouse. Well, we are in the gatehouse already. The seventh and eighth line..." He scrunched his brow in concentration. "Seek the writings of recorder mouse, Before the vole...I'm the vole. So, who was the recorder before me?"

Felia said, "Wasn't it Brother Dredil?" Grollen nodded.

"Yes, it was. Right, let's get searching!" The group peered in cupboards, shelves, drawers and dusty books, hoping to find a clue. At first there was nothing, and as more time went by, each one got frustrated and angry. Finally Abbess Rosie flopped down on a chair and groaned.

"Dust, dust, and more dust! This gatehouse should have a clean out soon." This was followed by sneezing from the others. Abbess Rosie settled more comfortably into the chair. She looked at the table next to her and her eyes widened.

"Look, look!" She yelled, pulling a dusty book from the table. "I've found the journal of Brother Dredil!" The journal was a deep red, with a silver title on the front. Grollen took it from the squirrel and opened it. He flicked through it's pages and murmured to himself as the others sat waiting impatiently and drinking tea. Finally, after what seemed like a season, he gave a small cry of triumh.

"Ahah! I've found it!" He showed Brendila and she read the neat writing aloud.

Ah, what excitement it has been! Only a season ago, a vermin by the name of Cresuvor came to our gates with a small horde of vermin soldiers and recruits. He asked us to surrender, but all he got was a good pelting of stones and arrows. That started a war. Alas, we lost many good friends who gave their lives so that there would be peace in Redwall. Cresuvor was a fierce fighter, a weasel. Our squirrel warrior, Savlon, defeated him when our army marched out to battle with them. We had a grand feast, prepared by Old Friar Masberl and his wonderful assistant cooks. I will always remember it until I pass on to Dark Forest. This was my first experience with war and battle. It is a terrible thing, because it will always leave death, destruction and hate in its wake. I remember after the funeral we gave to our lost comrades, Savlon came to me with tears in his eyes. He was carrying a small bound parcel, and he passed it to me. I opened it and saw a beautiful dagger, with a bronze hilt and an emerald in the hilt. It was the finest I've ever seen. Savlon said he took it from Cresuvor, saying that even if it was from a vermin, it couldn't be wasted. Whoever forged it knew what it was doing. I hid it in a secret place. Well, I have to finish writing and go for supper in Cavern Hole.

Brother Dredil, Recorder of Redwall Abbey.

Dayl said, "That's it? No clues, markings, riddles? Nothing?" Brendila inspected the page closely, letting her eyes wander over the writing. She saw some tiny markings at the bottom of the page and was about to dismiss them as some scribbles when her sharp eyes saw that the markings were letters! She squinted her eyes and was just able to make out the tiny writing.

Her paws trembled as she said, "At the bottom of the page there's some letters. OBCOB. What does that mean?" Dayl sighed and threw his paws up.

"Ooh, that mouse Recorder. All this nonsense! OBCOB? We just need to find the dagger! That mouse is beginning to annoy me!"

Grollen said, "Well, I just figured out his name. You all know what an anagram is, right?" All of them nodded. "Well, what's an anagram of Dredil?"

Brother Sholler shouted, "Riddle!" Grollen nodded.

"Exactly. So, Savlon gave it to him to hide, and Dredil hid it and made a riddle for anybeast who needed the dagger. Besides, if Martin wanted us to solve a riddle, it will never be impossible! So who's with me?"

"We are!"

Chapter Nineteen

Friar Nirpol knocked on the gatehouse door, waiting for an answer. The door opened to reveal Dayl.

"Is there something the matter, Friar?"

The aging squirrel said, "Well, I was wondering if lunch could be held out on the lawn today. It's such a fine day, y'see, so..." Abbess Rosie appeared, smiling.

"Of course, Friar. That would be lovely." They all walked out into the bright sunlight.

Grollen mused, "Hm, I'd totally forgotten what the time of the day was. Ooh, I'm starving! Race you there!" The vole took off in a sprint, and the others chased after him, laughing. They arrived breathless, and flopped down on the grass.

Hunto looked up from his plate of food, and commented to Pirrel, "Laughin' like a pack o' mad frogs, an' late fer lunch, too. Important business, lunch, wot wot!" Pirrel poured himself a beaker of October Ale and chuckled.

"Lunch is only important to you, Hunto. Mm, I smell woodland trifle!" Brendila munched on a scone, spread with damson and blackberry preserve.

"If only we knew the answer to the riddle. Its so puzzling!" Dayl nodded in agreement, and helped himself to a mushroom and carrot pastie.

"Sure is, Bren. But I'm sure sooner or later it'll all come together. Ahoy, Rogg, where are ye off to?" The little Dibbun hogbabe toddled towards the pond.

"I wanna go play wiv da big fishies! Dey give me rides! Heeheehee!"

Hunto got up and raced off yelling, "I'm going to have a ride on the flippin' fish first!" The hare jumped into the pond, then started flailing about.

Felia exclaimed, "Oh no, the great buffoon! He's gonna drown himself! Get him out, Dayl!" The otter ran towards the pond, sighting Hunto bob up and down as he swallowed several mouthfuls of water. Dayl dived gracefully into the water, and swam towards the hare.

"Hang on, Hunto, grab on to my paw!" Hunto grasped his paw and Dayl swam towards the edge of the pond, dragging Hunto behind him.

Brother Sholler marched the hare up to the infirmary, saying, "I must say, sir, your face has gone a dreadful green, don't worry, I'll give you a physick, then you'll be good as new!"

Everybeast burst out laughing as they heard Hunto complain, "I don't need another bloomin' fizzick, sah, I say, leggo me! Heelp!"

Pirrel shook his head and said, "I'll wager the food he ate weighed him down more. Hohoho!"

Abbess Rosie wiped her eyes and giggled, "No more, please, haha! I think we should, haha, get back to the riddle, heehee!" The group of searchers leaned on each other as they made their way back to the gatehouse, still laughing.

Who's yore favourite character?

The poll was created at 03:48 on May 30, 2010, and so far 12 people voted.

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Lorgo galedeep

Sandingomm the Wildcat

Skipper Rorc

Snowpaw the Wild

Brigadier Benchpress

Sister Armel

Snowy Longname

Windflin Wildbrush

Peony Laminar

Bluefang the Ferret

Nightpaw Streamspliter

Coral Flintblade

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