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This story is my first fanfic, so gimme lots and lotsa comments please! Thanks! Also, I don't know whether to add in a prologue or not, so just give me some ideas of what ya think! Thanks
Come gaze intae the fire
as I tell you of a tale
Tis of a hero who was born
from the wind in a stormy gale
A warrior of an otter
along a path of destiny
The fire and ice he travelled through
unknown to such as we
A fearless warrior with a heart of gold
bound by a code of strength
Meets a courageous badger lord
with zeal of an infinite length
Here is the story of a long time ago
may it bring a smile to your face
Remember the name of the otter
because it is one you'll always embrace
Book One: A Warrior Made
A horrendous shriek ripped through the sky as wind blew the trees in Mossflower woods to a breaking point, and timber groaned and thrummed as the mighty structures were strung up from their roots like toys. Pouring rain flashed sideways in the screeching gales, battering the foliage like stone pellets. The splendor of the bright crescent moon was forgotten as chains of lightning ripped through the clouds, casting shadows on the damp forest floor. Birds fluttered helplessly in the air as the wind drove them sideways and into trees. A murderer was abroad, and anybeast unlucky enough to be outside of its dwelling would face the wrath of the vermin hordes of Nadezca Flintshard!
Lightning illuminated the sky once more as Nadezca Flintshard stalked out of an otter dwelling, his claws stained with blood, and the hoots of his soldiers behind him. The ferret licked his claws maliciously as he squinted his indigo flecked eyes and scanned the woods. Taking his yew bow and an arrow, the ferret stretched the bow to a length that no creature could match, and taking aim, he let the arrow fly. The long wooden shaft whizzed through the air, zipping through raindrops, until it found its mark. He was rewarded by the muffled scream of the young otter who had thought himself lucky enough to escape Nadezca. Nobeast escaped the warlord.
With over 1000 vermin at his command, Nadezca needed none to protect him. He could face daunting odds and emerge victorious. All of his foes and enemies had fallen to the mighty warlord and the strength of his great hordes. Now his only remaining targets lay here in Mossflower Woods and along the coast of the Western shores. The ferret had travelled from beyond the Western Seas to claim Mossflower Woods for himself, and he was here to wipe out any threats to his rule, starting with the Abbey of Redwall and the mighty Salamandastron. Mossflower Woods knew nought of what lay ahead of them, of the might that came from beyond the Western Sea, of the savagery and cruelty of the creature known as Nadezca Flintshard!
Turning to one of his captains, Nadezca asked, "Yaar, where be this Abbey ye speak of, Chamon?"
The stout ferret captain replied, "Tis' a good days march West and through the water meadows. We'll be meetin' wi' Captain Rashen along the way." The ferret warlord smiled as he looked at his carefree soldiers lying about under the shelter of the big-leaved trees, watching as the rain fell and burst into many small droplets on the forest floor. Turning around, he swiftly hurled a dagger at a nearby stoat, instantly slaying the unfortunate creature. The other vermin, witnessing the swift killing, stood stock still and rigidly to attention, eyes lowered and faces averted from the gruesome carcass. Sauntering over to the body, Nadezca retrieved his dagger and eyed his crew.
"Now if'n ye want te be left 'ere like this soldier was, then I kin arrange for that. Ye ken? Now get off yer filthy paws and march! We go to de' Abbey o' Redwall!" Nadezca, always the observant creature, glanced around at his crew of twenty. The main crew, led by the ferret Captain Rashen, were waiting by the water meadows to the West of Redwall, while another ferret captain, Frild, led a large group towards Salamandastron, the mountain stronghold of badgerlords. Only ferrets were captains in Nadezca's horde. The warlord did not trust any other species. His father had painfully learned that when his fox captain Hegarn had slain the ferret and taken over command of the horde. Now Hegarn was dead, and Nadezca had made sure to make his death slow. Once Nadezca conquered the Abbey, he would lead his forces to Salamandastron to finish off the task he had sent Frild to start. Suddenly, the ferret espied a stoat at the back of the march conversing with a nearby weasel. Like a shadow, Nadezca slipped in between them, looking no different than any other soldier.
"Arrh, matey, poor Muska, e' never did anythin' to upset the mighty Nadezca. I'll reckon tha-" The stoat got no further as the dagger of Nadezca buried itself deep into his throat. He gave a soft gurgle as his body thudded to the ground. Nadezca picked the blade up and wiped it on the carcass. One look from the ferret was enough to tell the weasel to keep on marching. When it came to blades, the ferret knew how to handle them. He was a master at throwing knives, and was one of the best with a bow and arrow. A pure assassin. However, his attire was no different than any other soldier in his hordes. Nadezca was smarter than most, and he knew that when a strong enemy looked for a leader in his hordes, they would never find one.
"Hahaar, dis' Abbey's best be watching out, cos' de hordes o' Nadezca Flintshard are comin' yer way!
Frild was in trouble. His initial charge on the mountain fortress had not gone well. The ferret did not realize that the legendary Long Patrol Hares were some of the fiercest fighters in all of Mossflower country. The ferret was in command of 500 vermin, and those numbers had significantly dropped during the first attempt at entry into Salamandastron. He had lost a little over twoscore soldiers, and his crew hadn't even gotten near the mountain; he now knew that Salamandastron would be a tough nut to crack.
The vermin forces were camped outside the mountain near the shore well out of range of any bow. Frild and two of his commanders, Shelm and Grigg, were discussing war plans in his tent when a fearful weasel burst through the folds of the covering and hastily rasped, "The Wraith awaits ye, Cap'n."
Frild jumped up at the mention of the name, but quickly composed himself. "Arrh, tell him I'll be there tae meet 'im." The weasel scrambled out of the tent as Frild turned to Shelm and Grigg. "Ye know what tae do, Shelm. Grigg, come wi' me. We must negotiate terms wi' the Wraith."
A hulking figure crawled through the woodlands, hands bound, and cringing as the whip of Captain Rashen split gashes in its back. Not able to go any further, the exhausted creature dropped down on its stomach and let its numb body fade away as the pouring rain buffeted its back mercilessly. The image of a mouse clad in armor appeared in its line of vision.
"My friend, hold on as long as you can. Your destiny lies not in your death here." The mouse smiled, and the power radiating from it was stronger than anything the creature had ever felt. The bedraggled animal held its hand out to the spectrum, but the mouse became a blurry image, ever smiling, with the aura of a true warrior. Suddenly, reality brought the animal back as the warrior mouse faded away. A power surged through its paws and the whip of Captain Rashen fell from the stricken ferret's hands as the creature reared up to its full height. The young badger lifted his enormous paw and brought it crashing down on the ferret captain's head. The soldiers of Nadezca Flintshard's army backed away as the badger gave a mighty roar and zipped off through the woodlands.
Staring in silence at the carcass of Rashen's body, the assortment of vermin were brought back to their senses when Nadezca, at the lead of twenty vermin, came rushing into the camp. The flashing lightning illuminated the furious look on Nadezca's face, and the soldiers knew that one of them would be slain before the day was through.
After staring around the camp for a moment, the ferret calmly spoke. "And I dinnae suppose ye'll know what 'appened to me best Captain and ma captive, eh?" the ferret inquired quietly. Taking one of his soldiers in one hand, the ferret warlord took Rashen's whip and beat the unlucky beast multiple times, emphasizing each lash with his words. "Where...is...my...slave?"
The vermin's still body was thrown to the ground next to the body of Rashen, and Nadezca spoke to all of his soldiers, taking deep breaths to control his anger. "One more time dis 'appens, and I swear, I'll be eatin' yer heads fer me supper. Chamon, take a score o' good soldiers and track down de badger. Bring 'is head tae me. The rest o' yew, we be continuin' to de Abbey, but first we go see Rakka Skurr."
Somewhere in Mossflower Wood, a young male otter staggered about, holding a paw to his side, where the tip of an arrow was buried. The rest of the arrow, which he had pulled off, was in his right paw. His tunic was stained with dried blood from the wound, but the otter was lucky to be alive. The rain had passed on, leaving the ground soaked through and the banks of the River Moss overflowing. After wandering about in a daze, the otter finally stumbled across his holt, a den carved around the base of a tall sycamore. In the front of the sycamore, there had once been a garden, which the otter had cultivated himself, but now, it was reduced to a pile of rubble and pawmarks. Unusual surroundings for an otter, but nonetheless, home. However, peering inside, the den looked more like a warscene. The dead bodies of otters were strewn all over the ground. His parents, his brothers and sisters, and his grandparents, all dead. Taking in the sight was like taking multiple arrows to the head. Grief stricken, the otter slowly lowered onto his knees, weeping for what seemed an eternity.
As his mind slipped into a deep sleep, a blurry figure entered his vision. A shrew, no a mouse, a mighty mouse by the looks of the wondrous sword that lay by his side. The ghostly figure floated along a path, whispering his name.
"Vaheenra, Vaheenra." Then the mouse spoke a message. It was unclear at first, but the otter could soon hear it crisp and clear. "You must go to find the lord, an 'X' will give him to you. Journey to the place of stone, set in a light pink hue. There you shall look for me, to defend against the evil. Take my sword whats made from star, and stop a tyrant before he can kill.
The otter's muscles tightened as he regained consciousness, and the veins popped out on his sinewy neck. The otter had completely forgotten his message from Martin the Warrior. He raised his paw slowly and grabbed a bow from a shelf, along with a quiver of arrows.
"Nadezca Flintshard, aye, that's yore name. Well, here's one bowbeast who you willnae outshoot." Vaheenra Longfletch flung the bow over his shoulder and bravely went out in search of his enemy, not even feeling the throbbing pain emanating from his wound.
Extract from the Recordings of Bugglin Dunseford, squirrel Recorder of Redwall Abbey
The Summer of the Savage Storm, as we call it, has lived up to its name, judging by the horrendous thunderstorm that hit Redwall not long ago. And what a storm it was that hit us this past week. Myself and the other Redwallers were stuck inside the Abbey for two whole days as the rain poured down outside. None of us got even the slightest of sleep! Brother Kilbo, the Abbey Gardener and Bee Keeper, wasn't able to access his gardens, which were completely drowned out during the storm. The Brother is devastated, but all of the kind creatures here are chipping in some of their time to help Kilbo in re-cultivating the gardens. The Dibbuns, most of whom were not intimidated by the storm, tried to escape from Cavern Hole to go out into the gale. As if! Abbeybabes have no common sense. Skipper Korva and Foremole Duffy put up a valiant effort in trying to hold the Dibbuns back. The little misfits wanted to go for a swim in the Abbey pond! However, the pond is more like a mini sea now; hopefully the water will dry up soon, and we will be able to enjoy the wonderful midsummer weather for what it truly is, not just some terrible storm. But we have had fun indoors playing games with the Dibbuns and holding indoor contests and feasts. Our Cellarhog, old Splikko Bungspike, finally opened a cask of fine October Ale that has been maturing for ten seasons now. It was delicious, as was the other food served at the feast on the first night of the storm. Skipper Korva and his crew enjoyed a steaming cauldron of watershrimp and hotroot soup. Foremole Duffy and his crew were ecstatic when the kitchen helpers wheeled out a humongous deeper n' ever turnip n' tater n' beetroot pie. All in all, feast was a huge success. Abbot Jenkus praised Friar Bovine and the helpers for their wonderful preparations on short notice. Following the feast, all of the Redwallers participated in a talent contest. Young Furgle and Dalg, the two young otter twins, completely blew the audience away with their fast-paced dance about some bygone bloodlink called the 'Taggerung' (What a strange name for any creature!). They won a large trifle studded with strawberries, plums, and all manner of delicious fruit which they immediately took to the kitchens to feast on. Things seem to be looking up for us this summer, and we must enjoy it while we can. But my hands are now getting quite inkstained, and young Leila won't stop grappling with the hem of my tunic. Dibbuns these days are not quite as disciplined as they were in my day.
Bugglin Dunseford, or Buggy, as he was known as by most Redwallers, groaned as he lifted himself up out of his chair. Leila the mousebabe jumped upon his hanging sleeves, bringing the Brother stumbling back into the chair.
"Oooh, I'm an old creature Leila, not spry enough for your Dibbun games." Once again, the old squirrel attempted to lift himself up from the chair, but the door of the gatehouse slammed in as Skipper Korva walked in, causing Bugglin to come crashing back down into the chair. The look of agony on Bugglin's face sent Leila into fits of giggling.
"Heehee, Buggers hurted in the chair!"
"Whoops, sorry old lad," the Skipper quickly remarked. Turning his attention to the mousebabe, he commented, "There ye are, Leila. Yore mama's been lookin' all over fer yew. Tis' almost suppertime. Now come with me, ye little horror, and wash those dusty paws!" Korva took Leila in his muscular arms and was about to leave the gatehouse when Bugglin moaned,
"Arrgh, a little help here, Skip, I'm not an active young critter like you!"
The burly otter chuckled. "Doncha worry, Buggy, with a little training from my crew, ye'll be as big and brawny as any badger lord," Korva replied sarcastically as he helped the old squirrel out of his chair. Bugglin smirked as he slowly walked out the door. "Well," Korva continued, "We'd best be gettin' on over to Great Hall fer supper, eh, Buggy?" The squirrel nodded, and then suddenly hobbled off quickly, shouting,
"I'll race you to the Abbey, Skip, and you too, Leila!" As the confused mousebabe trundled off after Bugglin, Korva humoured himself by giving the two a head start. Then, like a lightning bolt, he zipped through the sodden grounds and swept both squirrel and mouse off their feet as he sprinted towards the Abbey.
Arriving at the doors to Great Hall, the otter gasped, "Hahaar, me cullies, looks like tis' a tie. And I know two Abbeybeasts who're gettin' heavier day by day. Bugglin gave Skipper a hefty blow to the stomach which knocked the wind out of the brawny otter.
"Heh, and I know a young beast who won't think of insultin' a Redwall Recorder unless he wants to spend a lovely afternoon cleaning out dusty bookshelves in the gatehouse." Skipper gave Bugglin a mock look of horror and replied in a sarcastic falsetto,
"Oh no, lackaday, the mean ol' Buggy Monster is out t'get us!" After a moment of silence, all three Abbeybeasts burst out laughing at Korva's impersonation. Then, paws about shoulders, the three creatures entered Great Hall. Everybeast was seated as Korva dropped Leila off to her mother and hastily found a seat beside Sister Tassel, the stern old squirrelmaid Infirmary Keeper. As she glared at Skipper, Abbot Jenkus, a kindly old mouse, entered Great Hall and stood at the head of the table.
"Friends and creatures of Redwall Abbey, thank you for joining me on this cool evening." Looking around the long table setup, the Abbot quizically inquired, "Where has that nuisance Buckler gotten to?" Suddenly, a lean hare scrambled into Great Hall, tripping over his tunic and the cumbersome instrument strung over his back. Stumbling around, the hare finally got a foothold and declared with lots of gusto,
"Buckler de Quincewold, Abbey Musician at ye service, marms an' gennelbeasts. And how may I be of service to ye t'day, wot?" Abbot Jenkus gave the young leveret a haughty stare, and the lanky beast unknowingly flopped down next a group of mischievous Dibbuns.
"Continuing on," Abbot Jenkus remarked, "The events of the storm have passed, and we are all active in the regeneration of the orchard and Brother Kilbo's gardens." The statement was greeted with cries of agreement. Jenkus held up his hands for silence and recited the famous Abbey grace.
"Fruits and nuts, soups and scones,
we gather here, but we're not alone
Lets thank the orchards which we hold dear
For providing us with food for the year."
The grace was greeted with a simultaneous and united "Amen" from all of the Abbeybeasts. Jenkus smiled and added, "Let the meal begin!" Great Hall echoed with the cheers of everybeast as the plump little mouse Friar Bovine and his helper, the young squirrel Trindle, walked into Great Hall rolling along carts filled with all manner of salads, soups, and loaves stuffed with chopped nuts and cheese. Splikko Bungspike the Cellarhog had outdone himself by putting a barrel of last summer's strawberry fizz on tap, along with October Ale and rosehip cordial. For dessert there were trifles topped with nuts, strawberries, and pears, along with a large dark fruitcake decorated with preserved plums and damsons.
The hare Buckler was distracted for a moment by a young molebabe named Winngle, and Leila sprinkled a pawful of hotroot into the gullible hare's soup. Turning around, the hare gulped down his soup in two sips as the Dibbuns sat around him tried to hide their mirth. The hare noticed the faces of the Dibbuns and asked,
"Well, what're you cads lookin' at, eh, wot wot?" As he approached the end of his sentence, the hare felt a burning sensation start deep inside of his throat. "Yaaaoooooorrrgghh! Whoooolalia!" The red faced, sweating hare swiped a tankard of October Ale from Korva and downed it in a flash, stroking his throat as he moaned, "Ooh, you rotten rotters! Even an otter couldn't stand that much 'otroot pepper in their soup! Now, which of you blighters performed this utterly unspeakable crime, eh? Speak up! The Dibbuns put on innocent faces and shuffled their paws as Leila spoke out for them.
"Twasn't us'n's, sir Bucky. We on'y be likkle Dibbuns, us can't put hot'oot peppa in soop."
Korva laughed as he said, "Tis' true, they'm on'y likkle beasties."
The outraged hare wiggled his stubby tail and waggled his ears furiously as he stammered. "Why you little...you...oh I'll...I'll have yer guts fer garters and yore tails for tiffin, you little barnacles!
The mother of Leila, who was nearby, immediately berated the hare. "How dare you speak to our precious Dibbuns like that, Buckler de Quincewold! Why, I should tell Sister Tassel to clean your mouth out for that!
The embarrased hare could not reply. "Well, marm...see...I didn't mean...you know...wot wot?
"You can 'wot wot' your way to the dormitories, young hare. You'll be missing supper today!" The appalled Buckler argued and pleaded as he was pushed off by the bossy mousewife.
"Oh no, marm, ye can't be doin' this to me, I'm just a poor starvin' hare! Please, I beg of ye! Well, I guess I'll starve to death in the dormitories, an' ye'll be sorry that you ever sent my valiant form to die a 'orrible death." However, Buckler's pleas for help fell on deaf ears. "Starvation, thats the worst way te die, and ye've led me right to it!"
"Yeah, well if we let ye eat, we'd all be starvin' tomorrer!" Waves of laughter greeted Skipper Korva's comment as Buckler's last screams of indignance were heard around the stairbend.
No sooner was supper served than the entertainment commenced. To the music of flutes, drums, and a 'molecordion,' a group of moles performed a quaint dance. Two rings were formed, the outer ring consisting of old molewives, and the inner ring consisting of little mole Dibbuns, along with Leila, who had slipped into the ring. The music sped up, and both rings moved in opposite directions, dancing a complicated jig that included much paw-tapping. The going was good until Leila lost her balance and sent four molebabes flying in all directions. The molebabe Winngle careened into a molewife, causing the outer ring to crumble as well. This caused the audience to go wild in laughter. Skipper Korva fell over laughing, holding his stomach, which caused yet even more laughter.
Unbeknownst to the merry Redwallers, a horde of assassins was on the prowl for their beloved home, and they were getting closer day by day.
Hopelessness and an air of foreboding had settled over the Western shores, casting their pall over land, sea, and the mountain of Salamandastron. A pale midsummer moon cast its wan light down upon the surface of the sea, painting each little wavetop with flecks of cold silver. Rising breakers crashed endlessly upon the shore, exhausted after their long journey from the ends of the earth. Above the shoreline, gusts of wind chased dry sand against the dark rocks, and the paws of vermin crushed the particles as they hastily scampered about in the wake of the "Wraith."
Frild gingerly stepped out of his tent, followed by Commander Grigg. The Wraith was a foreboding hooded figure who nobeast knew the identity of but itself. A violet cloak was draped about its shoulders and flowed down to the ground, and a pointed hood covered the face of the creature in a dark shadow. Only the hypnotic, glinting eyes were visible from beyond the cloak. The apparition stepped out from the shadows of the tent, startling the unexpected Frild. Gaining his balance and dusting himself off, Frild coughed and slowly backed away from the ghostly animal. Both creatures eyed each other suspiciously as the ferret began to speak.
"So ye decided tae show up. I ain't seen ye fer a while, Wraith."
"Aye, but I see de rabbits kill der mighty warriorssss o' Nadezca Flintshar'," the figure replied sarcastically.
"Yon rabbits be per'lous fighters, matey. Arrh, don't underestimate their power."
"Dese rabbits ye speak of, they'll be dead by sunrise if'n I gets what I pleassse." Frild stood his ground and looked directly into the eyes of the beast.
"If'n its victuals ye want, then I'll provide em tae you. I'll give you me best gold if'n I has to."
"Nae, Cap'n. Tis' rule o' yon mountain I dessssire." The hooded figure took a dagger from its belt and stuck it point first into the ground, a sign of final negotiation. Turning around, the phantom stalked away, always keeping to the shadows, his last words bouncing off of Frild's skull like iron pellets. "I strike taenight. By 'morrow, all de hares be dead, an' I get de mountain and half yore soldiers."
Grigg turned to his wide-eyed Captain slowly. "Cap'n, shall I..."
Holding up one hand, Frild spoke, his teeth grinding together. "Nae, Grigg," the ferret interrupted. "We need that thing if'n we wants ter get a hold o' yon mountain. I'll deal wi' the sly beast once the job is done." Grigg nodded his head and saluted as both creatures walked their separate ways.
Entering his tent, Frild noticed a tankard of wine sitting on his makeshift desk. The ferret curiously raised his eyebrows in confusion, but decided to take a sip from the beaker. Pulling a wry face, the ferret hurled the foul liquid out of the tent, smashing the tankard on the ground. Shaking his head angrily, he stalked back into his tent, wondering why the beaker had been there in the first place. Glad that he had only taken one sip, the ferret swirled his tongue around his mouth, attempting to get rid of the squalid aftertaste. But one sip was all that had been needed. Feeling groggy, the ferret lay his head down on his pillow, and within moments he was falling into a deep sleep. The deepest one that he would ever take...
The Wraith walked along the shore, smiling and muttering to itself as it kicked small pebbles from underneath its paws. "Hahaar, one Cap'n be dead, soon a thousin' hares be dead. Aye, and 'twill be mine. De hordes o' Nadezca Flintshard'll be mine. Dat ferret'll pay fer dar pain 'e caused me. Yessss!
In his chamber overlooking the vermin hordes which were scattered about the shores, Lord Greypelt sat in his great chair, feeling as primordial as the mountain he ruled. In one corner, his bed stood neatly made, unusual for the badger lord. But he had become much too old; the ritual of lying down each night and rising the next day had become far too painful for him. The badger just enjoyed looking out to sea and musing over his thoughts nowadays. Drawing his cloak tighter about his body as erratic chills entered his chamber window, the badger stared out over the vermin hordes, which were specks of grey and brown in the heavy mist.
Usually undisturbed from his ponderings, the badger was surprised when an unnanounced, old hare came ambling into the room leaning on a trolley laden with food. The badger's attempts to ignore the hare were to no avail. The hare fussed hither and thither like a bird with only one egg, chunnering constantly as he went about his chores. "Mmmm, no fire lit again, eh, m'lad? I tell ye, one could catch a death o' cold up here, mark m'words!"
The old hare took some flint and tinder, and coupled with his wheezy blowing, a flame from dry moss crackling against pine twigs was soon blazing in the hearth. "Hmmm, that's better, wot? C'mon now, get this supper down. Y'know, you've got to blinkin' well eat to blinkin well live!"
The badger lord shook his head at the sight of the meal that was being laid out on his personal table. "Leave me be, Frintshed. I'll have it later."
"Oh no y'won't, milord, you'll flippin well have it now, afore I have to force it down yore gullet! I ain't goin' t'the bother o' luggin vittles from the kitchen jus' to watch you let 'em go cold. Steamin' veggible soup an' a loaf o' bread'll do ye a world o' good, wot?"
The amused badger sighed with resignation. "Oh, give your tongue a rest, Frint. I'll eat, I'll eat.
Drawing his dagger, Frintshed trimmed the crusts from the oven-warmed bread. "Oh, you kin bet me auntie's pinnafore ye'll eat, alright! No crusts now, twill hurt your gums, wot? Dip it in the soup, m'lud, tastes great." The great badger snorted mirthlessly as he took a look at his silver-furred, battered, and aching paws.
"Huh! Look at us. Me, the 'mighty' Lord Greypelt, hardly able to lift a mere spoon with the paws that used to lift boulders with ease; and you, Frintshed, doddering 'round with a trolley, with those same paws that used to be faster than any hare in the Long Patrol. Ahhh, those were the days, eh? The carefree life of a young leveret, and the thrill of battle. Now we're faced with another threat, and we're too old to charge it head on." Taking another look outside of his chamber window, the badger lord commented, "Twas' only lucky that we stopped those vermin from reaching our mountain today. I feel as if something bigger lies amongst them, something that will harm us from the inside."
Frintshed hauled himself from the trolley and stood beside his lord at the window. "So what's the blinkin' problem? Everybeast has t'grow old, nothin' can stop that. We've led a long an' good life, you'n'me, fought our battles, protected the Western coast from all invaders, an' never once backed down from any fight! These vermin are just some ol' burrs in our be'inds. We'll be able to scrape 'em off.
The badger groaned as he rose from his chair by the windowsill, smiling at his faithful companion. "Leave me now, Frint, I have things to take care of." The hare, not about to question his lord's authority, gave a swift bow and trundled out of the chamber, pushing his trolley.
Greypelt made his way to the secret lair of countless other Badger Rulers of Salamandastron, where many a badger had dreamt mysterious fantasies. This place would have made the hairs on any other creature's back stand rigid, but Greypelt stood in awe as he stared about at the inner walls of the chamber, which were lined with carvings, depicting the lives of previous badger lords and the mountain's history. Guarding it in a fearsome circular array stood the mummified bodies of past Badger Lords: Lord Brocktree, Sunflash the Mace, Urthstripe the Strong, Lady Cregga Rose Eyes, and many other great rulers.
Greypelt lit three lanterns and sprinkled them with a herb incense as he muttered, "If the Dark Forest's gates lie open for me soon, will the shadow of evil envelope these precious shores? Who will take place in my stead? I am old of eye and feeble of limb, the strength long flown from my body."
The badger's eyes began to flicker as the incense swirled around his head, drifting through his nostrils and caressing his scarred face. Suddenly, the badger sat bolt upright as he continued. "Where is the bravest of the brave? Who can be so perilous that a force of fighting hares will follow that creature to the corners of the world? Is there a badger roaming the earth brave and mighty enough to be Lord of Salamandastron?"
Outside on the shore, the gale increased, driving waves to crash widespread in their effort to conquer the stretch of sand. Like a maddened beast the ocean roared, bringing sand sweeping upward into winding columns, twisting and spiraling crazily along the shore. Vermin huddled together under tarps, cloaks covering their faces, as the gusts continued to pick up pace.
A great darkness lay over both sides of the fight as evil loomed over the mountain, waiting for the day when it would be able to surmount the massive landform.
Chamon's eyes flickered back and forth between the trees in Mossflower Woods as he and his remaining vermin huddled fearfully about a small flame that gave off a pale glowing aura. The badger had killed off eleven of his crew and kidnapped three others, using quick hit and run tactics. The remaining seven vermin were now too scared to even go to sleep. They lay in a small clearing surrounded by dark shadowed trees. The trees seemed to be reaching over the group, threatening to trap them within its mighty boughs. A few of them let out a whimper of fear and tightly shut their eyes.
Suddenly, Chamon heard a soft snap as some creature trod on a dry twig. Instantly whipping out his dirk, the ferret glanced about the trees, watching for the shadows of his enemy. For moments, no sounds answered him from the dark, murky depths of the woodlands, but all of a sudden, a body was flung through the air towards him. The ferret closed his eyes and instinctively flung his dirk at the limp figure, who he thought to be the badger. He heard a dull thud as the body hit the floor next to his paws.
Gingerly lifting his eyelids up, the captain turned towards the body. Turning it over with his foot, he saw his dirk buried into the body of one of the missing vermin, a lean weasel. A gasp arose from the vermin crew as they stared in horror at their captain. Then a dirge rang out as the vermin realized who the slain beast was.
A female weasel ran towards the body and set up a moaning wail, "Ay, no! Tis' me mate Gurba! He's slain! Woooaaargh!" After a moment of grieving, she turned her reddened, tear studded eyes toward her captain in a look of pure hatred and rasped, "Twas' you what killed 'im. Yew murderaar!"
The weasel pulled the dirk out of the body and advanced on Chamon, her features twisting into a mad grin. "Aye, now ye'll feel the pain me mate felt. Heeheehee!"
The badger watched from behind a thick rowan as the events unfolded before his eyes at Chamon's camp. The mad weasel approached the captain, holding the blade up to his throat, laughing the whole time.
Stepping out from behind the tree, the full-grown badger caught the eye of everybeast except for the weasel, whose back was turned towards him. The vermin ran helter-skelter through the woods, crashing into trees and tripping over themselves in their scurry for safety, all save Chamon, who had his hands raised above his head, and the weasel, who was prodding the jittery creature with the dirk.
"Pl...please, Darbeck...th...the badger...'e's right be'ind yew."
"Hahaar, yew ain't foolin' anybeast, Chamon. Now I'm gonna skin ye nice an' slow, but don't scream, cos' we don't wanna wake the likkle sleepin' birdies. Heh heh."
"I wouldn't do that if I were you, weasel." The stunned weasel dropped the dirk as she turned around and beheld the mighty beast, who stood at least four heads taller than her. Cracking his giant paws, the badger strode up to the two shivering vermin. Picking up the dirk, he wiped it on the carcass of Gurba. The blade seemed like a Dibbun's playtoy in his massive paw. Holding both ends down, the beast snapped the dirk in two, and then shouted, "Think quick, scum!" Throwing both ends of the blade, the badger chuckled grimly as the two horrified vermin held their paws to their necks, staggering about and pawing at the sharp steel stuck inside them. The hilt of the dirk gleamed in the moonlight for a brief moment as the carcass of Chamon fell to the ground in an ungainly heap. The body of Darbeck fell on top of him, both creatures stuck together in the eternal embrace of death.
The badger turned around, following the trail of the first vermin who had run away. "Oh, yes. I won't stop until every one of ye vermin is dead." Swinging a club that he had carved from a long bough over his shoulder, the badger limped off through the woodlands, swearing death to all vermin.
Abbot Jenkus rose early from his little bed, as he always did, no matter what the season. The old mouse had ruled as Father Abbot for a long time, taking over from the late Abbot Gunther, the old fieldmouse. It still amused him that the Redwallers had chosen him as Father Abbot; him of all creatures suitable for the job. Nobeast had been no more surprised than he when the Council of Elders, backed by unanimous approval, had elevated the mouse to the lofty position - Father Abbot of all Redwall.
It had taken lengthy persuasion before the mouse accepted the new position, even then, only under his own personal conditions. The Abbot shared in all the chores at the Abbey, not leaving any creature to do anything by themselves. The old mouse took a long homespun cloak from a peg behind the door and left to make his way downstairs.
Friar Bovine was another early riser. The plump little dormouse looked up from his work as the Abbot entered the kitchens.
Waving a floury paw, the dormouse smiled, "G'morning, Father. Come to take a stroll on the battlements?"
"Morning, Bovy." Jenkus began stirring a cauldron of steaming oatmeal and ladled out two bowlfuls. "Yes, I'm out to the battlements. Tis' a fine summer morn. I'll take some breakfast out for me and Skip, if that's okay with you."
The friar nodded as he spooned honey over Jenkus's bowl. He gave the other bowl a generous dashing of hotroot pepper, a favorite of the Skipper, murmuring, Carry on, by all means, Abbot. I've put hotroot on Skipper's oatmeal. That plank-tailed rogue sprinkles the stuff on everything."
Jenkus nodded his head greatfully at the kind dormouse and left the kitchens, carrying a tray loaded with both bowls of oatmeal, a small basket of hot hazelnut toast, and two beakers of steaming coltsfoot and comfrey tea. The sun was just rising as Jenkus rounded the south gable, headed for the wallsteps. The sphere shone like a gem dipped in molten gold, bearded in a pinky fawn cloud.
On top of the east wall's broad ramparts, the Skipper of Otters stood, watching as the sun rose through the sky. Turning, he spotted Jenkus holding the tray, his figure immuminated by a golden shaft of light that streamed through one of the Abbey windows. "Ahoy, who goes there-friend, foe, or food?"
Abbot Jenkus's cheery reply came back at him through the fog. "'Tis a friend, and bearing breakfast for a hungry riverdog! Permission to come up?"
Korva stamped his paws, chortling happily. Permission granted, Father. Taking the tray from the old mouse, Skipper placed it on the ramparts and commented on the beautiful rising sun. "Ah, Mother Nature's miracle, eh? Ain't it a pretty sight?"
Turning his head towards the Abbey, the mouse replied, "Aye, and Redwall takes on a different look each season, my friend. See how the light catches the stones?" The two friends stood out, enjoying the splendor of their home. The buttresses and arches stood out in a deep-shaded relief, standing over the dormitory windows, which blazed light from the risen sun, causing windows to twinkle. Beyond the lawns and the orchard, the waters of the Abbey pond stood still, drifting slightly in the light breeze.
The fun-loving Abbot threw a paw around Korva's shoulder. "Aye, and to think that I'm Father Abbot over it all!" Setting aside their bowls, the two creatures took a leisurely stroll, passing the hare Buckler, who was on a strict nightwatch, ordered by the mother of young Leila. He stood stock still and to attention, staring over the walls like a statue, not even twitching a whisker.
"Huh, if only 'e were like this everyday," Korva muttered to Jenkus. The hare's keen ears picked up the comment, but fighting his inner self, he was able to control his urge to give Korva a biting reply.
Vaheenra Longfletch looked in awe at the huge stone building that he had almost walked right into in his dazed state. The young otter, sitting down outside the gates, took it all in. The great pink stone wall loomed above his head, the morning sun glinting off of the lightly tinged hue. Further above the wall, the roof and belltower of the Abbey reached towards the sky, touching its weathervane to the low, silver-lined clouds.
As the otter took stock of his surroundings, his keen eyes spotted two long ears and suspicious eyes inch over one of the battlements.
"Oy, be ye a friend or foe?" the creature inquired.
"I be an otter, by the name o' Vaheenra Longfletch. I have important information for yer Abbey leader, yore...er...Abbot...aye, yore Abbot." The otter continued as he held his paw to his wound. "I also seek shelter and vittles; there's danger abroad in Mossflower Woods."
Buckler de Quincewold's head fully appeared over the walltop, a humongous grin playing out on his face. "Well, 'ere's an otter what knows wots best for 'im, wot! "Top o' the mornin' to ye, ol' chap! Welcome to the grand ol' Abbey o' Redwall! I must say, tis' a jolly nice mornin' this time o' the season, wot! Holy flippin' measles! Is that an' arrow'ead ye've got stuck in yer gut? Well, twist me noggin and tinge me tail!, I'll call for 'elp right away, wot?"
Hearing the commotion from where Buckler was standing guard, Korva and Jenkus hurried over to the hare.
Buckler was pulled back as a venerable old mouse stepped up to the battlements, followed by a burly otter. The mouse was wearing a simple homespun tunic, and the smile upon his face told Vaheenra that he wasn't going to let a creature in need be left out in the wild.
The hare jumped back up to the wall's edge, shoving the otter out of the way. "I say, the nerve of some of these chaps, wot!
Jenkus, becoming frustrated with the hare, suggested in his most accommodating voice possible, "Buckler, why don't you be a nice fellow and open the main gates for our guest. That wound needs to be healed right away." The hare quickly bowed, all argument lost as his speedy paws led him down to the main gate in no time, which he struggled to open alone. The hinges groaned as the gate slowly creaked open, and the limping otter fell onto Buckler's sturdy shoulder.
"Well I must say, m'lud. That's one whoppin' great arrow'ead ye've got there. And ye don't seem to give a flippin' fat frog about it! By the by, ma name's Buckler de Quincewold, Abbey Musician. Been playin' music since before I could say a flippin' word! My symphonies'll go down in 'istory as the greatest pieces to ever be played in the Mossflower region!
"Oh, give it a rest, ol' longears Bucky! Ye couldn't play music if'n it were the same note over an' over agin!"
Rounding on the speaker, the hare realized it was the innocent young squirrel Trindle, Friar Bovine's modest cooking assistant. The young squirrel usually never talked for himself like that. Being an orphaned squirrel as a Dibbun, Skipper Korva and his otter crew had found the lost babe wandering around the woodlands. Redwall had been Trindle's home for as long as he could remember, but he had never really felt a part of the hustle and bustle around the great stone building. The squirrel always carried a kitchen knife with him, wherever he went. Although he knew Mossflower Woods were a peaceful place, sometimes he had dreams about vermin and a ferret, an evil ferret.
Upon coming to the Abbey, Trindle had immediately befriended the young mouse Batrey, and the mole Gurlem. All three were adventurers born, always begging to be out in Mossflower to explore the unknown. Batrey, who had been standing next to Trindle as he made the comment, sniggered at the hare, who was at a loss for words.
Stalking off with his pride injured, the hare left the unfortunate otter to fall hard on the floor.
"Oi no!" the mole Gurlem squeaked. E'em poor otter'm be'es fallen on ee noggern!" Stooping down to pick up the lean otter in his sturdy digging claws, the mole lumbered off to the gatehouse, followed by his two friends. Meeting the Abbot and Skipper by the wall steps, along with other curious Redwallers, Gurlem passed on the body to Skipper Korva. "Naow you'm be car'ful with 'e h'otter, e'em not feelin' very well, burr aye!"
Amused by the quaint mole speech, Skipper nodded to the serious young creature and declared, "Oh, you kin 'ave me affidavit on it, I'll take care o' this un' good an' fine fer ye, young Gurlem."
The young otter's eyelids fluttered as he gazed up into the kind faces around him. As his mind once again slipped away, he noticed the familiar warrior mouse in the distance, floating through the fog towards him. "Remember your task, here you must not stay. I will be with you all along the way. Find my image, ever smiling, ever Great. The Hall that holds me, only a paw length away."
"Yaaaareeekargh!" Rakka Skurr's dagger-sharp beak plunged into the carcass of a vermin soldier, viciously pulling flesh in mounds from the dead body. His gleaming eyes blazed as he flapped his jet black feathers and continued to cruelly tear into the already unrecognizable vermin.
Nadezca Flintshard and his replacement captain in the absence of Chamon, Aggla, watched the gruesome scene unfold before them. "Yaargh, dat bird demands a great price o' ye, Lord" Aggla shuddered as he spoke. "'E took ten o' the best soldiers ye got...an' ate 'em!"
Holding a paw up to silence his captain, the ferret grimly remarked. "Aye, he may be no civilized, even fer a vermin, but 'e's our entrance tae Redwall, that he is. With yon raven on our side, Redwall stands no chance. An' if the bird gits outta hand, we know how te deal with 'im. Winking at the captain, the warlord confidently strode up to the raven leader. The murderous eyes of Rakka Skurr glared at the ferret as he approached. The ferret kicked aside the shredded body of the vermin and sat down on a stone protrusion. Taking out his dagger, the ferret sharpened it on the stone as he obliviously challenged the raven. "So, I 'eard yer descended frae the great Korvus Skurr, eh? Apparently 'e died fightin' the peaceful little crittirs at Redwall Abbey. Buried in 'is own lair by a fearsome likkle lady otter. Emphasizing the last three words with a sarcastic air, the ferret raised the raven's pressure to a boiling point.
"Reeeekarrgh! Nobeast addresses the great Rakka Skurr as such and livesss! What do ye want, ferret?"
"Aye, raven, and nobeast talks to Nadezca Flintshard like that and lives. Listen, birdie, ye need me an' I need yew. So, join forces with my horde and we shall attack Redwall.
"Yaaark! I have no need of your filthy vermin! Nor do I have need of that haunted place."
"Oh, that's where yer wrong, matey. See, yer ol' friend Korvus, 'e weren't so lucky in gettin' Redwall fer 'imself. Aye, that's put a stain on yer reputat'in. Now, lissen up. If'n we bring Redwall down together, I'll let yew 'ave a fair share o' the spoils. Aye, I seen the way your own birdies are starin' at ye. They think you ain't got no courage. Show 'em who's a big bird by joinin' up wi' me an' bringin' the little mousies and bunnies down. Ye ken even eat 'em afterwards!" Stalking back to Aggla, the ferret turned around once more. "Think about it, Rakka Skurr. I'll give ye 'til midnoon, then I'll be expectin' an answer. Either yore with us or yore not."
The bird, ignoring the ferret's last comment, went back to demolishing the vermin that he had been working on before. Nadezca shook his head as he walked with Aggla back to camp. "Huh, daft bird. But the only airpower we've got."
As Nadezca turned into the massive clearing in Mossflower Woods were his hordes were camping, a rat suddenly burst from the tree fringe, panting hoarsely and lurching from side to side on one paw. Falling on the ground, the dusty rat rasped, "'Tis the badger! E's killed...'em all!" Grabbing the unfortunate rat by the throat and hauling him off the floor a good two inches, Nadezca spittled in his face. "Eh? What badger? The one that escaped? Speak, fool!" Realizing he was throttling the beast, Nadezca loosened his grip and let the rat drop to the floor. "Tell me exactly what ye saw, idjit!"
Soothing his throat with one paw, the moaning rat pointed a paw into the direction of the woodlands. "Me an' Grud, we was out in the woods collectin' some vittles fer yew, an' there we saw it. Twas' Hakkle, 'e was stone dead! An' that beast, the big badger, aye, 'e was there too. 'E picked up a stone an' tol' us to take a message to yew. Then 'e said that only one of us 'ad to go. So 'e threw the stone, no, twas' more like a boulder, at Grud. Aye, crushed me poor mate. I ran quick as I could back te ye, Lord. 'E says that 'e's comin' fer yew, twas' 'im, not me!" Shoving the rat out of the way, the ferret stared coldly into the woodlands.
"Aye, an' I'll be waitin', me fine friend. With twoscore o' birds an' 200 of me own soldiers. Hahaar!" A beautiful butterfly gracefully drifted on the pleasant air draughts, stroking the leaves of trees and tenderly caressing the currents as it floated lower and lower. Settling on a blade of grass, the butterfly's patterns glinted in the morning sun as it showed off its orange and black wings to nobeast in particular. Suddenly, a large shadow descended over the gift of nature as the paw of Nadezca Flintshard came down forcefully on the unfortunate insect. Sweeping his paw along the woodland floor, the ferret dragged the remains of the ill-fated butterfly around in a circular motion. "See badger, I'll drag your remains through Mossflower, aye, and nobeast will be able tae save Redwall."
Midnoon came and the sun was high in the sky, casting its bright rays down on Mossflower Woods. A small dove warbled its song nearby, giving its presence away. It was brought down from a branch swiftly by the sling of Aggla. The ferret captain brought it over to the small flame that he had been kindling in the clearing. Sticking the dead bird with a small branch, the ferret held it over the flame, twitching his nose as the burning smell of feathers wreathed around his nostrils.
Strutting over to his captain, Nadezca insolently grabbed the branch out of Aggla's paws and dug his teeth into the still-feathered bird. Spitting the burned, white feathers out in disgust, the ferret tossed the carcass aside and hauled Aggla up. "Skurr is out o' time. Now git off yore paws an' come wi' me. Let's see if yon birdie 'as made the right decision." The two ferrets walked down a paw-made path and stopped at a great sycamore. The hulking form of Rakka Skurr dropped from the lowest branch, almost crushing Aggla. The captain stood his ground and loudly addressed the raven, who was preening his feathers.
"Have ye made a decision, bird? The mighty Flintshard awaits yer answer. If yew refuse..."
Brushing passed the captain without cause, the raven boldly swaggered up to Nadezca. "I come with you. Kreearrgh! But Redwall becomes a place for my soldiers to live. We leave on the morrow. Rakkachakk! Rakka Skurr has spoken, now leave me!"
Nadezca glared at the audacious raven as he expanded his wings and soared off into the trees. "Think agin, birdie. Redwall will only be th'death o' ye'. Aye, we shall see who gits the spoils o' war, my fine feathered friend."
Walking back into camp with Aggla, the ferret roused his crew by kicking a few vermin and dousing fires. "Lissen up, scumbags! The Skurr be's on our side! Now, we march tae Redwall tomorrer. I'll need a few scouts to lead the way. And remember, never let those birds outta yore sight." Pointing to three vermin, a rat and two weasels, the warlord ordered them. "You, you, and...yew, get on the trail o' yon Abbey, and report back tae me every few hours. Go now! The rest o' ye will foller me and the raven, aye, and we shall capture Redwall! Who de ye serve?"
The resonant reply of his soldiers echoed throughout the trees. "Nadezca Flintshard! Nadezca Flintshard! Kill em' all, leave no one alive!
The two weasels and the rat dashed off into the woodlands, looking for the path that led directly to Redwall Abbey. The experienced rat, named Foggle, had served under the fox Hegarn, and in his reign, the fox had led his armies to Mossflower Woods, when Nadezca Flintshard had been nought but a babe. Not stopping to attack Redwall, the fox had made his way Mossflower, plundering everything that came across his line of vision. However, Foggle remembered looking up at the walls of the magnificent stone building, dreaming of conquering the great barrier walls. Finally back in Mossflower Woods, the rat remembered the route as if he had been there the previous day.
Turning to his two companion weasels, Pinkeye and Jeera, the rat noticed the look of horror on their faces. Spinning around in the direction of their eyes, the rat saw the carcass of a ferret hanging from the low branches of a big rowan. "'Tis Fangpaw! An' lookit wot the badger's done te 'im!" one of the weasels exclaimed fearfully. "We can't go that way! The badger'll kill us'n's!"
"Shut up, yew idjits!" the rat sneered. "The badger's long gone, 'e'll probly be out lookin' fer the others in Chamon's group. Aye, we're in no trouble. Now git yer tails outta yore mouths and git on the trail!" The two weasels hid behind their shields as they blundered along behind their sturdy companion, who was on the start of the path to Redwall!
Lord Greypelt sighed resolutely as he stared out of the upper chamber of his great mountain. Turning to his little bed, the badger swept of the covers and pulled them about him like a cloak as the chills blew in through the window, making his body numb and compressed. The little figures on the shore lay about around their fires, not in any hurry to attack the mountain, waiting for the hares to get weak. A few gulls circled around the mountain, keeping their distance from the vermin hordes below, and Greypelt started to doze off, feeling peaceful and calm even in his plight.
The door of Greypelt's chamber creaked inwards slowly as Frintshed hobbled in, waking the badger from his slumber. "Frintshed," the badger addressed his companion as he yawned. "What's the matter?"
"'Tis the vermin, milord. The scum wish to talk under a flag o' truce. Hah! No creature in 'is right mind'd believe that a vermin would keep 'is word!"
The badger ignored Frintshed and moaned as he rose out of his chair. "I will speak with the vermin, Frint. Now help me down the stairs, friend."
Frintshed gazed at his master, his jaws to the ground. "Lord? Ye can't really trust these vermin, wot! They'll have a score o' arrers in yer back as soon as ye walk out the entrance! Here, let me at least get yer regimental tunic an' yer blade. Hmm, yore armored visor…oh, and the-" Frintshed was cut short as the badger lord put his heavy paw on the hare's shoulder.
"Frint, I may not trust these vermin, but I don't need to go to the trouble of donning my armor in order to go out under a flag of truce. Any creature, even vermin, must keep to the Warriors' Code when under a flag of truce. I go out there trusting my instinct, and that alone will lead me, whether it be to death or back here. This simple tunic and my staff will serve me well." Patting his advisor on the back, Greypelt trudged down to the main tavern, where scores of hares were grimly waiting, all armed to the teeth.
"Lenter, Weldon, come with me. Furdack and Gerron, pick a score of hares and follow close behind. The rest of you, find any openings or crags in the mountain and man them with your bows and arrows. If you see anything suspicious, don't hesitate to shoot down every last one of those vermin." Turning to Frintshed, the badger spoke quietly to the hare. "Frint, you're in charge while I'm gone. If anything happens to me or my hares, you must find a new badger lord. The hares here only have me to rule them. Without a badger leader, this mountain is susceptible to any kind of attack." Turning from his assistant, the badger swept his cloak around him, picked up his staff, and beckoned his chosen hares to him.
The Wraith stood ever still, his cloak blowing his cape out behind him. Standing stock still, the creature looked like an apparition from the depths of the Devil's lair. His keen eyes spotted the badger strutting regally out of the mountain with a regiment of hares following close behind. Two hares stood at his side, both with their lances at the ready. "Foolish creatures. So they're trustin' a band of vermin under a flag o' truce? Truce, ha-ha!" The hooded spectrum stepped forward as the badger and his hares stopped. "Ye've left it too late tae surrender, stripedog! Now my army'll kill all of these foolish rabbits an' eat 'em!"
Greypelt stood still, unaffected by the bold comment. "Seems like it’s the other way around, scum. Now that you're on my shores, these hares won't hesitate to kill all of these filthy creatures under your command." The Wraith smiled maliciously, and the hare Weldon urgently tapped Greypelt on the shoulder.
"M'lord, we shouldn't stay 'ere to parry, wot! Somethin' in the air is wrong. Look, yon vermin 'ave gone silent." Turning in the direction of Weldon's outstretched finger, Greypelt's keen eyes saw some of the vermin notching arrows to their bows. The Wraith raised his hand , and the badger's eyes grew wide with fear as he screamed out orders to his hares that were heard all 'round Salamandastron.
"Archers from the wall tops, fire! Furdack! Gerron! Get your archers firin'! Everybeast back inside the mountain!" A swift turn of events followed as the hand of The Wraith dropped to his side. A wave of arrows from both sides struck with force, and several hares were downed. The vermin hordes started charging towards the small group of hares, slinging stones and firing arrows. Two hares went down next to Greypelt as he ushered the last hares in, and with the help of Furdack and Gerron, the big badger was able to slam the entrance shut. Everybeast was panting, exhausted from the run and weeping from the losses.
The hare Lenter walked up to Greypelt. "Sire, we've lost nine, and almost all are wounded. Including you, lord!" Feeling pain for the first time, the badger looked down to see an arrow embedded in his thigh. Suddenly groaning with pain, the badger slumped forward and entered a world of darkness.
Brigadier Hambill Furdack strutted about the barracks, whipping a willow cane back and forth as young leverets stood stiffly to attention, waving their eyes back and forth as the cane swished through the air, cutting invisible patterns. Taking a deep breath, the Brigadier bellowed out loudly. "Now, this'll be yore first real war at this mountain, and by all means ye'll make it one to remember!"
"That's right, marm, we shore will!"
"'Ey! Who said that? Young Blandor, if'n one more word comes out'n that mouth, I'll skin yer hide an' wear it as me coat. Now stand to attention, ye rascal!" The unfortunate young hare Blandor flinched as the willow cane swished by his whiskers, nipping off the ends. "Now, where was I? Right! Yon vermin'll stop at nothin' to take over our great mountain. An' just because they see a pretty haremaid fightin' on the battlefield, they ain't gonna spare ye! They'll kill everybeast that moves, 'cos they don't got a heart and they don't feel love. So you give them what they give you. Give 'em blood an' vinegar, chaps!"
All the young leverets, as well as a few of the veterans who were watching, got pumped up at the mention of slaughtering vermin, and they all let out an ululating cheer. "Eulaliaaaaaaaaa!" Suddenly, everything was cut short when Blandor pointed towards the stairs. "Look, 'tis Lord Greypelt!" Every hare twisted to get a view as the old badger struggled down the stairs, helped by Frintshed. This caused a louder cheer to pierce the air, and Greypelt had to call out several times to get everybeasts' attention.
"Friends, friends, please settle down." The badger kneeled down on one of the stairs as he spoke. "This great fortress has not seen war since the time of Gorath the Flame, seasons ago! Salamandastron has survived through thick and thin, leaped over obstacles of all sorts, and we have not been weathered by the seasons passing by. However, as most of our hares are either leverets or feeble veterans, this is a war in which we shall require aid. The vermin out there number greatly, and they will stop at nothing to kill each and every one of us, starting out by putting us into siege. Some of us will not make it out of this war, as we saw even earlier today, but while we all have spirit, we shall fight for what is right, and one day we shall be vindicated." The badger's speech rose the blood of many a hare, and they all rose their weapons in unison, cheering death to the vermin. "Now, let us eat in honor of our fallen comrades!"
Dinner that night was a wonderful affair, as every hare forgot about their troubles, knowing that this would be the last bit of fun they would have for a while. Young Blandor sat by a few pretty haremaids, popular amongst the ladies. One hare fluttered her lashes at Blandor furtively, calling to him in a sweet voice. "Ooh, Blandor, do that impersonation of Brigadier again! Hee hee! The young hare, always willing to oblige for the young haremaids, pouched up his mouth and pretended to wield a willow cane. Swishing his hand back and forth, the hare strutted around regally, glaring his eyes and slitting them to a point where even he couldn't see.
"'Ey yew, shut yer gob afore I shut it for ye! I need mah beauty sleep, oh yes I do, wot! Now scram or I'll tan your tail and tailor it intae a tunic!" Spinning around, the young hare was about to continue when his nose tip pressed against the nose of Brigadier Hambill Furdack.
The furious Brigadier gritted his teeth as he seethingly addressed the leveret in hushed tones. "Oh, I'll tan yore tail all right, an' I'll hold it up fer all your pretty girlfriends tae see. Aye, then they'll really have sumthin' te flutter their lashes about." Raising his voice to a holler, the Brigadier's veins stood out on his neck as Blandor backed away fearfully. "Now you're on kitchen duty fer the rest o' the season! No, the whole year, aye! An' I'll be keepin' an' eye on yew, ye dirty little troublemaker! Now git movin'! No supper for ye today!"
Save a few tricks from some young leverets, the entertainment that followed dinner was a blast. Young hares sang ballads, and there was a giant round of applause as a pretty young maid named Venusia stepped up to sing a song. Her sweet voice echoed throughout the chamber as many a young male hare dreamed of the young maid singing them to sleep.
As day turns to night, I sing as all the flowers close their eyes
A sweet lullaby, fills my ears as all life falls to sleep
A beautiful way to end the day, and we know it shall give rise
I open my eyes, as all the things around me fall asleep
Looking out the window, I watch as night gives way to day
A cycle, ever flowing, nature's miracles reborn again
Yet I always wish that daylight could always stay
But as I look around me, change is happening quickly
And I can't keep up, seems as if I'm already sickly
My life has gone too fast, I'm approaching the end
A thanks to these flowers sweet, everything will soon mend
The maid's voice brought tears to many a hare's eyes as they weakly applauded the hare. Blandor turned to the Brigadier, seeing a tear flow down his cheek. "Brig Furdack, are yew crying?" Swiftly turning away and wiping the tears from his eyes, the Brigadier adopted a look of contempt.
"Tchah, crying! A Brigadier in the Long Patrol of Salamandastron does not cry, m'lad! After years of battlin' and slayin', how could a mere ditty bring tears to my eyes? Hah, don't even know what tears feel like anymore, been that long since I last cried, wot! Now git outta here! As I recall, yore attitude 'as got ye on probation!"
Trindle, Gurlem, and Batrey strolled around the battlements of Redwall with nothing to do. All chores for that day had been completed, and lunch had just wrapped up. Gurlem waved his hefty digging claws at a passing bee, twitching his snout as the small creature zipped by. "Hurr, Oi say we'm goo on ou'side o' yon gates an' take an advenchur!" Trindle nodded his head and turned towards the main gates, the rusty thick bars heavily laden with the massive bolt. Flanked by the gatehouse, the large gate looked like a great hulking beast, protecting Redwall Abbey from any outside invaders. However, all seemed peaceful and quiet in the woodlands. Different birds sang together melodiously, filling the air with a sense of joy. However, all tranquility was broken when Buckler de Quincewold came limping out of the Abbey doors with two old mousewives chasing after him with dusty brooms.
"Oh you rascally rabbit! The nerve of it, using that type of language in front of the little ones! Why, I should scrub your mouth out with soap for that, young rip. Aye, send you off back to Salamandastron, we should!" At the mention of his former home, the hare fell to knees and begged for forgiveness.
"Oh please no, me sweet liddle marms. Not back to that ol' mountain! Filled with gluttonous greedy galumphing hares it is, wot!"
"It was before you left! Salamandastron kin probably feed all the hares twice as much now that you're gone." The two mousewives continued to chase the indignant hare, who was bellowing out in pain as the brooms made contact with his behind. The three friends stared at the three figures as they disappeared around the south gable, and then burst out into fits of laughter, tears streaming from their eyes.
"Ha-ha! Who woulda thought it, Bucky gettin' chased around like that! He always sed 'e was the most perilous hare in all the Long Patrol!" Trindle put a paw about Batrey's shoulder, almost falling over in his mirth. The three musketeers trudged off to the Abbey in a jolly mood, heading up to the Infirmary. Along the way, however, they met Friar Bovine, who led them astray from the task in mind.
"Ah, some young helpers at last. Come with me, young fellers. Help me in the kitchens; we need to prepare for tonight's supper."
"Um, but Friar, we were actually…"
"Ah ah ah, hush now, Trindle. You three have nothing to do. What's a little work in the kitchens, eh? And it is your job to be my assistant, isn't it? So, no arguments." Trindle reluctantly followed the Friar, his two friends slowly trailed behind him, whispering between themselves. Arriving at the kitchens, Trindle turned around, only to find his two friends gone.
"Huh? Batrey? Gurlem, where are you guys?" Spinning around, Bovine crossed his hands.
"Humph, the young scoundrels 'ave gone, haven't they. Well, no matter. You'n'me will be able to finish the job up. No pouting now! I want to see smiles all 'round, young Trindle!" The squirrel hesitantly looked around the kitchens, noticing the disorganization and mess strewn about everywhere. He realized that he had not been in the kitchens for quite a while, and immediately felt guilty for the humble Friar who had not complained once. Walking over to the ovens, Trindle opened the big door as steam rolled out. As everything settled, the squirrel saw the most beautiful cake he had ever set eyes upon. The fruitcake was embedded with damsons, plums, and strawberries, supporting some heavy slices of pear that rested in the middle. Surrounding the edge of the cake lay fluffy cream covered over with thick sweet honey.
Trindle carefully removed the cake from the ovens, Bovine looking over his shoulder and instructing him. "Okay now, steady there, don't want cake all over these shiny floors, now do we. Carefully place it on the counter…There we go! Perfect! Now, run down to the cellars and ask ol' Splikko for one of his barrels of October Ale. It will go nice with tonight's meal. And get your two so-called friends here too, wherever they are!"
Trindle slowly plodded out of the kitchens, resisting the overwhelming aroma of the delicious cake. He headed to the cellars and witnessed Splikko Bungspike and a few moles having a good old time.
"Hurr hurr, that'n be's a good 'un, Spillko!"
"Aye, that it be! Now, who's up fer some more o' me famous elderberry cordial, eh?" Spotting Trindle, the hedgehog looked up. "Oh, we have a visitor. How may I help ye, young Trindle?" The squirrel cautiously walked over and asked,
"Friar Bovine'll be needin' a barrel o' October Ale fer tonight's supper. It's going to be a big celebration."
"A celebration. Ahh, for what?"
"Well, for a peaceful life at Redwall, that's what!" Splikko Bungspike groaned as he pulled himself up from the rickety little wooden chair.
"Mmmm, Bungloo, would you an' Furch roll down a barrel o' some nice October Ale? My ol' bones ain't cut out fer that kind o' work no more." Bungloo, a middle-aged mole in Foremole's crew, and Furch Bungspike, the young apprentice nephew of Splikko, both ambled off deeper into the cellars to do Splikko's bidding. Trindle nodded his head in thanks and hurriedly ran up the stairs to search for his two missing friends.
Batrey and Gurlem had been laughing at Trindle's plight the whole way up to the Infirmary, holding onto the railings lest they fall in their infinite mirth. "Hurr hurr, maister Trin be's all 'lone en ee kitchen. Yurr we bee, sneakin' up to yon Firm'ry."
"Ha-ha! Aye, and 'e'll be steamin' like a pot o' o'troot soup when 'e finds us!"
"Did somebeast mention hotroot soup?" Skipper Korva squeezed passed the two friends as he walked by down the stairs. "Yum, my tummy's growlin' like a wolverine that ain't got 'is play toy. That Bovine's a life saver, I tell ye." Without another word, the unknowing Skipper rushed off down the stairs, tripping over the last stone slab as he went, shouting something undecipherable. Batrey and Gurlem looked as the otter rounded the corner for a moment before chuckling and heading further up the stairs and to the Infirmary.
Once at the Infirmary, Batrey knocked on the door, and the shuffling paws of Sister Tassel were heard from inside. "Who is it?"
"It's me, Batrey, an' Gurlem's here, too."
"Hmmm, and where's the other one, eh? That young squirrel Trindle. You three are always together." Batrey smirked before answering.
"Umm, Trindle's helping the Friar down in the kitchens. Apparently there's to be a grand dinner today." As Batrey finished up his sentence, the door creaked open and Sister Tassel stood looming in the doorway, her presence enough to frighten any vermin warlord. Batrey continued, walking in past the Sister. "We've come to see the otter, Vaheenra. Is he healing properly?"
"Oh no, you know my rules. No visitors to any critical patients. You can come and visit in a few days. I don't want anybeast bothering Vaheenra while he is a guest at our Abbey. Now shoo, go on, both of you, out, OUT!" The Sister escorted the two creatures outside, but not before Vaheenra noticed.
The young otter had been lying in his Infirmary bed for three days straight, usually in and out of a coma. Now he felt wide awake, yet his eyelids fluttered and closed heavily. Not having the strength to lift them back up again, the otter lay with his eyes closed, listening and observing his surroundings with his ears. Most of the pain from the arrow had diminished, but every time he moved his torso, a twinge of pain shot through the left side of his body. The wound was not fully healed, and Vaheenra new it would be a long time until the pain would settle.
Twisting over, the young otter let his eyelids fall and his mind once again slipped into a deep rest.
Batrey and Gurlem protested as the were pushed out of the Infirmary, but they persistently pleaded with Tassel to let them in. However, the stern old Sister gave them a stiff upper lip and had them sprawling on the floor outside of the room. "Like I said, no visitors. Now, do something useful with your time and go help Brother Trent with some chores. Believe it or not, there are always things to be done!"
The young, sprightly fieldmouse, Brother Trent, looked up as he heard his name being called. "Hmm, these young fellers need chores, eh? Well, I got just the thing." Picking up some brooms, he tossed them over to the two unfortunate friends, grinning. "Ah, now let's see some smiles on yore young faces, eh? A day in the attic, clearing out all the dust is just the thing fer you two no-goods!"
Batrey frowned upon his misfortune. "Aww, but Brother, me'n'Gurlem wanted to go out o' the Abbey, y'know, we haven't been outside the Abbey grounds fer days!" Trent, always an obliging creature, gave in almost immediately to the pleas of the friends. Sister Tassel, however, was not so willing. The stern Infirmary Keeper began berating all three of the Abbey dwellers.
"Outside, eh? Well, not when there's chores to be done! And you, Brother, giving in so easily! Well, all three of ye are going to clean out the attics until I say that you are done! Is that clear?" The three nodded their heads solemnly, scared beyond measure by Tassel's sheer level of furiousness. However, Abbot Jenkus appeared behind the Sister, bewildered by her shouting.
"My my, Sister. I think we should give our Abbeybeasts the break they deserve, isn't that right, young gentle beasts?" Gurlem and Batrey nodded their heads vigorously and skipped away quickly, under the glare of the Infirmary Keeper.
Vaheenra, looking up from his bed, groaned as he pulled himself up into a sitting position. Looking out of the gap in the doorway, he saw the burly form of Gurlem, with Batrey standing next to him. "Yurr, thankee kindly, zurr Abbot! Us'n's pick ee gurt big straw'bees fer ee en Mossflower Woods." Smiling, Vaheenra lay down for what seemed an eternity, happy that Gurlem and Batrey had gotten their wish. However, his memory came back to him in the form of a sharp jab of pain in his wound. Coughing and struggling around in his bed, he yelped numerous times, getting caught in the white linen blanket.
Sister Tassel, Brother Trent, and Abbot Jenkus came rushing to his side, holding him down. The Sister held a damp cloth to his forehead, yelling out orders to Brother Trent rapidly. "Trent, get some sage leaves and … some chamomile, too! Mash them and wrap them up in some dock leaves. And … dribble honey over it all! Abbot, please get some comfrey tea to sooth Vaheenra!" Once the required ingredients were gathered, Tassel alternatively gave the otter some tea, and then forcefully made him chew on the dock leaves. After the otter calmed down, Tassel began interrogating him. "Now, what caused all these fits, eh?"
The Abbot pulled the Sister back. "Now now, Sister, we mustn't pressure the poor creature, he's been through far enough as it is!"
However, Vaheenra was more than willing to talk, no matter how much pain it caused him. "Ach…huh…Batrey…Gurlem…Mossflower…vermin!" He slumped forward, eyes glazed over.
Trent's eyes widened as he realized what the otter had been trying to say. "Vermin! Of course, we should have realized earlier! There are vermin abroad in Mossflower Wood, that’s why Vaheenra was shot by an arrow!" Time seemed to slow as Jenkus stood staring at the otter in disbelief. Then, grabbing Trent and Tassel, he rushed out of the room, and down the stairs, calling Korva and Foremole to his side.
"Raise the alarm, we have two creatures out in Mossflower, and vermin are abroad!"
Korva stopped Jenkus in his tracks. "Whoa there, Abbot. Vermin, y'say? Since when? Jus' last week, me'n the crew scouted out Mossflower, like we do every season. No sign o' vermin then!"
"Things change, Korva! Now I want you and Foremole to take yore crews and retrieve Batrey and Gurlem before they are taken into the clutches of any vermin!" Both otter and mole nodded, rushing off to gather their crews and any other help. Jenkus sighed and looked over towards the tapestry of Martin the Warrior, founder of Redwall Abbey. "Keep my creatures safe!"
Outside, the sun pushed through a barricade of clouds, ready to fall behind the horizon to give way to darkness. The cream and pink hued clouds shifted about under the heat of the sun, swaying gently, throwing shadows upon the trees below. A crow flew by Redwall Abbey, cawing harshly, and the frantic activities down in the Abbey below did not give justice to the beautiful goings on of nature above.