Think of Me…
Martin grasped Rose’s hand. He looked over the hill towards Marshank and took a deep breath. “This is it, Rose, this is the day we’ll free all those slaves and rid the world of Badrang.” He smiled at her.
“Yes, Martin, I know you will. Just be careful, and… when all this is finally over…” Martin put a hand on Rose’s shoulder. “I’ll be by your side, same as always.”
She smiled at him and tweaked his nose. “Yes, but more. We’ll be able to enjoy it, without you always thinking about Badrang.” Her face fell from sweet smirk to concern. “You think about him too much. Promise me something, Martin.”
Martin grasped her hands. “What? Anything, Rose, anything for you.”
“Don’t think about revenge tonight. Think of me.” Martin’s eyes and hers met for a moment then she put her arms over his shoulders and he hugged her tightly.
“I promise, Rose, I’ll think of you.”
“And I’ll think of you.”
Fire filled the air and the crackling of burning wood was around him. He ran through the fortress, and then Martin saw him. Badrang. His father’s sword was in the tyrant’s hands. Fury filled the young mouse and he ran at him. He barely saw him throw the young mouse from his grasp. He was only thinking of his father’s sword, and of killing the Tyrant. Then, he grasped it’s handle, he forced the swordpoint at the Tyrant’s chest, and delved the blade deeply in. It was his now, the sword was finally his.
Martin put the bloodied blade through his belt, it dragged the ground as he wearily walked forward, the world returning to its normal hue; no more red. Then, he saw her.
“Rose!” Martin yelled, and he jumped forward, kneeling down and picking up her limp form. “Rose, it’s gonna be alright,” He said. “you’re going to be fine, I promise,” His voice shook. “We’ll get you back to Noonvale, Brome knows healing! He’ll help, you I swear it, I swear he’ll help you!” His limbs where shaky as he looked at her closed eyes. “Rose, I’m thinking of you… I’m thinking… Rose I’m sorry.” He sobbed. But her head lolled to the side in an impossible angle and blood ran down Martin’s sleeve. He only then realized that she was dead.
Martin slowly lowered her body to the ground. He picked up his sword, and looked at it with hatred. “You made me break my one and only promise… the only thing that mattered,” He stood there and looked at the bloodied blade, and his reflection flashed in Badrang’s shape, and it laughed at him.
Martin stabbed the sword deep into the ground at Rose’s side and crouched there brokenly, arms draped over the weapon. Then, his whole body went rigid, and he looked at Rose.
“Forgive me,” Martin ran, he ran from the cursed place that now not only had ripped his youthful years away from him but also his love. He ran so far his paws padded on the sand of the beach. They pattered into the sea, and there he stood, waist deep, and looked at the moon. Tears streamed down his face, as his battered mind painted her face in its white brilliance. Then, the image contorted, and it was Badrang. He laughed at Martin, and the world fell into blackness, as did Martin.
Chapter 1. Everything is Cold
Martin sat upright in his bed, stifling a scream. He saw the dark stone walls around him and he let out a shuddering sigh, getting up and feigning the strong silent look with much practice. He was good at it.
As Martin walked down the stairs he smiled at Daerwin, a young squirrel whom often sleepwalked. “Going back to bed?” He asked.
“Martin?” Daerwin shook his head. “Wha- Martin?” He rubbed his eyes.
“Go back to bed,” Martin said, ruffling the young squirrels hair. It was short and chestnut brown, perfectly matching his fur.
“Yeah, okay,” The young squirrel walked back upstairs.
Martin let the smile drop from his face once again, walking towards the kitchens, down the stairs to stop in front of the barren wall of Great hall. He stroked the sandstone which felt cold against his paw. …Everything’s been cold since she left me… Martin looked forward, striding across the hall and into the kitchen. He sat by the fire and wrapped an old cloak that he found draped across a chair around his shoulders.
“Ah, Martin, come for a midnight snack?” The old warrior jumped, paw instantly twitching as he felt the urge to grasp the sword slung across his waist, yet stifling the desire when he saw the elderly mouse sitting on a chair in the corner.
“M- Maklamis…!” Martin sighed, slumping down in his chair. “No.”
“I didn’t think as much.” The ancient mouse said, getting up and walking towards Martin,
putting his paws on the back of his chair. “I didn’t think so.”
“How is it,” Martin said. “That you whom I haven’t known so long can read my mind?” the question was unreadable.
“It is a gift,” The gentle voice above Martin’s head was soothing and he thought of his father. “or a curse. Either way.”
Martin sighed. “How old are we, brother, you and I?” Grey pawed hands reached down and massaged Martin’s shoulders, allowing his eyes to close in comfort.
“Old,” he said. “You’ve never told this abbot how old you are. Martin I’m your closest friend, though I am your abbot you call me brother, and I don’t even know your age.”
Martin’s eyes opened again, and he dully stared into the fire. “I never told you, huh?” He asked, and the soothing feeling rose up to his neck and he sighed. “I am forty-seven seasons, not old at all.”
“Old for an abbey warrior.” Martin thought he heard a questioning tone yet he was silent. “You can’t let go of the position.” Said Abbot Maklamis.
“Once again…” Martin said, twisting in his chair and looking up into the smiling eyes behind the little round glasses. “you’ve managed to read my mind.”
Maklamis sighed. “Martin, truth be told your mind isn’t a hard one to read… considering I know of your past.”
Martin stared back up at Maklamis. “You don’t know my past.”
“Part of it.” Said the Elder as he pulled up a stool from one of the many stone islands. “You’ve made it obvious to an old observer as I.” He rubbed his forehead with his hands as if he had a headache.
“How have I made it obvious?” Martin stared back at the fire.
“By trying not to,” Maklamis sighed. “Martin, you don’t open your heart to anyone. You’re a distant character. Not many notice this, but I have. You are in pretense the model person: kind, loving, strong and silent,” He looked at martin pointedly while saying these last two. “yet it’s a shell. Inside you are a friend to no one and nothing.”
Martin spoke somewhat quickly. “I was.” his voice was higher than normal.
“I know. You lost something, and you’re afraid to lose it, so you don’t except it. I believe, along with Gonff’s death you had something bigger… Martin, did you love someone?” Maklamis spoke half to himself, but Martin abruptly stood and left, grabbing a scone.
“I’m just a person, nothing more. I’ve had my share of hardships, but my past hasn’t made me who I am today. I’m just me, Maklamis. Just me.” Martin left the kitchens but instead of going inside to bed he climbed the wall tops.
Martin sat atop the walls and looked out into the rising sun. He had brought the old cape with him and he idly picked at the scone, throwing it to a nearby bird. “What cold winds have you flown through my friend?”
The bird nibbled on the crumbs. “Danger is coming.” He tweeted. “Much danger. Gazorath the Dead is coming. Sent by Vulpuz himself, yes.” With that the bird opened its wings. “You have three dayz.” And flew off.
Martin grasped his sword. It was meaningless. Just another war.
The chilly wind blew Martin’s headfur back, and he stared into the sun, wondering dully whom this new threat was. “Gazorath the Dead…” Martin said quietly. “perhaps you can free me for a while. War,” He laughed quietly. “That’s the one thing that distracts me…” He looked down at his graying footpaws. “But not for long…” He was silent again.
“Martin!” He heard a young voice exclaim.
Martin put on a happy face and turned. “Less!” he said. “How’s my little squirrely maid?”
Less smiled. “I’m sixteen seasons old, Martin! I’m not a squirrely maid!”
Martin grinned. “I know. That’s why I call you one!”
“Martin!” She put her fists on her hips.
“I’m just kidding!” He said, and looked over to the stairs. “Oh look, here comes Daerwin.”
Daerwin walked up to Less and pointed. “Oh hi, Martin. Less, look!”
Less looked out into the rising sun. “Yeah, warm, isn’t it?” She asked, and she seemed to look at the sun with a look of pride, or joy, or some other feeling Martin remembered from long ago.
“Yes,” He said. “Warm.” Martin was also good at lying, at this point. His eyes half lidded as he unbuttoned his cloak, letting the freezing air caress his skin. Less was wearing only a knee high dress without sleeves, and she looked chilly.
“What’s up, Less? You’ve got goose bumps.” Said Daerwin.
“I’m just… remembering.” She looked almost wistful.
“What are you remembering?” asked Daerwin.
Less cast a sideways glance at Martin and didn’t answer. Martin walked down the stairs, leaving the pair alone.
Chapter 2: Past and Presents of a Youth
“What are you thinking?” aksed Daerwin with more interest. “Is this about your parents?” he put out a paw as if to touch her shoulder, but quickly lowered it with embarrassment. Something like that… in a creature only fourteen seasons old was too mature. It felt only as instinct: something he would’ve done to help a fellow squirrel fellow, but she was… well… a she. Lucky for Daerwin, she didn’t seem to notice his awkwardness.
“No,” she said, keeping her eyes on the sun. “it isn’t.”
“Oh,” Daerwin looked at the sun too. It hurt his eyes, harshly seeming to burn them, but Less seemed fine. The wind ruffling her long, slightly darker shoulder length hair which stood out against her dusty light brown fur drew his gaze to her pretty face. He found he couldn’t look at things for long when she was around.
“I’m thinking about six years ago.” She said.
Daerwin looked confused. “What was that?”
“Six years ago, on this date, the first of fall is when I met you.” she turned to him and smiled. Her smile was pretty, he thought. He had always thought that.
“Oh, yeah? Really, I didn’t know that.” Said Daerwin. “Nice. Well, happy sixth anniversary!” He reached out his paw boldly. She blushed before giggling and taking his in hers, shaking paws. “You know, I’m glad I met you,” he mused.
“Y-yeah?” She said, and looked stunned.
“Yeah,” Daerwin replied. “Totally, without you, life’d be boring.” He leaned on the wall casually. “Really, boring.”
Less shouldered him. “Yeah, sure.”
“No really!” Daerwin looked almost offended. “I don’t lie!”
“Hah! Like with brother Locklin? ‘Oh, I swear on Martin’s blade I didn’t steal the cookie!’”
Daerwin blushed and looked embarrassed. “Yeah, well…” He looked straight ahead and picked at a stray grey stone in the walls. There was an awkward silence again. Less hated the awkward silences. To Daerwin they weren’t awkward at all. He didn’t mind silence.
“So, what are you doing today for lunch? Going to go with Lukas and Merray again? Or perhaps John and Matthew?” She looked up at the clouds. “Oh look, a flower! It looks like a flower!”
“Lunch…? Hey, it does look like a flower! A rose. Yeah, I guess I'm doing lunch. I made an arrangement with Matt the other day, said I’d go out with him to the orchards and we’d eat some nuts. The elders don’t mind when we do it, as long as there’s no dibbuns tagging along for us to influence.”
Less laughed but it seemed to him she was disappointed, or embarrassed, or something. He could never tell with her. “You can, like, come if you really want to. I don’t mind. Bring Brooklyn with you though, would ya? You know how Matt and her are.”
Less nodded, smiling. “Yeah, been together since dibbunhood. Like sister and brother they are.”
“Fine, meet me then, I’ve gotta go: Gatehouse duty.”
“Okay, bye Daerwin!” She said.
“You can come, I could like, walk you to the abbey and keep you company. The lawns are long, you know?”
Less shook her head. “No, I think I’ll stay up here. I want to be alone for a while.”
Daerwin nodded respectfully, adjusting his nighttime habbit. “Besides, I’ve gotta go change.”
Less smiled as Daerwin left, hoisting up the rope cord that held up his over robes. She looked back up at the sun. Six years? She’d known Daerwin for six years already? She had come to the Abbey then, and seen him around, it was only last year, though, that she had really met him. Brooklyn had been hanging out with him at the bonfire and she had joined. They were friends ever since, and he was the most fun guy she knew to hang around, but there was something else about him. She sighed and looked down at the woodlands. She would have to ask Martin about leaving the abbey to go to Honeycomb’s glend. She needed advice right now. Advice that only parents, other young lady squirrels—whom she didn’t want to confide in—and guardians could provide. She didn’t have any guardians… that where close anyways. Martin was sort of hers, but he was too busy being a warrior; practicing with the youngsters (of which Daerwin was one of) and sharpening weapons and making new ones and stuff, and she also didn’t have parents. They had died when she was three.
Chapter 3: Honeycomb
Honeycomb was on her hands and knees, nose to the ground, snuffling through the loam. She lifted her head and snorted with pleasure. She sat on her knees, taking the pack on her back off and digging, holding up a large, black truffle to inspect it in the sun. She smiled in satisfaction. A good find indeed! “Well, then,” She said, rubbing dirt off her striped snout.
“you’ll make some good soup, won’t you my little feller? Hee ha, yes you will!” She sighed, looking at her full pack. Mushrooms, fungi, and wild herbs, but most importantly: honey.
“Honey, yes, yes, yes, my beautifully tasty namesake! Ma and pa, they knew what they where doin’, naming me.” She unwrapped a comb and stuck it in her mouth, eyes closing in delight. She then, still chewing the honey soaked comb, got up and started walking. She adjusted the straw made hat that was on her head, wide brimmed to keep the sun from her tender eyes. Honeycomb loved the sweet taste. From the time that she was a babe she snuck into her parent’s beehives and, ignoring the hundreds of stings she’d get, eat the honey relentlessly. Her parents, though they probably shouldn’t have, delighted in her silly antics. She’d hold up a slate of honeycomb and say ‘lookit mammy! I have honeycomb! Honeycomb! Honeycomb!’ Her parents would scold her, taking her away from the swarms of bees, while her mother nursed her stings which she seemed immune to and he father smoked down the hives. The scolds never seemed to work, though, and that was probably due to their smiling faces. Then, one day, they were gone. They wouldn’t wake, still in their beds they entered eternal sleep one night. Honeycomb chewed the disappearing stick of honey thoughtfully. She had only been five seasons old, she didn’t understand then.
Honeycomb smiled. Now she did, and she was glad her parents had entered Dark Forest peacefully and without trouble. Never did she know how old they had been. She did know one thing, though, they loved her, and they loved each other. Love was their life, and it was honeycombs as well. Love had made her blossom. And now, she was old. Honeycomb had remembered finding the young squirrelmaiden all alone in her house, she also had remembered the parents. Honeycomb’s brow furrowed. They hadn’t entered Dark Forest peacefully.
Honeycomb grunted as she entered the clearing.“Hah… homve,” she said with a muffled voice as she tried to unstick her jaw. She smacked her lips and, seeing how that didn’t work, rolled her eyes and entered the large dead tree. The bark had been soft on the outside, and, scraping it away, she’d found the wood was firm, yet there was a hole, just big enough for a badger to hobble in. She’d made the tree house herself when she’d left her mother and father to sleep together years ago.
Inside the dim lit house was large; the tree was still standing, and the trunk was wide enough so that she had much room to walk around in. The tree must have been large in life.
“Gah!” She mutedly said. “Mah bouth, vill you looke at my mbouth!” She said, looking at the large beehive in the top of the trunk. She shared a home with the bees. They buzzed as if in reply. “All your fvault ya?” she laughed as she got into a shelf she’d carved. A lone bee droned on the jar she was seeking, it’s wing’s buzzing yet not lifting him off the ground. “Oawv…” Honeycomb said. “Vait a vinute,” She lifted the bee onto the shelf, off of the desired bottle. She took of the cork and swished a very small amount into her mouth. She put her head out the door and spit the solution out. “Ah! Better,” She said, smacking her mouth in displeasure. “Vinegar, nasty taste.” She then returned to the shelf and put the bee on a piece of moss drenched in nectar. The bee weakly crawled around and drank, it’s failing wings buzzing wearily.
"I know, honey,” Said Honeycomb, stroking the bee’s wings. “I know…” She sighed and looked outside. A black crow landed on a branch.
“Caw!” He harshly looked at her. “What? What do you want, carrion bird?” She asked. “What is it?” She was gruff, and the bird’s feathers poofed out.
“He is coming, he!” It said, clacking his lethal beak.
“Who? Who is coming? You look scared enough.” The badger leaned against the side of the door.
“Gazorath! Gaazzzorath!” The bird lifted its wings and flew off. “Dayz are numbered!” he flew away.
“Gazorath,” Honeycomb was grave. “That name is one of legend. A nightmarish legend,” And she quickly went inside her house. The bee in the background was still and silent, lying on its nectar soaked deathbed.
Chapter 4: Inward War, Outward War
As soon as Martin left Less and Daerwin alone he headed straight towards the abbey. He strolled over the lawns, taking the short sword from his side and twirling it. This sword was a substitute for his real weapon. It was just easier to carry in his old age. Martin lauged to himself. Truth be told that wasn’t the reason. He just felt that he shouldn’t carry the magnificent sword with him unless need be. Why carry more than defense? His father’s sword was more. It was a real weapon.
He burst forward into the abbey, and he was framed by glowing light, and the mice who saw him saw a new man. His face was immune to them, and he stared ahead as if at something more. Something they had never seen. He walked upstairs and almost ran into Dearwin. He paused and leaned against the sandstone wall.
“Daerwin, I thought you were with Less.”
Daerwin blushed and looked down. “Uh, well, yes sir, she uh… wanted to be alone.”
“You didn’t offend her did you?” Martin smirked.
“No sir!” He looked up. “No, I didn’t.”
You mean, ‘no I wouldn’t,’ don’t you lad? “Good, thing, too. Those maidens are more than pretties. Treat her with care, boy.” He ruffled the squirrel’s hair and with that ran upstairs, leaving the blushing youth to his own thoughts.
“Abbot Maklamis.” He said with a voice of triumph.
Maklamis Jumped. “Martin!” He said.
Martin nodded. “We’re in for war.”
Martin walked outside, walking up to the walltops.
“Hello, Martin.” The voice startled him and he looked at the pretty squirrel.
“Oh, hello Less, here to be alone?”
Less looked slightly confused. “Yes, Martin, I am.” She looked out into the sun, and Martin saw something in her eyes that made him bite his lip and look closely. “What is it, Less?”
He cleared his throat, but she didn’t seem to notice his voice was an octave higher than normal.
“I—” Less closed her eyes and looked down. “Less,” Martin walked close and put his arm around her, without hesitation at a sudden urge that was from someone he knew intimately yet hadn’t seen for a long time. The gesture startled him. It came with ease.
“I don’t know what to do, Martin.” She said and her voice was quiet.
“What do you mean, little one?” Martin asked.
Less stared at the rising sun. “I… my parents—” she didn’t continue for a while. “I’m alone, Martin.”
Martin patted her shoulders. “You’re among friends,” He said.
Less nodded, sniffing. “Yes, but, I… it’s not enough I know it should be, but—” She tried to swallow the lump in her throat, and the urge to cry was a little less as she heard his startling reply.
“No, Less, It isn’t enough.”
She looked up into his eyes and she saw an understanding she’d never seen from anyone she had ever known.“I-It isn’t?” She asked, once again drying her cheekfur.
“No, it isn’t.” Martin was certain. “You need love.” He kneeled and took her hands. “Less, know this: you don’t have to be alone.”
Less stifled tears without taking her hands from his. He knew her secret. She saw it in his eyes.
“I’m afraid to, Martin. It would be so… strange, and a risk...”
Martin shook his head. “No, no, no. Don’t be afraid, please.” His gaze was intimate. “Being afraid brings more pain. A pain you’re standing through without fighting.” He handed her a dagger. “Here,”
she took it with surprise. “Why this?”
Martin’s eyes where strong. “Because you’ll need to fight for more than your emotions soon.” He stood and with his back to her he started walking down the stairs. “War is a time you can find your life or throw it away. That’s the only two choices. It’s a crossroad, Less.” He walked down the steps without another word.
Less looked at him with tear filled eyes. Tears of confusion, mostly, she pondered. She wasn’t sad, or really very afraid, but she was a little. Less gripped the sheathed dagger. It’s handle clenched in hers calmed her and she looked into the sun. Martin had just given her the answer to her question, but it was an answer she was scared to pull off. She buckled the dagger to her dress’ belt. She’d need better attire soon, she decided, and, wiping her eyes for the last time that morning she gripped the edge of the walltops.
As Martin walked down a tear slid down his cheek; but it was a different type of tear than he’d cried before. His paw was clenched and he remembered the feel of her back against his fur; it had been warm. Thank you, Rose. Thank you. Rose had been shining in Less’s eyes, begging him to help.
Chapter 5: a Request
As Martin went back inside he saw foremole Dubby running into the kitchens with a ladle.
“Hoo hur, Marfin, they bees makin toornip an’ beetroo’ poi fur supper! Hoo hoo hee!” As the friendly foremole started hurrying by Martin stopped him. “Hey, before you go in there, can you find abbot Maklami—”
“You’re looking for Maklamis?” a voice interrupted. “ Maybe I can find him.”
Martin turned to see the old Abbot smiling down at him. “Oh, alright, foremole, go enjoy your pie!”
“Hoi, yesh I will Marfin!” With that, the chuckling little mole wobbled off.
“Foremole Dubby is such a sweet soul. What did you need, Marfin?” asked the Abbot, laughing quietly.
“I was wondering if I could bring a couple abbey children with me on my journey.” Martin asked with a voice of certainty.
Maklamis didn’t answer for a while, but then he found his voice. “Bring children, Martin?” asked the Abbot. “Where too? I don’t know, from what you’ve made it sound, it will be dangerous.”
“Yes, it will be,” Confirmed Martin. “which is why I want to bring them.” Abbot Maklamis looked concerned. “Martin…”
“I’m going to Honeycomb’s. If anything happens there she’ll be able to help, and I’m perfectly able to protect them on the journey. It’s no more than a day’s walk, Abbot, and I’m concerned for Less and Daerwin. They need training, of which I can provide. They show promise, and a little adventure is sure to perk up their warrior’s spirit.” Martin sounded positive.
“You mean if they have a warrior’s spirit. Martin do you know what you’re doing?” the Abbot’s argument had no effect on the young again mouse.
“Yes I’m sure. Abbot, I swear by my father’s sword I’ll protect them.”
“A… alright. Just be careful.”
“Yes, Brother, you can bet on it.” Martin walked up to the empty wall and grasped the hilt of his father’s sword tightly, drawing it down. “Yes, you can bet on it.”
Chapter 6: Less and Daerwin
Less ran down the steps as quick as she could, but nearly ran into Daerwin.
“Dae!” She said.
“Less!” He said flustered.
“What are you doing up here again?” She asked.
Daerwin saw the tearstains on her fur and considered just running off, but cursed his stupid mind for that thought.
“Uh, making sure you’re okay. I didn’t want to like… I dunno, just seeing.” He said lamely.
“Oh,” Less looked surprised. “Really? Well, I-I’m okay…” She smiled awkwardly and toyed with
her long headfur. It was in a ponytail.
“Yeah… uh… good.” He said and looked around. “You were leaving then?”
Less nodded. “Yeah. I want to go down to the abbey and find Martin. Look what he… gave me.” She held out the dagger.
“Let me see that,” Daerwin said, and once she handed him it, he unsheathed it. It was beautifully made. Silvery black the blade was thick and welded securely into the hilt. Daerwin swung it idly. “Hm,” He said, and with more enthusiasm twirled it at his side. Less stepped back a bit but he handed it back after sheathing it.
“It’s a good weapon,” he said.
“Really?” Less was somewhat surprised.
“I-I mean I think so. It fits well in the paw, and well… yeah.” He scuffed the stone with his footpaw. “I mean, I don’t know a lot about this stuff, but I collect weapons.”
“You do?” Less asked. “I had no idea!”
Daerwin shrugged. “Yeah, intriguing things, weapons. Most of mine are dulled, though.” He looked at the dagger somewhat enviously. “I wonder where he got that. It’s not much to look at, but it’s authentic.”
“I don’t know… but he said something about… a war.” Daerwin’s ears stood up. “War?” He asked, and he felt his heart flutter within his chest.
“Like, a real one? When?”
“I… I don’t know. He said soon.”
They stood together awkwardly on the steps and once again Daerwin almost reached his paw out to touch her shoulder gently, but he stopped himself. Don’t do that, Dae! That would be stupid… she probably wouldn’t like you anymore. So he simply just stood there looking at her… ‘’which is also stupid’’ he looked at his footpaws. “Less, I—”
“What are you two younguns doing standing on the stairs?” asked a burley hedgehog grumpily. “I have to get up here to fix a crack in the stone. Don’t want Redwall crumbling under our pawsteps already, do we?” He asked, and they, blushing, let him by.
“Well… uh… you were going to the abbey?” asked Daerwin.
“Yeah… I’ll see you.” She said. “I could walk you!” Daerwin said all to quickly and eagerly. stupid… he thought again. But Less looked pleased of all things. “Okay,” She said, and he walked up to her.
“I can carry that,” He pointed towards the dagger.
“I guess you'd better not… Martin said to keep it close.”
“Oh,” Daerwin said. “I, of course not. Definitely, that’s uh… let’s go.” He said, blushing. Though, he saw Less looked a little disappointed at not being able to give him the dagger to carry.
Chapter 1: Gazorath!
They walked through the forest, and Lezz's mind raced and her heart pattered. She was finally on the road doing what she loved best... traveling and seeking adventure!
"So, Martin, is it true that Honeycomb is really the wisest badger in all Mossflower?"
"She's the only badger in all mossflower."
Lezz grinned. "You have a point."
Daerwin giggled. He couldn't believe abbot Maklamis let him actually go. Then again, his heart sank when he thought of the dangers... and of Lezz. Why did Martin have to bring her along too? Anyone but her.
"Come on youngsters, we've got a long way to go and I don't want to be out here by nightfall."
Their two voices rang together in perfect timing. Even as they snickered he somewhat hated himself for dragging them into this... three days... the bird's warning rang in his ears. But he had to set an excample, to train Daerwin and make him abbey warrior someday. And Martin had learned best by experience... And loss. let them learn from my mistakes, to heal future wounds from my heartache.
"Because, Honeycomb doesn't like to be kept waiting." He had truthfully answered their unasked question involving the rumors that she was a prophet... but he had lied more. How many people knew that his entire life was a lie? Martin hoped not many.
As they entered the clearing with the one large, dead tree stump--still rather high in the air--Lezz nervously looked around. "Hear that buzzing...?" She asks nervously.
Daerwin nods. "Maybe there's a few bees around."
"A few bees? Mark my word there's a bit more than a few! 'Ello Martin me ol' friend! How've you been of late?" Honeycomb shuffled out, a stick of sweet honeycomb in her mouth. She pointed a sticky paw at her old friend. "Hullo there, I haven't seen you since the days of the Corim I 'aven't.."
"Aye old friend," Martin said. "I've missed you..."
"But that look... you want help I'll be wagerin'. Now come ye inside where it be dark and pleasant and where we'll have a little company." She winked, but Lezz couldn't help noticing how serious she had been...
As they entered the tree stump Lezz stifled a yelp. She pointed up. Daerwin backed out of the cave, and Martin smiled softly, but jumped and rubbed his forearm.
"oh, sorry about the bees. Hold on a tick." Honeycomb lit a fire over some leaves, and the bees's buzzing died down. They crawled up and down the walls, and Lezz still looked around with a jittery gaze.
"Now, Martin, lets get blunt here. What do you want?"
Martin would have normally smirked, but under the surcumstanses he grinned. "Gazorath."
"Gazorath?" Daerwin said. "I've heard of him. Some say he indirectly serves... the Lord of Dark forest."
Lezz shook her head. "No... the Lord of Hellgates."
"Watch your mouth little missy. Talk of that place lightly isn't something for valiant people. Only vermin."
"I wasn't--I wasn't using it lightly ma-am." She said.
"Good then. Well, a carrion bird came up to me the other day, and he told me 'dayz are numbered'."
"Aye," Martin said. "Three, to be exact. Our feathered messenger visited me as well."
Lezz felt her heart patter against her chest. "Wait, wait, wait," She said quickly. "What are you saying?"
"He's saying Legend is coming to visit our doorstep... Redwall's doorstep..." Daerwin said, scowling and putting a paw to the dirk on his tunic.
"I like that."
All eyes flashed towards Lezz. "What..." She said nervously. "Did I say something wrong?"
Honeycomb burst out into peals of laughter, stomach shaking merrily. "No, no, no, lass! No indeed! Such spirit hasn't been found since... since the early days of Martin the Warrior!"
That phrase stirred something within the elder again... something that he knew had to awaken if he was to survive the next few months... something he had to awaken in the youngsters if they were to survive. Something he had to teach them to awaken... so they could carry on the legacy of the word warrior. Yet his face stayed the same. Shocked. Lezz... no maiden had acted with such... truthful eagerness to battle since... he didn't know when. Rose hadn't. Rose had hated battle... But he had dragged her into it.
Daerwin's face was grave. "Lezz you don't know what you're getting into."
"Me? Yeah, I know. I'm getting into war, and by the bow of Lady Amber I was born for it. You know how I love swordplay."
"No, you're staying at the abbey."
"What?" Her eyes flashed at Martin. "Wait, what?"
Martin was completely grave... and serious. "I will not have you fighting out in the open. You're job is to heal the wounded and sick in times of danger."
Lezz looked furious... saddened. "But I want to-I've got to help!"
Martin shook his head. Rose had died because of his choice in letting her participate. No maiden was going to die in his name again.
Lezz swallowed hard. "I-I.... but Martin why?" She tried hard not to show herself cry....
"Aye, Martin, why not? She's strong... able! I can feel it."
"I don't care what you feel," Martin said firmly to honeycomb. "She's staying in the abbey."
Honeycomb gestured for the two youngsters to have two honeybaked cornbread cakes. Then she put her hand on Martin's shoulder and lead him outside onto the green grass of the clearing. They walked to the far side of it, where they could still dimly see the shapes of the two squirrels.
"Martin, keeping her in the abbey is far more dangerous than letting her fight." Honeycomb's face was grave, even with the crystalized honey clinging to her snout and making it sparkle. Her nose twitched and she stared at Martin seriously.
"No," Martin said. "I am not letting her fight in the midst of this war. She could die."
"Do you think a creature has a right to control its right to live?" Honeycomb asked, changing the subject.
"Yes, which is why I hate slavery so much."
"Now," Honeycomb continued. "Do you think a creature has the right to choose whether or not it dies?"
Martin's face hardened. "Yes, when they understand the concept. She doesn't."
"Yes," Honeycomb says. "She does. A flame burns in her heart, Martin."
"Look, I will pass on my training! I'm teaching Daerwin."
"They can protect each other." Honeycomb insisted. "They were made to fight side by side. They can do it. They will go on together through adolescence and adulthood... far more than they realize."
Martin shook his head. "No, Honeycomb!" Martin shook his head, looking away, shocked he had let his voice choke up like it had.
"If I could read pasts I could contradict your mistakes,"
Martin looked sharply at honeycomb.
"but I can't. So you will get no further help from me..." The old badger got up. "We should--"
Suddenly she opened her canine-like jaws and roared, red light flaring up in her eyes. She wheeled around, and Martin saw an arrow jutting from her lower back, red streaming from it. She ran at the blue-garbed archer, but he shot her again in the shoulder. Lezz looked outside and screamed as Honeycomb bit the black creature's skull with her huge maw and crushed his head. She looked up into the trees, roaring at the half-score of animals in the trees.
"LEZZ GET OUT--" Daerwin didn't finish his sentence, shoving her out of the way as an arrow nicked his shoulder where she had been a second ago.
Martin took out his sword, white light shining in the forest and issued his challenge by battle cry. "REEEDWAALLL!!!!!" He ran into the brush, sword flying, skewering and slashing. Daerwin got a bow and arrows and started one by one shooting down the vermin. Honeycomb broke the two arrow shafts, but fell, lying still. Lezz climbed the trees, taking her dagger and stabbing hearts and cutting throats with lightning speed. She sneaked past the ones who were shooting at Daerwin, kicking them out of the trees. But they landed on their feet, something even she couldn't do from this altitude... without breaking an ankle. One of them wheeled around and slashed at her with his curved knife, and she fell, screaming.
"NO! LEZZ!" Daerwin ran and shoved the arrow into the back of the creature who was standing over the squirrelmaiden crouching on the forest floor and grabbing her shoulder tightly. He protected her as Martin cut down the remaining forces. As the last one fell, Martin excamined them.
"W-wildcats?" He panted. He looked across the clearing. A score and a half were dead. "All wildcats?" Martin sounded confused... dismayed. But ferociously alive.
"Gazorath... Gazorath... Gazorath.... GAZORATH!!!!" Martin turned around, and saw the most terrifying creature he'd ever slapped eyes on. He bared his teeth and grabbed the gory weapon. "I DARE YOU TO STEP FORTH." The warrior was awakened.
a Terrible Loss
He was tall.... lithe... Two tall ears stood out from his head.... a dog of some sort. Like a wolf but leaner. He had a gold madallion on his chest... his tunic was blue, and open at the chest. He was two heads taller than Martin, and he held a double sided golden spear. "Gazorath, Gazorath!" It chanted.
"Its a jackal... from the... sands by... Salamand..." Honeycomb's voice died out. Lezz ran over to her, and looked at her wounds.
"Martin I-I dont' know what to do!"
"Gazorath!" The jackal raced forward, slicing down at Martin. Martin held up his sword to parry. The gold dented and the spear fell in half. The thing growled, picking up both halves and using it like two weapons. The two styles of battle clashed. Neither one was a dodger. They were hardcore fighters... to the end. Martin ignored the stab to his shoulder, and with red light in his eyes, fought the creature.
Lezz and Daerwin leaned over Honeycomb.
"She can't die, Daerwin!" Lezz said, and her voice was choked with fear... anger too. "If she dies...!" She wrapped her arms around Daerwin and sobbed into his chest. He wrapped his arms around her but was filled with jittery nervousness... She didn't notice how hard his heart was beating. He was scared, but Lezz leaning on him, so terrified, made him feel protective. He comforted her. "Get herbs." he said.
"No, don't waste herbs on me..."
Before they could do anything, the creature knocked Martin off his feet, sword flying from his paw. The creature dived at him but Honeycomb shot up, jaws crushing his neck in a death grip.
As they both fell, Honeycomb killed him, and staggered up.
But Honeycomb merely staggered forward a few feet, falling again, this time breathing heavily with rasping sounds coming from deep within her chest.
Martin got up, his whole forearm was crimson and maroon with blood, and it dripped off, trickling down his arm to his hand. His other arm was over his stomach, and his entire tunic was stained... "B-bloodwrath." he said, but then he looked at the dead jackal. "We need to get to Salamandastron. Now."
Lezz's face was wet with tears and her shoulder was cut deeply, but she picked up her dagger. "We must get the Long Patrol... and get the Colonel."
"you're going to Redwall."
Lezz shook her head. "no, I'm not."
Martin grabbed her. "Yes, Lezz, you have to warn them and you have to stay safe!!!"
She tore her gaze away and stomped off towards the abbey, and Martin coughed, leaning against a tree.
Daerwin was staring at Honeycomb. "She can't--she... No."
Martin closed his eyes. "She knew it would happen."
"That... No..." Daerwin sat down, in shock. "She can't... no."
Martin went inside the tree trunk, looking for bandages. He wasn't cut deeply, but he was loosing blood all too fast. His heart was hard from war... and its scars. He looked down, as it softened a bit... hearing Daerwin's sobbing.
It had been a terrible loss, losing Honeycomb. But, Martin thought, Daerwin looked... better. As they walked along the path at a brisk pace that they had both chosen without thought or consideration to the other, Martin watched Daerwin wipe the dirt from his paws. The burial hadn't been fancy, because Martin had never known how to do a fancy burial. He blushed at the thought. But, as they walked on, the hard look on the young squirrel's face assured Martin. This was the first step: actually experiencing it. Martin was glad that Daerwin's first death shock had come with the loss of a loved one, not an enemy. It had come the same with him to, and his elderly grandmother on their way to Marshank. It had kept him quiet the trip there, but at least he hadn't felt the wracking pain inside when it was someone else he killed. That could wreck a beasts future. But then again, so had Rose's death. Martin pushed that thought aside as he strode on.
"We're going to have a long trip, you know."
Martin nodded. "Yes indeed, Daerwin, we are."
"Through all Mossflower."
"And the desert, we have to go there, too."
Martin held up Lezz's overheavy haversack. "Why do you think I packed her such a big one for merely going to Honeycomb's with us?"
Daerwin raised his eyebrows. "Hm." He said. Then he looked on at the path. "We'll have to cross the swamp."
Martin nodded but this time he didn't say anything.
"You know that's where we lost Gonff."
Martin stopped, merely looking ahead. "He's just lost." then he shook himself and continued walking, and Daerwin looked at him.
"Martin he's been gone for years! If you'd only admit and forget things would be so much easier for you!"
"Don't tell me how to live my life!" Martin said, turning abruptly and grabbing Daerwin's shoulders firmly. At first Daerwin was shocked, but as Martin continued that impression changed. "You have no idea what I've seen. It-it's possible, you know that! I lost him once before, and found him again."
Daerwin looked at Martin's graying fur that surrounded his gray-blue eyes. "But Martin, that took you about a week. It's been more than a week. This isn't a river with a sharp waterfall at the turn. This is a swamp miles wide, and terribly deep. Gonff is an expert navigator. He'd have come back if at all possible."
Martin sighed and walked on, shouldering his haversack. "Well, he could get lost. He hasn't had his entire life time to explore this neck of the woods." That, Martin new for a fact to be true. The swamp had either sprung out of nowhere, or grown from a small bog. It wasn't unexpected, with how they flooded Kotir. But it was unexpected how big it got, and how fast it spread. It was also riddled with adders. "Come on, lets focus on the road immediately ahead of us. Not the road miles in front of our path."
Daerwin nodded. "Okay,"