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It was midnight. A warm, calm summer night. Castle Floret stood tall over the country, and symbol of peace and order. The land of Southsward had been a land of peace for many, many seasons, since the times of Gael Squirrelking and Joseph the Bellmaker. Sure, there were small bands of vermin, but they caused no real trouble, and if they did, they were taken care of by the Floret Royal Guard of otters and squirrels. Granil Squirrelking, descendant of Gael, sat in his bedchamber with his wife, Queen Furala. Both were avid historians, and they were both reading their own separate tomes, dusty books of Southsward's history lent to them by Castle Floret's recorder and librarian, Maro. The otter and squirrel residents of the castle were all in their own rooms and dormitories, save for the few out on the nightly patrol of the territory. Yes, it was another peaceful night in a peaceful land. Until the Squirrelking was awakened by a banging on his door.
"Who is knocking on my door at this hour?" he muttered, standing from his study table to open the heavy oak door.
It was one his soldiers, a young squirrel. Standing next to him was a tall, middle-aged male badger with wearing a brown tunic with a longsword strapped to his back. Granil's tired eyes immediately opened in alarm. He addressed the badger.
"Basalam, what are you doing here at this late hour? This must be urgent." Before Basalam could answer, the young squirrel guard cut in.
"Sire, myself and Sleekhound were in charge of the patrols tonight. Basalam met us before we could get to the border. He and his mother were chased out of their home by vermin! A great army of them! He took Maralaun to the Straightfurrer cave to hide her, and was on his way here to alert you when we ran into him!"
Granil looked to the badger. "It's true," Basalam confirmed. "We were in my cave, on the Southsward border, my mother, brother, and myself. We were attacked, by more vermin than I have ever seen in this part of the land before. Weasels, rats, foxes, ferrets, and stoats. These weren't the type of vermin that usually roam these parts. These weren't common thieves and troublemakers. These were killers, Granil, heartless killers, with proper weapons and without an ounce of fear. They took us completely by surprise. My brother Borlum and I fought with all that we had, but he was slain, and I wounded. Then the mouse tribe of Garin, you know, the ones the live in the caves near ours, came to help. Garin had his best warriors there, but the vermin were too much. The mice were beaten, and the vermin raided their caves. Granil, no prisoners were taken. They slew all beasts, warriors, wives, old ones, babes, it didn't matter. Garin and his tribe were completely slaughtered. I made it away with my mother and six mice, the only survivors there were. Like Hermel here said, I took them to the Straightfurrer mole tribe. And now I am here to tell you of this danger, king. Southsward is in terrible trouble. I have no doubt that these vermin will make their way further into our land."
Basalam hung his head, tears coursing freely down his cheeks at the loss of his home and brother. Only then did Granil realize how horrible the badger looked. His clothes were bloodstained, he had cuts and wounds all over his body, and part of his right ear was missing. This beast had been through a lot of fighting. A feeling of fear and hopelessness ran through the Squirrelking. Southsward was at war.
Dawn rose slowly in Southsward. Usually, this was a most peaceful time of day, but not today. All the beasts at Castle Floret were preparing themselves for war. Otters sharpened javelins and loaded slings with heavy river stones and squirrels checked their quivers to make sure they had plenty of arrows and tucked long daggers into their belts. Big hedgehog warriors from nearby tribes were there as well, wielding heavy clubs and primitive hatchets. With them were many other otters and squirrels whom they had collected from Southsward, from tribes and holts, fighters who were willing to give their lives to protect their homes.
Granil Squirrelking was holding a Council of War in his throne room. He sat at the head of a long table. Present was the Queen Furala, Basalam the badger, the old mouse librarian Maro, the otter captain, Grekk Warhound, and the squirrel Captain, Lady Pine.
Granil stood and spoke. "Friends, I must know, are we all agreed to solve this problem by fighting the vermin?" He looked about at his counselors. Captain Warhound spoke first.
"Aye, sire, 'tis the only option aside from leavin Southsward, which I refuse to do. Huh! Handin over our homes and land to likes of scum and vermin? No sir, not for this otter! We'll fight, drive these invaders from our land, and get revenge for the Garin and his tribe, as well as Basalam's brother! Garin was a good old matey 'o mine, and I won't let his death be in vain!"
This was followed with cheers of approval. Lady Pine spoke next. "Sire, I have sent spies to the caves of Garin, where the vermin still reside. My squirrels have told me that they are led by a rat and a fox, and that they plan to march on Castle Floret in three days. It gets worse. For some reason, they changed their minds about not taking prisoners. They've captured lots of small families of mice, hogs, moles, and voles, and old Bregrin the otter and his little tribe. Young ones and old ones, small families, beasts not capable of fighting back. They're being kept as slaves! My squirrels have taken any resident of Southsward that's not captured or here to the Straightfurrer mole cave, where Maralaun and the mice are. It will be well protected, though I don't think the vermin will bother them. They're intent on coming straight here. Now, I have arranged for of my squirrels to take you and the Queen to the cave during the battle....." The squirrel leader got no further. Granil interrupted her.
"Thank you, but no thank you, Lady Pine, but my wife and I will be staying here to help defend the castle." There was a wave of protest from his otter and squirrel captains.
"No Granil, ye can't! We can't have the king of Southsward riskin' his life!"
"Sire, I must advise against this. No one doubts your skills as fighters, but this is too dangerous!"
Granil raised his paws to silence them. "I thank you for your concerns, my friends, but I refuse to hide in a cave while my creatures fight and die! We are not too old to fight, and back in my younger seasons, Furala and I traveled to Mossflower. It was there that we met a tribe of shrews known as the Guosim. They taught us to be warriors there, and we even helped them fend off a clan of foxes. Aye, Granil Squirrelking and Queen Furala will help you, my friends, defend my beloved castle, or die trying!"
Grekk and Pine were silent, though their face were still clouded with worry and doubt. The ancient Maro spoke for the first time. "Friends, I too am reluctant to have Granil and Furala fight, but we cannot stop them. I think it is a brave and noble act for them to want, nay, demand that they stay behind to help us in this fight. I think we should honor their decision."
Queen Furala patted the old creatures shaky paw.
"Thank you Maro, my old friend."
Basalam stood up. "Well then my friends, it is time that we start preparing for war. Grekk, will you accompany me to the Straightfurrer cave for one last check to make sure it will be safe there?"
They left the room,and Maro and Lady Pine went to see the soldiers. The King and Queen sat alone in the room now. Granil stood up from the table.
"Right then, m'dear, I think I shall start preparing, I will go to the armory and get get my sword, you know, the one that was my father's? I fetch your old bow as well. Then I must go see to the troops. As for you, you should get some rest.You didn't sleep at all last night."
Before he could leave, Furala stood up and grabbed his paw.
"Oh no you don't. I'm coming with you. Look at your paws, they're shaking. What's wrong?"
"Furala, this isn't a clan of robber foxes we're dealing with. According to Basalam, this is a horde, a huge army of vicious killers! The Guosim shrews were trained warriors, but we're not. Sure, Grekk and Pine are, but are their otters and squirrels enough to defeat this foe? Most of our army have never been in a battle, because Southsward has been at peace for countless seasons! I never imagined that i as king would ever have to face a problem as big as this."
The squirrel hung his head. Queen Furala held him close to her.
"Gran, you are an excellent leader. You put on a brave face in front of your creatures, and I know you will once again when the battle comes. I am here with you, and I will not leave your side. I know you are scared, as am I, but we will fight, and we will win. And if we do not, then we will have died fighting to defend our home! Just remember, whatever happens, I will be with you!"
The king turned his tear-stained face up to his wife.
And with that, both squirrels left the room to go help their army prepare.
It was the night before the battle. Near the border of Southsward at the sea were several caves in the side of a massive wall of rock known as the Border Cliffs. These were the caves that had once been home to Basalam and the Garin and his tribe. Vermin of all sorts lounged in and out of them. Rats, foxes, weasels, ferrets, and stoats sat around, eating more than their fill of the dead tribes food, and when they were done done, fighting over scraps.They were a filthy, low bunch.
In the largest cave sat the fox Angus Axeblade. He was a tall creature, with a glossy orange coat and a well groomed bush tail.He sat on a rock ledge that was used by Garin and past tribe leaders. He watched his vermin closely. They were idiots, fools, but they were his ticket to legend. Angus Axeblade, ruler of all Southsward! Well, co-ruler. His "brother", Ravid the Raider would also be there. Angus had no issue with his partner. The big rat and he had been raised from birth by an old stoat, who trained them to fight and thieve like true vermin. And they had shown him what true vermin they were, slaying him when he wanted to come along with them to conquer Southsward. Old fool! No beast would share in the glory of capturing Castle Floret but himself and his brother. He watched the slaves. Two weasel guards were prodding them roughly with spears while they continued the task of burying the dead creatures from the battle that had taken place. There was not a lot of vermin to bury, mostly just mice and the big badger. Ever since their attack a few days ago, the vermin who were have done it just kept putting it off until a weasel captain called Regul came up with the idea to have the slaves do it.
Ravid had led the attack into the badgers caves. It was he that ordered that no prisoners be taken. Ravid could be quite foolish sometimes. After the massacre, Angus had ordered that his scouts go find other slaves, and before long, the vermin army had a group of mice, moles, voles, and a little tribe of otters to do their bidding. Angus smiled, his long fangs showing. Yes, this would be quite easy indeed!
His brother came up and sat down beside him. Ravid the Raider was an enormous rat, nearly as tall as Angus. He was clad in a ragged black tunic and had several animal skulls on his belt. Trophies: an otter chieftain who had challenged him to combat, a weasel captain who had challenged his authority, a mole hermit who had slung stones at him when he tried to break into his dwelling, and the old stoat who had raised him and then tried to take control of the army. Yes, Ravid the Raider was not a creature to be messed with. He addressed Angus.
"Tomorrow then, brother?"
The big fox winked at him.
"Aye brother, tomorrow! Tomorrow at dawn we march on Castle Floret, and we become kings! Rulers! Emperors!"
"I like the sound o' that!"
A ferret captain called Draul addressed the two.
"Sires, d'ye want me to tell the army to prepare their fangs?"
"Yes, Draul, do that."
Every single vermin in the army was known to paint their fangs red before a battle. This was why they were known as the Bloodfang Horde! Angus fondled the big battle axe that gave him his name. Oh yes, the Red Fangs were coming!
Direct from the writings of Brother Vello, Recorder of Redwall Abbey in Mossflower.
It is a sad and difficult time at the Abbey of Redwall. A horrible sickness has befallen our creatures. We are not sure of its origins or of how to cure it. Several dibbuns and other Redwallers have caught it, including our Gonfelin Chieftain Groomo. Two elders have died from it. Abbot Mordey is completely overwhelmed by this problem, so much so that this afternoon Badgermum Redja ordered him to take a rest in his room while she took over his duties for a while. However, yesterday was the absolute worst day yet. Our Abbey Warrior, old Galda Oakblade, caught the sickness. She had violent fits of coughing and vomiting, and it seems that she has caught it worse than the others. Redja visited me in the gatehouse today, and she tells me that Sister Merily thinks that Galda might die tonight. Like I said before, it is a very sad time here at our usually joyous Abbey. As for me, Abbot Mordey has confined me to the Gatehouse, as well as old Bargo Pinback. Being the oldest two creatures in the Abbey, the good Abbot does not want us catching the sickness, so is keeping us away from most other creatures. Only he and Redja can see us, as well as my friend Renjo the Gatekeeper, and his two young pals, Ral the squirrel and Dervel the shrew. They bring us food and tea, and keep us old uns company in this sad time. I very much like young Ral. He is to be Abbey Warrior after old Galda, you know. She has been training him for several seasons now. Galda's own son, Rilfor, didn't want to be a warrior, but I think that Ral will be one of the best this Abbey's ever had. He is polite, strong, very wise for his age and brave as they come. He has proved that several times, like last winter when he saved young Gurrbit the mole dibbun from the water rat out on the path. Excuse me, I must go now, I hear a knock at my door.
The old mouse stood up from his desk and shuffled across the Gatehouse floor, passing a bed in which an ancient hedgehog was sleeping. This was Bargo Pinback, former Cellarhog and oldest creature in Redwall. Brother Vello opened the door. Two tall otters awaited him.
"Renjo, Skipper Barralo, how are you this evening?"
"Not very good, Brother," answered Renjo the young Gatekeeper. "Galda is dying. Sister Merily thinks it could happen any minute now. Galda has requested that you be there, and to bring your writing materials."
"Oh no! Renjo, could you go get my quill and parchment, on the table there by your bed. Try not wake Bargo. Skipper, help me will you?"
Brother Vello leaned on the burly otter as they walked across the lawn to the Abbey. When they got inside, they made their way upstairs and into the infirmary. Every bed was filled with a different creature who had the illness. Dibbuns, elders, otters from Skipper's crew, the Gonfelin mouse chieftain Groomo, and another mouse named Friar Marcus, who was Redwall's Head Cook. Skipper and Renjo ushered Brother Vello swiftly past them, not wanting to get the old recorder sick. They went into side room.
Laying on a bed was Galda, squirrel warrior of Redwall. She was quite old, and had been for sometime, but that never once stopped her from protecting the Abbey. Many times she had tried to pass the rank of warrior to her middle-aged son Rilfor, but he did not want any part of a warrior's life. He chose to be a peaceful creature at all times, and looked down upon Ral the squirrel and others who had desires to be warriors. The normally strong Galda looked so weak and old. She lay on the bed, either paw held tightly by Rilfor and Abbot Mordey. Behind Mordey stood Redja Badgermum, and the squirrel Sister Merily, who was the Infirmary Keeper. The healer seemed to have stop caring for Galda, as there was nothing more she could do. The only other creature in the room was Ral, who stood close to the bed beside Rilfor, tears streaming down his face at the death of his mentor. Brother Vello spoke.
"Er, Abbot, Galda requested that I come up here?"
Abbot Mordey was a chubby old mouse. He turned around to face the old Recorder. His eyes were clouded with sadness. Standing up, he allowed Brother Vello to sit in the chair he had been occupying.
"Yes, Brother, we're not sure why, but Galda wants you right here next to her. Here, sit."
Brother Vello sat. Taking the dying squirrels paw, he said, "I am here, friend Galda. What is it that you need of me?"
It took several minutes before Galda spoke. Her voice was a mere hoarse whisper. "A recorder needs to be here to write down what I have to say. Martin has spoken to me!"
"Martin!", cried young Ral, "please, Galda, tell us what he said!"
"Hush, young one," chided Redja, coming over to put her big paws on Ral's shoulders. "Let your mentor speak, and we will listen."
Much to every beast's surprise, Galda smiled weakly.
"Ah, my young Ral, always so eager and easily excited! I'll miss that. Brother, get your parchment ready. Last night, I was visited by Martin the Warrior. He brought with him a great many warriors. Warriors from our Abbey. Beasts who've held the Sword of Martin as I have, and as Ral will. Dandin, Samkim, Matthias, Mattimeo, Martin II, Abbot Arven, Dannflor Reguba, Deyna the Taggerung, Trisscar Swordmaid, Rakkety Tam MacBurl, Bosie McScutta, and many others. These were the names that popped into my head. The just stared at me. And only Martin spoke. He said that Redwall would soon be visited by a bird who would bring us a great quest. He said it is our duty to take go on this quest and make him proud! Of course, he mentioned that I would not be there. I can see the Dark Forest Gates now, friends! Ral! Ral, my apprentice, my friend, you must lead the Redwallers to wherever it is this mystery bird wants you to go! Do this for me!"
Her voice broke off into violent coughing. Brother Vello finished writing. He took Galda's paw once more and squeezed gently.
"Galda, did Martin say anything else?"
The old squirrel warriors eye were closed now. She seemed to be dead. Rilfor gave a sob and Redja went to comfort him. Suddenly, Galda's eyes opened wide. She seemed to be in a trance. She spoke in rhyme.
"Redwallers seven will sail the sea,
To help enslaved creatures in their misery,
Young squirrel apprentice will lead the crew,
Ralgar Bushtail, that is you,
Take with you the pretty maid who admires you so,
And the hedgehogs two who yearn to go,
The Gatekeeper with his ancient sword,
The Abbey-protecting Badger Lord,
The military major, expert at war,
will help you find an army to take to Southsward!
Find widowed Queen and Warhound's wife,
And help their creatures in their strife.
And make the red-fanged beasts ne'er forget,
the name of Redwall Abbey yet!"
And with that, Galda lay still and silent. It was Abbot Mordey who broke the silence.
"Martin the Warrior has spoken through Galda!"
It was early evening at Southsward. The battle had been short. The creatures of Castle Floret fought with all that they had, but it had not been enough. Granil Squirrelking lay dead upon the grounds of his Castle. Around his body were those of many vermin he had taken with him. Nobeast thought that the gentle king would ever be a beast of the Bloodwrath, but he was. Yes, Granil had fought like a warrior, taking over twenty enemy soldiers with him. However, the vermin were too much, and the Bloodfangs now ruled the kingdom. Grekk Warhound and Lady Pine also had fought like madbeasts, so much so that none of the vermin wanted near them, so Angus had ordered them shot down with arrows. Their corpses we thrown into a large ditch along with all the dead creatures. Queen Furala and a very small amount of creatures had escaped to the Straightfurrer Cave. They had to carry Basalam the badger with then, who was barely alive. Ravid had cut him badly with his rusty sword. Those who did not escape were taken prisoner. They were thrown in the dungeon with the slaves that Angus and Ravid had already collected.Castle Floret was defeated.
Gulla Warhound was thrown roughly into the cell with the others. The big otter immediately got up off the floor and started pounding on the door.
"Let us out, ye cowards! Do battle with me, ye red-fanged scum!"
She was restrained by her son and Hermel the squirrel guard. The old mouse librarian Maro put his paws on her in an attempt to calm her down.
"Gulla, Gulla, please, this screaming and hitting the door will get us no where! You must calm down! Come friend, sit, and we shall talk about this."
Gulla sat down with her back to the wall. She began to sob openly.
"I'm sorry. You're right, of course, Maro, but I just...." her voice trailed away.The others did their best to comfort her. She had been though a lot. Her husband, Grekk, and her friends cut down before her very eyes. It wasn't long before every slave in the cell had tears in their eyes, and those in other cells too. Gulla eventually lay and slept.
She awoke bright and early the next day, slightly startled to find herself in a prison cell. She sat up, looked at Maro and the the other creatures sleeping around her, and remembered her predicament. The door opened and two ferret guards called Knifetail and Slopneck entered. Between them they carried a large bowl of some sort of food. A stoat followed behind behind bearing clay bowls and spoons. They placed these item on the floor while two big foxes at the door kept their bows pointed at the unchained prisoners.
Knifetail addressed the slaves. "This 'ere is yer food fer the day, Southswarders. Divide it amongst yerselves and make it last. Tomorrow begins the first day of work fer you scum, haha. Lords Angus and Ravid want a new gatehouse built to replace the one destroyed in the battle. Eat up."
He gave a cruel, toothless, smile, and he and his guards were gone. Hermel went over and stuck his paw in the sloppy mes in the bowl. Tasting it, he confirmed.
"I think it's some sort of oatmeal! Not very good, but at least it's something!"
All the prisoners went over and began to eat the mess the vermin had given them. Gulla filled a bowl for old Maro and sat down next to him, not wanting to eat. They all sat in silent misery until a voice caused them to look up to the high barred window.
The prisoners raised their heads to see a small sparrow standing on the narrow window sill. Gulla instantly brightened up.
"Lightbeak! Old friend, you're here!"
The bird nodded. "Yes, Lightbeak travelfast whenhear news of vermin! Come toolate though. Miss battle. King die. Lightbeak woulda fought, woulda fought like madbeast! Foxworm and ratworm winthough. Lightbeak go to molecave. Queen and old badgerlady say come here, bringthis to Gullafriend!"
He dropped something down to Gulla. The otter snatched it up.
"Quill and parchement! Oh, good old Furala!"
Lightbeak nodded again. "Squirrelqueen write note to slaveworms! She say write back. Together you planto takeback Floret!"
Maro frowned. "I'd be willing to bet anything that taking back Floret now is Basalam's idea. Gulla, you must write a note back and tell them that this is not good! Less than twoscore of our forces escaped, and even with the entire combined mole tribe it will not be enough to defeat these vermin! You must tell them not to attack!"
A big otter called Jundro snorted.
"And what then, old one, just sit here and rot while our friends do nothing! Just let these vermin rule over Southsward?"
"No! Of course not! I just think that attacking them would result in slaughter! I'm not sure what to do Jundro, I just know it shouldn't be this!"
Jundro snorted again. "But we have to try! There is nothing else we can do!"
Gulla interrupted the argument. "Wait, friends, maybe there is!"
She looked back up to the sparrow. "Lightbeak, fly now to the Straightfurrer cave! Tell Furala and Basalam and his mother not to attack! Tell them they will know why I said this in time. Then, fly straight back here! I'm going to need you go on a very long journey for me. Will you do it?"
Lightbeak spread his wings. "Lightbeak do. Help friends. Lightbeak is traveler, great flyer! Lightbeak do as Gullaworm ask!"
And with that he took off. Jundro confronted Gulla angrily.
"And what was the meaning of that? What will we do now?"
Gulla answered calmly. "I have an uncle named Falzo, who used to be the Skipper of Otters in Mossflower. Of course, his son Barralo is probably Skipper by now. They both live at Redwall Abbey!"
Maro's eyes widened. "Redwall Abbey! They have warriors aplenty there! Goodbeasts all! Surely they would help us!"
Gulla nodded. "Exactly. I will use this quill and parchment that Lightbeak gave me to write a letter to my uncle and cousin asking them for help, and then I will have Lightbeak fly it to Redwall Abbey as fast as possible. They will send help, I'm sure of it!" This was followed by cheers of approval.
Hermel, who was watching out the little window in the door, suddenly turned around and whispered hurriedly to others before Gulla could say more.
"Hush now marm, and hide those writing materials, here comes a guard!"
An enormously fat stoat guard unlocked the door and entered the cell, flanked by the two archer foxes who had been there earlier. He eyed the ragged prisoners.
"Oi, what's all dis cheerin' about, eh? What've you beasties gots to cheer about? Y'all better shut your gobs afore I tell Captain Regul and get Lords Angus and Ravid in 'ere!"
"Er, sorry sir." Hermel replied.
"You'd better be, shquirrel!"
When the guards had gone, most of the slaves laid down to take a nap, as that was really all they could do. Gulla Warhound, however, began to write. There was hope in that little cell that day.
Angus Axeblade and Ravid the Raider sat at the head of the very same long table in the throne room that Granil and his beasts had sat at before the war. Their villianous captains were lined up on both sides of the table. Ferret Captain Draul had been slain in the battle, as well as another Captain, so the ferrets Knifetail and Slopneck had been promoted in their place, just a few minutes before.
Angus looked out over his creatures.
"Well, my friends, we have done it. My brother and I now rule an entire land."
This was followed by cheers from the captains. Ravid smiled.
"Aye, and now we get to put those slaves to work!"
More cheers. Angus and Ravid waited calmly for the vermin to quiet down. Angus watched them all closely, Ravid too. This was it. This was what he had wanted. He was ruler now! And these vermin were his servants to command. Maybe they weren't such idiots after all. They had managed to capture the Castle with minor casualties. Cure, Captain Draul had died, but that just proved that he was not worthy of being a conqueror. A warlord. Angus liked that word. Warlord. He, Angus Axeblade, was a warlord, ruler over Southsward!
His thoughts were interupted by the weasel captain Captain Regul.
"Lords, Blangor has something to report!" The fox captain Blangor stood up and spoke loudly.
"Lords, there are still some survivors, though not many. A little less than twoscore, and that big badger. We believe that they are hiding with some sort of native tribe, as there are many around these parts. Could be mice, like the ones we slew, or hedgehogs or moles or voles or otters, we're not sure. I'm sure that they plan to attack us! To get revenge!"
Ravid snorted. "So let them! Ha, 40 odd defeated creatures, a wounded badger, and a tribe of peaceloving bumpkins against the entire Bloodfang army? Let them come, and those who are not slain will just become our slaves, just like their friends!"
"I agree," said Angus. "We rule this land now, our forces are far more than any rebellion they could come up with. We have plenty of slaves do our bidding. This is what we've always wanted. To be kings!"
The vermin cheered once more. Angus sat back. This was the life.
It was early morning at Redwall Abbey. The residents of the abbey who were not sick were up and had just finished breakfast, cooked by Skipper Barralo and his crew in the absence of Friar Marcus. It was a rather sad affair following the passing of Galda, but Abbot Mordey and Rilfor and Ral had planned a beautiful burial ceremony by a shady tree near the pond. Every available beast in the Abbey was there, and Galda Oakblade, fearless longtime defender of Redwall Abbey, was put to rest.
After the burial, Abbot Mordey called for a council of elders in the Gatehouse to discuss Martin's message through Galda. He sat there waiting with Brother Vello and Bargo Pinback, waiting for the other to show up. The Abbot had sent Skipper to fetch them all. He had invited only the most trusted and wise residents of the Abbey to discuss the quest. Skipper Barralo, Redja Badgermum, Rilfor, Foremole Dunner (leader of the Abbey moles), old Falzo the otter (father of Skipper), and of course, Ral, the only creatures the rhyme mentioned by name.
Abbot Mordey looked around at the assembly.
"Friends, we must figure out who is to go to Southsward before this bird arrives!"
Redja Badgermum spoke.
"Well, Father Abbot, I do believe I have figured it most of it out. It wasn't really that hard, you see. Ral, Martin the Warrior has chosen you to lead this journey. That is a huge honor, lad. As for the others, all I did was go through the riddle again. After Ral is mentioned, it says 'take with you the pretty maid who admires you so'. That's not very hard to figure out at all."
She was smiling, as was the Abbot. "Aye, Ral, I think we all know who that one is. It can only be young Fenry!"
Ral was blushing, trying not to go further in the subject of the pretty maid. "Well, er, um, then let's go get her then!"
The Abbot nudged the sturdy Foremole. "Foremole Dunner could you go find young Fenry and bring her here? She's probably in the kitchens helping to make lunch."
"Hurr, zurr Abbot, Oi do berleev Oi can."
"The next one says, 'the hedgehogs two who yearn to go'. That's got to be Tummon and Thickspike! Those young uns are always talking about leaving the Abbey to go on great adventures!"
Old Bargo Pinback spoke up. "Aye, I knowed those grandsons o' mine were good beasties! chosen by Martin the Warrior, what do you think o' that? Ral, young squirrel, go get 'em!"
Abbot Mordey gently patted the old one's back. "We shall wait until we have figured these all out, and then go fetch them. I'm afraid I sent poor Foremole too early, with the rate we're solving this. I don't want creatures to be going back and forth during this meeting. It's very important."
Redja Badgermum continued once more. "Alright. And 'the Gatekeeper with his ancient sword' is the easiest one yet. No doubt it's Renjo. He's the Gatekeeper and he has often bragged at feasts about his father's sword, passed down in holts from generaion to generation."
Abbot Mordey spoke now. "Very good, Redja, and I think I know who the 'Abbey-protecting Badger Lord is. I at first thought it was you, but you've never been a Badger Lord. Martin was talking about Sullano!"
Redja nodded. "Aye, Sullano indeed! He is young still, and has never been in a battle, but he is the son of Lord Balentor of Salamandastron!"
Skipper voiced his thoughts. "So we've got Ral, our cellarhogs, our gatekeeper, and a young badger,