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“Yurr hurr hurr… Fiddle moi dee, ifn oi ain’t as round as a bumbleebee…” an elderly mole sung in mole dialect as he trundled towards Cavern hole. Suddenly, he was surrounded by dibbuns (the term given to Abbey babes). One dibbun, a serious faced squirrel asked, “You gonna tell us a tory? We likkle ones like a tory.” The old mole smiled. “Aroight you liddle dibbuns, oi’ll tell e a story. Would e loike a noice gurt story?” “I think a story would be very nice”, said a middle aged Hedgehog walking down the steps. This Hedgehog, unlike any other, had no quills. “Woi, favfer abbot, it do moi ole heart good to see e! Oi’m wondering ifn youm would loike to listen to moi story? Hurr Hurr! An e gurtest part be youm in it! All youm dibbuns be gathering around, for oi’ll be telling e the story of Thimble the Hedgehog, and ‘is journey to Redwall.
From Slavery to Peace
It was a settlement of Hedgehogs that lived in the south-eastern mountains. The mountains were unusual, in the aspect that they were completely flat on top. It had been countless seasons since the first hedgehogs had settled, and since then, hedgehogs had plowed the land, growing the fruits of their labour. This is where Thimble had been born, a young and healthy hoglet, but with no quills. His father, Tubrengo, nearly fell off into the spring at the center of the town when he heard the news. He was a farmer by trade, but he was a big Hedgehog, nevertheless. When he ran into his home, he found his wife making lunch, and his first son sleeping, snuggled up in a linen blanket. A tear formed in his eye, as he knew what his child would face, but he smiled wide, and lay down next to him. “Hello little one. Do you know why we named you Thimble? We named you Thimble because your mama had a Thimble on when you were born, and it fell on your head afterwards! I still love you my little son.” Thimble’s eyes had opened and he gave a little smile. Then he fell back asleep. “Ah, isn’t he the cutest, dear?” said Tubrengo’s wife, Mayzy. “Oh yes he is! One day, he’ll learn the tricks of the trade from his old man!” Tubrengo went back outside to his plow. Yes, this is the life, he thought. Tubrengo had a strange feeling sweep over him, and he looked at the mountains east side. He thought he saw a figure walking along another mountain, but it quickly disappeared. “Huh. Interesting… I coulda swore I saw somebeast over there…” he mumbled. He would later, however, find out exactly what he saw that night
Fifty various Hedgehogs sat around a fire, cooking food and drinking ales. Little Thimble was wide awake and soaking all the partying in. Tubrengo stood up. “I think a toast is in order. I think we should toast my little son, Thimble for good health, and a prosperous future in our village!” No one could disagree with what Tubrengo said, so toasts went around for the quill-less Hedgehog. All of a sudden, everyone went silent. A tall, wide shape had appeared out-side of the fires light. The beast had an extremely long tail. Or so it looked. When the beast stepped into the fire light, it turned out it was a badger with a chain around his neck. Down his back, he had a grey stripe. Tubrengo went to help the young animal as he fell down from exhaustion. “Great seasons, you’re a mighty one. Are you okay?” The Badger groaned, and lapsed into un-consciousness.
“Quickly now, get him into my hut. Mayzy will have a look and see what she can do for him. Then we will wait for him to come to, and see what he says. Go now!” There was no leader to the settlement, but every beast respected Tubrengo as a wise and strong beast. They hasted to do what he had asked, and when they had finished, they went back home. Tubrengo picked up Thimble, and raced back to his house, after he had seen everyone home. When he got into his house, he found his wife trying to take the chain off the badger’s neck on the kitchen table. “Here, my beauty. I’ll take care of this.” He held onto the chain and pulled as hard as he could. With a snap, the chain broke. It wasn’t because the chain was weak; it was because Tubrengo was the strongest Hedgehog there was ever to walk.
Tubrengo saw that the badger was holding onto the chain. “Ah… I see that you are a warrior born, young badger. I can tell by how you hold onto the chain that you have become accustomed to it, and you shall use it as a tool, both for peace and for war, before your seasons are up”. He picked up the badger and brought him into his living room, and placed him on a pillow. “There now, have a good sleep. I’m sure now you are having visions of those who came before you, and maybe even what you will face. Good night.” With that, Tubrengo fell asleep as well. He had a very restful sleep. The badger however did not.
“Arrrgggg… G’morning house, and how’re you today? Ah, Mister Badger, I see you’re awake. Would you mind telling ol’me how you got here?” The badger answered, “Of course. My name is Chainstripe, but you can call me Chain, and I do not know where I am from. I was born into captivity, and it was horrible. Every day, whips and lashings, floggings and beatings. If I hadn’t been of strong blood, I wouldn’t have lived. All of us slaves were chained up by the neck. If you were getting dragged, you had to keep walking. Our captor was a Wolverine, nearly as big as my father. He wasn’t a warrior, my father, he was a ship builder. A mighty creature. You still wouldn’t want to cross him if he was angry. He would make ships for any creature that needed them, as long as they would be used for good. My father once made a ship for the badger ruler of Salamandastron. Great ship it was. Twice as big as any vermin ship and three times as fast. He really knew how to do what he loved. Well, anyhow one day, my dad goes into the Mossflower woods, and he goes with his wife, my mom, as well. They get cornered by some vermin and my dad starts fighting them with every ounce of his energy. He was eventually beaten down, unconscious. My mom had started fighting too, but she was pregnant with me, and she too was beaten down. When my dad awoke he was starring face to face with a Wolverine. Great big brute of a bully. He wasn’t very much older than I am now, maybe ten seasons, not of great age, but still cruel. When I was born, he left me alone for a while, but after a while, he started picking on me, and only me. I had been beaten half dead when my father decided it was time for me to leave. He broke my chain where his and mine connected and started to wreak havoc. I don’t know if he ever made it out alive. He was out-numbered by about five score to one, so I must assume the worst. But I will go back for that wolverine if it’s the last thing I do…” Tubrengo looked sympathetically at the young badger. “There now, just take it easy and relax. How’s about you meet my son? You’re a bitty bit older than him, but I’m sure you’ll grow up being good friends.” Tubrengo went and got Thimble from his cradle. “This is Thimble!” Chainstripe took Thimble from Tubrengo’s arm’s and almost broke down into tears. “Awww… Isn’t this little fella adorable… But why doesn’t he have spikes? Waaaahhh… A spike less Hedgehog…” “Oh there now, there now,” Tubrengo said, “My little Thimble is going to lead many. I have a feeling. I also have a good feeling that eventually, you are going to leave here, and so is my Thimble. I don’t know why, but he will go with you. It burdens my heart, but I know he’ll do many great things…”
And silence broke over the two, and it remained that way, just the two creatures staring. Tubrengo was studying Chain; A muscular male badger, still youthful, and just slightly taller than the beastly hedgehog himself. Tubrengo thought to himself, “This is a fine feller indeed… I suppose his fate lies in the mountain of the fire lizard.” Tubrengo was just about to ask Chain if he knew about Salamandastron when his wife came in. “Breakfast is ready my dears. Come in and help yourself, I’ve made something extra special for breakfast too. I hope you’ll enjoy!” Tubrengo decided to hold his thoughts, but said, “Well, come on now, best not keep my wife waiting. Maybe after breakfast I can show you around the village eh? Nice change in scenery?” The young badger was delighted. “I’d love to! Thank you very much for the hospitality.” “It’s no problem at all! Alright, let’s have some food!”
Mayzy had made one of the best Breakfasts’ that Tubrengo had ever had: Otter Hot root soup. Chain enjoyed it too, regardless of the spicyness, it was the greatest meal he could remember having. Then, Tubrengo and Chain went out on a tour of the village. Tubrengo explained, “Our village is relatively peaceful. That’s why we don’t have any sort of centralized military base of operations. However, that doesn’t stop any of us from having our own weapons. For that reason, I’ll trust to the fact that you won’t use that chain of yours to whip anyone.” Chain was slightly abashed. “After being treated to the whip and cane for the longer time, I would never dream of it. You have my word.” Tubrengo chuckled, “I expected just at much little warrior. Come now, follow me. There is one more thing I’d like to show you. It’s our lookout tower at the very top of the mountain.
Tubrengo hadn’t slowed down to wait for Chain, rather he waited for him at the top next to the wooden tower. “Tut tut, you’ll have to start training, eh? Well, don’t worry, you have lots of time. However, I invite you up to the top of the watch tower. Go ahead, take a look around. Take in all of your surroundings.” Chain looked around. All he felt he could see was just green hills and white-grey mountains and stones. “Haven’t noticed it yet?” Tubrengo asked. “I didn’t think you would. It took my seasons upon seasons to finally see it. If you look closely to the North-West, you’ll see a great ravine or a gorge if you want. It stretches on for as long as the eye can see. I’ve often wondered what was on the other side. However, I’ve never found a need to go that way. However, I’ve done some reading, and I think you will be going that way, won’t you? You’ll be going to Salamandastron, correct?”
Chain was stunned. “H-h-how did you… know that I… I had a dream last night. After I collapsed of exhaustion I suppose… I-I-I saw… Other Badgers and my parents… The other badgers were all great and mighty looking, and I felt their raw power, but I also felt the peace and calm that radiated off of them. And then I saw the mountain… Fire spewing from the top… And Hares… Hare’s in battle formations, and hares in battle. I felt the mountain calling me.” Tubrengo nodded. “That’s what I thought my friend. You are destined to become a Badger lord of Salamandastron!”
Chain looked completely flabbergasted at the prospect of told his own dream by a hedgehog that seemed just as ordinary as any other. Tubrengo chuckled, “Well, if you fancy eatin’ flies, just keep your mouth open. Well, come on now. Time to get you acquainted with our town’s folk, and I’ll find you a few jobs to keep you busy, eh? Either way you’ll need to get prepared for your long journey out.” Chain regained his composure. He seemed to feel more relaxed then he had ever felt. “Well, where do we start Tubrengo? I’ve met almost everyone, and I’m sure I’ll have loads of opportunities to meet everyone and get to know them well. Alright, let’s go!”
With that, the two started off back to the village, but there was a difference in Chain: He was walking with a newfound spring in his step, and he felt very relaxed and happy. He almost felt at home… He would continue to work hard on the farm for a long time, plowing the fields, picking the fruits in the orchards, fishing in the stream, and playing with Thimble. He very much enjoyed playing with the little Hedgehog. It was interesting. He had never known anything to be so small and cute, and he immediately formed a friendship that would last the tests of time with the little quil-less Hoglet.
Thimble was walking around the village. He was looking for Chain. He thought of checking the farms, but he had heard his father say that Chain had the day off. He had never been to the Watch Tower, and he wasn’t supposed to go there, but he knew where it was, so he decided to see if Chain was there. He started the walk up, which he found to be fairly easy. He had spent a lot of time helping his father and chain around the town and he had become strong doing all the work. He had just made it to the top when he found Chain.
“Hi Chain, what’re you doing?” Chain turned around. He had been leaning against the sturdy watch tower. “I’m not doing much, just relaxing I suppose. Here, you haven’t seen the view from the watch tower, have you?” Thimble shuffled his feet a bit, and starred downwards. He mumbled, “Well, I’m not really supposed to be up here, but okay.” Chain winked. “Don’t worry pal, your secret is safe with me. Take a look!” Thimble had no need to climb the ladder; Chain could simply lift him the small distance up. Thimble looked around taking in everything that he saw. Suddenly, he froze. Chain bent down and shacked Thimble, concern seeping from his voice. “Thimble, what’s wrong?” Thimble turned around. “Vermin are trying to get across the valley.”
Chain was surprised that the young Hedgehog could have noticed the gorge at a first glance, let alone a vermin horde. Still, he accepted Thimble for who he was, and he too took at glance. Thimble was no liar. Chain too could see the Vermin horde at the other side of the valley. He sounded a little excited when he spoke, “Come on Thimble, we’ve got to tell your dad. Hurry now, we have to tell him as soon as possible. Here, want to race?” Thimble smiled. “Sure, but this time, don’t let me win. I want to try to beat you. Go!” Thimble took off and a fairly fast speed for someone his age, but Chain could easily out-run him. He raced to Tubrengo and informed him the news.
Tubrengo looked a little surprised, but quickly regained his calm demeanor. “Well, if they’re coming, we best get prepared. This requires a lot of thinking, indeed it does…” Chain hesitated. “But… Tubrengo, don’t we have to get prepared immediately? I mean, we can start building walls and arming everyone, right?” Tubrengo grinned. “You’re a smart feller you are, but there are more ways than just fighting to win a war. I know playing ‘hide and seek’ with the vermin won’t work, but maybe… Well, we’ll see if he’s around.” Chain was about to ask what, but Tubrengo put a finger to his lip. Chain understood.
Thimble spoke up. “Daddy and Chain, what’s going to happen?” Chain smiled. “Nothing if we can help it little guy.” Tubrengo nodded in agreence. Thimble smiled. “Good. I hope no gets hurt. But if we have to fight, I want to help too!” Chain looked at Tubrengo. Tubrengo was looking at his son. He knew what was going to happen shortly. He managed a weak smile. “Of course! But Chain and I will have to teach you how to fight. Thimble, could you go and lock up the shed?” Thimble nodded. “There’s a good Hog!” When Thimble had gone out of hearing range, Tubrengo said: “Chain, it is almost time.”
“Do you remember when you first came here Chain? When you were naught but a young Badger? Now you have grown, and I have taught you all that I know. Your time is coming soon. When all goes according to fate, you will go with Thimble to battle, and you will not return for a long time. Are you ready Chain?” Chain felt slightly shocked. Now that he looked back, it felt like he had only been living in the small Hedgehog village for just a little while. Chain, however remembered the chain he had tied around his waist. He looked Tubrengo in the eye, and uttered: “I am ready.”
Thimble pulled back on the string of the bow with all of his strength. Chain and his father were supervising. Thimble was having trouble pulling back. Suddenly, a look of determination burned in his eyes and he pulled all the way back, and fired an arrow. His target, a beet, was split in half. Chain went over and picked it up, and took a bite. “Not bad Thimble. Maybe… Less wood I think.” Tubrengo looked happy. “Good shot Thimble, how about you keep trying with Chain supervising and I’ll go and set up your next training station. “
Thimble exceeded in archery, however, that seemed to be where his skills failed. In slinging, he couldn’t even hit a target, let alone toss the stone. In fencing, he couldn’t block, nor could he jab. Spear training was also a flunk. He couldn’t grasp the spear properly. Chain thought. ‘If archery is the only thing he excelled in… I wonder what’s going to happen when we meet the Vermin?’ Tubrengo gave Thimble a pat on his back. He knew his son was a little disappointed, but Tubrengo was very proud of his son.
“Thimble, I’m very proud of you. You did very well in training today.” Thimble was still sad when he answered his father. “But Dad, I only did well in Archery? How did I do well?” Tubrengo chuckled. “Son, you’ve still got a lot to learn. In my opinion, the fact that you tried your hardest in everything me and Chain tested you in, I think that’s an achievement very few can accomplish. Always remember, try your hardest in everything you do. You can’t be beat if you put in your very best effort. Trust me.” Thimble, feeling slightly better after his talk with his father went and visited Chain.
“Hey Chain, how did I do in training?” Chain grinned sheepishly. He thought his opinion was a bit lame, but he still took a stab at it. “Well, overall… You did excellent! I’m not too great at archery, or any of those things for that matter, but you tried your best and you succeeded. I’m very proud of you, my friend.” Thimble looked deeply into Chain’s brown eyes. “I’m glad I have a friend like you Chain. Come on, let’s go have dinner.”
A while before Dawn’s first light, Tubrengo got up. Very quietly, he went outside and walked to the watch tower. He waited there for a while until a shadow fell upon him. He looked up at the dark cloudy spring sky. He saw the source of the shadow was coming in to land. He waited silently by the watch tower until the mystery shadow landed. It was an Owl. “Hello there Sharpbeak. How have you been since we last saw each other? Any talk with the Long Patrol?” “Hoo hoo Hoo… Slow down friend… Well, let’s see. I’ve been fine. As for the Long Patrol, I’ve talked to their commander, something General Montgomery Quickspear. They’re camping out on our side of your side of the gorge. He said that any re-enforcements are welcome. There numbers are around 17 score while the vermin are numbering close to around 45 score. I’ve also warned the Redwall-house members of the mass of Vermin. Their Badger-father says they’re ready for an attack.”
“Well thank you my friend. Once again, you’ve gone A and B the C of D. I cannot thank you enough.” The owl hooted happily, “Hoo hoo hoo… It’s no problem. After, you saved me from being drowned by some vermin before, and there I have given a life debt to you.” “My friend,” Tubrengo said, “No need to get emotional about it. I did what I had. Either way, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to get away with what you want. What you do is up to you. Well, looks like dawn is breaking, you’d better get going.” Sharpbeak looked sad. “Yes, I’d better go before people see me. Shame I couldn’t have stayed longer. One time, I should meet your son.” “That sounds like a plan. See you Sharpy.” With that, the sharp beaked owl took off, back to his home in the Mossflower woods. Tubrengo climbed up into the watch tower and marveled the sun-rise. The sky was just beginning to get tinged a golden-orange as the purple night sky disappeared. He looked at the ravine. There the two armies stood, one on one side of the ravine, and the other on the other side. He knew today was the day. He too would be going with Chain and Thimble, and felt the need to bring wood and tools. He went to go prepare those things, running back to his house to get a Hatchet.
Thimble and Chain woke up at the same time. They were both wide awake as they got out of bed, and sense of foreboding looming over them. They both could feel that today would be the day when they would see if there training would pay off. Chainstripe grabbed his chain from underneath his bed. He twirled it expertly, feeling as if he and the great chain were one. Thimble went out to his fathers shed and got a bow and a quiver of arrows. He pulled out an arrow and test its point against the wood. A long clear scratch appeared as he ran it along the wood. Him and Chain were ready to go.
Most of the village was up and about, with all the fighters gathering at the center next to the fire-pit. Tubrengo returned. “Are we all ready? Great, however I’ll need some help carrying down some trees to the camp. I have a feeling the wood’ll come in handy. Can I have some volunteers?” A medium sized, middle aged Hedgehog named Spiketuft (Named such because of a tuft of spikes located on the top of his head) put his hand up, and so did a smaller, old hedgehog named Quillclaw. Tubrengo smiled. “Thank you old friends. Well, if we’re all ready, let’s go!”