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Elmstripe's Story

Chapter 1: Syan's Warning

Woodrose glanced up at her mate, then down again to her sleeping baby. "Oh, isn't he just beautiful, Skystripe? A healthy badgerbabe. But what shall we call him?" Skystripe merely grunted. He had once been a formidable warrior, talkative too. But now he was peaceful, and a badger of little words. He stood up, and Woodrose gave the little bundle to him. "Elmstripe," he said."Elmstripe was the name of my great grandfather. He had a mark on his brow shaped like an elm. Look, our son has it too." Woodrose smiled. It was peaceful in her traditional home, a Southsward cave. No vermin had ever disturbed it. Little did she know what would happen a week later.

"Open up,'tis Syan Brushtail! Please, marm Woodrose, I've an urgent warning!" Skystripe sighed, and opened the door to a young male squirrel. Syan tumbled inside, and immediately began talking. "Today I saw some vermin. I tried to run away, but they spotted me! They asked whether there was a badger around here. I-I couldn't say no 'cause they 'ad a knife to my throat!" Both Skystripe and Woodrose gasped." An' they asked me whether it had a babe. I said yes, an' they're coming here, right now." Syan crumpled and burst into tears. "You don't know what I've done. You've got a new babe, an' he and you will be slain!" Woodrose leaned over Syan. "There, there, Syan. Don't worry about our babe. Me and Skystripe must stay here, it is my ancestral home. But Elmstripe has a whole life ahead of him. Find a badger suitable for caring for him. Perhaps he will find his way back here. But take Elmstripe and find another badger. Go now!" Syan jumped up, grabbed Elmstripe (quite forgetting how fragile a babe is) and dashed off, deep into the woods.

Mayflower yawned and stretched. "Hmm," she said, "I must be becoming an old badger. I've slept through half the morning already." She was about to go back to bed when she felt somebeast tapping her. She spun around to see Syan carrying a small bundle. "Ah, Syan Brushtail, isn't it? A good friend of my daughter Woodrose." Syan nodded and handed the bundle to Mayflower. "Syan it is, Mayflower marm. Please, look after this babe." "Whose is it?" "W-W-Woodrose and S-Skystripe. Wahahahahaaaa!" Immediately Syan burst into tears."Th-they didn't come b-because they want to stay at the ancestral home, even though vermin are going there. Waaaaaaaaaaah!" Mayflower was shocked. Cradling Elmstripe close to her, she whispered, "Then tell my daughter she must leave, now. Meanwhile, I will head towards Redwall Abbey. They will look after him there." Syan sighed, then rushed straight back to where he had come from.

Tagga sighed. The young otter was having trouble sawing through a branch on a fallen tree. "Psst!" Dannibor, a young hedgehog, appeared alongside him. "Sister Viola has a jar of physick in her dress. And she's supposed to be a healer!" Dannibor had a habit for joking, so Tagga asked, "are you sure as eggs are eggs?" Dannibor grinned. "Sure I'm sure, mate, who do you think I am?" "Sure as eggs are wheat?" "Eggs aren't wheat, dummy." "Oh." "Yahaha! Sloey just whacked Viola between the ears." The pleasant afternoon closed in as the two friends laughed and laughed.

Chapter 2: Rinkul's Crew

Slimeback glared at his brother. "It wuz my fish, Rinkul, not yores." Rinkul snatched the dead fish. "Then clean the mud outta yer ears, brother! I'm the Cap'n round 'ere, not you." Grivan, Rinkul's Seer, crawled close to him. "Methinks yer brother Slimeback is gettin' too big fer 'is boots, Cap'n. Ye've a need to dispose of him, right here, right now. I had a vision that if ye don't kill him, he'll kill you." Slimeback bared his teeth at her. Grivan stared at him. "Uh!" Slimeback had time for one gasp until he toppled over, a dagger in his back. Banna Oakley blinked. She was sure she had done the wrong thing, having a 'peaceful' talk with Rinkul and his crew. Now she was inside a cage, with a massive headache from the wine she had drunk.

"'Toopid pris'ner!" Said a voice. Banna looked up and saw a stoat reaching for her, claws extended. She was quite ready to scream until she realised the stoat was attached to a pole brandished by a stoat. "I said, 'toopid pris'ner!" Snapped the stoat. "What do you think I am, deaf?" Yelled Banna. "I heard you the first time. And what sort of low murderers are ye, attachin' one of yore own to a pole?" The stoat flinched. "I ain't a murderer, Cap'n Rinkul sez I'm a coward. I'm gettin' ye out, but be quiet. I'm sick o' these murderin' cowards, I wuz bought up proper. Rinkul hired me ter be a bo'sun." Then before Banna could say anything else, the stoat had opened the cage and led Banna deep into the woods. Rinkul snarled at his crew. "Which o' ye useless lumps wuz on watch last night?" Knowing how unpredictable Rinkul was, nobody raised a paw. Rinkul's eyes narrowed, and muttered the names of everyone present. "Grivan, Warpfang, Kanter, Hookpaw, Scarface, Scurvy, Zullan, Biggboot, Notail, Cutty, Kurgan, Redsnout, Peareye, Catta... wait a sec, wez that useless stoat, Stonehart?" It didn't take long for Rinkul to realise it was Stonehart who had freed his prisoner. He stood up. "Catta, Redsnout! Off yer hunkers an search fer that coward, Stone'art. Up on yer paws now, one two, one two!"

Chapter 3: Stonehart's Memories

Banna stumbled through the undergrowth. "Why did ye call me a 'toopid pris'ner if ye freed me?" She yelled at Stonehart. "Mercy, liddle bugger," snapped Stonehart. "Wot if'n one o' that lot wuz lyin' there? I pretended that I wuz havin' some cruel fun wid ye. 'Twas a precaution." Banna sighed. "I'm surprised that one of Rinkul's uneducated lot can use words like precaution. Now why exactly did you free me?" Banna looked up at Stonehart, and was surprised to see tears brimming in his eyes. "I wuz brought up proper. When I joined Rinkul's band, I fergot me nice ways. I tortured, an' killed goodbeasts like yoreself. But none o' them wuz ever a squirrel. An' I wuz brought up by a squirrel, I think 'er name wuz Andalya, or sumthink. Well, you're a squirrel, and now I remember." He sniffed. "Well, now you know. I hope you're satisfied." Banna was grinning. "Wot are ye grinning at, miss Impudent? It wasn't funny."

Banna continued grinning in an irritating way. "I'm happy for ye, Rockheart, or whatever yore name is. I know a squirrel called Andalea, an' she happens to be my grandma!" BANG BANG! Andalea Oakley sighed and went to open the door to her hollow tree. "I'm comin'!" She called. "I'm not as old as I was." She opened the door and shrieked. A villainous looking stoat was standing right outside her door! She shut the door, but it was immediately opened again. The stoat had vanished, and in his place was Banna. "Hi, Grans," she said cooly. "Don't worry about Rockliver over there. He just came to say hello. He knows you." "I've never met anyone called Rockliver in all me years, Banna." "I'VE TOLD YOU TEN TIMES ALREADY, BANNA, ME NAME'S NOT ROCKLIVER, NOR ROCK'EAD, NOR ROCKNECK! IT'S STONEHART!" Bellowed the stoat, coming round the corner. Andalea froze. She knew that stoat, alright. "Stonehart!" She cried joyfully, as she ran to embrace the smelly stoat. And as soon as they settled down for some food and drink, Andalea decided to tell the two a story.

Chapter 4: Nunnee!

Mayflower crouched down next to a log and put down Elmstripe. She pointed to herself. "Nanny." Elmstripe smiled and waved his paws. Mayflower pointed to herself again. "Nanny!" Elmstripe gurgled happily. "Hoi, Nanny marm!" Mayflower jumped, then looked cautiously around. "Ye must be blind ter not see me, badgermarm. I'm right beside ye!" Mayflower turned to the log next to her. She was surprised to see it wink. "Hi, I'm Dannriver, Skipper o' the Streamflank clan. Me mother called me Dannriver cuz I was born downriver, which is true. Now, enough o' the chatter. Some vermin put mud on me then conked me out, so now I'm stuck in dried mud. Could ye kindly get me out of this mess, marm?" Mayflower could see Dannriver was a friendly, if talkative, otter so she rolled him to the water's edge and wet the mud. Then she scraped it off. As soon as Dannriver was free he hopped up and began to talk. "So I'm Dannriver, Dann fer short and Da fer even shorter. Ye've saved me life, which is true. So me plus vermin plus mud equals water and you which also equals me repaying you. Now, I caught ye trying ter teach yer liddle grandson how to say 'Nanny'. Watch this!" They both knelt down in front of Elmstripe. Dann pointed to Mayflower's face and said, "Nanny". Elmstripe grinned. "Nunnee! Nunnee! Nunnee!" Dann grinned. "See, I can do it in one shot. Gotta catch up with me clan. Bye!" Dann shot into the stream like a bolt, and was away. Mayflower looked at Elmstripe mournfully. "All that an' he didn't even stay for a while to look after us!"

As Mayflower and Elmstripe kept travelling north, Elmstripe kept repeating his newly learnt word. "Nunnee!" He would smile as he said it, and Mayflower smiled as well. "Boo!" Dann appeared from nowhere, with the whole of the Streamflank clan. "Hi, guys!" He said, "I was following yore tracks. They were easy to follow, which is true. Whaddaya know, I saw a rat followin' yore tracks as well. Crept up to him, splashed mud on 'im, conked him out cold, then used 'im as a slingstone target fer a competition. Don't think he'll be wakin' up, do yer, mates?" Here he turned to his clan. They yelled bits of agreement. "Ya never said a truer word!"

"Haha, which is true." "I was the one who won the competition!" "Oh, stop jestin', Ragg me ole matey!" As the shouts became silence, Dann grinned at the two badgers. "An' so we've decided to protect ye for the rest o' Southsward. There is a Skipper in Mossflower, y'know." Mayflower smiled. "Dannriver, you are a true friend!"

Chapter 5: Andalea's Tale

"Are ye both settled now?" Asked Andalea as she peered over the tops of her spectacles. "'Cause if you are, I can begin my tale." Both Stonehart and Banna nodded. "Once upon a time there was a squirrel. She had a husband, named Oakcone. They had a son, as well, who they called Hallixan. One day they were all out playing Find The Nut when Andalea, the female squirrel, came across a stoatbabe. She showed Oakcone the abandoned stoat, and he said to Andalea, 'Why not take this babe home? Surely it is too young to learn any evil ways.' They called him Stonehart, because he had a heart-shaped stone tied to his neck. Stonehart and Hallixan grew up to be best friends, and they always considered themselves brothers. Then one day, Oakcone and Andalea decided that Hallixan was old enough to go out into the world and be independent. But when Hallixan left, Stonehart started crying for him. 'It was very tiresome for Andalea and Oakcone, until they agreed to let Stonehart out to find Hallixan. A few years later, Hallixan came to the couple's door. He had a smiling young female squirrel with him, and he held a babe in his arms. 'Hello, mother,' he said. 'This is my wife, Mindalia. And my daughter, Banna." Andalea smiled and told her son that he had made a very good choice." Andalea smiled. "So, as you know, Banna got captured by vermin. Stonehart was one of those vermin but..." Her voice trailed away. Banna was smiling at Stonehart. "Uncle Stonehart," she said.

Tagga stared at the massive badger in front of him. "Erm, hello, Sir Badger," He said, unsure of what to say. "I am the Lord of Salamandastron!" Said the badger. Tagga tilted his head to one side. "But I thought the Ruler of Salamandastron was a Lady, Lady Cregga Rose-eyes." The badger frowned. "Are you saying that I do not exist?"

"Er, well, I d-don't know." Suddenly fog swirled around the two as the badger picked him up and shook him lightly. " I am real! I am Lord of Salamandastron! I am young, so young, that you wouldn't believe it! But nevertheless I am real." Then a voice cut through the mist. "Tagga! Tagga!" Tagga looked up to see Dannibor shaking him. "Did you hear Friar Butty? Owlchicks have arrived in our kitchens. All three of 'em!" Tagga blearily pulled himself up. "Wow. A triple birthday." Then he woke up properly. "Awwwwww!" He said. "I can hear their chirpings from here. Let's go!" The two quietly made their way downstairs, where the baby birds had been taken. Dannibor grinned. "I used to think you were the greatest with bird noises, but now I realise owlchicks are the true Bird Imitation Champions!"

Chapter 6: Mossflower Battle

Dann tripped on a stone. "Whoops!" He called. "That's the end o' Southsward, mateys." He turned to Mayflower. "I'm sorry, marm, but we've already crossed Southflower, that's the name o' the Mossflower-Southsward border, which is true. You're now in the territory of the Mossflower Skipper, Skipper Tyfron if I'm not mistaken. This is the furthest from Castle Floret I've ever been. Fare thee well, marm Mayflower and babe Elmstripe!" Mayflower sighed. "I hope you fare well too. Goodbye!" Both Mayflower and Elmstripe watched as Dann and his clan disappeared into the distance.

Mayflower wasn't sure where Redwall was, though even at Southsward she had been told tales of the Abbey. She had loved the one about Mariel, a mousemaid who had freed Floret from the rule of the Foxwolf, Urgan Nagru. Suddenly Elmstripe began crying, and Mayflower snapped from her half daydream to total reality. Her senses told her that somebeast was spying on her!

Rinkul sniggered as he watched Mayflower cradling Elmstripe. "Awwww, who's Granmamma's baby then?" He called. "Attack!" Rinkul's vermin dashed upon the two. Mayflower looked up to see vermin rushing at her in all directions. "Eulaliaaaaaaaaa!" cried a voice and a squirrel and hare were standing in the woods. The vermin stopped and stared for a moment, the shot off towards the newcomers. Then Mayflower screamed as the squirrel tumbled to the ground, several arrows and a spear stuck to her. "Russa!" Yelled the hare. A rat with a nasty whip and a dagger turned towards Mayflower, then threw his knife with deadly accuracy. Mayflower tumbled to the ground, the dagger embedded in her forehead.

The hare saw Mayflower fall. "Russa!" He called again. "I'm bad hit," said Russa, wincing at the pain of the arrows and spears. She started to crawl back to the vermin. "Over there's a cave. I'll go there, and you lead 'em to that swamp jus' over there." The hare turned and started running. In one bound he cleared the swamp, which looked deceptively like a quiet green glade. The vermin ran towards the hare, then they stepped into the squelchy swamp...

Chapter 7: Russano the Wise

Elmstripe snuggled into the sling a big hare had made for him. "See, thy little tyke likes yon sling," said the big hare. "He'll be safe in Redwall, won't he, Rockjaw?" Said a young hare. "Of course he will be, and look, there's Redwall!" There were stifled gasps as the younger hares looked up. "Wow," said the healer,"It's even bigger than I thought." Al the young ones started guessing what it was like inside. "Maybe, there's a big spacious dining hall." "Of course, old chapess, why not? Mmmm, and huge kitchens." A few minutes later, they were ushered into Redwall. Elmstripe yawned, and many mouths beamed at him. "Awwwww, he's so cute!" Said one. He was laid in the lap of an old hedgehog, and fed mushroom soup. Rockjaw, the big hare, smiled. "I've named yon little tyke well. 'Is name is Russano." Elmstripe smiled. "Nunnee!" He said. "Four birthdays!" Shouted Friar Butty joyously. "Here's to three owlchicks an' little Russano!"

Many seasons later

"This is Salamandastron, isn't it?" Said the young badger. "It sure is, Milord. Your mountain," said a Major who went by the name of Perigord. Hares came down from the mountain. One said, "The stones said that one day you would come here. Truly you are named Russano the Wise, Lord of all Salamandastron!" Russano smiled and stepped into his mountain. He was no longer Elmstripe, a babe badger from Southsward. He was Russano the Wise, Lord of Salamndastron, who would become one of the most famous and respected Badger Lords.

The End
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