Nox the Ferocious! It was a name that instilled fear in many, though none believed it to be an actual creature. Oh, how wrong they were. One of the last survivors of the Northern Famine, Nox staggered out of the enormous pine copse to a bright, sunny day. Half-starved, the jaguar let his jet black fur that gave him his name soak up the sun, and then issued a long howl of triumph. He had survived! Over the seasons he grew stronger, physically, and in another way: a horde. The rakings and scrapings of the earth, he brought them together, and soon everybeast came to fear that night-black jaguar who prowled the shadows, waiting for his next chance to strike, for he was Nox the Ferocious!

Chapter Two

From the cold harsh winter,

Mother Nature does bring spring,

To take away that icy day,

Where birds surely do not sing.

Abbess Lilin finished her simple song, heralding the coming spring season, to much applause. Her emerald green eyes twinkled as she bowed, refusing any requests of an encore.

"Please no, 'twas only a little song to welcome spring. Besides, my singing voice isn't that good." She said, though all around her knew that she possessed a wonderful voice. Otter Skipper Barun called order,

"Aye, mates. There's always another time. I'm sure that this isn't the last time Abbess Lilin'll sing to ye. C'mon now, it should be time for supper. Friar Rohn don't like to see 'is vittles get cold, I c'n tell ye that."

The group of Redwallers trudged back to the Abbey, with Skipper in the lead. However, before they could go in, Barun was alerted by a banging at the main gate.

"You all go in, I'll see who's knockin'." He said, pushing the last creature in and shutting the Abbey door. Moving silently to the gate, he peered through a gap in an attempt to see the visitors. Sighing with relief, he pushed the bar up that held the door in place. The gate swung inward, revealing Orklon and Marcus, looking exhausted and bedraggled.

"Stap me stays'ls, yore a sight for sore eyes, eh, Orklon." Skipper said, smiling. Orklon managed a laugh,

"Heh heh heh! I suppose I am, Skipper Barun. Been a few seasons, ain't it." Stumbling wearily inside, Marcus introduced himself.

"Hello, sir. I'm Marcus." Barun held up his paws.

"Hi there, Marcus, but me name ain't sir. You can call me Skipper, or Skip."He winked.

"Let's get you two inside, ye look tired." Orklon looked up indignantly.

"Tired? A mere understatement. If ye call paws-ready-to-drop-off an' could-sleep-on-a-burnin'-fire tired, then yore crazy. But more'n tired, I'm hungry. Ain't eaten since lunchtime, nor 'as Marcus. I do hope there is some supper left." Skipper winked again.

"Oh, I'm sure Friar Rohn'll be able to mix somethin' together. 'ow does woodland stew, honeyed apple turnovers, an' sweet elderflower cordial sound t'you?" He chuckled. Marcus looked hopefully at the nearing abbey doors.

"Skip, is there really that much in there? I've had woodland stew before, but never honeyed apple turnovers, they sound very good!"

"Oh they are, young un, they are," Skipper patted his head lightly.

"Don't you fret, we'll make sure there's some left for you, 'cos there won't be much left after ole barrelbelly there 'as 'ad 'is fill, ho ho ho ho!" The three chatted amiably as they made their way to the abbey, a haven of safety against all bad.

A pair of evil, unwinking eyes watched their retreating backs, an almost loving sigh escaped the beast's throat as it melted back into the darkness, without a rustle to betray it's presence. Nox the Ferocious had arrived!

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