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From the writings of Lieutenant Caruthers, Laird of Bowlaynee and Historian of Salamandastron I must say, there are some very strange things going on in Mossflower Country and beyond. First off, this bizarre foreigner fox named Ejaxk has visited us. The oddest thing about him is that he seems good natured, and not a traitor or thief like most other foxes. He also carries some weapons on him that nobody in all of Salamandastron or Redwall have ever seen before. He says that he comes from Yoruto Island, and that he had escaped when an evil warlord enslaved him and all of his people. I hope this warlord he talks about doesn’t come here, or we could be enslaved! When this Ejaxk arrived on the Salamandastron coast, he engaged in combat with my son CopperJaw, and they almost killed each other. But, they are inseparable now. My daughter Skelva and my nephew Ironbuck still do not fully trust Ejaxk all of the way, but they are getting used to him. Currently, Ejaxk has taken CopperJaw and Skelva with him to do some basic martial arts training at some place known as Kai Town, a town that I have no knowledge concerning its location or appearance whatsoever. They should be returning soon, and I hope they return safe and intact. Another odd occurrence that has happened lately is the discovery of some new species by Ejaxk. He has one of his friends staying at Salamandastron, a creature known as Skulded Dethblo. Ejaxk said that he is a raccoon, a beast I have never seen in my life. He has a mask like a ferret, and the tail and cunning of a fox. He looks like a dangerous criminal we would normally have in the prisons, but he is actually a humorous, slightly obnoxious animal. According to Ejaxk, Skulded is the emperor of Skull Island, yet another place I have never heard of, and I wonder how his people take him seriously. I know for sure Skelva doesn’t, for she absolutely despises that raccoon. It’s actually kind of funny to watch him tell one of his offensive jokes with hidden punch lines to her and watch her react with much anger once she understands the humor. Enough of me reflecting upon the funny things, I need to tell you more about the strange and wonderful thing that have happened lately! Something that happened that isn’t on the odd side is that we have a new Badger Lord! Coldstrype the Scythe has succeeded his father, Goldcrown the Partisan after Goldcrown’s death at eighty-six seasons. There is an issue regarding Coldstrype’s inheritance of the power, however. Coldstrype’s brother Flamewyte was supposed to be the next Badger Lord, but after news of Flamewyte engaging in corrupt dealings with the Duke of Gasterbury and several other enemies of Salamandastron, Flamewyte was banished and Coldstrype became the heir. Coldstrype has re-arranged the jobs and duties around here, and he has appointed Ironbuck to be the next Brigadier General and the holder of the uniform of command! I’m so proud of him! I am getting old, so I need to start thinking of my heir to Bowlaynee. I’m having a hard time choosing between my son CopperJaw or my good friend Skarklin. When I do choose, I will inform you!
Caruthers, Laird of Bowlaynee and historian of Salamandastron
The dark towers of Kai Town rose into the afternoon sky like black pikes. The wall that surrounded the town and its inhabitants was just as black, and seemingly impenetrable. On the streets, a fox and two hares were conversing amongst each other. The first hare, a tall male with dark brown fur and an orange-tan fur line that starts from his chin down by the name of CopperJaw laughed, “I’m so glad this training is over, Ejaxk! It was horrible!” Ejaxk was a fox around the same size as CopperJaw, mostly black with brown and tan patches on him. He replied, “And the food was just as bad!”
“I know!” said CopperJaw, “And I usually eat whatever I’ve got on the table!”
“What do you think, Skelva?” Ejaxk inquired.
Skelva was the twin sister of CopperJaw, older by about five minutes. She was a very light tan color, and she had long gold-orange hair tied into a ponytail. She wore a similar green uniform to CopperJaw and a green hat.
“I think that both of you are bloody ridiculous,” she answered. “It was the overall strictness of discipline in this town that made it so awful.”
“Ha ha!” Chuckled CopperJaw, “One time I opened the door on my dormitory’s closet and a skeleton of a rat fell out!”
“That didn’t happen at all, Copp!”
“But it would’ve been so flippin’ scary if it did!”
Ejaxk gestured to the two hares. “Enough of this banter now, we need to leave the town. CopperJaw and I will go to Bowlaynee to visit his family, while Skelva returns to Salamandastron on Bussiness to report back to Coldstrype that training is over.”
“Aye,” replied CopperJaw and Skelva. Skelva walked through the gates of the town and into the forest, while CopperJaw and Ejaxk stayed at Kai Town. “Now CopperJaw, I have an idea,” said Ejaxk.
“Wot’s your plan, chap?” the hare asked.
“Instead of going back home, why don’t we go out to sea and explore?”
“What? I thought we were going to Bowlaynee.”
“We were, I was recently informed that a two captain of mine were recently murdered. How about a good old fashioned investigation?”
“I can’t believe it,” said CopperJaw, “You are the only fellow I know who has ever get involved in a murder case the day after we completed training, don’cha know.”
“Anything can happen, as long as the timing is right. CopperJaw, are you ready to explore some uncharted territory and settle a murder case?”
“I guess so. I just hope that Coldstrype doesn’t find you and kill you after this. Going out on your own without backup and without notifying him could really cause a problem.” Ejaxk took out a map of the sea from his robe and the two friends formulated their plan for exploring.
“We don’t have time to sit around. If we go to Salamandastron, the villain will be long gone.”
The isle of Sampetra was a formidable sight, formerly covered with jungle and cannibals, but now the site of a town that had heavy influence from the corruption of the Black Market. The Black Market was led by a crafty fox known as Venchezco de Martisani. He lived on his private factory island far from Sampetra and even the reaches of the map. But on Sampetra, he had guards, and plenty of them, to force his influence on the towns. Stumbling out from one of the taverns of Sampetra, two very intoxicated weasel corsairs were shouting curses and insults at each other.
“That was me last bottle o’ grog, ye lily-livered son of a she-wolf!”
“I(hic) beg to differ, barnacle sucker!”
“Ah, so you (hic) wanner foight, eh?
“Draw yer sword, matey! Ye (hic) deserve ter die, ye cowardly, scrofulous lowloife!”
The town crier was on the scene instantly. “Hear ye, Hear ye, thar’s gonner be a fight ye don’t wanner miss! Come ter the Blue Swordfish Tavern immediately!” Vermin townsfolk began to form a circle around the two corsairs that were about to have a death duel. The corsairs drew their cutlasses and began to fight. But, right when the fight was about to really escalate; a bizarre creature clad in a trench coat, hat and plague mask entered the scene. He was a very forbidding character, the sleeve of his right arm was rolled up to reveal a broadsword blade grafted into his elbow. He shouted at the two weasels in a foreign tongue that they didn’t understand.
“Porre fine a questa lotta! Fuori dai piedi, sciocchi!”
One corsair asked the other one, “Wot didde jus’ say?”
“Paga in su!” The stranger growled.
“Wot are ye saying, beakface?” The other corsair asked the creature. The stranger spoke in English this time.
“Come away from this crowd. I wish to speak with you.” They enter a side alley behind the tavern.
“Pay jour dues to the Black Market, or jou can face-a your death!” The masked creature growed in a foreign accent.
“Excuse me sir, I don’t ‘ave any money. Wot’s yer name anyway?”
“My name is Luchesi Markachino. Now if jou don’t pay-a jour taxes, death awaits jou!”
“He,he (hic). You talk funny, Mr.Louie,” The first corsair giggled. Louie chuckled and slashed the corsair across the chest with his broadsword arm, killing the weasel instantly. “Wot the ‘ell did ye do that fer? I was gonner kill ‘im meself!” the other corsair yelled.
“The Black Market always gets its money!” Louie hissed at him. And venomously he added, “And he called me a Mr. Louie. How-a disrespectful.”
“En guarde,” the remaining weasel growled, but it was too late. Louie hacked him down as soon as the corsair opened his mouth. Upon killing both corsairs, Louie pinched their money off of them. But that isn’t the strange part. After taking the coins, Louie pulled a cigar of rolled up tobacco out of his coat pocket. He lifted up his mask, his face enshrouded in the night shadows, and began to smoke. Then he took the cigar and left a burn mark on the sides of each of the slain weasels’ necks. Louie pulled down the mask, threw the cigar aside, and disappeared into the night. The Black Market always gets its money, through whatever means necessary!
CopperJaw and Ejaxk were now at the coastline of Mossflower Country. Ejaxk, still intently focused on the map, said, “We’re at least a day away from reaching any ports or shipyards. We may have to camp down here for the night.”
“Look what I found!” Exclaimed CopperJaw.
“What is it?” Asked Ejaxk, still gazing at the map.
“It’s a ship of some sort. Maybe we can use it to get to the islands.”
CopperJaw and Ejaxk looked over the abandoned ship that CopperJaw had found. It was a longboat, complete with oars and a tattered but still functioning sail. There was also a sack of food in the boat that still seemed to be okay to eat. The boat was perfect.
“Let’s get sailing, Copp!” The fox said to the hare.
“The adventure begins!” shouted CopperJaw as he unraveled the sail on the boat.
“And the islands await!” And with a push of the boat into the sea, the two friends began to sail. As CopperJaw and Ejaxk left, the owner of the boat, a searat, returned to the coast to get back in his boat. But when he saw his boat sailing away, he cried out, “Hoi! Wot are ye doin’ wid me boat!” Seeing that the stealers of his conveniently left boat were out of hearing distance, he grumbled, “Never mind,” and slinked away.
That night, Skelva had arrived at Salamandastron. Upon entering, she called, “Anybody home?” and wandered off to the mess hall. Coldstrype the Scythe, the Badger Lord, was sitting at the table with Caruthers, Ironbuck, and Skarklin, with whom he was playing cards. Upon seeing Skelva, the ice striped badger lifted his top hat to her.
“Glad to see that you’re back, Skelva. We’ve been waiting for your arrival.”
“And good to see you, milord. The training at Kai Town has ended.”
Caruthers, Skelva and CopperJaw’s father, turned over to see Skelva and said, “Good to see you back safe an’ sound, wot! How did you like the training?”
“Worst thing in my whole bally life, father. You wouldn’t have wanted to be there.”
“That bad, eh?”
Ironbuck, Skelva and CopperJaw’s cousin who had a frightening disfigured face, disagreed with Skelva. “Weel, that trainin’ was nowhere as bad as when ah burnt mah face. Ah was en excruciatin’ pain far weeks.”
“I suppose it wasn’t as bad as when you burnt your face, Buck, but the training was a different kind of pain. CopperJaw, Ejaxk, and I had to deal with porridge, shouting masters, and difficult training for hours for an entire season.”
Skarklin, Caruthers’ good friend from Bowlaynee who was almost like an uncle to CopperJaw and Skelva asked, “By the way, where is that CopperJaw lad and his new friend? They havenae arrived yet.”
The second Skarklin finished his sentence, a messenger from Bowlaynee burst into the door. He was gasping heavily as he spoke, as if he had been running for days without rest. “Mah Laird, thy son an’ his foxy friend havenae shown up at Bowlaynee!”
Caruthers sounded worried. “Where are they, my boy?”
Skelva whispered to Skarklin, “To answer your question, they were supposed to be at Bowlaynee visiting family.”
The messenger continued. “Ah don’t know where yon lads are. Ah have only heard that a ship headed for the islands was spotted carryin’ what appeared to be a fox and a hare.”
Caruthers was now feeling shocked and slightly angry. “The islands? I knew it would be like my son to become distracted and leave his own family behind!”
Coldstrype told the disgruntled Caruthers, “Fear not, Caruthers. I shall organize a search party to find CopperJaw. I’m just as shocked as you are!”
“I will help organize the search party, Coldstrype,” said Skelva.
“Good,” answered the Badger Lord, “I will come, too, Skelva. It’s about time I get a rest from the daily politics I have to deal with.”
Caruthers stood up from his chair and replied to Coldstrype, “I’ll stay back and manage Salamandastron for you, my lord. My old bones aren’t up for this kind of trip, wot.”
“Ironbuck, are you and Skarklin coming with us?” Asked Skelva.
“Nae, lass. Skarklin an’ ah will stay an’ help Caruthers.”
“Did somebody say search party?” an irritating voice sounded from behind Skelva and Coldstrype. Skelva and Coldstrype turned around, only to find a raccoon wearing black imperial robes behind them. It was Skulded Dethblo, Skelva’s nemesis and the ruler of Skull Island.
“Can I come with you, Skelva? I have a whole bunch of new jokes that I wrote!”
“Do you think that I would let you go? Of course not!”
Just to be even more annoying, the raccoon grabbed onto Skelva’s leg. “Come on!” he wailed. “Will you please let me go? Please?”
“How about now?”
“I already said no!”
Coldstrype interrupted the two bickering creatures and said, “Why don’t you let Skulded come along, Skelva? He’s not going to harm you in any way.”
“Oh, all right,” The hare grumbled. She looked down at the whining raccoon clinging to her and said, “You can come, Skulded.”
“As long as you don’t annoy any of us or act foolish.”
“Okay,” Skulded replied and ran off to get his weapons and food.
Skelva went to the armory to grab her weapons that she had left there before she went off to train. She opened the cabinet that had her name on it and sheathed her Dussage, which is a short saberlike weapon with a basket hilt, her swordbreaker, and a few daggers into her belt.
“Could I come along on your search?” yet another voice said from behind Skelva. Instead of being Skulded’s voice, this voice was small and rather quiet. Skelva turned around to see Richard, a small dormouse who had always been like another brother to her. Richard had been discovered on the doorstep of Salamandastron as a baby, and had been raised by the nurses in the infirmary. He was entering his mid teenage years, but he had the calmness and maturity of someone much older.
“You can definitely come, Richard,” said Skelva, “I’m going to need someone to talk to besides Skulded!”
“Good. I think Coldstrype is calling for us,” the dormouse said as he grabbed a bardiche axe.
The Badger Lord was calling for the search party in his deep booming voice. “Those who are going to search for CopperJaw and Ejaxk, meet me in the mess hall!”
Skelva, Skulded, and Richard met Coldstrype in the mess hall. “I have decided that we will leave tomorrow. Be ready to go in the morning as soon as the sun rises,” the Lord of Salamandastron said as he reached for his scythe. The search party saluted and retired for the night.
It was another gray and cloudy morning on Sampetra. Despite the typical morning weather, this was the day that Venchezco de Martisani would arrive to inspect his outposts. Louie and his henchmen stood at the port in ranks as the Lord of the Black Market’s private galley approached the dock. Like Louie, the henchmen covered up every inch of their body with a trench coat, mask, and hat of some sort. Since there had been open trade of the relatively new invention of gunpowder to the Black Market, many of Louie’s cohorts carried the newest model of matchlock muskets. These were heavy weapons, requiring to be propped onto a stand, or needing to be carried by very strong individuals. Since Louie’s troopers were the best trained beasts around, there was no need for the musket stands. “Load-a jour muskets, jou maggots!” the furious Louie shouted. “Venchezco wants a volley!”
Without a single peep, the Black Market troopers began to load the heavy weapons. First, they blew into the match to keep the flame going. Then, they opened a small container of the black powder and poured it into the barrel of the gun. Next, a small iron ball was taken from a pouch on the soldier’s belt and put onto the barrel. Since the ball fit snugly in the barrel, a ramrod was taken from the musket to push the ball into the powder. More powder was poured into the pan next to the match.
A door on the side of the galley opened, and a gray fox in a dark trench coat followed by more Black Market troopers arrived on the dock. This was Venchezco, the Lord of the Black Market. The second the Lord stepped upon the dock, Louie shouted, “ Fire!” and the match holder on every musket struck the pan and sent the bullets sailing into the air. Drums began to beat rapidly as Venchezco approached Louie.
“Ah, Luchesi, jour technique with the musket is molto bene!” Said Venchezco.
“Why thank jou, my lord.”
“Jour nephew has-a come with me. He will be under jour care.”
“Aye. Here he is now.”
Barbanto, Louie’s nephew, also wore a plague mask. His had blue markings, in contrast to his uncle’s red markings, and a breathing hole in the beak. Barbanto wore a very baggy pair of pants, a gray tunic, and blood colored gloves. Upon the young recruit’s head was a beret with a very long feather. In his belt was sheathed the most magnificent rapier that money could buy.
“I would like to talk to jou, Uncle,” Barbanto said in a toneless voice.
“Very well. Venchezco, my lord, leave us to talk.”
“Now, my nephew,” Started Louie, but suddenly, a jackdaw flew in circles above them. It was Naakka, Louie’s spy and advisor. He was making horrible shrieking noises as he flew around.
“Haaak! Intruder! Intruder!” The bird screeched.
“What is-a the problem, Naakka?” Asked Louie.
“Two violators are headed for the Island of Toads! The’re not in our territory, but if they get to Ghost Town, we’ll have to eliminate them!”
“Ah, son of a peasant! Barbanto! This is-a jour first mission! Send-a jour troopers to the nearby Island of Ghost Town to prevent the invaders-a traveling further. I shall stay here and-a be prepared for if they come-a here! Venchezco! It would be wise if you went back to guard our capital!”
“My guard and I shall leave,” Said Venchezco. He got into his galley with his guards and headed for the distant Black Market Capital.
Barbanto was excited at the prospect of his first mission. He shouted, “Ciao, Uncle! I will-a not fail jou!” and got into a ship in the port of Sampetra and headed for the Ghost Town.