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Light in The Dark

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This is a fan fiction story by Ox Rookbane. It is not considered canon, nor is it a policy or guideline.


Dedicated to my friend, LegendTeller. Thank you for inspiring me to continue writing and to get me started with writing Redwall Fanfiction and tales. Thanks mate! Also want to mention those who welcomed me to this Wikia! Thank you for the support!

Prologue

A beautiful spring morning had arrived. The sun kissed the sand and added a sparkle to the sea out and beyond. The glorious stronghold of Badger Lords stood above the rest, and gazed out at the sea and it's surroundings. Salamandastron! The great mountain resided by Badger Lords of past time!

The current Badger Lord residing at this time was Ox Rookbane. At this time of day, he was outside with a young haremaid, enjoying a nice cup of tea (a favorite pastime). The two sat and took in the scenery laid out before them. A gust of wind threatened to have the young haremaid's woven hat blown away. Ox laid aside his tea and removed the hat from her head and placed a rock inside of it. "That should keep it from blowing away, Dandy."

Dandy, the haremaid, nodded. "Thank you, Sah!"

Ox smiled and nodded back. Springtime was always Ox's favorite season. He enjoyed the warm air being rewarded after a cold winter, he enjoyed the nice breeze, and enjoyed the flowers blossoming and the trees regaining their leaves. "Seasons ago it was just springtime then. I remember it quite well, or so I am led to believe... When I was more youthful, I remember my days then. It was hard times I'll tell you-- was it? I can't recall! I swear its the Bloodwrath that's getting me like this! I swear!"

Dandy became excited. "Are you going to tell me a story?!"

The Badger Lord nodded. "If I can recall it, that is... Dear me, I should've written it down oh so long ago!"

Dandy giggled as Ox tried his best to recall his past. Scratching his head a few times, details started to come back bit by bit. Eventually he smacked himself in the back of the head and he remembered coincidentally. "I believe I remember it now. It might be a bit fuzzy in me ol' head, but nothin' to worry about! If I forget somethin', we'll just have to use our imaginations!" The haremaid was already listening intently.

The Badger Lord cleared his throat as he started his story. "These, are the Dark Ages of Mossflower... Where the spring of Woodlanders were reduced to rubble... Where one would rise to be the light through the Darkness. I-- would be the one to shine the light. And it's the very reason I reside at this mountain. With the help of old and new friends, we brought Mossflower out of it's darkest periods..."

Book 1: Spring of the Noisy Badger

Chapter 1

A young and careless Ox Rookbane took a stroll in Mossflower Woods, and was not far from his home. Winter was almost over, and Spring would only be a few days away. The careless Ox had his nose in the air, sniffing around for the scent of Spring. Not paying any attention at all, the young badger stubbed his footpaw against a root. "Eek!"

The young badger went sprawling and landed on his face. The young badger did not bother to retrieve his face from the floor of the woods. Embarrassed at his carelessness, Ox scanned the area surrounding him, making sure nobeast saw him clumsily wipe out. He let off a sigh of relief, believing no one saw him. "Good job there, Ox! Mayhap keep your eyes to where y'go?"

Ox's eye twitched. His friend, Brandil, an otter, emerged from behind a bush. The otter laughed at the embarrassing wipeout of his badger friend. Ox shoved Brandil playfully and accidently sent him flying. The young badger cringed. "Whoops... Didn't mean to send YOU flying..."

Brandil stood up and dusted himself off. "It's ok, me mate! You'll learn-- hopefully..."

The two had planned to meet at a rock. This rock was a meeting place for the two. Brandil brandished a bag of vittles and laid it out on the rock's surface. Ox had put in two knives and a bag of vittles for himself. Brandil took a dagger and sheathed it in a holster Ox had made a long time ago. "I feel as if we're set for our trip, matey!"

Ox chuckled. "I had to smuggle these daggers; don't lose them. If me parents caught me smugglin' 'em out, they'd use them on me!"

The two fell about laughing. Being young adults, the two pals were kicked out of their homes. Ox's mother and father kicked him out because he was getting older. Brandil was kicked out of his home because he was a trouble-maker. Though Ox had spent many of his days with his otter friend, he had behaved quite well. Ox never had the thoughts or ideas to be rebellious, and took everything for granted. To be able to smuggle the daggers, Brandil had to beg him and plead to him constantly until Ox eventually cracked.

"So, where do ye have us goin'?" Ox asked.

Brandil smiled "I'm thinkin' Redwall Abbey mate. Unless there's some other place ye'd like to go..."

Ox pondered for a bit. It was his chance to deny or agree. Ox sighed. "If we had a ship, I'd say we could go seaward."

Brandil sighed. "Was thinkin' that too, me hearty! Unfortunately, we don't got a ship or anythin'! I know how to work one, but we ain't got one."

The two friends set off for Redwall Abbey.

Chapter 2

"Are you sure we are going the right way, Brandil? I thought we had to go EAST."

"I said southeast! We're going to right way, trust me!"

Ox and Brandil had been walking towards Redwall Abbey by going southeast. They believe it's the correct way. Brandil had accidently lead them northeast towards River Moss Ox was not too educated in telling directions, and was led to believe his parents wanted him to get loss.

Night was not far now. Setting up camp, Ox struck flint to steel and started up a fire. Brandil had already made himself cozy and helped himself to some of the vittles he had packed. The young badger sat next to his pal and unpacked some vittles from his bag. Taking a scone and a flask of fresh water, Ox munched on it delightfully. Brandil helped himself to some scones and an apple. "I wonder how far we are from Redwall..."

Brandil shrugged, and continued to eat. Ox was secretly afraid that they were going the wrong way, and Brandil won't listen. The otter thought he was going the correct way, and that the badger didn't believe him and was just paranoid. As the two finished their meal, Ox felt drowsy. Brandil always got on to him for falling asleep early, and Ox would say: "I sleep early, and wake early."

Brandil noticed his friend drifting off to sleeping. It was Brandil's night-watch first. As Ox dozed off, Brandil tended the fire and watched for anything suspicious lurking about. It was still Winter, but Spring was only days away. It was warmer than a regular Winter night, but still chilly. Ox slept peacefully; not snoring at all. Brandil wanted to play a little joke on the sleeping Ox, but decided it was best not to now that he was armed with a dagger.

Brandil started to feel drowsy after what felt like hours of being night-watch. He woke Ox up to switch him, when they heard some collective chatter. Ox was now fully awake, and Brandil was no longer drowsy. Ox had his dagger drawn and ready. They rushed to hide behind trees. Poor Ox was too broad to be concealed properly behind a tree, so he laid flat on the ground, making sure he didn't appear visible.

Sea Pirates! They were vermin pirates! A lot of them! Brandil and Ox had spotted them. Feeling uneasy, Brandil risked a quick dart past trees to get to Ox. The pirates saw it and went to where he had darted. The two sprang up, and Ox clubbed a pirate in the face with his paw. Turning around, the two friends ran.

"Where did they come from?!" Brandil managed through his panting.

"Probably came from River Moss! I told you we were going the wrong way!" Ox was right all along.

"Oh fine! You were right! But that's not going to save our- TAAAAAAIIIILLSSSSS!"

Brandil had tripped over a log he had not seen in the darkness and rolled erratically, then stopped flat on his face. Ox had passed him by accident. "H-hey! Ox! Help!"

Ox turned around and went back to Brandil. Brandil could stand but couldn't run; he had sprained his footpaw. Ox heaved him onto his massive back and made a mad dash through the woods. The vermin pirates were still hot on their tails and continued to assault aggressively. An arrow shot whistled past Ox's great head. "They're firing at us?!"

Ox continued his mad dash for survival. He had been slowed down with Brandil being carried on his back. Brandil was Ox's eyes on the back on his head. "They're closing distance!", "Ok, we've got a lead, mate!", "Their prepping a bow and arrow!"

Panting furiously, Ox wheezed his way onwards for safety. The vermin were quite far back, starting to give up to Ox's great speed, even with Brandil bared on his back. Morning light had barely sprung, and Ox could see it. Brandil gave Ox a "clear" and that was enough for him to collapse on the ground. Ox laid flat on the ground, and began to lick the grass of its dew. "Don't lick the grass... We have flasks of freshwater. There's no need for that!"

Brandil decided to make himself useful after Ox had saved his life somewhat. Handing his badger friend a flask of water, he chugged the flask away, and laid panting still. "Rest easy, mate! We're fine-- I hope... Well, now we're back on track at least! On the correct way to Redwall! Whoopee!"

Ox smiled feebly. "You're welcome."

Chapter 3

After sleeping a day off, the two pals awoke on the third day of their expedition. Ready to start the trek, the two took to a brief and meager breakfast. Brandil's sprained footpaw was still causing him pain. Ox volunteered to carry his friend, hoping they can reach Redwall quick enough to get medical attention to his sprained footpaw to stop the pain.

Ox didn't mind baring Brandil on his back. In fact-- he enjoyed it! Ox found it fun to randomly shake furiously to terrorize Brandil. The otter didn't find it annoying or painful, but playful and humorous. As the young badger continued to trek onwards, the two joked around and laughed like youngsters should.

By evening, they had reached Redwall. Brandil was astonished. "You must've ran like hell back then!" Ox laughed. "I am quite swift, my friend."

"No doubt about it!"

They waited at the gate as it opened. They were greeted by an otter (The Skipper). "Hello to you, me hearty! Welcome to Redwall!"

Brandil gingerly came off of Ox's back and was at his side now. Ox introduced himself to the otter. "My name is Ox Rookbane, but you may call me Ox if you prefer. This 'un here is-"

"Brandil. I know 'im alrighty!"

Brandil smiled and hugged the otter. "This is Skipper, Ox. He's my uncle."

Ox was relieved to hear that. "I was wondering why you two knew each other!"

Chapter 4

Brandil was with his uncle, Skipper. Ox was amazed at the sight of Redwall Abbey. Never had he seen such a place before! It was a beautiful place nonetheless! Brandil was surely correct to come to Redwall after all! A fascinating place indeed it was.

"Brandil, you know what's coming soon?" Skipper asked.

Brandil chuckled. "Spring! What else?"

Skipper chuckled along. "And you know what else is coming?"

Brandil smiled. "Nameday!"

"Don't forget, Brandil; you sprained your footpaw." Ox reminded his friend.

"Then lets go get that tended, shall we?"

Ox and Brandil walked along side Skipper as they went to the Infirmary. Ox was fascinated at the beauty of Redwall, and the Redwallers were fascinated at the size of the young badger. Brandil recognized his friend drawing attention to them. It wasn't very long until news spread. Ox said that they had to fight and nudge their way to the Infirmary, and Brandil says otherwise. Upon arrival, they were greeted by a mouse.

"Skipper, I see you have brought us a new friend, yes? I am Abbot Manes. And you are?" The Abbot was referring to the badger.

The badger nodded and shook paws with the Abbot. "I'm Ox Rookbane, but you may call me Ox if you prefer. I see you know my friend Brandil?"

The Abbot sighed. "We all do, all because he's quite a troublemaker... I do hope you aren't a troublemaker also."

Ox took out his dagger and put it in the Abbot's paw. "I don't think I'll need this here."

Abbot Manes would not accept it and told Ox to keep it. Ox shrugged and attempted to hand it over to Skipper who also denied it. The badger sighed and put the dagger back in the sheath that had cradled it. Remembering what Brandil said about "Nameday", Ox decided to ask.

"Abbot Manes, what may 'Nameday' be?"

"Why Nameday is a great feast to celebrate the new season! It usually lasts up to two days, me boy and it's quite an exciting thing to do! I believe you aren't a Dibbun, are you? Well Dibbuns would usually hear stories before they were off to bed the night before Nameday."

Brandil nodded. "And guess what? The morning OF Nameday, the Dibbuns march around the Orchard and are 'challenged' by the Abbey Badger! The role of the Abbey Badger is simple; ye ask the Dibbuns what they want, and they reply back with 'food'!"

Ox shook his head. "I guess that's where I come into play... Would explain the buzz 'bout me, mate!"

In the Infirmary, a kind mouse by the name of Sister Pine finished tending to Brandil's sprained footpaw. Brandil thanked her and was already up and about, excited as can be. "Y'see, Rookbane me mate, this is the place!"

Ox Rookbane could not resist a little chuckle at the childish Brandil. The thought of being the Abbey Badger and "challenging" the Dibbuns delighted him. Brandil and Ox took a hasty lunch and parted ways. Ox took to the Lawns and Brandil was screwing around with others. The young badger didn't mind.

On the Lawns, Ox was assaulted by a horde of Dibbuns that threatened to topple him over. Trying to detach them from himself, he could not rid himself of the Dibbuns. A shrew and otter came bounding by, detangling the Dibbuns from the badger.

"We're so sorry! It's just that they haven't really SEEN a badger before!" The shrew cleared up.

"They also do this to new guests to Redwall." The otter added more to the shrew's statement.

The badger nodded. "The name is Ox Rookbane, but you may call my Ox if you prefer. I don't mind the Dibbuns, really."

The shrew said her name was Lilly and the otter was Baylor. "So is your name derived from 'fox'?"

Ox shook his great head. "No its not, miss. I don't know what it means. I guess my father thought it sounded cool."

Baylor giggled. "Are you a clumsy or stupid fellow?"

Ox seemed offended. "No I'm not! I'm-"

"Clumsy and stupid. It's ok Ox." Brandil cut off his friend.

Baylor giggled. "That's what Ox means; a clumsy and stupid fellow!"

Ox stared, offended by the comment. Did his father really find him stupid and clumsy? Rookbane doubted that, but started to feel somewhat of a guilt that it might be true...

Chapter 5

It was officially spring! The first spring morning, Ox was up and about, sniffing the air. His muzzle pointed straight into the air, he wandered around carelessly. He tripped over something he couldn't see. "Aaaahhh!" Thud!

Ox laid there, dazed. The Dibbuns were up and about and pounced the young badger. He didn't bother to move, and began to sniff the grass. Lilly and Baylor freed him from his cage of Dibbuns and he stood up. "You do live up to your name!" Baylor put out there.

Ox stared icily at her. Dusting himself up, he put his muzzle back into the air and sniffed. If only Baylor could reach, she would grab his muzzle and pull it back down. The badger lowered his head and breathed out gently and smiled. Ox looked around for any flowers to sniff. He found a patch of roses and gently approached them. He buried his nose in the flower and sniffed. Turning away, he sneezed. He tried again but with the same result; a sneeze. "Awwww- achooooo!"

The Dibbuns fled at the thundering sneeze. Baylor and Lilly were off gathering them up once more, and Ox laughed. Ox didn't bother to help after the statement Baylor made, so he went off to find Brandil. Ox decided that Cavern Hole would be the place to find him. Going down a set of stairs in the Great Hall, Ox could perfectly see Brandil, sitting, and munching happily away at a breakfast. Ox went to his friend and sat down, helping himself to Brandil's scone. "Get your own, wobblechops!"

So that's what Ox did. He got his own scones and munched down happily on them. Brandil smiled deviously and quickly snatched one of his scones. Ox was quick too, and snatched his paw and pinched it until he released the scone, then proceeded to stuff his face. Being the first day of spring, the friar, Friar Mery poured out tea for those taking breakfast this morning. When he came to the two friends, Brandil denied it, but Ox gratefully accepted it, his head nodding like a woodpecker at an oak. Taking a sip of the tea, he burned his tongue. "Yowch!"

Brandil chuckled at his pal as his tongue was on fire. "You live up to your name quite well, Ox!"

Ox glared icily at Brandil. This was the second time somebeast had said that to him. Sipping cautiously now, Ox continued at his tea. Brandil was still munching away, and Ox thought it would be nice to strike up conversation. "I think I might have a allergies is it? What are allergies? I've heard about them... Anyways, I have sneezing fits to I think pollen?"

Brandil smiled coldly. "Good, maybe you'll stop being clumsy now! You need to stop getting distracted, its not normal for a badger like you."

Rookbane sighed. "Meh, I don't care honestly. I like being different!"

Brandil sighed. As Redwallers were having breakfast, Abbot Manes came in and had an announcement for them. As Dibbuns were ushered in and silence fell, The Abbot cleared his throat. "Good morning to you all! I hope you've all been having a good-"

"Achoooooo!"

Everybeast jumped in Cavern Hole at the sound of the sneeze. Ox rubbed his nose. "Sorry..."

The Abbot cleared his throat again, and picked up where he left off. "Like I was saying, I hope you've all been having a good spring so far..."

The Abbot was blabbering on, and Ox felt another sneeze coming up. Brandil heard his sniffles and clasped his paws on his friend's muzzle. Holding tight, he tried to keep his friend from sneezing. The effort was not enough, as his friend opened his great mouth and sneezed once more. Every one turned to look at Ox and Brandil. As Ox took a kerchief and blew his nose, Brandil smiled sheepishly. "I tried to stop him from sneezing."

The Abbot shook his head. "Sister Pine, is there anything we can do about his... Sneezing?"

The mouse shook her head. The Abbot sighed. Ox clenched his jaw shut and to reinforce it, and he clamped it shut by holding it. "Now that spring is here, I believe you all know what's coming. Nameday!"

Cheers and clapping arose. Ox took his paws off of his muzzle and began to clap when he sneezed again. Brandil face-pawed himself and Ox buried his face in his arms, and sneezed once more into his arms. Sister Pine approached the badger and patted his massive back. "It's alright, your allergies will go away eventually."

The Abbot spoke over the excitement. "Now, if you want to have a Nameday, we must prepare for it!"

A bustle was made as everybeast shifted and went to work preparing for Nameday. The Abbot took Ox and pulled him aside. "And we need to teach you how to be the Abbey Badger!"

Chapter 6

The Abbey was alive! Every one was lending a helping paw to prepare for Nameday. Ox had finished his lesson on how to be the "Abbey Badger", and was practicing outside with the Abbot "grading" him. Ox only got one line perfectly. All of his other lines had been sabotaged by his sneezing. Abbot Manes shook his head. "My friend, what are we going to do about your sneezing?"

The badger shrugged his massive shoulders, and sneezed again. "Can we do it inside?"

The Abbot appeared crestfallen at the idea. He wanted to keep tradition and have the Dibbuns march around the orchard, but Ox would sneeze and they would scatter. Ox dismissed the idea and tried pondering a new one. He was stumped! "I give up on thinking of a solution- ACHOO!"

The badger face-pawed himself. He just couldn't stop sneezing! The other night, Brandil tried smothering the badger's muzzle with his paws, but Ox sneezed and Brandil went soaring. At the moment, the Dibbuns were watching and awed at the flying otter, and loud crash followed as he landed. What would cure him of his sneezing fits?

Ox had learned his role well and could recite lines the Abbot gave him. If he were to forget them, at least he knew the main purpose, so he could just make some up. The badger was off, helping with preparing. The young badger got the dull and boring jobs of lifting objects considered to be "heavy" by the Redwallers. He was assigned the job due to his "raw strength".

Brandil helped with cooking, just to get around the vittles. He sampled some secretly when nobeast was looking, and got away with it. After Ox helped with carrying up some barrels from The Cellar, he sat down and took deep breaths. A drip of sweat trickled down his muzzle, and he tried to lick it. Skipper, who had just brought up the last barrel noticed him trying to lick the drop of sweat and chuckled. "Thirsty?"

Ox continued at trying to get the drop before speaking. He successfully did so, and spoke. "No... Hmm, Tastes quite salty."

The badger was lying and tried his best to hide it. Skipper finally gave up and let him be. Ox realized his mouth was dry, and wish he had said yes. As he sat there, regretting his decision, a flask was put in his paw. Ox noticed it and looked around. It was the Cellarhog, Beri that had given it to him. "It's Strawberry Cordial."

Ox took the cork off and sniffed it, then took a sip. He enjoyed it. Taking more sips of it, he smiled. "Thank you Beri."

The Cellarhog smiled. "No, thank YOU for helping me with the good ol' barrels!"

As Ox finished the cordial up, he smacked his lips in enjoyment. He slipped the empty flask away in his bag he had since the journey. The afternoon has faded away into almost-nighttime. Dibbuns were being ushered in to their beds for tomorrow: Nameday. Ox would have to be the Abbey Badger and get through his sneezing fits. Though he wished for it to rain so he could stay inside, he felt guilty for that thought. He wandered off to go to sleep, only to wake early tomorrow morning to play his role.

Chapter 7

Nameday! Ox had awoken early, and was getting ready for his role. Ox quickly headed to Cavern Hole and grabbed a quick drink of mint tea. Sipping it cautiously, the badger was off. Taking some garments he had to wear for being the Abbey Badger, he donned them quickly and met up with Abbot Manes. He nodded to him and took off to the Orchard.

It wouldn't be long for the Dibbuns to wake and be up and about, ready to march the Orchard. Ox was prepared! As he waited the arrival of the Dibbuns, he looked around. He had not sneezed yet! This was a miracle! Ox smiled at the thought of this-

"Achoo! Aaachooo! Achoo achoo achoo!"

He nearly exploded with sneezes. He knew now the Dibbuns would be up if they weren't already. Face-pawing himself, he sighed. Retrieving his face from his paws, he saw a swarm of Dibbuns rushing him. His lesson on the role had almost deserted him, as for he wanted to dart off away from the incoming swarm. Shaking his head to clear that thought, he remembered his training clearly. Before he said anything, the Dibbuns were organized and began to march. Approaching the badger, he appeared fierce. "Halt!"

The Dibbuns stopped marching. Ox narrowed his eyes and glared. "And what is it you may want, eh?"

The Dibbuns shouted their answer. "Food! Vittles!"

The Abbey Badger chuckled, and played his role. The Dibbuns kept up with their shenanigans and Ox played along with his role. After marching and chantings, the Abbey Badger finally gave in (as his role states). "Alright, you blighters! You may proceed on to the feast and enjoy food and vittles!"

The once organized group of youngsters dispersed into a blob of hungry mice, moles, hogs, otters, and shrews. After they left, Abbot Manes congratulated Ox. "That was very well done, my friend! You should do this more often!"

Ox was about to speak. "Thank you- ACHOO! Achoo! Achoo achoo achoo! ACHOOOOOOOO!"

Ox sneezed plentiful, and blew his nose in his kerchief he had been given. He grinned sheepishly at the Abbot. "I've been holding those for that entire time period. I think I got them all- ACHOO! I lied. That should be it."

Abbot Manes chuckled heartily, and the two started off toward the Great Hall to enjoy the feast. Ox loved springtime, but was disappointed that he had sneezing fits for springtime. The Abbot took a great whiff of the air and breathed out heavily, enjoying the fresh spring air. Ox tried to do the same, but sneezed again. At the entrance of Great Hall, the badger was about to enter when somebeast jumped onto his back. "'Ey, me matey, how was it?"

Ox snickered at jockey. "Quite entertaining, Brandil. I see you are on my back for what reason?"

Brandil was wrapped his paws around his friend's stomach, and tried working his way up to his shoulder. Now, his head was peering over Ox's shoulder. "Ooh, this is fun! I have to do this more often!"

The badger turned his head to look at the otter. "I'll only allow it if you somehow lose a footpaw, or I am in the mood- but you must promise to carry me then!"

Brandil's eyes grew ten sizes. "No way! That's literally death itself, mate!"

Ox Rookbane giggled with his friend Brandil as they continued in to the Great Hall. Arriving to the feast, Ox noticed two tables positioned in a cross shape. Brandil and Ox sat down next to each other with Skipper and The Abbot. They arrived just in time; fresh and delectable food came out to be served to the hungry Redwallers.

Before anybeast dug in, they said a grace. Then, an announcement from the Abbot himself came. "Today, is Nameday! Thank you all for coming around, brothers and sisters, to enjoy the wonders we have before us. Now, we all would like to eat, yes? Well, would you like to hear the name of the season?"

A noisy chorus of "Yes" flooded the Great Hall. The Abbot winced, and noticed Ox wince too. He whispered quickly to Ox. "It's been loud a lot when I do these things, and I still haven't got used to it!"

"I didn't know it was possible to be THAT loud."

Abbot Manes chuckled lightly at Ox's cluelessness, and he continued on. "I have decided to name this spring... 'Spring of the Noisy Badger'!"

A roar of laughter aroused from every one in the Great Hall. Brandil laughed the hardest, and nudged Ox many times. The badger's jaw dropped at the name of the season. Spring of the Noisy Badger is what this season would be. Named after their friend and guest, Ox Rookbane. Brandil pushed his bottom part of Ox's jaw up to close it, but it collapsed down again. He tried again and was successful. "Well, I guess I'm going down in history in the most unusual way possible!"

Ox joined the laughter after his statement and laughed along with them. Shortly, the laughter died down, and Redwallers were busy munching away at the feast. Ox enjoyed the food greatly. Never in his young life had he tasted such food! He enjoyed all of the entrees given, and even tried some Ale. Although he liked the October Ale, he preferred Strawberry Cordial over it. The Strawberry Cordial being the favorite amongst the Dibbuns, some really questioned the badger.

"Is he even a badger?", "He's probably a Dibbun trapped inside o' that body of his!", "Oi agree too, zurr!", "P'raps he's young at 'eart, mate!", "Or he's still young..."

Ox overheard the gossip and decided to confuse everyone. Whispering to an otter, he said "Maybe it's because Ox is a special snowflake".

The otter nodded in agreement and started to pass it around. Eventually, everybeast passed it around the tables and it arrived at the Abbot last. He raised a brow at the thought of Ox being a "special snowflake".

"Did Ox say that?" The Abbot questioned the creature who told him what he heard. A shrug was given as an answer.

Ox overheard Abbot Manes and giggled guiltily. Trying to hide it, he bit his tongue, but couldn't help but to burst out laughing. "I passed that rumor off, and it went all around! I AM a special snowflake!"

Brandil dished the Ox. "Sure are a special snowflake, Ox. A special one to be in the beginning of spring with warmness."

The badger chuckled and accepted it as a compliment, and continued on to eat. Ox was convinced to try the otter favorite, Hotroot soup, by Skipper and Brandil. Ox looked suspiciously at the two, but then shrugged as he gave it a try. His eyes nearly popped out of this head as the spiciness. The otters burst out laughing as Ox chugged two flasks of Strawberry Cordial to get rid of the spiciness. Now that he had it somewhat under control (it still burned), he sipped at the soup even more. Ox came to getting used to the spiciness (his tongue was probably numb), and enjoyed it. The taste of it was quite delicious once you got around the spiciness (his tongue was NOT numb). "I say, this Hotroot soup is... Splendid! My favorite!"

Skipper's and Brandil's smiles faded at his statement. Hotroot soup had now became a favorite of Ox's.

Chapter 8

After many had stuffed their faces at the feast, various sports, games, and races were held. There was activities for all, young and old to participate in. The Dibbuns had their own race and gaming league, while the older Redwallers played competitive or for fun. Ox and Brandil decided to challenge each other in a race.

At Redwall, they had an undefeated champion at the races. Skipper was the one to bare the "Undefeated" title. Not only did Ox want to beat his friend, but he wanted to redeem himself from being the "noisy badger". This was his time to rise to fame, or go down with even more humility.

The three approached the starting line. Brandil was busy boasting at his "speed", Skipper was stretching and warming himself up, while Ox was assessing himself and warming up also. "If you want it all, you got to put it all out on the line."

The Abbot was calling the winner and setting the racers off. After a brief period to prepare, the racers readied themselves at the line. The race was in the orchard, and would be three laps around it. Ox was positioned in the middle, and glanced at both of his sides to see the otters. The badger was willing to win this. "All or nothing, don't hold back Ox. You got this, go for broke!"

The Abbot raised his paw. The racers looked out the corners of their eyes to catch sight of it. Abbot Manes lowered his paw and shouted: "Go!"

The runners took off. They were side to side for some time as they ran. Ox started to gain a lead, but the two others were not far behind; they were practically on his tail. Skipper put some extra speed into his running and now was at Ox's side. Brandil ran harder and was at Ox's side. "Come on, Ox! Sneeze for me, please!"

Ox heard Brandil's statement and denied his command. "Why don't you eat my dust since you got a big mouth?"

Ox hit the thrusters and darted off and took a lead. The track around the Orchard wasn't too long, and Ox was first to finish the first lap. He adjusted to his new speed, and assigned it to be a normal pace. Skipper was in second and not too far off from Ox, while Brandil was quite some distance behind his uncle.

Ox slowed his pace a tad bit and Skipper made it to his side. The two risked a quick glance at each other, and turned their heads back to the-- track? Two trees were in front of them. Ox saw just in time and dived to the side. Poor Skipper was not quick enough and smacked into the tree and fell over.

Skipper was dazed from the impact. Ox took off, but felt bad for leaving him. Turning around, he lent a paw to Skipper. Helping him up, he tried walking but was too dazed to do so. Ox heaved him onto his massive back and rubbed his head. "Are you ok?"

The otter was too dazed to say anything. Ox decided to get back to the race. The time he had spent helping out Skipper put Ox back in last as for Brandil was on the third lap. Ox darted off and finally finished the second lap.

Brandil turned around and saw Ox coming, and kept at his pace. Rookbane was going at a good pace and slowly closed the distance, but it wasn't fast enough. Brandil would win if he didn't speed up. Ox felt a confidence build inside of him, and began to charge forward with massive speed, shouting, "Eeulaliaaaaaaaaa!"

Ox shot past Brandil, and was barely in the lead. Brandil tried everything to distract Ox or try to get more speed, but Ox still had the tad lead. The finish line was close, and Ox would win if he kept this up. Brandil now started to get some more paces behind, and could not take lead.

The dazed Skipper finally seemed to know his surroundings and what was going on again. He realized he was on Ox's back, and felt a pounding headache. Pressing his paw on his forehead and complaining about the pain, he removed it and took a quick glance and saw blood on his paw. "W-what happened?"

Ox Rookbane did not answer the question. "I'll tell you after the race!"

Ox crossed the finish line with Skipper on his back. Cheers and clapping took place for the two. Ox was beaming with pride and his new confidence he had found. A tiny tint of red in his eyes faded, but was not left unnoticed. Abbot Mane had caught sight of it, and could not believe what he saw. Was his eyes playing tricks on him, or did he see what he saw? He remembered the shout Ox had let off. It was true...

"Alrighty Skip, I'll tell ya now. You ran and smacked into a tree. We exchanged quick glances and next thing you know, trees are in front of us. I managed to dive but you weren't quick enough to dodge 'em. I felt guilty leaving you behind so I placed you on my back."

Skipper smiled. "Did I lose my title of being "undefeated"?

Ox thought before he spoke. "Technically it's a tie-"

"You both won. A tie does not sound appealing now, does it?" The Abbot solved Skipper's question.

Brandil came moping past the finish line, panting. "You're fast for a furball, Ox... Even with uncle on your back..." Brandil wheezed and fell to the ground panting.

Sister Pine came over and tended Skipper's bleeding head wound from the impact. Wrapping a bandage around his head, it was inevitable to miss covering his right eye. Skipper was now restricted to only his left eye for awhile.

The prize for winning the race were special coins made for the winner. The Abbot had to give out two for Ox and Skipper. Ox was praised more than Skipper for his sportsmanship conduct towards Skipper. The coin depicted the beautiful Abbey as the heads, and the tails was... A mountain? Ox stared hard at the mountain engraved on the tails side of the coin.

"Father Abbot, what is this mountain?"

Manes thought Ox would question what it was. Pulling him aside, he told Ox what he saw. "When you shouted what you did during the race, I started pondering some things, Ox my friend. After the race I swear I saw a tint of red in your eyes..."

Ox raised an eyebrow at the Abbot. "What do you mean? Are you diverting the question..?"

The mouse shook his head. "No no, I just wanted to let you know. That mountain on the coin you ask of? My friend, that would be Salamandastron."

Ox was clueless. "Sala-what-mandy-ron?"

"No, Salamandastron."

Ox tried saying it with the Abbot. "Salad-manastron"

"No no, not salad! Sala! Salamandastron!"

The badger kept trying to pronounce it, but got it correct finally. "Salamandastron! Did I say it correctly?"

The Abbot chuckled. "After a long time of trying to teach you it, yes."

The badger felt accomplished. "Can you tell me about it?"

Manes shook his head. "I do not know much about it, Brother Ox. These coins were made by some hare that had stopped by seasons ago and made these for us. A splendid forger indeed."

Salamandastron it was, the mountain on the back of the coin. Ox wanted to know about it. What was this mountain? What about this hare? So many questions, and no starting point to get on track to answering them...

Chapter 9

It was a restless night for Ox Rookbane. He tossed and turned in his sleep, and could not be comfortable. He was burning up and sweating, and having... Nightmares? Ox could not define them as dreams nor nightmares. What was it?

Visions of a mountain appeared in his dreams, with somebeast standing clad in armor. The vision flashed away and now images of chambers and creatures clad in armor flashed instantaneously in his dreams. Ox rolled around, trying to find relief. The visions paused, and Ox was still shaken up by what he had seen in his dreams. They returned, but this time, Ox felt as if he was living it.

He saw a army of hares, and a legion of... Warriors? They all seemed to be his size at first glance, but Ox realized they were a tad taller. Badger Lords?! Ox was in a dream like he was living a normal life. A bright light blinded him, and he shielded his eyes with his paws. Ox had the feeling that he was illuminated everything as if he was the Light. He was somewhat frightened by the Badger Lords. This had to be Salamandastron.

"You will be the next Lord of the Mountain, Ox Rookbane, Slayer of Ravens. You will..." The visions of the Badger Lords spoke in unison, making a deep chorus of eerie voices that sent chills down Ox's spine.

"H-how do you-?!" Ox was struck with fear. How did they know his name?!

"A black feather, and a Darkness. An uprising, and The Darkness. A Light and a Badger Lord." They diverted the question with a... Riddle?

Ox awoke, panting. Sweat dripped down his face rapidly. Sister Pine came to check up on the badger to see if he was okay. He had overslept very late, and some were worried. The color drained out of Ox and he slumped back down in his bed. He was out cold.

"What's wrong with Ox?"

"He's very ill. A very nasty fever. It's not Dryditch Fever, thank goodness."

Ox slowly opened his eyelids. "I... Have a fever?"

Brandil and Sister Pine looked over at the patient. Ox was now awake.

"Good afternoon, sleepy head!" Brandil put in.

Ox looked around and found himself in the Infirmary. How did he get there? Nobeast could carry him! Somebeast walked into the Infirmary, and it was another badger. Ox darted up out of his bed in the Infirmary. "A black feather, and a Darkness! An uprising, and The Darkness! A light and a Badger Lord!"

The visitor, Sister Pine, and Brandil exchanged worried glances. The visitor raised an eyebrow. "W-why are you guys looking like that? Did I say something? A riddle? Secret? No? ...An incantation?"

The visitor nodded. "That's what it seems to be, Son."

The visitor was Ox's father. "Father! Where's Mother?"

His father sighed. "She... She passed away. She fell very ill, and I had no idea what it was. After burying her, I came here. I've been checked up on and I'm fine; I didn't catch what your Mother had..."

Ox had tears in his eyes. "Mom..?" He sniffled, then buried his face into a pillow and wept, hiding under a large blanket.

"This way, Mister Blitz, I'll take you to Cavern Hole and make sure you get a lunch." Brandil led Ox's father away, and Abbot Manes strode in, and Ox came out of the blanket.

The Abbot examined Ox. "You look nothing like your father, Ox!"

The young badger sniffled. "Because I'm a special snowflake."

Manes chuckled. "Very special indeed, Ox."

The mouse had given Ox lunch. Tear lines were still on his face for when he wept for his passed Mother. The badger kept silent, and didn't speak a word to the Abbot. He was busy thinking about the words he had been told in his sleep. "A black feather, and a Darkness. An uprising, and The Darkness. A Light and a Badger Lord... What does that mean?"

Abbot Manes was somewhat startled. The silence was broken by Ox, putting out the words he had heard. "Who told you that?"

Ox blinked. "Uhhh... I don't know... I just heard it in my dreams? I don't know who exactly said it. Oh wait... A group of creatures said it, all clad in armor. I'm utterly confused!"

Sister Pine and Brandil returned with Blitz. "Well, black feathers are feathers. Darkness is darkness. 'A light and a Badger Lord', you lost me there pal." Brandil wasn't much of a help to deciphering the riddle.

Blitz messed around with his beard. His beard was white to accompany his white fur. The beard drooped barely off and down his muzzle, and was braided to keep tight. "Black feathers, eh? What kind o' bird would be like that? Very descriptive, son."

Ox looked dumbfounded. "I just heard it in my dreams last night! I saw... Badger Lords clad in armor? They spoke my name, and... And they told me that riddle!"

Blitz stared at his son. "You must've been tipsy or somethin', that just ain't normal."

His son sighed. Did his father really find him to be a disappointment..? It seemed to be that way...

The day passed, and Ox was free from being bedridden for an entire day. Brandil and Ox would set off from Redwall to go explore after the arrival of Ox's father. The two tried to sneak out, but Skipper and Blitz caught them. "And what may you be doing, Ox? Are you afraid of me?"

Ox sighed. "Why don't you leave me alone? You sent me away to go be on my own, without teaching me much about surviving. You wanted me to die, didn't you? All I know how to do is make a fire! I had to rely on Brandil for directions to even get here! Not only that, but I didn't get to see Mother before she passed away! You took the chance away from me!"

Brandil and his uncle exchanged a worried glance at each other. "Ox, you need to learn it YOURSELF. Thought it would teach you a lesson-"

"A lesson on how to die? A lesson to teach me what it feels like to die? Brandil and I encountered sea pirates was it? Yeah, sea pirates!"

Brandil tugged on Ox's tunic. "Let's go, mate, before things get-"

"How else were you to learn?! You must be bluffing!"

Ox shouted back, furious. "YOU TEACH! THAT'S HOW!"

The young badger turned away and proceeded to leave Redwall Abbey with his friend Brandil. They had vittles packed for their excursion. "Sorry, me matey... Your father is quite the badger, eh?"

Ox had tears trickling down his face. "I thought a father was supposed to be supportive, not somebeast that is against their son!"

Brandil was embraced by a big hug from the badger. He accepted his, and hugged back. "Mate, I wonder that about me father too! Lets not worry about 'em and focus on an adventure!"

Ox sniffled. "Because our fathers can't tell us how to live! This is our life!"

Chapter 10

A few days of wandering followed the departure of Brandil and Ox. The sky was morose and dark, and the spring felt bitter. Ox didn't sniff any flowers or take a great whiff of the air, but instead seemed paranoid. A Darkness... The Darkness... What possibly could it be, this? It had been this way ever since they left Redwall Abbey.

"Brandil, do you still think those pirates are here?"

Brandil shrugged. "Would be hard to say, mate. We haven't seen fur nor tail 'round here yet, have we?"

Ox continued to wander with Brandil. As the badger was looking around, he found a stick. Thick and strong, it would make a formidable staff for walking or clubbing. Nothing could be heard, spare the grass shifting underneath the footpaws of the otter and the badger. Black feathers... Feathers belong to birds, but what bird would have them?

A Light and a Badger Lord... What does that mean? Ox thought back to the dream and remembered the feeling of glowing, as if he illuminated everything around him in it. Does that mean... He might be the "Light", AND a Badger Lord? Why else would he have the dream?

Ox felt the realization settle in him. Would he be the Badger Lord of Salamandastron, the mountain he is clueless about? Impossible! He has no idea where it would be!

"Hey, Ox! Check this out!" Brandil called to Ox.

"What is it now, Brandil?"

"Woo, you seem grumpy, mate! Cheer up, furball. Now, take a gazer at this!" Brandil held up a black feather.

Ox's eyes enlarged. Out of the corner of his eye, a black bird settled on a branch. He noticed there were a whole platoon of them. "Don't. Move. A Muscle." The badger whispered.

Ravens! The birds were ravens! Ox and Brandil stood motionless, not daring to move. The ravens watched intently at them. They did not make a move on them, but just watched the two intently, waiting for their next move.

"Ox? What are you doing out here? Son, you are a dis-"

"FATHER!"

The ravens swooped down at them. Ox's father had Skipper in tow. As the ravens attacked at them, they came to Ox and Brandil. Ox and Brandil swatted at the ravens and tried to get rid of them along with the two newcomers, but the ravens would not rest. They attacked them mercilessly and would not stop. The badgers and otters darted off and hid behind a rock as they ran. The ravens flew overhead, and those who weren't bright swooped down and smacked into the rock.

"Why did you have to do that, Father?! We're going to die because of you now!" Ox was furious.

Blitz wasn't too happy at his son, either. "You're blaming this on me?! Do you want to do that?!"

"Yeah, I want to blame it on you! You just had to burst and shout- Gah!"

A raven had struck Ox. Using his staff, he clubbed the bird. Brandil was scared for his life, while Skipper was trying to think of a way to defend themselves. Ox used his staff and started to chip away at the rock, breaking chunks off. Taking these new pieces of rock, Ox popped out of the cover of the rock and fired upon the ravens. Clunk! A successful hit sent a raven spiraling to the ground. He continued to assault the ravens.

Ox never missed a shot, and slew a good number of ravens, but it wasn't enough. He could no longer chip away at the cover-rock to obtain more missiles, so he hid behind it. Blitz noticed the staff his son had. "Give me your staff, Ox."

"W-why?"

"I'll hold them off for you three to run."

"W-what?! Are you-"

"It's better for one of us to die than all of us, son."

Ox could not believe his ears. Although he had conflicts with his father, he still cared about him. Ox broke off more rock for missiles, risking exposure to the ravens. He had quite enough to last him. After stocking up, he gave the staff to his father. "Ox, make the best out of my sacrifice. Be prepared to run!"

Skipper and Brandil were ready to get out of there. Ox had his arms full of missiles, and also prepared for a mad dash. Blitz looked at the three. "On my marks... GO!"

Skipper and Brandil were off. Blitz came out of the cover and started assaulting the ravens with the staff. Ox didn't take off like the others, but stayed behind, sending missiles to the ravens. One by one they dropped out of the sky until Ox ran out of rocks to throw. "Ox, get out of here! Go! I love you, and I want you to live a long life! GO!"

Ox didn't move.

Brandil and Skipper ran side by side, and ran like yellow-bellied chickens. They noticed Ox wasn't with them, and panicked. The two turned around to head back to retrieve him; if he happens to be alive still.

Ox Rookbane stood as his father swatted at the ravens. Snapping a branch off a tree, he wielded it as a staff also. A red mist brewed in his eyes, and he felt something press down on him. In little time, he was possessed. Bloodwrath.

"Eeulaliaaaaaaaaa!"

Skipper and Brandil had just arrived in time to see the sight. Blitz had fallen, critically wounded after all of the attacks on the ravens, but he had slain many of them. Ox Rookbane fought the ravens with his staff like a madbeast. He wielded the staff rapidly, and the ravens dropped like flies. After seeing the mad badger and being critically damaged in numbers, they fled the scene.

Ox Rookbane dropped the branch as he came out of his Bloodwrath state, and rushed over to his father's body. He was breathing slightly, but was near-death. "Ox... You don't... Listen well..."

Ox's eyes still had a hint of red in them, and his father noticed. "The... Riddle... You might be... That Badger Lord... Ox, goodbye, my son... The... Raven Slayer..."

The eyes of Blitz, the Father of Ox Rookbane closed forever. Ox now had lost his father along with his mother. Placing his head on the chest of his father, he cried furiously. His massive body trembled as he sobbed over his father's death. Brandil placed a paw on his back. "I'm sorry mate... I wish we could've done somethin' 'bout him..."

Skipper took one of Ox's paws and placed something in it. It was the coin he had been awarded from winning the race. "He might like it."

"We'll take him home and bury him there."

Brandil and Skipper agreed, and helped Ox carry the limp figure of his father. Once they arrived, a hole was dug, a tombstone was made, and Blitz's body was prepared. Cleaned up and wearing his best, the body of Blitz looked so peaceful. Skipper's coin had a hole pierced through it, allowing string to go through it. Ox gave it a new purpose; a necklace. Slipping it over his father's head, he sniffled. Ox also had converted his coin to a necklace, also. The necklace was boasting out and shown.

The three helped Ox lower Blitz's body into the hole they had made to bury him. Skipper and Brandil paid their respects. Ox stood there and sniffled. "Requiescat in pace, Father..." (Rest in peace)

Book 2: Coming of A Badger Lord

LITDConceptArt

Chapter 11

What about the pirates Brandil and Ox had encountered some time ago? They were only a platoon for a crew of a warship, Labyrinth. The platoon's job was to scout out the area around where they had anchored.

The Labyrinth was a warship; larger than common sea pirate ships. They could not enter through River Moss, forcing them to anchor the abnormal ship outside at the mouth of the river. A vast ship supported a vast amount of wretched sea pirates; vermin.

Fur, gear, tunics, sails, all of it; black. Black as the shadows; The Darkness. The Lord of them, Eclipse; a fox who likes to play his games dirty. He is no Warlord- his conquests and victories never required it. His eyes were on Mossflower, specifically Salamandastron, the Badger Lord Stronghold.

"Eh, wot use is a 'tripe'ound, Sacredam! Dat rock'll be mine."

A rat braved a question. "And wot will dat rock serve ye, Capin'?"

Eclipse snickered. "An' wot will dat 'ead serve ye on me wall, eh? Dat rock is more 'den a rock!"

The resilient rat sped off to do work to save himself. Eclipse continued to snicker as the pirate fled. Salamandastron would be a pretty mountain for Eclipse, he thought. He would be the all powerful there. The lore was not in his interests, but its loot; the fabled "treasure" and the weaponry. It would be a jackpot. No stripehound would stop him. None.

Ox, Brandil, and Skipper had been wandering for awhile. Ox was feeling better, though still troubled over the death of his father. He was not himself. He had not smiled or spoken a positive word. He had retrieved his staff back from his father, and he held on to it dearly. They were sure to be lost.

Chapter 12

The trio were starting to starve. Ox Rookbane was not himself anymore. He was in more of a sub-conscious state. He seemed to have a way planned out on where to go, and followed it. Though he was starving, he rarely paid attention to it. The two otters moped about and felt as if they could not go farther. "Oh alright... We'll try scavenging..."

Brandil looked at him as if he was insane in a playful manner. "Woah me hearty, that's somethin' unusual for you!"

Ox chuckled and smiled after a long time of being depressed. They stuck together and went scrounging for anything edible. There were berry bushes, but all of them had been picked clean. Not a single berry hung. Ox was perplexed. "Who would've taken all of the berries?"

Wandering off by himself, he decided to investigate. Leaving the two otters to themselves, he went to pursuit his investigation. Not far off from the berry bushes, he found a sack of berries sitting in the middle of the floor of the woods. "Who left these behind? Hmm... Wonder if they might want it back."

Ox was wrongly mistake. Stepping out to check the sack, something had wrapped around his footpaw and constricted it. In short time, he was hanging upside-down from a rope on a tree branch. "Gotcha! Ooh... Ooo this is not good, wot?"

Ox twitched his eye in disapproval. A group of hares stumbled out from cover. Ox was being examined by the hares, hanging there as he was flustered. The staff was still in his paw, and pointed it around at the hares. "Release me before the blood rushes to my head... I hate that feeling."

"Sorry, Sah. Wouldn't want to disturb a badger chap with the ol' Bloodwrath!"

Ox was utterly confused. "No, no, no! I'm talking about a headache! C-come on! Ugh..."

Ox was cut free from the rope and he flopped on the ground. He did not bother retrieving his face from the floor of grass. He left off a heavy sigh. Rolling over, the badger worked at the rope still constricting his footpaw and got it off. Brandil and Skipper found Ox. "Ox, you there mate? W-who are you?"

Weapons were on the otters. "H-hey! Do we look like vermin or any kind o' killers?"

Ox defended for them. "They are my friends. Weapons down."

The hares followed the order. "So that's what 'A Light and a Badger Lord' means... You're the Badger Lord, AND the light!"

Ox was flabbergasted. "That can't be! Can it?! Woo wee... The last thing I was expecting..."

A hare chuckled. "We meant to catch a bandit or somethin', not a Badger Lord!"

Brandil laughed. "Wait 'til you get to know the furball! He's quite a clumsy and stupid- Yeowch!"

Ox smacked Brandil with his staff. "You'll be my rug if you keep that up. I'll use this very staff to beat you out with when you get dirty!"

Another hare chuckled. "You sound like a perfect type, wot! Let's take you back to Salamandastron!"

Ox looked back at his friend and Skipper. "They can come along to Salad-manastron-- I mean... Salamandastron? Oof, that's going to leave a mark..."

The hare that offered to lead him giggled. "Sure, I don't think the ol' Colonel would mind, wot! No worries, chap! I didn't say it right when I first 'eard it from my pappy!"

"About how long out is Salamandastron?"

"About an hour out, Sah!"

Ox nodded. "The name is Ox Rookbane, Slayer of Ravens, but you may call me Ox," he turned to his friends. "This one is Brandil, my mate, and this one is his uncle, Skipper."

The leading hare smiled. "Nice t'meet'cha, wot! Me own name be Bridges. I'm a Sergeant of the ol' Long Patrol."

Ox acknowledged this. "A pleasure to meet you, Bridges. Might've been a weird way of meeting, but I guess this will work."

Ox's stomach grumbled, along with the two otters, forming a noisy chorus of starving cries. "Well stop me, Sah! Hungry, are you?"

"We three are." The trio put out there.

In about an hour, they arrived at the legendary Badger Lord Stronghold, Salamandastron, where Ox Rookbane, Slayer Of Ravens would rule. The dream came true, but still many parts of it are left shrouded in The Darkness...

Chapter 13

"We finally have a Badger Lord after many seasons!" Ox had met the Colonel, Colonel Whiscut. He had a tear in his eye.

Ox was already shown around and knew where everything was. Colonel Whiscut was practically bouncing off the chamber walls. Sergeant Bridges and Ox looked at each other. "He's nuttier than a fruitcake, and my Mother used to make REALLY nutty fruitcakes..."

"He always thought he'd never see a Badger Lord."

"First I was swarmed by Dibbuns at Redwall because they never saw a Badger before, and now Colonel Whiscut is bouncing everywhere because he's never seen a Badger Lord before. Who's next?"

After the tour, the Colonel had spiked his heart rate and hyperventilated himself. He took Ox's paw and shook it furiously. "This is the happiest day of me life, hah! Thank you Sah for coming! He he he! Woo hoo!"

Ox couldn't help but feel and look a bit uncomfortable. "Good to know. You can calm down now, I'm going to be staying, right? A life time, yes? Well as long as I don't get slain."

"Don't curse it now!" Colonel Whiscut was now serious. Ox backed off a little. "Frightening... Changes emotions in a snap..."

The Colonel sniffled. "It's just... This is just so dear to me!"

"Ooh I am emotionally touched... Sergeant, lets move on?"

Sergeant Bridges shook his head. "Well, you've seen every major and minor chamber, room, crevice, and pebble in Salamandastron by now."

The Colonel smiled sheepishly. "If you truly say I've seen everything Sergeant Bridges... I'm going to go find Brandil and Skipper. Where could they-"

"In the Dining Hall." Whiscut already had an answer.

"Thank you, Colonel." And Ox was off.

When the brand new Badger Lord arrived, Brandil jumped on his back. "How does it feel to be royalty, furball?"

Ox flicked at Brandil. "You're hilarious. Now, do you mind?"

Brandil hopped off. "Well, uncle and I are heading back to Redwall. I'll see ya 'round, mate! Don't forget me!"

Ox hugged his friend. "Check in with me every once in awhile. I'm afraid that Colonel is quite... Nutty..."

Brandil squirmed out of the hug, and looked at his friend who had a tear in his eye. Brandil started to have tears fill up his eyes, also. "I'll escort you out Brandil. Lets go mate, lets go."

Brandil couldn't help it but to sniffle away the tears. "I'm going to miss you, Ox."

Ox Rookbane looked down at his friend. "If you can, send me a letter. I'll try to write back and somehow send it to you."

Outside of Salamandastron now, the two friends hugged one last time, and Ox watched Brandil and Skipper pace off into the distance. A beautiful sunset tinted the sky orange and poked Ox in his feelers. He ignored the tear that trickled down his face, and turned around to walk in after the two had disappeared.

Ox turned away and re-entered Salamandastron, and the Colonel was still bouncing around. "Is there any place to get privacy? I have some things I'd like to do- alone."

Colonel Whiscut stopped bouncing. "The good ol' Forge room, Sah! It's private to only the Badger Lord, so I'm going to leave you to it."

Ox sighed. "Would be nice to at least get directions... Whatever, I'll find it eventually."

The Colonel saluted and bounced away. None of the hares had seen the Colonel this happy before. Ox wandered to his bedchamber before going off to find the Forge. On arrival, he took his bag he had kept with him from the journey and tossed it on the bed. Walking over, he sat down and went to open the bag, when he caught a whiff of something that smelled sweaty. "Is- ... That's disgusting."

It was the bed that reeked of the smell of sweat. Ox ignored his bag and went to work on washing the bed. After five minutes of freshening it up, the task was complete. The smell was ridded, and it smelled way better. Ox returned to emptying his bag. "A empty flask... Um... Ooh! A flask of Strawberry Cordial!"

Ox uncorked it and sipped it, and shivered in delight. It was somehow still cold and refreshing. Sipping at it to make it last, Ox looked like a Dibbun enjoying desert. Wandering out of the bedchamber, he went looking for the Forge, while sipping away at the cordial. In little time, he found the Forge room, and had his staff brought along with him.

As he entered, he saw many weapons hanging on the walls of the Forge. He looked at them in admiration. Looking at his staff, he felt a little ashamed of having just a stick, but shrugged. He didn't care, it served a great purpose.

Ox looked at the material around him, and the Forge came to life as the new Badger Lord worked. Ox worked like a professional, even though he had no idea how to do a thing. Waiting for metal to smelt and cool, Ox stared out at the sunset. Getting back to work, he continued to work while looking out the window.

For the first time in his life, Ox had witnessed the "Green Flash". It was beautiful, looking out seaward. Not a ship in sight was a good thing, and he could see the sea sit still and breathe.

After the metal was forged, Ox fancied it up with some engravings. After finishing it up, he had attached it to his staff. Ox had made a double-headed battle axe with a lance point at the bottom of the shaft of the axe. Tying colored streamers to it, a nice blue and white, he finished his weapon. He had called it the "Ravenshaft", because it sounded cool and matched his title. After staring in admiration at his weapon, he fixed up a sheath for it that was worn on the back. Placing it in the sheath, it was a perfect fit. Ox now slipped on the sheath and had his weapon on his back.

Ox Rookbane, The Slayer of Ravens, had added a new title: Lord of Salamandastron.

Chapter 14

Ox had settled in at Salamandastron. Clouds of darkness appeared morose and choked the sky of its light. Its been this way for a week now. No rainfall came with the clouds; no precipitation at all. "Bridges, do you find it quite odd that its been like this for a week?"

The Sergeant blinked. "Care to explain, Sire?"

Ox shrugged. "Its springtime, and its supposed to be sunny. These clouds make it look as if it would rain, but it hasn't for a week now! I don't like this; it ruins my favorite season..."

Sergeant Bridges squinted at the sky. "Now that you mentioned it Sah, I believe you are correct!"

The Badger Lord scratched his chin. "So is this the 'Darkness', eh? Wouldn't expect you to know, Sergeant. Hmm... Something isn't correct out there, I can feel it deep in me..."

Ox and Bridges stood at the window and continued to stare out into the sky. Together they pondered about the question. The Sergeant twiddled his whiskers, but was coming up short. Ox tapped on his chin, and ran his paw through his head fur, connecting the dots.

"Eureka! I believe I got an idea..."

The Sergeant sighed with relief. "Thought you were riding on me to answer for you. Started to panic, y'know? Now, since you have it-"

"The key word here is believe. Now, lets see here..."

Ox closed his eyes as he thought aloud. "I remember the encounter I had with those sea pirates with Brandil. That might've only been a platoon of them for scouting, yes? Would logically sound correct... But where would they be? If they are sea pirates, they would have to be somewhere near the sea. Brandil and I were going the wrong way to Redwall, so where else could we have been going towards? Now the sky? Uh.... M-magic, a s-spell?"

Sergeant Bridges took it all in. "Hmm, y'might want to ask the Colonel."

The Badger Lord shook his head. "Might not need to. Do you have an idea what waterway or body of water we could've been by?"

Bridges' eyes grew big, and he shook his head furiously. "Challengin' me, are you, Sah? Hmm... By Redwall you were trying to go, you say? Well, I'd say River Moss, wot!"

"Sounds good. Hmm, now that sparks me to wonder if Skipper and Brandil are in danger if they are heading back there- w-wait..." Ox face-pawed himself. "They could be heading to Redwall! Hmm... Well I am stumped. I guess I'll have to wait to hear back from the two if I ever do. I don't think Redwall would be in such danger, would they?"

"No Sah, but we got our own matters, and they got their own." Colonel Whiscut had intruded.

"Colonel, thank you for interrupting our little private session. Whatever you got, it better be good enough to cut this off."

Colonel Whiscut's ears drooped. "Err... 'Bout the part of it being 'good enough'..."

Ox signed in annoyance. "What now? Don't tell me- never mind... Explain yourself. I want to hear how stupid this is."

Colonel Whiscut spoke in a pitiful manner. "Well, y'see, two ol' chaps got into a fight and... Well lets say one of 'em are hurt pretty badly..."

The Badger Lord shook his head. "I assume are unlucky one is in the infirmary? I'll go check this out... And Whiscut, your fine; don't be worried, cheer up!"

Ox took a claw and held up Whiscut's chin, and smiled. Once Whiscut smiled, Ox let him be and was off. Whiscut wiped his brow and let a sigh of relief. "I thought I was in trouble for a sec there, wot!"

"He's Lord Ox y'know? He's quite... Different for the Lord with ol' Bloodwrath. Hey, his mate even said that he favorites a Dibbun drink at Redwall!"

Sergeant Bridges was smacked in the back of the head by Colonel Whiscut. "Don't be gossipin' about Sire, Sergeant. It doesn't matter what he's supposed to like or other way 'round. I wouldn't blame 'im, he seems a little soft for a chap with the ol' Bloodwrath, but nothing stoppin' 'im there, wot!"

Ox went into the infirmary to check up on the unfortunate. "Got into a fight, did we?"

The hare, Bobbtail, was sitting upright in a bed in the infirmary. "N-no Sah..."

The Badger Lord started to tap his footpaw. "Y-you don't believe me, Sah, do you? Thought so... I'll tell you all I know: nothing other than waking up in here."

Ox raised an eyebrow. "Were you really hit that hard?"

Bobbtail shrugged. "Don't know Sah. Can't seem to remember a thing from then."

"Huh, very unusual... I'll be back." And he was off. It wasn't long until Colonel Whiscut was dragged into the infirmary by Ox. "Do we have our culprit?"

The Colonel shook his head. "No, we do not, m'Lord."

"Then what went down? Bobbtail here won't be a reliable source of information if he can't remember the incident."

Colonel Whiscut looked around the infirmary, worried. "Then you might want to ask 'round..."

Ox face-pawed himself and did not remove the paw from it. "Oh great..."

Chapter 15

After hearing from Bobbtail, Ox went off to gather a case and find who did it. Before he could get a proper start, he was dragged back into the infirmary by Colonel Whiscut. "Oops, I remember now... I accidently tripped and fell down some stairs and hit me head, wot."

The Badger Lord had a blank face. "And you remember this now?"

Bobbtail appeared embarrassed. "No Sah, I just was too embarrassed to tell you..."

Ox wrapped a paw around Bobbtail, and held him close. He looked down at him and smiled. "No need to; you're fine. You want to know somethin' embarrassing about me?"

Bobbtail looked up at the Badger Lord. "No... But I guess..."

Ox chuckled. "Indecisive are we? Let me tell you; when I went to Redwall, I learned the meaning of my name, 'Ox'. Take a guess at what it means."

Bobbtail started naming very peculiar things. "You dearly need help if you can come up with that, Bobbtail. My name means 'a stupid and clumsy fellow'. Now THAT is somethin' to be embarrassed at, is it not?"

"Sure is, Sah!" Colonel Whiscut answered back.

"COLONEL! What have I told you about eavesdropping on me?" Ox turned around and saw Whiscut.

The Colonel's ears flopped down and he tried to hide himself. "Forgive me, Sah! Oh, forgive me!!!"

Ox shook his head. "You act like a Dibbun, Colonel. Act your age! What am I to do with a childish Colonel when war or if the Hellgates break loose!"

"S-sorry... It's just-"

Ox tilted his head at the Colonel and raised a paw, but it flopped back at his side. "...I can't do anything, I'm just too soft."

The Badger Lord took off to his bedchamber and sat on his bed, and located his face in his paws. Running his paw through his head fur, he sighed, and laid back to stare at the ceiling. He missed the free and care-free life he had lived at Redwall and with his parents. His friend Brandil came to mind, and he sighed again. Ox had given up being with his friend to rule Salamandastron. He had the insane idea to run away; to be free once more.

Desert the mountain for the chance to be free and breathe fresh air and not have responsibilities. Ox had contemplated with the idea and felt ashamed for thinking it. He couldn't run away from his responsibilities and try to live a normal life. This was his fate that had been made long ago. He remembered his mother and father, and smiled at the events and memories he had shared with them when he was young. Then the remembrance of his mother dying of an illness, and his father being killed by the ravens...

Rolling over, he buried his face in the bed and wept softly. Sergeant Bridges had came in to say something, but tip-pawed out, not wanting to disturb the Badger Lord. The massive body of Ox Rookbane shook with grief. Had his life fallen apart from the ones he loved and the ones that were close to him?

Retrieving his face from his bed, he stood up and waddled over to the window and looked outside. The sky seemed even darker than before. Ox wasn't alone; he felt the presence of Colonel Whiscut and Sergeant Bridges.

"It seems it's gotten darker... Whatever it is and whatever is planned, that's one hell of a recipe for beer there."

Chapter 16

"Uncle, are you sure you know what you're doing?" Brandil questioned Skipper.

"Sure thing, Brandil, mate."

Brandil rolled his eyes at his uncle, and continued to walk with him. They were heading back to Redwall. Brandil missed his childhood friend, and wanted every reason to be with him. Though his uncle was cool, he started to get annoying on trying to be cool. Brandil eventually took clumps of grass and shoved them in his ears to cancel out his uncle. "'Ey Brandil, me nephew, so you kids these days run free an' get kicked out o' there homes? Back in my day, we didn't do that..."

"That's great, uncle. Thanks for sharing that with me," Brandil sighed and muttered under his breath, "NOT."

Ripping out the clumps, he walked into Skipper's back. Looking around and digging dirt and grass out of his ears, Brandil looked around to see what was holding up his uncle. Seeing nothing, he wandered what was going on. "Somethin' the matter, uncle?"

"Ssshh! I hear somebeast!"

An audible voice from the distance could be heard. The two otters stood silently, listening intently. "Aye, I swear da captin jus' be usin' us, me messmate. No good foxy-loxy just talkin' like he ain't ever spoke 'fore then."

"I'll report you to the 'Captin'! Har har har har!"

Brandil started to back up for Skipper was backing up into him. The two rats came into view. "Stop 'em riverdogs! Get 'em!"

A platoon of vermin charged out, but were left with nothing but a cloud of dust. Brandil and Skipper speedily took off and ran. The rats who were speaking earlier saw them in the distance. "After 'em, you lazy lot! Captin only gives you a thank-you and death, but I'll be givin' a reward!"

The vermin were hot on pursuit after the idea given to them by one of the rats. Brandil and Skipper ran for their lives depended on it. The way they were running was towards Salamandastron. "Yay, I get to see Ox!"

"That is if we survive this!" Skipper put out.

They were not so fortunate. Eclipse had arrived and saw the two rats shouting to the running figures in the distance. He commanded the rest of the crew to make chase to the two otters. Grabbing both rats by the throats, he lifted them off the ground and threw them down onto it. "Y'idjits! Sacredam, ye can 'elp your mates, 'ight? Go 'fore ye find yeself dead!"

"Y-yes Captin!" The two rats scrambled up and darted up, with fear lending them a boost to speed.

Eclipse watched the two rats run into the distance, and after they disappeared from sight, he took off to follow his crew of his pirates. Brandil turned his head to see the vermin closing in. Then, he felt himself being tugged and was pulled to the side, and kept running. Skipper saved him from smacking into a tree. "Don't want to do that like your ol' uncle here!"

Brandil and Skipper were running out of breath. They needed to stop. Coming across some sand dunes, Brandil and Skipper took shelter in a hole that had been already there. Brandil didn't think about it until after some time. "Uncle... I hope there isn't any snakes in here..."

"Ssh! They're coming!"

The sky was darkening. It was slowly becoming night. Outside, they heard the vermin wandering about to find the two otters, but could not find them. Eclipse was irritated and outrageous at his crew. They lost them once, but now twice? Unacceptable by the fox. They eventually set up camp there. "Set camp. March to da rock tomorr'."

The vermin obeyed. The otter's lucks were turning in their favor; the camp was not by the den they were in. Brandil looked at his uncle, and decided to sneak out and head to Salamandastron. Skipper nodded at the idea, and taking a quick check, they were out. The two snuck out into the night to Salamandastron. Skipper made sure their tracks could not be tracked, and Brandil led on to Salamandastron.

Ox was still stirring and had not gone to sleep yet. As restless as he was, he did barely anything but stare outside the window. No stars could be seen; their light smothered out by the clouds that still hung in the sky. Neither could he see the moon, a glowing beauty. Sighing, with his peripheral vision, he saw a movement outside in the darkness. He could not make out the shape coming close to Salamandastron, but he saw it.

Grabbing his Ravenshaft, he walked through chambers and halls to get to the main entrance. Passing two night-watch hares (one being Bobbtail), he walked out on the sand. The two hares glanced at each other and questioned the Badger Lord. "Sah, what is it?"

The Badger Lord stood out in the sand and stared at the approaching figures. His weapon was at his side, and he was prepared to lift for a swing. The two figures in the darkness slowly approached the badger, and did not say anything.

"Who are you? Speak, or you will not see the morning light!"

"What morning light? It's been all dark an' stuff for a week now? Ox me mate, you need to think a little more!" It was Brandil. Dropping his axe, he took Brandil in his arms. "Brandil! What are you doing here? Come!"

Ox led Brandil and Skipper back into Salamandastron. Getting them a quick meal, Brandil told him of their situation. "We're just walkin' and all the sudden, these pirates come out of nowhere! They chased us down but we ran! We ended up hiding in a sand dune, but the vermin were checking around for us. They never found us and we snuck out. Heard they were setting up camp there, then marching onwards to here!"

Ox took it all in. "Colonel Whiscut, Tomorrow morning I want to have a meeting. We might have to act on council of war. Brandil, thank you for informing me. Come, my friend!"

The two went off to do whatever the pals would do. The thought of war hung in the air, and made it press down on all. Ox and Brandil were joking around like the two friends they were, and messed around. In the room they were in, Ox laid down on the floor, his belly to the ceiling. Brandil concealed a smile and snuck up on him, and started to tickle Ox. He scrambled about, roaring with laughter, trying to stop Brandil. Colonel Whiscut caught a glimpse of the two going at it, and swiveled around the wall. "I say, they're like children, wot wot!"

Sergeant Bridges shrugged. "Best friends since their ol' childhood, chap. I remember that chap o' mine... Friends since we were young blighters, but then he ran off to pursue whatever life!"

Even with the thought of war on their minds, Brandil and Ox didn't give a care in the world as the two great friends messed around. Ox had Brandil laying on his stomach, and he yawned. The otter curled up into a ball and slept on his pal's chest. Ox smiled, and patted his friend's head, and slept where he was also.

Chapter 17

"M'Lord, you got visitors!" Colonel Whiscut woke Ox and his friend Brandil, who had curled up on his chest, and shoved him off. "Off y'go, furball, I got work to do."

Brandil flopped on the ground and squealed. He was still asleep when Ox shoved him away. Standing up, the Badger Lord left the room, and his pal scrambled about to get up and follow Ox. The badger turned around to see the otter following him, and smiled. "Well I see you are lazy, eh?"

Brandil looked offended. "'Scuse me, but did you call me lazy?"

Ox chuckled. "Too lazy to get off my stomach to sleep? You curled up on me!"

Brandil stifled a laughter and looked embarrassed. Ox pat him on the back and chuckled heartily. "Good ol' Brandil!"

Colonel Whiscut brought Ox into the dining hall where Long Patrol Officers and higher ranking members met. Ox scanned the room and looked at all of those who were here. Skipper was even attending. The Badger Lord nodded and cleared his throat. "Sitrep?"

A female hare captain, Birchwood answered him. "They are on the move, and it's only about an hour or so 'til their arrival. Our scouts reported that, Sah."

"Are our numbers capable of dealing with his forces, or do we need to seek help, Birchwood?"

Her ears drooped, and Colonel Whiscut started whistling. "Our numbers... Aren't as large as they might be with other Badger Lords..."

Ox's eye twitched. "You're bluffing..."

Whiscut sighed and winced. "No..."

Ox face-pawed himself. Scanning the hall, he saw drooping ears from the hares. Skipper was scratching his chin, Ox was pacing around, and Brandil was smacking his head trying to think of something. Skipper light up. "'Aye, I think I can go get ol' Log a Log!"

Ox raised an eyebrow, then smacked his face into the table. "Oh... Log a Log... I thought you were talking 'bout actual logs... I could use a stress reliever right now."

Sergeant Bridges questioned Skipper. "And how do y'plan on doing THAT, wot wot?"

The otter shrugged. "Sneak out and go fetch 'im? How else, mate?"

Sergeant Bridges shrugged. "Fair 'nuff."

"Do you want me to go with you, Uncle?"

"No no, you stay here with your friend, Brandil. I don't want you to screw anythin' up or get 'urt."

Brandil looked offended again. He shriveled up and kept to himself. Ox looked at him and shook his great head. Walking over and placing a paw on his shoulder, he looked down and smiled, whispering; "Hey, he ain't got room to speak, mate. He's the buffoon that smacked straight into a tree..."

His friend shifted his head and looked at Ox and chuckled. "He's not bright in the ol' mind, is he, mate?"

Ox let off a long breath, and smiled, feeling "chill". "Nope. Not at all..."

The young hare Bobbtail was assigned to travel with Skipper. As much as the otter tried to be alone, he was denied by the Badger Lord and the Officers and higher ranking members of Long Patrol. The otter chieftain face-pawed himself, and took a ration of vittles to keep him nourished for the journey. Bobbtail had twice the food supplies Skipper did. "A chap's gotta have his meals, eh wot?"

Skipper and Bobbtail set off to grab Log a Log for his assistance in defending the mountain. Armed with a javelin and spear, the two set off. They referred to the scout's reports to guide them around and out of harm's way from the vermin pirates as they set off to go find Log a Log and his Guosim shrews.

The council was still being held, and Ox was taking the spotlight. "Well, what are you all doing, sitting around here? We got incoming vermin in... Less than an hour if I calculated correctly! Get ready for battle! We must and WILL defend Salamandastron from these pirates! Set up defenses, inspect your weapons, freshen yourself up! Hop to it! Ha hah, get it?"

Colonel Whiscut tapped his footpaw and shook his head at Ox Rookbane. The Badger Lord tilted his head. "Come on, just something to relieve the stress. I'm not a seasoned fighter. Only got in one skirmish, and that's something I'm not... Comfortable with discussing..."

Ox took the necklace out and rubbed his paw on the coin. He remembered his father and his death that was brought by the ravens. "The Slayer Of Ravens", the title rang in his head. His own father spoke it, and past Badger Lord in his dreams spoke it.

The Badger Lord had made his way to the Forge. Salamandastron was bustling with hares trying to prepare for a battle or possibly a war. Ox looked at the armor he had forged a while back while he was bored one day, and donned it quickly. A chestpiece, gauntlets, and shinguards that looked every bit regal. A golden color to it that glittered in the light, he inspected himself and approved. Next, he grabbed the sheath that held the Ravenshaft, and slid it on quickly, with the weapon in the sheath resting on his back.

War, is inevitable.

Chapter 18

Skipper and Bobbtail were now in the woods, an hour after their departure. Not only have they finally arrived in the woods, but Eclipse and his crew had arrived at Salamandastron. The small Long Patrol were not large enough in size to be effective. They were depending on the help of Log a Log.

Bobbtail stopped to take many "snack-break", but Skipper continued on, attempting to leave him. Bobbtail would always scramble to catch up. "Wot are you leaving me for, eh? A chaps gotta eat when a chap needs to eat."

"That doesn't mean ALL the time."

Back at Salamandastron, Ox peeked out a window and got a glance at the crew of Eclipse's. The crew wasn't that large, but they still outnumbered the Long Patrol. He left off a sigh, and turned away and rested his chin in his paws. Birchwood, a Long Patrol captain, addressed to Ox. "Somethin' the matter, m'Lord?"

Ox didn't respond immediately. Thinking before he spoke, he finally replied. "I've only been in one skirmish before the events that take place now. I will admit I am somewhat... Scared."

Birchwood wiggled her ears at him. "We got your back as you got ours, right?"

The Badger Lord sighed. "It's great to know that you have me covered, but that isn't helping me."

The hare came to his side and placed a paw on his broad shoulder. "Somethin' else troublin' you, Sire? Don't be afraid to say so!"

Taking a glance at Birchwood, Ox looked away and started to speak. "Before I arrived here I had recently lost my mother from an illness. I learned of this when my father traveled to Redwall Abbey to stay there after mother died. When he found me there, it didn't work out well. My pal Brandil and I eventually left because he said things would've gotten worse.

He followed us along with his uncle, Skipper. When Brandil and I came across a flock of ravens and paused, my father mindlessly stumbled out to confront us and that started the attack of the ravens. Brandil and Skipper ran, and my father told me to run also. I never did, and I don't recall a thing then. When whatever I did was finished, my father had died from his wounds."

Birchwood's ears drooped and she rubbed Ox's shoulder sentimentally. "I never would've known until now... I'm sorry..."

"No, don't be sorry. You couldn't have done anything to prevent it. But thanks for the empathy.. I could've used it quite some time ago for when it happened."

She smiled. "Its a tough thing, chap- err... M'Lord. I lost my father the same way when he was defending the ol' mountain without a Badger Lord"

Ox turned and looked at her, and took her paw. "I'm sorry about your loss..."

Birchwood giggled. "Really? 'No, don't be sorry. You couldn't have done anything to prevent it.' Your exact words, m'Lord!"

The Badger Lord winced. "Don't need to remind me. I just couldn't think of anything else to say... I'm just going to ignore that statement I made because I can't think of anything better. Oh, and by the way, you may call me Ox."

The two enjoyed a time of giggling to relieve stress off the Badger Lord. Colonel Whiscut entered the room and witnessed the two. Birchwood turned around to see him and both of them wiggled their ears at each other. Ox noticed and concealed a laugh.

Skipper and Bobbtail had been searching for Log a Log, but could not find him. "Huh, wonder where that shrew chap is, wot?"

"Logalogalogaloooooooooooog!" A roaring battle cry was sounded.

Skipper nearly jumped out of his fur at the sound of it, and Bobbtail was completely shaken by it.

"Skipper?"

"Log a log?"

"Hey! Long time so see, mate!"

Chapter 19

Skipper and Bobbtail had found Log a Log. The otter chieftain and the shrew chieftain shared greetings. Skipper had met a new creature: Victoria, a female badger. She overheard Bobbtail talk about Ox, and giggled. "Is he really a stupid and clumsy fellow?"

Bobbtail piped up to defend the not-present Badger Lord. "M'Lord is not stupid, nor clumsy! Well, he might be a tad clumsy, wot."

Skipper nudged Bobbtail. "Well, Log a Log, ol' Ox could use some help, matey. Might as well help me nephew's good pal out an' save his tail."

Log a Log nodded. "We could do some business with those pirates! They demolished one of our logboats!"

Skipper sighed. "Sorry 'bout that, mate. Lets get back to the ol' mountain and go help ol' Ox out."

The Guosim shrews followed orders hastily given by Log a Log, and they marched off to Salamandastron. Skipper lead them the way he came to avoid contact with the pirates. The march wouldn't be long.

Ox Rookbane back at Salamandastron felt light-headed. His nerves had got to him and he was slowly sliding into a state of insanity. Fidgeting with a pebble, he accidently crushed it. He dusted off the powder left behind from the pebble and paced around. "Where are they?"

Sergeant Bridges stumbled upon Ox and made a report. "Bad news, Sah-"

"Don't tell me-- they just recruited a whole platoon of vermin..."

Sergeant Bridges nodded. "Yes Sah, you'd be correct."

Ox turned away and laughed like a madbeast. Walking away from the Sergeant, he continued his laughing. Brandil, and other Long Patrol officials overheard Ox. The otter winced and scratched his head. "He's lost it. Nuttier than a fruitcake."

Face-planting into a table, he quieted down, and stopped. A voice and apparition could be seen out of the corner of his eye. A Badger marked with a flame on his forehead. Ox sighed, and didn't care about the apparition much. He spoke to it in the safety of his bedchamber. "When you finally snap, everybeast has to witness. Go on, I know your there. No point in sitting in silence."

"You must learn to control your Bloodwrath, or it will be the end of you. You must, like I have. Focus yourself on that, and you may succeed..."

The apparition was still there. Ox appeared as if he ignored it, and slammed papers on the table, and started writing. The apparition of the figure appeared to look frustrated at Ox, and was about to speak again until Ox started. "Control Bloodwrath, eh? Never heard about that happening-- oh wait..."

Ox dropped the quill and wiped his face. Turning to the apparition, he saw it fully now. It was almost the size of him- Ox was taller and more broad by a tad bit. Seeing the flame that marked this figure's forehead lit him up. "G-Gorath the Flame... Well now I remember about hearing about controlling Bloodwrath, but how? How can you fight a force you cannot see?"

The ghostly figure of Gorath had an answer. "Only a strong enough willpower and strength will get you the advantage."

The current Badger Lord, Ox, stared dumbfounded. "...I swear none of you are descriptive, NONE! Oh well, I guess a puzzle to get my slowly-dilapidating mind into shape would work. Wait, was this on purpose to get me thinking clearly again? So many questions, yet no time to answer them!"

The figure disappeared and Ox was busy with papers, reading accounts he had reclaimed and reading some of his findings of Badger Lord Lore. Working on figuring out the "puzzle" he was given, he did not realize Colonel Whiscut and Brandil standing in the doorway.

"You got some visitors, m'Lord!" The Colonel reported.

Ox turned around to see Log a Log. Standing up and coming to his, he shook his paw gently and smiled. "Welcome to Salamandastron, and thank you greatly for your help!"

Skipper looked worried at Ox. "I don't remember them being in that size."

Ox stared icily at him. "You could've just let it be, m'kay? No need to crush hopes and outlooks..."

Behind Log a Log, Ox noticed the female badger and only gave her a quick glance. "Told you to fetch Log a Log, not a pretty lass."

Log a Log winked. "A little mountain-warming gift for the new Badger Lord."

The Badger Lord chuckled. "You made my day. Can't resist a good joke or two to relieve some stress!"

Greetings were made, and Ox had spent most time with Victoria, getting to know her. He did not let the thought of her get to his head and still continued with his duties. Setting everybeast up for a plan, he was ready to march out and take the enemy head on.

Book 3: The Light In The Dark

Chapter 20

Ox Rookbane, Slayer Of Ravens, Badger Lord of Salamandastron, had set up a plan that he hoped would work against the enemy. If everything went as planned, Ox would easily have a victory. Eclipse saw Ox and his troops marching out of the mountain, and making a formation he could not define. Getting his crew together and the new recruits he gathered from Mossflower Woods, he laughed at the formation of the defenders. "I t'ink 'hey aren't too bright after all."

The defenders were in an arc formation that curved upwards in the middle making them closest to the enemy. Ox came up front and examined his army. Drawing his Ravenshaft, he held the weapon with two paws. "March!"

The defenders marched at their enemy. Ox raised a paw to slow the march down as he assessed the enemy. They were bunching together into one big pack. This is what he needed. Removing his paw from the air, he relocated it on his Ravenshaft and the march continued at its speed.

Closing the distance between the two, Ox slowed his army down. Now only coming to them at a slow pace, he wanted to try the patience of Eclipse and make his horde charge. Smiling ear to ear, Ox waved at the fox standing on a rock giving commands. "Dey won't move, so move! 'Harge 'em!"

The horde charged at the defenders and clashed head on with the arc. When they started to bunch up, Ox called out a signal. "Give it to 'em! Show them what we can do! Eeulaliaaaaaaaaaaaaa!"

Ox had backed up into the back and watched over his army and made sure everything fell into place. The arc had fallen back, and the sides closed in around the horde and locked them in. Eclipse noticed this, and panicked. Ox smiled, and called out, "Perfectly done! I'm coming in!"

Ox charged on in and there was a pathway made for him by his defenders. Lifting his axe, and leaped and brought it down into the crowd of vermin. A rat was unfortunate and was cut clean by the axe. Sending a rumble off from the great force, The Badger Lord bellowed "Eeulaliaaaaaaaaa!"

He felt something pressing down hard on him and remembered the words the apparition spoke. Shaking his head mercilessly, he tried to rid himself of the feeling of Bloodwrath pressing down on him. His eyes watered and turned to a very light shade of red. Swinging his battle axe, he got the axe head caught in a body and tried yanking it out. It finally freed after a bit of struggle and the lance point on the bottom of the shaft stabbed into a weasel that came charging at him. He laughed at the accidental murdering of the weasel, and shoved it off.

Ox fought just like a Bloodwrath beast- but he was not under the influence of it. His pinkish eyes started to darken, and it pressed harder down on him. Still fighting, he tried his hardest to not fall to it. Feeling himself slipping and almost completely overwhelmed with the Bloodwrath he was building up, he felt something weigh him down. It was Brandil who jumped on his back. Hacking away at the vermin coming from behind, he addressed his friend. "You should watch your back more often!"

The Badger Lord turned his head at his friend who witnessed his reddish eyes. Smiling, it faded away to a pinkish shade. "You just saved my life if a way you'll never believe!"

Brandil smiled, still hacking away with a sabre. "I know! You owe me now!"

Ox shook his head, still dealing with the vermin as he swung his massive Ravenshaft, cutting them down. "No, YOU still owe me from when I saved your tail from these pirates back then!"

Brandil elbowed Ox. "No, we're equal now! Hey, is it weird that we got a conversation going during a battle?"

Ox lost it with laughter, still cutting down and stabbing vermin with the lance point on the bottom of his axe. "What battle? This feels more like a skirmish! The plan worked perfectly!"

Eclipse noticed the two friends working together, fending for each other. Seeing the Badger Lord coming close, he squealed and darted off. Ox saw this, and spoke to Brandil. "I'm charging through this! Eclipse is taking off! Cover my sides and back! Ready?"

The otter on his back nodded. "Ready!"

"Eeulaliaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!"

Ox plowed through the vermin, sending them flying. Finally breaking free from the crowd of vermin, his right shoulder was cut up from the charge. He looked at it and saw the deep gash from a cut with a sword. He winced and turned around to see the vermin crumble to the defenders, with some breaking free and running to catch up with Eclipse.

Brandil hopped off Ox's back and examined his friend, and raised a paw for a high-five. Ox smacked Brandil's paw gently with his right paw, and winced in pain. The defenders cheered, and those who had stayed in the mountain (maids, cooks, medics) came out to tend to the warriors.

Ox leaned against a rock and crossed his arms, ignoring the big gash in his shoulder. Brandil was chuckling and cutting the air with his sabre the Long Patrol gave him. "You should've seen me! I hacked at them like I was BORN to!"

The Badger Lord couldn't help but chuckle at his otter friend. "Born to, eh? I was more born to than YOU! Had trouble keepin' the ol' Bloodwrath under control, but I got it on a leash now-- I hope. Anyways, thank you for saving me from falling under its influence."

"No problemo, buddy!"

Ox took his Ravenshaft from where it leaned against the rock and sheathed it in its rightful place. Victoria, Colonel Whiscut, Sergeant Whiscut, Skipper, and Log a Log approached the Badger Lord and his pal. Victoria went to work on the gash on his shoulder. "Never knew you were a medic."

"Out here, you're going to need to know how to patch somebeast up."

Ox nodded in agreement. "Its a tough life that we all got to live. I always imagine what it would be like if there was no threat vermin and other creeps out there."

The gash required to be stitched up, and Ox stood still and let Victoria do her work, and turned his head to Colonel Whiscut. "Eclipse got away. It's only the afternoon so... I'm going to go hunt him down?"

Victoria jabbed Ox in the shoulder with her needle and he squealed, and whined in pain. "Sorry, my mistake..."

The Colonel feigned a chuckle. "No sah, you are not huntin' the blighter down!"

Ox rolled his eyes. "Pfft, a gash on my shoulder is not going to stop me. And it's the afternoon, no worries. He couldn't have got far, either!"

Whiscut tapped his footpaw and shook his head. "No."

Ox sighed. "Please?"

The Colonel smiled deviously. "That's the ticket, wot! Long Patrol, you heard him! Prep yourselves for a good ol' fashion trackin'!"

Ox and the small group of defenders would hunt down Eclipse and put an end to him.

Chapter 21

After a quick lunch, they were off. Scouts followed the tracks of Eclipse and the remaining vermin that escaped and led the rest. Ox took this as an opportunity to get to know Victoria. "So, your a pretty lass. Tell me a bit 'bout you."

"My parents sent me away because I was getting a bit itchy cooped up in our home, yearning to go out and explore."

"My parents kicked me out because apparently I was 'rebellious', but I feel that its just because I was getting a tad bit too old to be cooped up in a cave with my father. He could've left but no, I was kicked out because he was too lazy to leave. Eventually, my mother died from an illness shortly after I left and my father found me at Redwall. He died when I was leaving Redwall from an attack by ravens out in the woods."

Victoria looked depressed. "Sorry to hear about that..."

"Oh, it's nothing. Put the past behind us and focus on now and tomorrow."

Ox took his necklace out and it matched the looks of his chestpiece. Looking up in the sky, the clouds did not let up, and he sighed. A spring gone to waste because of a gloomy sky. Turning to see a flower, he plucked it and sniffed. "AAAAAAAACHOOOOOOOOOO!"

Ox sneezed, and smiled guiltily and feigned a chuckle. Brandil and Skipper face-pawed himself, and Sergeant Bridges had his paws holding his chest. "Nearly gave me a heart attack-"

"Achoo! Achoo achoo achoo! ACHOOOOOOOOO!"

Brandil jumped on Ox and clasped his muzzle shut. "Quiet, you furball! Stop sneezing!"

"ACHOO!" Brandil went flying and crashed into Log a Log, who had tried to run from the incoming otter.

Victoria lent Ox a kerchief and he blew his nose, and sneezed once more into it. "You can keep it, I got more..."

Ox sighed. "Sorry, I just got- ACHOO! Allergies is it?"

She nodded. "Yes... Yes you do..."

The defenders found some sand dunes that led to Eclipse. They could see a group of vermin and Eclipse on the other side. Eclipse spotted them and laughed. "You can't get us! You must 'ross the 'Invisible 'Aze'!"

Ox raised an eyebrow. "Invisible Gaze? Invisible phase? Invisible laze? Invisible raze? What do you mean?"

A ferret stumbled forward. "The 'Invisible Maze'! That's wot he's sayin'!"

"Oh! How does that work?"

The ferret walked in a zig-zag formation in a box and walked up to Ox. "Hold this for me, please."

It was a relic of some kind. Taking it from the ferret, the ferret walked back the way he came. Eclipse spoke again. "You 'ust complete the maze correctly! One wrong move, and ZAP! You die!"

Ox squinted and turned to Brandil. "Want to point out the flaws?"

Brandil smiled deviously. "Duh!"

Ox whistled and walked into the maze where the zig-zag was and made it safely on the other side. Tossing the relic to Brandil, he walked around the square border and joined Ox's side. Eclipse stared in horror. "Impossible! The 'aze is 'posed to be impossible!"

"Next time, don't do it in the sand." Ox added.

The defenders marched over the cockamamie maze and joined Ox. Eclipse faked a laugh and ran. Ox and Brandil gave chase to Eclipse while the defenders dealt with the other vermin. The chase eventually led to warship, the Labyrinth. Ox climbed onto the ship and stood on the deck. Eclipse drew a cutlass and pointed it at Ox. "No where to run, 'tripe'ound!"

This was it. A duel between the two. Brandil watched Ox and shouted encouragement to him. Tossing Ox his sabre, the duel begun. May the best one live...

Chapter 22

The sound of metal striking rang through the air. Ox was on the defensive, and Eclipse was on the offensive. Ducking, side-stepping, and jumping back, Ox avoided all the swipes going at him. When a thrust came at Ox, he jumped back and parried it away, and cut Eclipse's paw with his sword in it. "En Garde!"

Swinging the sabre, Ox struck quickly, and Eclipse had trouble fending for himself. Deciding he might loose his life, Eclipse swiveled around and got hold of a fishing net. Quickly throwing it, it caught on Ox and he was entangled in the net. "H-hey! Cheater!"

Brandil climbed aboard the ship and tackled the fox, and pinned him down. "Free yourself, matey! The no-good cheater! Yeowch!"

The fox cut Brandil across the cheek and he darted up and took off behind Ox. Quickly hacking away at the net, Brandil pulled away at the fishing net to free his friend. Eventually, his friend was free, and roared. "Eulaliaaaaaaaaaaa!"

Ox succumbed to the Bloodwrath and sliced Eclipse across the chest. He fell to the ground and Ox grabbed him by the neck, panting. Still in Bloodwrath, he spoke something short to Eclipse. "Requiescat in pace, bastardo..."

The mad Badger Lord raised Eclipse into the air and slammed him into the deck, and snapped the neck and spine of Eclipse. Throwing the body away, he stood there panting. The defenders had arrived just in time to witness the events. Brandil stood back from his mad friend who turned around to face him, his eyes still red. "And that's all, folks."

Ox smiled, and the red faded from his eyes. Approaching Brandil, he looked at his cut cheek and sighed. "Are you alright, mate?"

Brandil nodded. "You bet cha!"

Ox scratched his head and sighed. "That was the most lame duel. EVER. I was expecting to be bit better- maybe even more fun to do..."

Brandil shrugged. "Until that cheater used the fishing net."

"Agreed. I decided to let him have it and gave him the ol' Bloodwrath!" Ox winked at Brandil, and he hopped on his back.

"What now, mate?"

"Redwall sounds mighty fine to me!"

Chapter 23

The defenders were heading to Redwall. Ox was no longer in his armor, but in a creamy white tunic, with a red sash belted around his waist, and a red and black plaid kerchief draped around his neck. Ox didn't look like a Badger Lord much, but he enjoyed the looks of it. "Why mess with capes and capes when a simple kerchief and tunic looks great?"

Brandil had a similar kerchief draped around his neck also, and was riding on Ox's back. The Badger Lord didn't mind Brandil and enjoyed tormenting him. Victoria and Ox were seen chatting on their way to Redwall. The Guosim shrews were eager to get to Redwall. Unfortunately, most of the Long Patrol had to head home to Salamandastron and take Ox's armor back. Birchwood stayed with Ox to guide him home if he could not remember.

"So, me pretty lass, you are quite the one."

"You're saying you... Like me?"

Ox winked and smiled slightly. "I'm into it."

Victoria chuckled with Ox. Brandil whistled and laughed. "SOMEBEAST has a crush on somebeast!"

Ox shrugged. "You are just now realizing?"

Victoria and Ox laughed and Brandil buried his face into Ox's back. In about an hour, they arrived at Redwall. Abbot Manes greeted them at the gates, and Ox smiled and hugged him gently. The mouse welcomed back Skipper and Log a Log. "It's been awhile, Log a Log."

"Sure has!"

The defenders walked into the Abbey, and Ox stood outside and looked up in the sky. The clouds in the sky started to clear, and Ox smiled. Sunlight now finally shined through the clouds that had darkened the sky and smothered out the light. The first beam of sunlight to be seen for the entire spring shined down on Ox. "I love spring!"

Sniffing flowers to his contempt, he never sneezed from them, and continued at it. Abbot Manes and Brandil laughed as Ox took the chance and sniffed every flower he could. After ever flower had been sniffed Ox came into the Great Hall where a feast had been prepared. "Why a feast?"

Abbot Manes winked. "I have sources."

Ox sat next to Victoria. Brandil, Skipper, Log a Log, and Abbot Manes accompanied them. "Quite simple attire, Ox. How is it being the Badger Lord over at Salamandastron?" The Abbot asked.

"How did you know?"

"Again, sources." And a wink followed.

"It's going fine. I've found some interesting historical pieces, like the family chronicle of Gorath the Flame..."

Abbot Manes lit up. "Ah, I believe I've heard about him before... A story that somehow was passed down in my family."

"Odd. And thank you for noticing my 'simple attire'. It's plain and simple, but nice."

Brandil looked at his kerchief and smoothed it out. "I like my kerchief!"

"Sure you do, ding dong!"

The feast was a hit with the defenders. They enjoyed all of the Redwall meals. Ox and Victoria fell in love with each other, but kept it a secret. Brandil was playful and joking around whenever he could.

After the feast, Ox went out on the lawns with many other Redwallers, and was swarmed by Dibbuns. Lilly and Baylor didn't bother to get them off Ox. As he plucked a Dibbun from him, another one replaced the one that was removed. He smiled and wiggled a nose. "Uh-oh, I feel a sneeze coming on!"

The Dibbuns that were on him hopped off and scrambled away, squealing. The badger turned to Lilly and Baylor and laughed. "You two are great with the Dibbuns!" Ox put out sarcastically.

The necklace Ox wore hang out freely and showed itself without hesitation. It bared the mountain Salamandastron on it and Redwall Abbey on the other side, but the necklace showed Salamandastron.

Songs were sang, and skits were performed. Ox sat smiling, a tear trickling down his face. He remembered how he met his father again at Redwall, and regretted some of the things he had said. As he sat there, he zoned out of his surroundings, and saw a figure of his father. The figure nodded, and spoke. "I am proud of you, and so are the past Lords of Salamandastron. Go have some fun."

Ox smiled, and said "Thank you." Victoria, who had sat next to him, looked at him. "What are you thanking me for?"

Ox snapped back into reality and tried thinking of an excuse, but could not invent one. "Just a vision of my father. I was going to lie, but why would I lie over something so simple?"

She smiled. "Miss him?"

"Sure."

A song was performed, and Redwallers and others were taking paws of their couple and danced. Ox offered Victoria, and the two went on through the evening and into the night. It was a joyful day.

Epilogue

"And the Dark Days of Mossflower concluded there, and I was the one to bring it free. Apparently, some magic I will never understand brought upon the Darkness that blotted out the Light from the Sun."

Ox Rookbane finished the story with Dandy after downing seven cups of tea. "Not such an exciting story, but it's something."

Dandy stared in awe. "That was the best story I've ever heard!"

The Badger Lord shrugged. "R-really? I find it quite lame compared to the other tales of Badger Lords, eh?" Ox had started his eighth cup of tea. Dandy was only on her second.

As she carefully sipped the tea, she asked some questions to the Badger Lord. "What happened to Brandil after that?"

"Ah, that troublemaker... Twelve seasons ago before you were born is when these events took place. Not a patch of grey fur on me, eh? At the feast it was announced that Skipper would retire from his duty and passed it on to Brandil."

The haremaid nodded. "Really? Skipper Brandil doesn't sound so good together, y'know, wot?"

Ox shook his head. "Still goes by the name Brandil, but along with his title. 'Skipper Brandil'... It's been awhile since I've heard from him."

Dandy took the rock out of her hat and put it back on. "What about Log a Log, sah?"

Ox smiled. "The name's Ox, y'know? Don't need to address me as 'Sir' or 'Lord' if you are a close friend to me," Ox winked. "Now, Log a Log? Last I've heard is that he's still going on and around Mossflower with his Guosim. Haven't heard much though."

Dandy nodded in acknowledgement and started to pat down her dress as if she was looking for something. "Looking for something, missy?"

After awhile, she found what she was looking for and pulled it out of a pocket. It was a bracelet, and she handed it to the Badger Lord. "It's for you, Sah- err, Ox! My father taught me how to make stuff for some reason!"

"No thank you, Dandy, it wouldn't be right for me to accept it."

"Please? It'll hurt my feelings, I spent my entire afternoon listening to my father blabber on about making stuff..."

Ox chuckled. "Colonel Whiscut sure has a way to annoy anybeast. Oh, what the heck? I guess!"

Accepting the bracelet, he slipped it on to his left wrist. Dandy showed hers that she wore on her left wrist also, and started to giggle. Ox giggled also, and took a sip to finish his eighth cup of tea.

As the two sat and chit-chat, somebeast came to them. "Somebeasts would like to see you, Ox!"

Lady Victoria of Salamandastron approached her husband, carrying two bundles. Each bundle contained a badger babe. Kenai and Lekota were their names, two brothers and twins. "What's the problem with them?"

Lady Victoria sighed. "I'm getting annoyed with the two. Here, you deal with them!"

Ox's wife quickly gave the two babes over to him and took off. "H-hey! Don't you dare leave me!"

"I got... Things to do!" and Victoria was gone.

Ox sighed, holding his two children. Lekota, would grow up to be shy, and Kenai would become a fighter. As Dandy and Ox tended to the babes, the young Lekota sniffed the air and sneezed. "Don't tell me he has allergies..."

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