Dedicated to all my friends who've helped me get here. Again dedicated to friend LegendTeller for getting me started.
Author's Note: Let thy anticipation die, it's on its way. From the writer of Light in The Dark and Conflux Of Time, comes the newest installment of Redwall Fanfiction written by me. Enjoy, Renaissance.
It was a cold winter. The atmosphere was filled with chilling temperatures that bit through fur and clothes. A family snuggled up to the fire pit, retrieving warmth from the blaze it cradled. The snow whipped in with the wind that nipped at those uncovered. Blankets were draped around each member of the family as they took their supper near the fire. Their father, an albino badger, sat with his red eyes glowing with the light of the fire. His snow white fur was soft and comfortable, according to his son. His son snuggled close to his dad for warmth as the two shared a blanket. His daughter was wrapped up and perched upon his mother's lap. Their mother had made a delicious broth and the cave was filled with the slurping of broth. Other than the sounds of slurping and the wind screaming outside, it was silent. The light of the fire bounced off the walls of the cave and shined on their faces.
His son nudged him. "Can you tell us a story, daddy?"
And in a voice so calm and soft like snow, he replied back. "I don't know... I don't think you can handle the story I have to tell..."
His son begged him with his daughter chiming in. "Oh, please tell us, daddy! We promise we'll be good!"
And he laughed gently. He was such a magnificent creature. For the giant badger that he was with his permanently reddened eyes from albinism, to have such a gentle and soothing voice and soft fur was quite miraculous. And with his amazing voice, he answered, "you must promise me that you will be mature about this. This, is not a fairytale. This story I will share is one I lived in, and one with sinister creatures and hideous gore. This, is the story of warfare that reestablished peace to Mossflower.
"The one to save us, The Liberator of Mossflower he was called, was an young otter. And by Fate was he chosen to save us with expenses for himself that would emotionally scar him, though he had the will to survive his pain to free us from ours."
Book 1: Conqueror
He could see the events unfold with his eyes from the distance. Holt Rudderwave burned, and a young otter was slung across his father's shoulders, screaming in emotional pain as his home burned from the camisado launched by the next big conqueror. A wolverine from lands far, far away, with the ambition to conquer the world.
The fire either reflected in his eyes, or it was flames from anger deep in him. He struggled against his father's strength to break free to fight for his home. All he could think of in his head was, why did you abandon our home with us? Why did you take us from all that we had?! YOU WERE THE CHIEFTAIN OF HOLT RUDDERWAVE, AND YOU RUN AND LET IT BURN AWAY LIKE IT WAS NOTHING?! HOW COULD YOU?!
They all ran from the holt, never turning back to look at the blazes of their home. Such a peaceful place devastated by destruction, and all the otters could do was run. All of them ran, and those unfortunate were either slaughtered or burned alive. Those brave enough to defy this wolverine were killed.
The wolverine, tall and strong as a badger Lord of Salamandastron, brown furred and sharp teethed, was the perfect build for a conqueror. Erine, his name. He stood tall and erect, obviously overpowering his army. His authority and strength showed in the muscles that built his body.
"Oi ah, uh... Um..."
The wolverine laughed. "Something the matter?"
The one who spoke up, a weasel, felt fear rush through his feeble body compared to his leader. The voice Erine used to reply back with was calm and gentle-- almost friendly, in fact. Limbs trembling, they mumbled out, "I just have s-some... C-captured o-otters... T-that's all s-sir..."
And another laugh. Erine smiled and nodded in approval and sent the weasel off. The otters were lined up, all facing the enormous creature in front of them. They too, trembled in fear that threatened to consume them. Shaking his head, the warlord gave a shuddering sigh. "Oh, come on... You cut me out to be out for blood, eh? Nonsense, you'll all be fine. You'll be just fine in a slave compound where you'll be fed and tended to correctly. Skolis?" The wolverine called.
A wolf from foreign lands like Erine came forward with an otter walking by his side. "I'm here, mate. And how 'bout some good news, eh pal?"
The leader smiled. "Why, I don't think we haven't had good news in awhile. Not like we're struck with a bad omen, so I'm optimistic about it all. Now, what's this news?"
The wolverine beckoned the Slaver and ordered them to take the otters that were captured to the slave compound close by, then returned to Skolis. Walking and talking, he noticed an otter by the wolf's side. "Ah, so somebeast has some plans with us?"
This otter sneered. "I'm not gonna let you get every bit of satisfaction shovin' them 'round. This underdog is going to become the top dog!"
"Dad? Do... Do you think they're going to be fine?"
The young otter was exhausted, and so was his father. After hours of running, his father collapsed on the ground with his wife. The youngster fell from the shoulder he was slumped on. Dusting himself off, he stood and looked back from where they ran. They've made it far away from disaster, but yet he felt miserable. The home that was beautiful and peaceful to him, the place he'd grown up all of his life so far, and the shelter he and his friends shared.
Looking back at his parents, he whispered as if he didn't want to disturb the peace. "Dad, where are we?"
The sturdy father sat there, licking the dew from the grass to quench the searing burn in his throat from smoke and ash. After having his short relief, his face was retrieved from the floor of the woods, only to look up at wooden walls. "You have got to be kiddin' me..."
"Dad? Are you trying to--"
"No, Callahan, I'm not trying to attack you. It's just... I ran the wrong way..."
His wife looked up also. "You're... I... It... Wuh... Huh... Oh, hell!"
They were looking right up at the slave compound.
"On your way, maggots!"
A rat with a spear prodded them with the shaft. Shoving them about into the line of the arrivals from the survivors of the attack on Holt Rudderwave, the young otter Callahan fought and struggled with the tormentors. "Let me go! Yeowch! Don't you know that spear butts hurt? Mmmpf!"
Getting to the line, they gave him a chance to obey. Taking the chance, he tried to make a run for it. Going straight for the still open gates, the thrusters were on as he attempted an escape. Then, a sharp pain in his leg and sudden realization that he was no longer on the ground shocked him. Somebeast swept him with a kick at his legs and sent him flying and landing with a crash.
This time he complied and let himself be dragged to the line and chained up with the rest. His head hung low with despair after being captured. The sunlight of the morning shined down on him and warmed his neck. The warmth was comforting and pestering all together. Warmth wasn't what he wanted after fire. He wanted to take a nice swim back at Holt Rudderwave and take a lunch at the bay with his friends.
The warmth faded into a chill from the new shade created by the figure leaning over him. The wolverine, Callahan thought. The conqueror held a paw out and lifted Callahan's chin so they could make direct eye contact. With a grin not betraying any emotions in the wolverine's reality, Callahan didn't like it. The youngster growled at him and made the best look of defiance he could. "What do you want, murderer?"
And the wolverine backed away as if the words stung him like an angry wasp. Whether it was real or fake, nobeast would know. "M-murderer? Ooh, that just hurts my feelings... None of your pals or neighbors were killed-- well... Let's actually say those who behaved are here, m'kay?"
Regaining his form, Erine cleared his throat and began to belt out, "I am Erine. You have been conquered by us, and you will ACCEPT my ways. See, I'm not so mean, I'm easy going! I care that you all have basic rights, but those who misbehave?" The wolverine held his paws out as if he was clueless, shrugged, and shook his head. "Well, let's just say they get a 'timeout'. I hope none of you have to be put in 'timeout'."
The vermin behind him chuckled as they spat in there paws. Rubbing their knuckles and cracking them, it gave the impression that they'd beat them. The mood instantly dropped. Then, the all-too-cheerful Erine showed them around the compound and pointed out their own barracks where they'd stay. He really did speak truth when they'd be fairly treated. The barracks had soft beds and pillows, trunks to keep their belongings, and other necessities.
"Now, this! This, my fellow friends, is the 'Work House'. This is where you will work and provide for your own needs, and for the needs of my future Empire. As I like to say, it's hard, but it's fair. You'll be assigned to foraging and creating meals. First, for us, then for yourselves. We're not that picky, so we'll just ask for a simple meal. Whatever's left, knock yourselves out with making what ever you'd like!"
The others were starting like the sound of this like it wouldn't really bother them. They were to be treated fairly, and obviously the wolverine was making that clear. They managed to smile, but Callahan was infuriated. How could you let them put us in a pen like we're to be livestock?!
"Now that concludes this tour! If nobeast has questions, then I'll be off doing my busy work and you can enjoy your first day relaxing!"
"Wait! Just exactly what is this 'busy work'? Sitting on your butt and enjoying luxurious things while we work our tail ends off?"
Erine just chuckled at Callahan's question. "Ha hah, that's a good question in fact! Well, let me tell ya something real quick here boy: I'm conquering. You're here to help the welfare of a beginning Empire. You're gonna have to get used to it, kid."
The wolverine shoved the young otter and he fell back into the arms of one of his friends-- Julia. While his mother and father glared icily at their son, Julia soothed Callahan's bitter rage with strokes of his headfur. She so easily got through to him because Callahan might've liked her a little more than a friend...
"Thank you for hauling me up back there."
- Callahan felt it was necessary to thank Julia for her assistance at the work stations. They left side-to-side together and headed to the slave barracks, having a conversation. In the back of her head, Julia knew she was getting through to Callahan. He was starting to forget his hatred for this place with the company of somebeast he had feelings for. "I can't believe my parents just glared at me..."
She sighed. "You have to realize that your father is doing it for the best of us. Sure, we wouldn't want to be enslaved here and back at our holt, but we aren't. At least we have an opportunity here to be somewhat free, and that's better than being worked to death."
- Callahan digested the information, but still couldn't forget the hatred for enslavement here. "Sure, that sounds good... But, don't you want to go for a swim? Don't you want to go for a walk? Also remember, that stupid wolverine... He has a job to do and that is to CONQUER everything and every place we know! And you just want to sit there and let him DO EXACTLY THAT?! A-are you insane?!"
She only sighed. And Callahan also sighed. The silence within the barracks where they stood overwhelmed them into breaking it. Callahan went back to complaining over the entire situation again. No matter the effort that Julia gave in fighting back to shut him up, it was useless. She tried to get him to stop, but he wouldn't. Callahan called himself a martyrdom. She called him annoying. And the two young otters fought vigorously, probably loud enough for many to hear.
- Someone obviously heard. Erine... He walked in and smiled at the two. "Relationship crumbling, it seems? Well, what is the problem here? I myself can be a great counselor for situations like this, so who would like to go first?"
They looked at each other and stared for awhile, then Callahan broke the intense silence between the duo with his face burning in embarrassment. "Um, we're not even a couple?"
- The wolverine howled with laughter. "Nonsense! You two are the perfect match! Don't be embarrassed about it, it's fine! Though I here have better things to do than to wench, I still am here for counseling!"
After being shaken up from the rude and uncomplimentary entry by Erine, Julia calmed her heartbeat and gathered the thoughts scattered across her mind. She had some words for him... "If you don't bother your time with ladies, then why do you even offer counseling? You seem to be the worst source for such a thing. And also, next time you barge in, give a warning before you give me a heart attack."
- The departing Erine paused at where he was, and turned around, smiling. "I'll remember that, Miss. Or should I say... Mrs. Rudderwave?"
The two otters looked at each other. Callahan took the time to choose his words wisely. Then, he had an answer. "Um, you got the wrong name here."
- Erine wagged a claw at him. "Really, Mr. Rudderwave? I think not!"
The wolverine turned to leave the slave barracks with the two otters in tow. He saw his father chained up and guarded by vermin. Callahan screamed out and ran to him. His attempt was stopped by Erine sweeping his leg and kicking him square in the stomach, launching the lightweight otter. Landing with a thud in a pile of hay, he struggled to regain his breath that shot out of him. The wolverine was snickering in the distance and waving his paws about. "Take him outside and execute him. I'd execute the kid too, but I'm not cruel and evil."
- The words fell with the weight of a lie. Callahan's mother ran to him to hug her child. He watched in the distance as he was dragged away to his demise. His mother came to him and hugged him. He fussed and struggled, screaming. To his mother, he screamed, "if you love me mother, let me go!"
She refused with tears in her eyes. "There's nothing you can do--"
- With a pressure point in her arm that made it retract, he sprinted head on. "There's nothing I can do if I don't try!"
He ran with wings on his paws. Erine prepared to sweep his leg out and knock Callahan out cold. With momentum, the otter couldn't stop. The kick came at him.
- Everything before Callahan seemed to be in slow motion. He saw the kick coming right at him. And with a random instinct building in his body, he leapt right over the incoming leg. And slowly the world seemed to return to its normal pace with Callahan speeding by. Erine whipped around bewildered and barked out orders, saliva shooting out in frustration. "Catch that otter for all your worth!"
And it didn't seem that anything could stop him. He strafed and ducked and slid past the guards, and it perplexed Erine drastically. With confusion and frustration bubbling inside, all he could yell out was gibberish. Julia, despite her fear for Callahan's safety, was laughing insanely at the mad wolverine. She fell over, tears trickling down her eyes, and the other otters joined her.
Callahan was a blur of fur and muscle. His rage and heart was determined on one goal: to save his father.
- His mother always said would say to him when he was younger, "if you put your mind to it, you can achieve."
He definitely put his mind to it.
- And he would've achieved--
If it wasn't for them closing the darn gate...
- And he smacked against the gate. He stuck for awhile on the gate, elevated from the ground. All the otters stopped laughing while the vermin took their turn to laugh. And with Callahan muttering "darn it", he seemed to peel off the gate and flop on his back.
Erine swaggered over to Callahan while wiping the foam from around his lips. Hanging over the otter, the reply he got wasn't a word, but an action. The otter rolled over and wept. The wolverine knelt by Callahan and shook his head. "I know, it's hard to lose a family member..."
- The rest of his words were ignored. Tears of sorrow turned into tears of sheer hatred. His paw clenched into a fist like a powerful jaw. His rudder-like tail whipped around and knocked the wolverine down, and it was what Callahan needed.
The otter pounced and started to beat the wolverine, shouting swears into the atmosphere. "YOU MONSTER!!! YOU COLD-HEARTED FIEND! YOU SHOULD DIE WITH HIM!!! JUST, DIE!!!"
- The ball of fury was hurled upon Erine. Teeth, claws, and fists rained down as he laid there helplessly on him. The torment was unbearable until the otter was removed from him. A tackle from one of his close mates freed him from the wrath of the vengeful youngster. It was a wolf.
- The sudden shift of being on top to being on the bottom confused Callahan. His eyes filled with surprised stared up at a wolf looking down upon him. He did not seem to smile, snarl, or have an expression at all. He seemed lifeless.
He only stared down at Callahan. When their eyes met, they held each other together with their eyes. Regret filled his eyes, and confusion in Callahan's. With a command from Erine the wolf's eyes changed emotions to pain. He stood up and walked away from Callahan. And soon, Callahan was lifted to his paws and then shoved around even more. Only on his first day, he was punished. So much had gone down in so little time...
Julia watched as they took Callahan away. So much for a first day, she thought. She wanted to run after them and get Callahan back, but it would be stupid. He did do the wrong thing, she thought. Or did he? She'd never been shoved into such a situation because her parents were already gone. It didn't bother her because she was tough. Callahan knew, his parents knew, and everyone at Holt Rudderwave knew.
- Everyone knew Callahan was a loudmouth, letting his emotions sway him back and forth. An endless game of balance on a tightrope. Even still, those at Holt Rudderwave would be persuaded with his words. He certainly had a heart with fighting, and he wouldn't give up even if he died. He'd break free from the place after death and manage to give his last words.
She sighed and looked up to the sky. Cloudy with a chance of rain it seemed. After all, it would fit the mood, wouldn't it? Her best friend (future love) was dragged away from beating Erine in. She relished the thought. She liked it so much that she had an idea in mind.
"You okay, big guy?"
- Erine turned his head to see the otter Julia striding in. Guards immediately came to throw her out, but the wolverine sent them off. He smiled and welcomed her in, patting a seat next to him. A rat was tending to his wounds and seemed to not care about the guest. "So, what bring you to Papa Erine?"
Julia smirked. She was going to play him at his game. It wasn't abnormal for her-- in fact, it was one of the reasons Callahan loved her. She would push your buttons then start pushing your flesh in with a knife.
- "Oh, nothing really, oldie."
Erine chuckled. "What makes you say that?"
- And Julia giggled. "Well, Papa, I'd guess I have to spell it out for you-- or do I need to go over the alphabet? Let's start with the first letter... You lost to a young child?"
His eyebrows became heavy with burden. She brought it up... But then again, he did ask what brought her to him. Nudging her gently, he gave off a hearty laugh. "He can't seem to respect his elders! Beating in an old bag of bones-- ouch!"
- The nurse pulled out a tooth. It was from Callahan, and Julia was astonished. Then, she turned her head over to Erine. "Well somebeast is going to get a visit from the Tooth Hare tonight. Look! It's the last baby tooth he tried ripping out! Congratulations on getting it out for him, Papa Erine! Might want to go deliver it to him, he'll be happy."
He didn't look pleased at the idea. "Why don't you go take it to your future husband?"
- She took the tooth and laughed maniacally. "At least I'll be living life to my full extent."
And he laughed. "You'd be surprised to see what I can accomplish."
- She rolled her eyes and laughed even more. "Come on, at least have fun before you know an inevitable death is coming. Either from a rebellion or you falling off something and snapping your neck because of your tremendous swagger in your step."
Erine could only smile. For some reason, he liked her. She had mouth and wasn't afraid to use it on anyone. "You'll be quite the lady one day, darlin'!"
Callahan's mother wept. Those from Holt Rudderwave dearly felt upset and empathetic for her. She was so gentle and kind to everyone, and now here she was: devastated because her husband would be executed and her son would be beaten for trying to save his father and for attacking their enslaver. She was a mess.
- The Elder of the Holt comforted her like he'd done with many. She cried and held her face in her paws. It was getting late and she had no idea what they would do to him. In the distance, thunder rumbled and lightning forked from the sky in the distance unknown. Rain fell from the sky, forcing them indoors to the slave barracks. She laid down on a bed, and fell asleep after being tired from the burden. Night slowly rolled in, and eventually all the slaves packed into the intriguingly comfortable compound. The beds were quite soft, so they didn't fuss. An otter, Denodo decided to take a head count to see who they lost. From the one-hundred population at Holt Rudderwave, only 85 remained.
He sighed and did a quick prayer for those lost. He knew Julia was here, but didn't see her here. Everyone knew Callahan and Julia were friends, and it would make sense for her to be upset. Denodo then started to think about Callahan. What would happen to the boy? The young otter was obviously not taking this enslavement thing seriously and hates Erine, but what choice does he have? Maybe a savior will come along one day and free them. Maybe they'd be able to overthrow the Conqueror. The thought died with him as sleep took over and carried him off to the realm of dreams where he'd be safe.
The rain pelted Julia as she laid outside of the slave barracks and stared up into the rain clouds. Thunder clapped up above. She crouched up in a ball and let the rain fall on her. If she got a cold from it, she wouldn't care. It was so soothing and appropriate for everything that had happened today.
- She was tired but too worried for Callahan to even bother to sleep. The rain and its steady pitter patter was calming. She wondered how the vermin executed his father-- or if they even managed to. She pondered about her parents and tried to remember anything she possibly could about them. She thought of the freedom her and Callahan would have if there was anybeast out there brave enough to rescue them.
The thought was lost in translation. Voices in her head spoke gently to her and she smiled as sleep started to overcome her. "Sleep, child... Sleep. A week will go by and so much will happen..."
- And before she closed her eyes to sleep, she could see a flicker of a mouse with a warm, gentle face look at her. Julia smiled, and fell asleep.
And outside from where the guards stayed, a cloaked creature came out and saw her. They came over and approached the sleeping otter. Kneeling down they scooped her up and took her to the slave barracks. Putting her in a bed and tucking her in, she opened an eye and peeked at his covered face. She could only see his muzzle with a gentle tone to it. "Sleep, child. You'll want a good rest if you'd like to be free from here."
- And the creature left. Their cloak dripping of rain water... And what was weird was that they were taller than an otter. Who was behind that cloak? It wasn't Erine, because he wouldn't bother to cover his face. But then who was it? It wasn't the mouse she saw only for a second. Who was this creature and why would he do such a thing? And what did he mean "if you'd like to be free from here" if he was one of Erine's mates?
And back to the realm of dreams for her, where the mouse showed again with his gentle and welcoming face. She swore she saw Callahan, but this was an older otter. One in a fancy suit messing with his sleeves. He fixed his headfur which was thick on the top but trimmed to normal lengths on the sides and back. He had a smiling face that also welcomed her. And he spoke. "Eh, this mouse dragged me away from a practice with the mates for some reason. Borin' in the afterlife when you got nothin' to do, so I compose."
- The mouse rolled his eyes, and addressed her. "Sleep well, Julia. Your friend will tough through it, I know he will. Though you might be here long, he won't. Though he sounds insane at most times, he's not incorrect. Sometimes you need to look at things from a new perspective."
The other otter smirked. "Don't get me started with perspectives."
- He took off his jacket of his suit which revealed a brace. Sighing, he put it back on to a more comfortable fit and cleared his throat and let his voice to the rest. He would seem to be upbeat as he acted, but his song was tranquil as a bird's melody...
- "Sit back and relax
- The show's only starting
- The blood washes from the paws
- And the walls fall down in future's time
- Can't take the kid from the fight,
- Take the fight from the kid
- Sit back and relax and relapse
- And let the peace rest on the atmosphere
- For this show is only starting
- Lets kill tonight
- Or lets save the night
- It doesn't matter honestly--
- It only matters on how you dictate it
- And thus let your pretty mind
- Think of pretty thoughts
- And let the future unravel itself to how Fate let it be
- Because Fate is beautiful..."
The dream faded with the last note carrying, and she fell into a deep sleep...
He laid there in the sawdust. His throat was dry and his voice was hoarse. And he had nothing but himself and the sawdust. He was being punished. The rain didn't provide salvation to his unquenchable thirst with a roof over his head. He had earned this for beating Erine. He chose this.
- And it was all his fault.
He couldn't blame anyone.
- A door squeaked open. Light flooded in the room and blinded the otter laying there. It was that wolf who interrupted Callahan's attack on Erine. Alongside with him was Julia. She hurried over to him worried while the wolf closed the door and leaned up against it, muttering, "keep the session quick. I'm not allowed to let any slave in here to 'visit'."
Callahan caught a glimpse of the wolf's eyes before he closed them. He was unsure... But about what?
- His eyes told a story with many pieces smashed into smaller pieces, and those smashed into even smaller pieces. His motives were unclear with his past and identity. The wolf's presence among the ranks of Erine's army was unclear. Did he care about being among them? Or does he not care? Or... is it something more?
His brown fur wore a few scars on his body, but arms and legs of white fur seemed untouched. Was it an incident? Was he a warrior at one point? Was he exiled? What is behind those eyes?!
- "Callahan? Heeeeeellllooooooo?! Are you therrreeeeeee?" Julia said.
Callahan snapped back into reality with her call. He looked around a bit before answering. "Y-yeah! Does it look like I'm anywhere BUT here?"
- "You got quite a mouth, Cal. A tip to use in the future: keep it shut." The wolf wasn't slow to reply. It came out grim and left a taste in the atmosphere.
Julia took the tooth Callahan lost and put it in his paw. Holding it, she sighed. "You ended up ripping it out, and it stuck in Erine. You gave him a nightmare yesterday." She coughed and shuddered.
- "Are you... sick?"
She smiled weakly, and shrugged. "I was stupid enough to sit out in the rain last night. It's nothin' but a cold."
- He felt her cold paws and noticed the wolf's now-opened eyes. A new emotion, Callahan thought. But... Realization, is that what I see?
"I... I wish you were out of here... Things are kickin' up the pace and it's harder than Erine made it sound... Either it's that or I'm too weak for this..." Julia's words returned him back to the world in front of him.
- His attention was always taken by the wolf. What was with the wolf that had the otter's attention all the time? He always had some face that showed no emotion, but behind those eyes he seemed to be in pain, misery, regret, or remorse. It was unusual nonetheless.
The conversation between the two was short. Neither of them had anything to talk of, and they definitely weren't in much of a mood to, anyways. Nothing had happened during the time they've arrived at the slave compound that they could really talk about. Everything that happened had been witnessed by the two and they'd rather not speak of it. Julia was indeed not feeling her best to be very in depth or interested into a conversation, and Callahan was uncomfortable in his position and still a bit peeved at his situation. The wolf still leaned on the door with his eyes closed-- he didn't have anything he wanted to contribute...
- The room fell silent. Dust particles fluttered around, catching the little light shining through the tiny, celled window. The beams poured in and warmed Callahan's back and tail, and he smiled. He finally felt warm after a cold night in there with nothing to keep him warm. Julia lowered herself to the floor and sat in front of the bars blocking Callahan from a little more freedom. Neither of them spoke or moved afterwards, and it caused the wolf to open an eye quickly before shutting it. She's not breaking him out, so it's fine.
In their own surreal environment of a summer of freedom at Holt Rudderwave, they could feel the warmth of the sunrays beaming down on them. They could feel the water cool their paws as they dipped them in. They could taste the great food their families prepared each dinner. And they could feel the coziness of their beds with the blanket cradling them from the cool night breezes. Sometimes they would sleep under the stars, the young ones would. And they would try to name the stars. Some after family members, a few after friends, and many with names from their imagination. The sound of crickets chirping and the leaves of the trees rustling filled the atmosphere. Holt Rudderwave was truly extraordinary for them, and it was the life they always lived.
- Until now...
The evil will of Erine...
- To conquer and rule everything...
"Git'er up an' out, we be releasin' the ol' fiend back with 'is mates." The sudden voice of a newcomer uncaged their memories and they scrambled around hastily in their heads.
- The wolf who'd been there hauled Julia up and out of the room, and the newcomer, a ferret, stood alone in there with the prisoner. He smiled with his stupid grin that lacked a few teeth, and pulled out a ring of keys. Picking a key from the ring and trying it in the lock, it would not be the right one. So then he would try the next one... One, by... one... And the ferret sighed with annoyance. "Which one of ye be the right key, eh?"
He tried one after another at an excruciatingly slow rate. The otter behind the bars was dying of anticipation on the inside and laid with his face on the floor, groaning. Banging his fist into the floor, he cried, "oh, mercy! Please just open it already!"
- And the ferret panicked. "Oim just tryin' to do wot I was asked by the boss. But none of 'em keys work in dis lock!"
With a laugh emerging from the ferret's back and a shadow casting over him, another creature replied. "That's because I forgot to give it to you."
- Erine. He forgot to give the ferret the keys, and now he had to unlock the cell himself. Looking at Callahan smacking his face into the floor, groaning and calling the wolverine "stupid", the key popped into the lock and turned speedily until a click! was heard. The lock opened and the door swung open. And Erine thought it would be the moment the otter bolted out, but instead he dragged himself across the ground, never retrieving his face to look up. Puzzling, but quite entertaining to watch!
- "Oh, Callahan! Thank goodness you're alright!"
His mother hugged him feebly and planted a kiss on his cheek. Her son smiled as he returned the favor and kissed her on her forehead. They smiled together and hugged a little more tighter. It had been awhile since Callahan saw his mother since arrival...
- He felt tears dripping down his neck as his mother laid her head on his chest and wept. She looked so frail and sick now than she had ever been, and it concerned the son. "Mother, are you... ill?"
She sniffled and choked back tears to reply. "Ol' Denodo says I am, and it doesn't look so bright for me."
- And the world stopped right there at those words for Callahan. Everything around him went black. It was him just standing in what seemed to be a void with those words echoing through the void and his head. Flashbacks of his father being dragged out to execution rolled in his head. A flashback of him being taken away from his home, Holt Rudderwave, played with flashbacks of all the times of jubilee he had with his parents.
- It doesn't look bright for her...
- She's going to die...
- And that leaves... Only me...
- I will be the last Rudderwave standing...
- I would be the chieftain of our Holt...
- I would be the one to lead us through these dark times...
- But I'm only so young...
- So... Powerless...
- And yet I have such a responsibility that calls upon that...
- No, I'm not ready to move on.
- Not yet...
- Please, hang in there, Mother... You'll be fine...
- I promise...
The words he said in his mind echoed through what seemed to be hollow corridors in his head. They slowly faded as he returned to reality. They were still hugging, and his mother seemed to have fallen asleep in his arms. Laying her back down and tucking her back in bed, he kissed her on the forehead one last time and walked out of the slave barracks. That's when he realized he was hungry.
- It was a quick walk to the "Mess". Meals for Erine's army was a priority, and meals for themselves came last. The poor otter looked famished and walked in and immediately had a meal prepared for him. They seemed to be practically groveling at his footpaws, and it seemed make him uncomfortable.
Crumbs flew everywhere as his food was demolished and disappeared in his gaping mouth. An older otter came by to give him seconds, and commented, "good seasons! You eat like you've survived a ten season famine, mister Rudderwave!"
- The fact that she addressed him as "Mister Rudderwave" showed something was awry. He never was called that, only by his father. His father was the only one to be addressed by this title. And now, he was.
The seconds left a bitter taste in his mouth, and he excused himself to go outdoors. When he stepped outside the Mess, there was otters from the Holt bustling around, greeting him as "Mister Rudderwave". It seemed as a new environment entirely and a utterly confusing situation. Like being in a foreign land never know to you, and everyone somehow knows you.
- All around activity went on, either from the slaves or guards. By the gate, guards were posted and watched heavily. When they realized Callahan's eyes beaming back at them, they gave him a sinister look and he turned away quickly and started to whistle for innocence.
He was bored but still shaken from the sudden change. Walking past the Guard Compound, he stopped and listened to get any good scoops from the vermin inside. The only voice he could hear was Erine's.
- "When the sun sets, we leave and gather back the troops, and strike Redwall Abbey. Then we'll set that up as one of our suppliers and resupply there. Next, we hit the big 'un, Salamandastron."
And a gruff, but frantic voice rang above the agreement of the plan. "Oim a feller who knows 'ese lands well, sir. But how do 'ee plan on 'etting that mountain?"
- With a snort to conclude laughter, a fellow mate replied. "'Cuz he's thee mastermind 'ehind this plan, 'ump! Look how far thee got us, eh?"
"I object, eh. 'ee's right to question 'ettin that mountain, Salad-whatevermon. We be from 'round 'ees parts and we be knowin' what we need t'know. That place has 'ierce bunnies and a big, giant badgur that 'ould squish 'ee!"
- With a slam of a paw of a table top, the room fell silent from the defenses and attacks on the statement, and of the side chats questioning the plan or agreeing with it. Erine's snarl was loud and clear to present itself, and his voice indefinitely rang above many. "Shut it!"
He breathed out and smiled wickedly. "That badger will hold his ground, but we hold everything else here! We would practically own ALL of Mossflower, and he would be outnumbered with our forces! It would either be surrender or a fight to the death. I wouldn't mind a battle, Conqueror versus Defender. It would be a glory battle full of honor, I ain't one for cheatin'."
- And so with that said, he dismissed them. Callahan had to dart away quickly to not be caught spying on their meeting. With the knowledge he had, he felt the need to warn the two places mentioned. He remember his father telling him stories of this Redwall Abbey, and how splendid it was. It sounded nice, but Callahan would never look at it better than his home. With Holt Rudderwave destroyed, it sounded like the only place great to him.
- The sun set, and no birds chirped to say goodbye to the daylight. No owls gave a hoot, and the crickets kept silent. They gathered at the gate that had sat open for the departure. Erine and his small amount of troops at the slave compound were moving out. They were going for Redwall as Callahan noted, then going for Salamandastron.
Salamandastron... a name he'd never heard until now. The way the vermin talked about it gave him a secure feeling of hope. Possibly, they could hold out and at least save some of them to gather woodlanders for to increase the size of their own army, and take back what was rightfully owned to Mossflower.
- From the shadows, the otter watched. They left, and so bad did he want to sneak out, but he couldn't. He felt bound here emotionally for some reason, not physically. He couldn't just leave now, not even when opportunity showed. Something held him back, and it perplexed him.
His heart thudded loudly when the gates closed after they all made their way out. He missed his golden opportunity, and it felt upsetting but gracious at the same time.
- And there was nothing he felt like doing then but staring at the gate...