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We wait impatiently for that mousethief to make his appearance. He should have been here hours ago! Does he think he loiter about Kotir all day? If he does not hurry, we'll have to go and try to help him escape another time. We are too exposed here; if any of Kotir's soldiers look about carefully, they'll see us without a doubt.
I shift impatiently, stroking the smooth wood of my bow, longing to shoot at something. Anything rather than this endless waiting.
My ears pick up outraged and startled cries along with the shattering and clunking of dishes. Tsarmina's voice sounds out in fury. "Stop those mice! Kill them!"
Our mousethief was making his escape at last and leaving with a flare. Apparently he was not alone.
All of us squirrels and otters shot each other glances at the shout. I fidget restlessly as a scout reports to Lady Amber. 'Just give the orders and we'll follow!' I growl inwardly.
At last Lady Amber gives her orders. I instantly rise to go with her, followed by seven other squirrels to rescue the mice. As we move through the terreces, I cannot help thinking of Gonff's incredible knack for getting into trouble. Stuck in a tree with Tsarmina screaming for her bow and a crazed, hunger eagle trying to eat him? He has no sense at all! I would not be surprised if he were grinning his head off at the moment and making fun of that tyrantial wildcat.
We are now close enough to spy the two escapees and I groan. Wouldn't you know that Gonff was making faces at the enraged sovereign? His companion isn't though.
The other mouse garbed in rags with a broken sword about his neck is searching for a way to get down and glaring at Tsarmina coldly. Merely by looking at him, one can tell he is an experienced warrior.
Amber directs us to split into two groups, four for each mouse. I lead the group heading for the strange mouse. He looks up at me and I am shocked by his eyes. Those swirling grey eyes with memories dancing across their surface and a strong-willed determination. He stares at me intently as if he were trying to recall some past event. When I swing in next to him, his eyes land on my bow and then search my eyes questioningly. I do not know what to make of this, so I nod coldly as the queen arrives, her tone brooking no argument.
"Now none of your shenanigans, young thief."
Gonff feigns shock and pretends hurt, but Amber ignores him, turning her dark eyes on the other mouse. "You, whoever you are, just relax and leave the rest to us. You're in safe paws."
He shoots me a glance as if to say, 'I know you wouldn't hurt me, friend.'
I take no time to dwell over his familiarity and grab his paws, whisking him down to the ground. When we set him down, he appears somewhat dizzy and I allow a smirk to tug at the corners of my lips. Silly mice.
I feel my amusement fade as the gate to Kotir opens and soldiers rush out. The otters are already slinging stones and throwing javelins at the enemy. Gonff's companion looks about urgently. For a weapon I suppose. I nock an arrow, but do not draw it back. I wait for Lady Amber's signal. Skipper comes jogging up and he and the mice and Amber exchange a few words. I listen only vaguely, eyes taking in the soldiers and itch to slay them.
"...Martin the Warrior. He's my friend..."
Martin. So that was his name. It fit him well. A strong name for a strong beast.
The rest of their talk I miss as Tsarmina prowls out of the gate and now I do draw my bow back. Anger surges through me at the sight of that..that...Abomination! Martin glances up at me as the squirrelqueen gives the command for cover fire and I release with a savage intense feeling that no doubt showed on my face. His eyes take on a sad gleam before he hurries away with Skipper and the otters.
'What was that about?' I wonder before I start firing arrows into the enemy, hearing their pained cries with satisfaction. We retreat across the open ground swiftly and disappear into Mossflower quickly. At once, make haste to go. We had given Skipper his cover; there was no need to linger any longer than necessary.
Pear and I exchange glances. A smile threatens her face. When I think of the clumsy, blundering soldiers and the priceless look on their captain's face when he stopped cowering behind his shield long enough to find us in the trees, I grin too. It is infectious and we burst into laughte along with the rest of the troops.
That night, Martin pulls me aside from the party. I allow him to lead me curiously. We take a few paces away from the others before he looks up at me. He hesitates and I see inner turmoil in his eyes before he guards them, making up his mind.
His question catches me completely off guard.
"Do you know Felldoh the Squirrel?" he asks in a low tone, something which looked like guilt in his face.
I blink at the name. It is so familiar, but I cannot fathom how.
I cock my head as I furrow my eyebrows thoughtfully. I know this Felldoh somehow, this I am certain of, but how...? My mind goes back a few seasons ago when Father and I sat by the fire together him telling me of his younger days. His mother, his father, his sister Windgrace, his brother Leif, his other brother Felldoh....
My tail whirls and my eyebrows raise as I remember all Father told me of his brother, my uncle.
"He was brave. Brave and reckless. But a wonderful friend and companion, if solemn. He was smart too, but would take some things too seriously..."
"Yes." I nod. "I know of Felldoh. He is my uncle."
Martin narrows his eyes thoughtfully. "That would explain it," he says, more to himself than to me. "You look just like him. Only as a maiden."
I smile ruefully. "My father has commented on this many times. How is he? Felldoh."
The mouse warrior closes his eyes as if in pain. "He is dead. He died to save others from vermin who were trying to enslave them."
This is no surprise. From all I had ever heard of my uncle, I could never imagine him dying of old age. I do fell a slight twinge of grief, but that is all. I never met Felldoh after all. I want to press Martin for details, but his stance and expression warn me to hold my tongue. I let out a breath. "I feared it would be so."
Martin dips his head and turns away. As I watch him leave, I cannot refrain from my sudden thoughts. Here was a mouse who would die rather than see a young one harmed, give his life willingly for his comrades, fight evil until his last breath. Here was a mouse who had that air of fighting many battles and seeing many die. He led a lonely life, travelling alone, and was quiet. Serious. Sad. There was a slight guilty air about him too, as if he blamed himself for something. I do not doubt that he has made many great friends in his time; he could not have lived alone for almost all of his life. Perhaps even known love, but I shake my head at myself. I cannot imagine him in love. He seems older than his face tells, but I am happy to see he is not without a sense of humor. Now he laughs at some comment Gonff made and the two sling their arms about each others shoulders.
'I wish I knew your secrets,' I find myself thinking wistfully. 'You could tell amazing stories about-'
Bush raps me on the shoulder and gives me a mug of good blackberry cordial. "Stop looking so somber, Ripfur, and join the feast!"
I laugh and clink cups with him. But even as I take a sip, my eyes drift towards Martin.
'Who are you, friend?'
A/N: I know I said I didn't want to write anymore Redwall fics, but I couldn't help this one. I was listening to So Far Away, trying to decide what to do for Chapter 2 in my LOTR story when this popped into my head and wouldn't let me rest until I had it typed.