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Sunshine blessed the safe and warm haven of Mossflower Woods. The golden rays poured down like heavenly light on anybeast that welcomed its life-giving rays. Walking down the dusty trail was a lovely fine-featured vixen, a small pretty mousemaid, a small, willowy ottermaid, and a very garrulous hare. Rosecoat Deathbrush or just Rosabrush as she preferred her new goodbeast name rather than her vermin name, looked at her unlikely comrades. The mousemaid, Emma looked up at her vermin friend.
“Miss Rosabrush, where is this Redwall Abbey? Is it far?” She asked trying to keep step with her friend. The beautiful vixen sighed softly.
“I don’t know, my little one. I don’t know.” The female otter, who was named Gem, was ever the optimistic.
“Oh don’t you worry Emma, we’ll find it if it takes us all season. We’ll march night and day to have you see your father again.”
“I should jolly well hope he’s here,” muttered the hare whose name was Patrick Fluffiscoff. “It would be perishin’ awkward if he weren’t. Wot d’you expect us t’do, come waddlin’ into the blinkin’ fortress and say, oh hello all! We’re lookin’ for Emma’s pater! You haven’t perchance seen the bally chap have you? See, she’s never met him, but some warrior mouse or something came to her in a dream, sayin' that she should jolly well drop by to see her dear old dad! Oh yes that’d be a regular howdy do, plus we’ve got a blinkin’ vixen with us. Woodlanders don’t trust…” he was cut off by the ottermaid’s hefty paw.
“Oh shush Patrick. They wouldn’t send us away because of Miss Rosabrush! She saved us from harm from her own band of vermin. You and I are living proof of it!” The talkative hare was now grumbling to himself.
“Interrupt a chap’s repartee, will you? Well that just go to be expected from a gel who bally well lives in water!” He was cut short by Emma’s scream for help. She had wandered off looking for food when she came running back.
“There’s a huge otter lying in the stream! He’s got wounds everywhere!” The quartet ran after the distressed mousemaid as she ran to the clearing where she found the otter. Patrick stared at the sight of the willowy, lightweight build of the immensely tall otter lying half-dead on the shore.
“Corks! Look at the size of that blighter!” Though the otter seemed to be of lightweight build in the torso area, his limbs were hefty and robust, and he was incredibly tall. His fur was almost sable and he had wounds everywhere on his back. Rosabrush carefully examined him. She recognized the whip-like marks on the otter’s broad back.
“The Emissary did this to him,” she muttered as she turned the otter over. She barked in fright, the left side of the otter’s face was normal, handsome even, but the right side was nothing but scars and scar tissue. His chest was rising shakily and falling with a shudder. Gem walked to the vixen healer and stared at the otter’s scarred face. She sat down and started talking with the big fellow. Patrick and Emma watched fascinated as the ottermaid and the vixen both spoke to the otter in soothing tones. After the healer fox was sure the male otter was feeling better, she turned to the two in front of her.
“Now we really must get to the Abbey and make sure this fellow receives medical attention, he’s a warrior!”
As the day was long nobeast was mightier than the Fearsome Rackaclaw Spearblade. The weasel warlord was bigger than any stoat, rat, ferret, or other weasels in his horde. He used to have a Healer fox within his ranks, but the traitorous creature double-crossed him and she had paid for it dearly by his deadly poisoned spear. His fur was midnight blue almost black and his eyes; those piercingly dark navy eyes drove his creatures to obey him and the flick of his paw. He gripped his spear as he studied the horizon from his perch on the railing. A warm land of plenty came into view. His navy gaze never changed from the consent frown he always wore upon his face. He slipped from the mainmast of his traveling ship, the Vermin as he landed soundlessly on the deck, he watched as his crew stuffed themselves with roast meat and barley wine. His vermin were easily pleased, all they needed was a full stomach and promises of riches from their leader, whom they trusted and feared. Fools. He set his eyes upon the land mass again and he could not suppress the evil smile creeping across his face.
The sun was no longer shining when the quartet of creatures reached Redwall Abbey. The rain was pouring fit to beat the band, and all four, not including the unconscious otter, were soaked to the bone. A booming voice hailed them as the stepped up to the gate.
“Who goes there, friend or foe?” The voice thundered out. Rosabrush bowed low.
“We are friends, but I am a vixen, I bring you an injured beast, please let him in. He might be dying!” The voice snorted.
“Be on your way snipenose, I know a vermin when I smell one.” Emma had no time or patience with this nonsense.
“Miss Rosabrush is not a vermin! She saved our lives from her own horde! My name is Emma and I’m a mouse, there is an otter named Gem, and a hare named Patrick. We have an injured otter out here. He could die so please let us in!” She pleaded. Another voice chuckled.
“A hare, eh. Lock up the larders and prepare for a famine. Hares are stomachs on legs!” Patrick crossed his arms.
“Just who are you, sah? Judging another beast by his own species is not very fair, doncha know. Help a poor beast out, hare or not!” He called out indignantly. The other voice answered apologetically.
“Apologies, apologies my friend. I’m sorry to offend you. Please bring your friends in, and the vixen too.” A portly hedgehog that eyed the vixen with immediate dislike opened the gate.
“Mind yore distance fox,” he warned severely. “If I catch one theivin’ paw near the Brother and Sister’s trinkets or near our babes, then I’ll chop it off.” The fox shook herself off.
“Don’t worry sir,” she said politely. “I won’t be staying long, I’m only dropping these young ones and that poor otter off here. I don’t wish to cause any upset to the Abbot or Abbess.” As she was speaking, the Abbot appeared and even the ever-garrulous Patrick was lost for words. Standing in front of everyone was the biggest dog badger that either of the friends had ever seen. His coat was black with white stripes and his paws were heavy and blunt, his eyes were stern and dark green flecked with gold. He folded his huge paws across his broad white chest and stared at the vixen that bowed politely. She barely spoke above a whisper; she was so awed by the might of Redwall’s Abbot.
“Good evening Father Abbot. I am Rosecoat Deathbrush, but I prefer Rosabrush since I am no longer part of a horde. I have brought these young creatures here to live at the Abbey. Do you have a mouse here who is named Jack?” She asked. The badger nodded sternly. When he spoke his voice was wise and gentle, but firm enough to remind the vixen just who was in charge.
“We do. He is in the Infirmary with our healer, Brother Nim, why do you ask me this?” The vixen gestured to the mousemaid with her paw.
“Come here my little one and tell the Abbot what you saw.” The mouse gazed up into the badger’s face and looked down and around at the tapestry on the wall. As her eyes rested on the mouse pictured there, she spilled her story.
“I was visited in dreams by a mouse warrior like the one on your lovely tapestry and he told me that if I wanted to see my father, I’d come here to the Abbey and he would be waiting for me.” She stared in silent wonder at the heroic figure woven on the magnificent tapestry. His grey eyes smiled, but there was raw danger on his fearless handsome face. The mouse leaned on an impressive beautiful sword. The real one rested in old Cregga Badgermum’s room near her chair. The maid gazed back up at the Father Abbot. He smiled then, the stern gaze was gone and his eyes twinkled merrily.
“Would you like to see your father little one?” He spoke gently. The maid nodded vigorously.
“Oh yes Father Abbot, I would, I would!” She took the badger’s hefty paw and they walked upstairs together. Both badger and mousemaid entered the sickbay and came across an otter with a brownish grey mouse seated on the bed. His tired brown eyes looked up to see the Abbot and a small female mouse child. The adorable little thing was standing paw in paw with the Abbot Stelidae.
“DADDY!” She ran to him and jumped into his lap. “Mmph,” was all he managed to get out since the mousemaid threw her paws around his neck and squeezed him tightly like she’d never let go. The otter Healer looked mystified over to the giant badger.
“Anything you’d like to tell me Father Abbot?” The badger laughed.
“That’s Jack’s daughter Emma. She has been missing since she was a Dibbun.” Jack’s eyes were glazed over. He looked at the mousemaid who smiled up at him adoringly. He turned back to the Abbot.
“Who is this?” He asked, his head tipped to one side, but stroking the velvety ears of his daughter. Brother Nim shook his head.
“She’s your daughter Jack, remember? A horde of vermin attacked you and your family. They stole-“
“That is quite enough thank you.” A stentorian voice interrupted. A female vole clad in petticoats and lacy bonnet was standing in the doorway, paws akimbo. She ambled in and scooped the mousemaid into her paws.
“That lump of a mouse can’t even remember his own daughter and I will thank you not to traumatize this child even more. For goodness sakes, she traveled with a vixen! Who knows what kind of awful ideas that creature has fed this poor babe. She probably used her to get into the Abbey and made all that mumbo-jumbo up about this maid seeing Martin the Warrior in her dreams.” The mouse struggled wildly to get to her father, whose eyes were sad as he stared hard at his child’s face.
“Daddy, daddy, it’s me! It’s Emma! You promised Daddy! You promised Mummy you wouldn’t let them take me! You promised!” The badger glared sternly at the vole nurse.
“Madame Tanya will you please put the child down?” He said. The nurse looked up at the badger and glared at him.
“I will not Father Abbot. This child will not be subjected to that forgetful mouse.” Brother Nim exploded.
“Jack can’t remember her because he had a serious head injury when we found him half-starved and severely beaten, almost to death! He was rambling about a little maid that he had with him and that’s her! He lost his memory, Sister Tanya, and you have the key! Maybe if she has something that could trigger his memory he would remember. He needs to be reminded of that incident to remember his little maid!” The vole sniffed.
“Not the child. She and I will go to Great Hall and get something to eat, won’t we dear?” The mousemaid tore away from the nurse and sat on Jack’s lap, trying feebly to get him to remember her.
“Daddy, remember the song you used to hum to me to help me sleep? Remember that?” She started humming a small tune that sounded like it could be played on a reed flute. The nurse grabbed for the mousemaid who nimbly dodged out of the way. Reaching into her dress pocket, she pulled out a flute. Jack’s eyes widened at the object and the mousemaid started to play. At first she played a lively tune, one that she used to dance to, but Jack still didn’t recognize her. Then she stared playing the tune she was humming. Jack’s eyes seemed to clear up and he began to recognize her. To the maid’s delight, the tune was working! Before she could finish the song and her father could remember her clearly, the vole took the flute from her and grabbed her paw.
“Leave Jack alone for now. Now go downstairs with your friends. You can visit him tomorrow.” The Abbot looked at the vole sternly, but then he sighed. Once the vole’s mind was made up, nobeast could stop her from thinking otherwise. It was an admirable trait, but it made her doggedly stubborn and difficult to work with. He allowed her to take the child from her father and let her play with the other little ones. Jack’s eyes were filled with tears.
“My daughter,” he whispered. “That was my daughter.” He tried to race after her, but he crumpled to the ground. His legs were not healed yet. The otter healer picked him up like a babe (which was hard to do since Jack was a very sturdy mouse) and put him on the bed again.
“You can see her tomorrow Jack. She needs to be with the others now, to calm down.” Secretly, Brother Nim did not agree. The Father Abbot left the two as the otter gave the mouse a sleeping potion.
The vixen was quite popular with the Dibbuns, or the Abbey little ones as they examined her.
“You a fosk! Mama says fosskers are allus very naughty! Not like bad likkle Dibbuns but like bad beasts who hurt!” A squirrelbabe said to the vixen she chuckled, humoring the child.
“Oh us fosskers are very wily beasts. Especially the bad ones, I am one of the good ones who didn’t like being naughty.” The hedgehog that had opened the door and threatened the fox, laughed heartily. “ You know, that vixen ain’t such a bad creature after all! She was helping with chores, playing with the Dibbuns and hasn’t asked one question about treasure or security and doesn’t even know all of us! I think she’s good!” The badger Abbot smiled as the otters joined the fun, playing with both little ones and fox.
“Bad beasts can sometimes turn good. In the time of my father the great Sadinoel of Salamandastron, there was a rat who turned good and helped save Redwall from a horde led by his own rat brother.” The hedgehog, who was aptly named Prickles, nodded.
“Oh aye, that was Odgo, right? I was only a Dibbun when he was here. He was a nice rat. Twas sad when he left us to go to the sunny pastures and broad meadows.” The badger nodded.
“Yes it was very sad, many of the Dibbuns loved that old rat. I was one of them.” He watched Rosabrush as she skipped along with the otters who took to her kind words and striking beauty immediately. Otters were always partial to a pretty face. The badger shook his head, remembering the injured otter the fox said was with them.
“Where’s the injured otter?” He asked the otter Chieftain over the din. The otter’s Chieftain was always called a Skipper. He turned to the badger.
“The maid named Gem took him up to the Infirmary when you came down Father Abbot. Great seasons o’ slaughter, I’ve never seen an otter that tall!” The badger nodded his thanks and once again journeyed up the winding stairwell to the Infirmary. The small, willowy Gem was bathing the wounds on the unconscious otter’s broad back. She turned to smile at the badger respectfully as she bathed the awful wounds.
“Hello Father Abbot. I was just cleaning this poor beast up. He’s in a dreadful state, have a look at him.” The badger looked over the otter’s back and shoulders, which were bandaged up, but he could see even more scarring on the big beast’s shoulders.
“That’s not the worst of it,” Gem said, and she turned him over. The otter’s face was a mess. Scars shone everywhere it looked angry and red and sore. Gem put a poultice on the otter’s heavily scarred face. She stroked the big fellow’s long broad neck gently as she soothed him. Tears pooled in her dark eyes as the otter lay there. The badger studied the patient. He was tall, willowy, but quite lean and in shape. The badger turned to go, but before he did, Gem let out a shriek of surprise. The otter had grabbed her paw in an iron grip. His bleary, startlingly gray-green eyes searched hers as he sat up painfully, the poultice sliding to the floor.
“Who are you?” He croaked as she stared at him in fear and admiration for his quick recovery of consciousness. She calmed down quite a bit and gave him a friendly smile.
“I’m Gem,” she said softly. “You’re among friends in Redwall Abbey.” The otter stared at her in silent wonder.
“Redwall?” He whispered. The ottermaid nodded. He lay back down serene and calm. His eyes were no longer bleary, but bright and shining.
“My name is Kire, I am the last of my kin. The vermin weasel Rackapaw Spearblade killed them all.” He said his voice still croaky. Gem gave him some water to drink. After nearly draining the basin, the otter got his voice back, which was deep and stentorian. He smiled at the maid as she helped him sit up.
“Thank you Gem. Thank you and your friends for helping me. By the way, before I lost it, I remember a vixen standing over me and protecting me I owe her my life. Is she among you?” The maid nodded as he leaned on her so he could walk.
“Yes, she’s playing with the Dibbuns,” the Abbot said as all three traveled downstairs. “Are you alright my son?” The otter nodded.
“I’ll live. I’ve had worse injuries believe me.” The maid couldn’t resist her question that she found a bit rude.
“Do you mean your face? It always looks so sore.” The otter shook his head.
“No beauty, I was born with that. It doesn’t hurt me at all.” The maid sighed with relief.
“Thank the seasons for that,” she said to him. “I thought you might be suffering.” He smiled and was about to reply when they heard screams from in the kitchen.
“Trouble in the kitchens!” The Abbot said before speeding off. The ottermaid reached Great Hall and couldn’t find somebeast.
Patrick had found the kitchens, or “scoff quarters” as he called it. Along with the abundance of food, there was a very petite, and very pretty haremaid. She looked up from icing a cake to see him standing in the kitchens, marveling at the huge amounts of food. He smiled at her and bowed gallantly.
“Allow me to introduce meself, my pretty cook. I am Patrick Fluffiscoff of Salamandastron, doncha know. I must say, this all looks super tasty don’t it?” The haremaid glowered at him through her pretty dark brown eyes.
“Save yer face for supper tonight Patrick wotsyerface, y’ait’t getting’ a bally crumb outta me.” The male hare took a scone from a cookie sheet when the haremaid wasn’t looking and devoured it, still hot, in record time. The maid’s eyes snapped back to him as he smiled, but there was evidence of blueberry sauce on his whiskers. The tiny cook flew into a rage that would equal a badger Lord in a Bloodwrath. She went about belaboring him with a ladle as he covered his head and ran around the kitchen with the maid chasing him.
“Ouch! Owch! Lackaballyday chop me up and bake me in stew that smarts! I say, deist marm! Parley, wot wot? Ouch! Kindly stop biffin’ me with that confounded ladle! Desist I say!” She whacked him a good one as she chased the gluttonous hare around the kitchen punishing him with her ladle.
“Insubordination in the ranks! I will not tolerate some famine-faced cad in my kitchens feedin’ ‘is face whenever ‘e jolly well feels like it! Cook yew into a stew eh? Well, I’ll clap yew into a boiler an’ make hare pudding outta you! Come back ‘ere yew rogue! Take that!” That’s when the Abbot and Gem walked in, to see the little haremaid armed with a giant ladle in paw chasing Gem’s friend around the kitchen. The ottermaid nearly broke her rudder laughing at the comical sight the tiny cook and tall hare made. Patrick ran right out of the kitchens yelling out “March Hare, March Hare! Lack a season, the bally cook’s gone bonkers!” and out the Abbey door straight into the orchard and up the apple tree. He stayed up there for two hours, absolutely refusing to come down until he was sure that the pretty cook was gone. The cook huffed and puffed as she stood in the doorway, her eyes bright with indignation.
“No stomach on legs is going to eating in my kitchens while I’m around, by my auntie’s washtub ‘e ain’t!” Gem stopped laughing long enough to ask the cook’s name.
“My name is Abby Harebell. Though most ‘ere call me Cookie. Those who don’t want breakfast that is.” She smiled at them all in a friendly way, all her anger and rage gone. “So wot can I do fer you!” She asked standing up as tall as she could and putting her ladle under her arm like a Sergeant’s swagger stick. The Abbot chuckled.
“You can go out and belabor that hare some more.”
“Ooh that hare!” The pretty cook said stamping her footpad. “To think that ‘e ‘ad the audacity to actually steal one of my scones! Ooh, I wish I ‘ad ‘im ‘ere right now! That cad won’t think straight for a season!” The Abbot came back with the hare quivering in fear. The young male was muttering to himself.
“Madder than a March Hare that cookie is. Lovely creature though, even though she biffed me bonce one too many times, I can’t stop thinkin’ about how pretty she was when she was angry. Oh corks, I think I’m in love with the mad cook!” He looked at the tiny angry haremaid and stopped talking. She was glaring, but her paw was out for a handshake.
“Let’s call it a truce, old chap.” She said sternly. The irrepressible Patrick gave a wide beam and shook her paw vigorously.
“A spiffin’ honor it is to parley with you, my dear! Top-hole idea, absolutely, though I am rather hungry now from running so much.” Abbot Stelidae eyed a pan of soup on the stove; it was scarlet with bits of shrimp in the surface. He carefully removed the pot and handed it to the hare.
“Why don’t you try that?” He asked winking mischievously at the cook. She put a dainty paw to her mouth to hide her snickers. The hare, missing the wink and case of the giggles, beamed at the Abbot and downed the whole pot in seconds. He smiled at them all then stopped. He clutched his mouth, grew red about the face and ran around the Great Hall screaming, “Yah, I’m on fire! Somebeast help me, I’ve been poisoned!” The ottercrew and Rosabrush fell about laughing helplessly.
“Tain’t poison matey, it’s just ‘ot!” The Skipper laughed. The hare stopped running long enough to glare at him through watering eyes.
“Hot my auntie’s pinafore! If that’s not liquid fire then I’m a scalded duck!”
“You shore run like a scalded duck ye great feedbag!” One of the other otters called out in helpless laughter. The hare ran outside again and this time threw himself into the Abbey pond. The haremaid’s laughter added insult to injury. Gem laughed too.
“Oh poor Patrick, he must be so humiliated.” Kire nodded.
“Aye, but he’ll never raid the kitchens again. You better be careful young missy. He might try to get you back.” The maid shrugged.
“I am a cook sir. I sample all my food that I cook. If he thinks he can get me back with otter’s watershrimp an’ hotroot soup, he’s dreaming. I actually rather like that soup, it’s very tasty.” The otters grinned widely at the returning and sopping wet Patrick. He glared at them all then walked upstairs to the room he was shown, without saying a single word. Everybeast laughed.
Gem sat in her dormitory twiddling her paws and wondering how Patrick was. She sighed as she looked out the window at her new friend Kire. He was a strong otter, so kind, gallant, and brave…her thoughts trailed off and she shook head. She let out a breath and began to sing to herself while cleaning up the ransacked room that Patrick had previously occupied.