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Freedom Pirates

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From the sea he came, Molko and his crew of sea raiders, bound to plunder and destroy. But they are not alone. From the sea too came the unknown ship, Queen of the waves, and her crew of freedom pirates seeking new shores. Their captain, Jack Longtail hunting Molko for vengeance. Then when Molko kidnap two maids from Redwall, Jack and his crew join the pursuit along with three brave comrades from Redwall to defeat Molko once and for all and save the hostages.

Chapter 1

The sea was calm and silent. No wind whipped up the waves and no birds in the sky when the Blood Deep sailed on the sea. The cursed ship was a big flagship with incredible five mast and with a crew of sea raiders, they attacked every ship they saw. Countless hatches on both sides, revealed cannon barrels in large amount. They came from the land beyond the great sea, seeking new victims and booties. Bound to cause panic and to kill innocent creatures. Wherever they sail, they created fear, suffering and death in the places they visit. Dividing families, torturing young to death for their own entertainment and much more that is too cruel to believe. But one thing is certain, Blood Deep is death's messenger and its captain is evil itself.

"Ship'n sight!" a rat shouted from the mast. The cabin door flew up and Molko stept out. He was a huge fox with a more reddish fur than blood. In his black eyes, death were presence and his long black-gray pirate coat, fluttered in the wind when he examined the sea. A large sabre hung in a scabbard at his left leg. He was the pirate king, nobeast was more determined to kill, loot and destroy than he was. The devil in disguise, they said when they would describe Molko. The most mysterious was that nobeast knew where he came from, still less why he was who he is. Molko cast an eye on the rat.

"Where, yee shoutin' toad?" the rat responded by pointing with a claw at east. The big fox smiled. 'Finally, a ship to sink and new booty to take,' he thought.

"Well mah raiders. It seems that we have a new target." The crew yelled out cheers. Molko laughed and the crew laughed too. Blood Deep changed its course towards the ship on the horizon. Molko took out a spotting scope, stretched it out and looked closer at the ship. He smiled.

"A tradin' ship! 'aharr yee slimy guts, prepar'o board!" The crew immediately came on their legs and many whistled and laughed mockingly when the ship targeted came closer. The roar of cannon could be heard in the distance and smoke from their pipes rose like black pillars to the sky. The battle was quickly over. The trading ship burned and sank slowly to the ocean depths. Another ship, a ship that only causes suffering and death lay anchored close to it. Molko stood and watched, with a smile on his face, how the ship burned down. A rat with a red band around his head came up to the cruel captain.

"What shall'e do with the crew, cap'n?" he asked, nodding his head questioningly towards his left. Molko spun around quite slowly and looked at the ten wet and terrified prisoners, some of them quite young, who sat on their knees side by side. He looked at them like it was until now he had noticed them.

"Oh!" he said shortly with a faked, surprised voice. "What crew?" The rat smiled and nodded to those who stood behind the prisoners. Lots of different nasty weapon sang when they met the victim's heads, resulting in ten splash on the Barbord side. The ship changed course and sailed away from the sinking wreck. Molko continued to smile when the same rat in the mast shouted again.

"Land ho!"

Blood Deep have arrived to Mossflower.

Far away Blood Deep, another ship were also approaching Mossflower. The more unknowed Freedom Pirates and their ship Queen of the Waves. It was a beautiful frigate with three mast and many slots on the sides, all with one canon but still less than Blood Deep. The recognizable black flag with a scull and two sword crossing it, was swaying on the top of the middle mast. Theirs ship was small compared with Blood Deep but they have the speed and brave hearts. Many seasons ago, Molko and his infamous sea raiders, burned down the Freedom Pirates town and murdered the Pirate king. In many season, they have pursuit Molko but never caught him. This time they know where he's going and it's time for payback. Their captain, Jack Longtail was also a strong and fearsome fox. He had a eyepatch over his right eye after a violent fight with a shark and a big sabre hanged along his belt. He wore a black pirate robe and a three edged black hat. He´s called Longtail because of his abnormally long tail. Fighting to the death and never surrender was his motto. The crew consisted mostly of battle scarred otters but also some few examples of weasels, a measly-looking mouse and a young squirrel.

A dense fog settled over the seacoast when Queen of the Waves cast anchor in a small bay. Around the bay, plenty of reed was growing and high cliffs acted as a barrier against the harsh and high waves that constantly whipped the coast. Further inland, big trees was growing and surrounded by thick bushes made the bay a ideal hideout.

"It´s quiet. I don´t like it, don´t like it at all." a mouse in the stern mumbled. He wore a white, dirty tunic, nothing more.

"Yeah Baerly, yee´re right. It´s too quiet." A beast beside say. It was a otter with a brown long cape and a sabre beside his waist plus two pistols in the waistbelt.

"I 'onder what cap´n goin' t'do mate?" he asked Baerly. Baerly sighed and throw a pebble over the deck.

"I'm guessing that it isn't any good, Darlof. He's still blind with vengeance. Even now when we have found this perfect place to settle down and live peaceful life but no, that idiot is still unforgiving."

"Yee should watch yeer tounge before yee lose it! Yeer're last Mate, remembe' that!” Darlof laughed scornfully and hit Baerly hard on the shoulder. Baerly grimaced in pain and shied away and should just walk away when a voice led him to solidify.

"O yes. I'm really a big idiet, yee liddle flea-bitten, wimpy, lily-livered swab. Swab the deck instead of insultin' yeer cap'n!" Jack had heard everything and was not in a good mood. The whole ship got silent.

"Oh, I'm sorry cap'n, it wasn't meant-" Baerly tried to defend himself as he backed off.

"It wasn't meant t'me to hear it." Jack stared seriously and cross at Baerly who felt unsafe and scared.

"This isn't the first time yee tried t'get mah crew to mutiny." Jack said and lifted Baerly with a hard grip on his throat. Baerly tried to get air while he said. "Mercy cap'n, mercy." Jack shook his head.

"Yee've always been a coward and always'll be but yee can take it easy. I'll not hurt yee ... yet. Yee still needed t'clean the deck!" Jack let go off his grip and Baerly fell to the deck. He lay there in a desperate attempt to get his breath, stroked his throat as he crept away, away from the angry captain as much as possible.

"If I hear yee one more time, I cut yeer up by mahself, and throw yeer guts overboard an' continu' with yeer duties!" Jack said after Baerly and shouted the last words to his crew who had gathered around to see the resurrection, then he slammed the cabin door. Even after the captain had left, the ship continued to be silent. Darlof broke the silence by shouting out orders.

"Okay, that's enough with not t'do anythin'. Tie the mainsail and den I wanna hav'a look on our weaponry an' a check over the cannons, is that clear?" A chorus answered. "Aye, aye, first mate!" Darlof saw in the corner of his eye how Baerly sat and coughed at the ship's railing.

"If I wer'ye, I wouldn't try anymor', got it?" Darlof said when he walked up to the coughing mouse.

"It isn't healthy fo'ye. Stick with cleanin' the deck! Here!" he laughed and throw a dirty mop right in Baerly's face and walked away. Baerly remained there, with the mop over his head, revenge calling in his eyes while he cursed the captain and the first mate.

"I'll have my revenge, trust me on that!"

Chapter 2

On the path that led to Redwall, two young otters walked. A male and a female and paw in paw, they were on their way to the famous abbey which colored whole Mossflower with its red bricks and could be seen far away. Dusk began to fall when they caught sight of the abbey. It stood out like an oasis in the desert.

"Oh, Duncan, will it not be fun to see everybeast again after all these seasons? 'specially my best friend, Sophie! She must be grown up by now, I reckon." The big otter, named Duncan, smiled.

"Absolutely my dear. But what really attracts me is the legendary food!"

"Oh, you and your belly!" she replied irritably and struck him in the stomach and ran ahead.

"Aoo, Wen, was that necessary?" he shouted after her. Wen, or Wencie as her real name was, smiled teasingly and stretched out her tongue.

"No, now you're just childish!" Duncan cried and struck the ground with his big rudder-like tail.

"It's only you who don't have your desire to be a dibbun again!" Duncan nodded.

"Something like that yes! But I don't make a fool of myself!" Wen stoped with her plays and allowed Duncan to catch up.

"I can't wait to see the abbot's look when we tell them we're married." Duncan laughed and put his arm around her and pulled her close to him.

"I remember like it was yesterday when we were down the coast ..." Wen gave a little relieved sigh.

"It was 'onderful... in the middle of the sunset, we found each other, remember?" Duncan nodded.

"Yes, but it was love at first glance, wasn't it?" Wen nodded in reply and said "Absolutely!" Duncan and Wencie were still laughing when they knocked at the gate of Redwall. A nervous voice could be heard on the other side.

"Who is it? Friend or foe?" Duncan laughed with delight when he answered.

"Farhol, ol' buddy, it's me, Duncan!" Duncan and Wen took a step back when the door opened and a hedgehog appeared. He had both a big grin on his face but also a surprised expression as he welcomed them.

"Duncan, it wasn't yesterday! Oh, whatta surprise!" Farhol turned to Wen.

"Oh, Wen, you've grown. The last time I saw you, you was just a little toddler. Welcome home."

"Thanks. Home sweet home, Farhol!" Wen said with a dreamy look in her eyes.

"Couldn't have said it better." Farhol and Wen hugged each other.

"You better come in and talk to Abbott Treejolper. He'll be really excited to see you two again."

"So, the old fogy hasn't given up yet? That was a tough rascal!" Duncan said, when the three went to the abbey's doors. Farhol laughed at the remark.

"Oh no, he's very alive. Occasionally he got those-" Farhol was interrupted when a seemingly comical hare met them, wearing a ridiculous green tunic with sewn-together pieces everywhere on it.

"Oh, hang me upside down in a bloomin' flag pole, wot. Isn't it Duncan and the little lass Wen?"

"Lewi, you ol' fool! You haven't changed at all after all these seasons!" Duncan said and the two made a friendly hug and slapped each other heartily on the back until Lewi tried to breath when Duncan hugged too hard.

"And you're as tough as usual!" He said and greeted Wen and then followed the trio inside. Although the two otters received a warm welcome, Abbot Treejolper took the price when he almost jumped in surprise when Duncan and Wen had crept up and stood right behind him when he spun around.

"Bless my whiskers! Duncan and ... and little Wen, you ... you're back!"

"Hey Abbot. Missed us?" Wen asked and the two hugged each other warmly.

"If I have? It hasn't gone a day without thinking of you." The Abbot, or Abbot Treejolper, was a seemingly ancient squirrel and wore a typical Redwall clothing. His tiny glasses balanced at the tip of his nose and his paws was shaking uncontrollably.

"This calls for a celebration!" He said and Lewi's ears stood straight up and with a dreamy look, he struck Treejolper lightly on the shoulder.

"Jolly 'onderful, that's my spirit! In with the cake, wot!" Treejolper fought back and berated the disrespectful hare.

"Oh no, before you get any cake, you must wash up all the pots in the kitchen. It might give you second thoughts." Lewi ears drooped at once and he walked away, faked sobbing. The friends had a hard time not laughing at his pathetic attitude.

"What's happenin' with ol' Redwall really, wot? Where is the bloomin' friendship, the jolly joys, the cake?"

"So, my friends. You must be very tired, I'll see to it that you can rest without being disturbed." Wen curtsied.

"Thanks Father Abbot, we're actually very tired or aren't we Duncan?" Duncan was about to say that he had to much energy to sleep, when Wen kicked him in the shin. He grimaced while he answered.

"Oh yes, very, very tired!" Abbot nodded.

"Farhol will show you the way to the guest room. We'll wake you when it's time for breakfast, because I believe you will sleep like logs all night long, right?" Abbot looked a bit suspicious at them and had a small grin on his face when he left them in Farhols paws.

"All right then, friends. Follow me!" Farhol said with a smile and clapped his paws. He led them up a long stone staircase that curved slightly. Everywhere there was beasts, hurring in their own buisness. Dibbuns running down the stairs almost collided with Duncan and Wen.

"No running down the stairs, you could hurt yourself!" Farhol waved angrily with a claw and muttered to himself when the little ones just laughed and continued their game. But a little baby mouse remained behind, his eyes shone as he pointed to the two otters.

"Wooh a dju?" he asked. Duncan laughed and embraced him, lifted him up and wiggled the mouse's nose.

"Two weary travelers who intend to stay here for a few days, is it okay?" the dibbun nodded and Duncan lifted him down to the ground. Once on the ground, he looked up at Duncan.

"My nam is Dvun! Niss o meet dju," and then he ran after the other dibbuns.

"That was Dvun, Redwall's little troublemaker. He has difficulties to speak but it seems like he just able to say his name right. Anyway..." Farhol said and then stretched out his paw in a gesture if it was in their intention to continue.

"shall we continue?" Farhol continued to lead them through almost endless halls until they reached their destination.

"This is more private guest room. Here it is always quiet. See you tomorrow!" Farhol bows out, leaving Wen and Duncan at the room. Wen looked at Duncan with an alarming look. Duncan understood at once. "Aha!" he said and Wen laughed and pulled him into the room. The door shut with a bang.

A new day dawned and the sun rose quickly over the treetops to a cloudless sky. The forest outside the abbey swarmed with birdsong in the trees. The meadow to the west was in full bloom and anemones endlessly covered the whole side of the trail that led to the abbey. It was a warm spring and the beginning of a summer, free from clouds and cold days. Wencie and Duncan was still asleep when somebeast knocked on the door slightly and opened carefully.

"Good mornin', have you sleep well?" The two otters yawned and replied at same time with a "Yes!". It was Farhol and he had a big grin on his face.

"Breakfast's ready, all beast is gathering. Will you join us?" The otters were out of bed in no time and hurried past the surprised hedgehog.

"I take that as a yes, then!" he shouted after them. Wen and Duncan managed to get to the hallway leading to Cavern Hole when something jumped on Wen, laughing and shouting "Wen!!". It was a young, pretty squirrelmaid and they both lay on the floor and laughed heartily. Duncan stood and watched the spectacle with a big grin on his face. Wen and the squirrelmaid stood up again, still laughing and hugging.

"Sophie, my little Sophie. What you've grown!" Wen cried and so did Sophie. But it was not of sorrow but of joy.

"You're back, you really are. Oh, how I've missed you!" Sophie wiped away the last tears with her arm and looked into Wen's eyes.

"Have you missed me?" she asked.

"With all my heart!" Sophie smiled. She looked at Duncan.

"Hello Duncan!" she said shortly with a nodd.

"Nice to see you again, Sophie." Duncan replied and they both shook paws hastily.

"He's handsome. Take your luck there, Wencie." Sophie whispered to Wen. Wen nodded and replied shortly with "I will!".

"Shall we proceed to the dining hall before Lewie arrives from his usual patrol on the wall. He gets quite hungry and when I mean hungry I mean starving."

"Better hurry then, mm?" Duncan said and the three ran to the dining hall and sat down together at the same table. Most were already engaged to satisfy their grumbling stomachs. When Treejolper saw that Duncan and Wen had arrived, he thumped with his paw on the table to get everybeast's attention. And it was given to him, eventually.

"Ladies and gentlebeasts, all those present, it gives me great pleasure to welcome two Redwallers back to Redwall. Wencie and Duncan!" Abbot swept with his paw in their direction and everybeast turned around and applauded and shouted words of welcome. Duncan and Wen thanked them all, quite embarrassed. Abbot smiled briefly before continuing.

"And to celebrate their return, I summon a feast tomorrow evening and I hope everybeast will do their best to really celebrate these two youngsters back home." Everybeast in the dining hall whistled and cheered and praised the abbot. Loudest of them all was Lewi who had just come in and when he was again told that it would be a feast, he ran to the center of the dining hall and jumped on a table, food and plates flew in all directions.

"This is Redwall, my dear ol' friends. Let us celebrate the jolly feast with a big, tasty and just a wonderful cakely cake!" Treejolper looked sternly at him and pointed to the kitchen.

"Lewi, the pots, now!" Lewi ears drooped for the second time and he went with the same attitude as before, to the kitchen. Everybeast laughed at the hare.

"It's just not fair, wot. I just wanted a small, small piece of cake, and what do I get? Scrub pots until mah paws turn into sponges, wot!" The order in the dining room was quickly fixed and all ate at their own pace. After the richly and delicious breakfast, Sophie pulled Wen out of the dining hall, the abbey and out into the orchard. Duncan saw the two disappear, and he sighed lightly. Farhol put one paw over his shoulder.

"She's a nice lass, Duncan. Don't lose her." Farhol then went away.

"Not as long as I breathe!" Duncan said to himself.

Sophie jumped in joy and pride when she was standing by an apple tree.

"Do you remember this tree?" she asked Wen. Wen remembered every little berry bush, fruit tree and even most of the plantations, but that tree, she could not remember. She shook her head. Sophie laughed and climbed easily up the tree as only a squirrel can do. Once up there, she threw an apple to Wen and took herself a bite out of one.

"I thought so." she said then, dangling her legs and laughed teasingly.

"It's the tree we planted for so many seasons ago. Do you remember when we were little and played here and how old Liva almost forced us plant this tree?" Wen nodded. She remembered it all too well. It had been the start of spring and the old gardener Liva had got them to sow a seed from an apple and they had loved it. They had laught and the sun had shone brightly. That was happy memories, but too distant now.

"Are you okay, Wen? You look a bit absent!" Sophie's voice got Wen to shake her head and leave the memories behind.

"I'm fine, just old memories." Sophie nodded understandably.

"It was a wonderful time. But we're adults now, and full of duties and jobs. There is no time left for entertainment." It was then Wen got an idea. She urged that Sophie would climb down and so she did. She looked questioningly at her best friend.

"How about taking a walk tomorrow before the feast? You know, one of the walks we did when we were young and you climbed the trees and I swam in the stream. I still remember our secret path we used to take. And we can talk secrets!" Sophie began to jump up and down with joy and she embraced Wen.

"Oh, Wen, it's an excellent idea!"

"I know!" Wen smiled and then when The sun shone and the winds began to sail over the walls and played whistling tunes in the orchard, the two best friends, laughing, ran off.

Chapter 3

Two days had now passed since Duncan and Wen returned home. This day was completely free from clouds as the previous and the sun shone clear and strong. The whole landscape was almost piercing green. Many beasts in the abbey was busy preparing for the evening feast and it was almost chaotic. Everywhere all kind of beasts ran, carrying sacks of flour and jars with honey to the kitchen, fine cloths and furnishing towards the entrance. In the opposite direction, the bearers of all possible drinks from the cellar came, unaware of the ambush ahead. The dibbuns thought it was great fun to be in the way of the bearers who carried the most sticky or most difficult. Angry parents arrived at the scen quickly and chase the dibbuns who ran out with wild and noisy shrieks.

Wen and Sophie stood and weighed over whether they should bring food or not on their walk. In the middle of the kitchen they stood, and they had picked up plenty of supplies on a table. Redwall's chef smiled and shook his head at the two friends' arguments, but he kept quiet and continued with his work, preparing the feast food. Sophie wanted but Wen didn't.

"We will be hungry!" Sophie pointed out, but Wen was still a bit unsure. She had promised Duncan that it would only be a short stroll but now she was not sure anymore.

"Come on, we can take a picnic, too. The weather's just too perfect to be rejected a picnic!" That got Wen to change her mind and she agreed, but with a slight of hesitation.

"Thought it would change your mind. You have always had a weakness for food." Sophie laughed and ran around the table when Wen tried to catch her. After a few rounds, they were dizzy in the head and sat down heavily, still laughing. The chef came up with each glass of elderberry cordial, with a small smile on his face. Wen and Sophie thanked the kind chef that bowed politely and quickly went away on some errand. The two friends enjoying their drinks with much delight.

"This, we must take with us!" Sophie said, pointing to the glass. Wen nodded as she drank.

"It would be criminal not to do it." she answered, and both laughed. They were not affected by the chaos outside the kitchen and continued in peace and quiet to pack their bags. Outside, they almost collided with lots of dibbuns fleeing from an angry mole with a broom at the ready and wearing a squashed pie on the head with glaze running down his nose. Wen and Sophie giggled at the spectacle. They passed the crowds and began to walk towards the maingate with Farhol on their heels. The two maids had predicted the hot weather and taken the short tunics to the walk. Wen squinted up at the sun and she sighed a relieved sigh. It was indeed a marvelous day.

"What a wonderful day for hikin', doncha think, Sophie?" Sophie ran ahead and made somersaults, jumps and quick rush on the grass and she howled in delight.

Wen laughed at her friend's amusement. "Oh, Sophie. You're a little dibbun, you know that!" Sophie did not answer and ran ahead to the gate instead. There she stood later and stamped her paw on the ground, arms crossed and a bored expression in her face. Her tail was almost like a whip splittting the air.

"It was about time." She said shortly. Farhol pushed her quite sharp away from the gate in order to put an old key in its locker. Sophie snorted but Farhol ignored her.

"Are you really going out there without somebeast who can defend you if something would happen?" Farhol was very nervous by nature and he really tried to get the two maids to give up this idea. Sophie laughed derisively at him, eager to get revanche.

"As if that would be a problem! Yes, because the forest's full of vermin, thieves and pirates – and a gigantic raven takes us and feeds its chicks with us! What's the odds for that, eh?"

Farhol looked angrily at her. "You can never be completely sure. Filthy bushtail." The last sentence he whispered.

"Take it easy Farhol. We'll not be away for long. I promised Duncan to be home before the feast! Don't want to miss it, do I!" Wen said, and she and Sophie had Farhol open the gate for them. They went out and walked towards the forest while they waved back at Farhol.

"You can never be sure!" Farhol repeated to himself before he shut the gate. But before the gate was entirely shut, something small and quickly slipped by without Farhol noticed it and went after Wen and Sophie into the woods.

The sun shone through the trees and made the entire landscape as a large single, beautiful dream. Everywhere on the grassy bed, there were flowers in many colors and the smell was lovely. Wen was happy, her eyes sparkling with delight. She was accustomed to this kind of thing. She and Duncan had walked so many times through fine woods like this one on their journey from the seacoast to Redwall. Sophie on the other hand was totally crazy with joy. This was the first time she had put her paw outside Redwall in a long time. She was everywhere, in trees, bushes and sometimes on the path, jumping up and down, urging Wen to join her game, but when Wen refused, Sophie disappeared again amongst the underground. Wen ignored her friend and walked to the edge of the path and made a discovery when she cleared away a few bushes and ferns. She found a well-hidden, old and slingering path in the forest. A small stream ran alongside the path and further away you could hear the sound of a small waterfall. Its sparkling, clear water rushed forward.

"Here it is, Sophie. See, it's left! How 'onderful" Wen called for Sophie who was a bit behind and began to ran when Wencie shouted. She gasped when she arrived.

"Can't you take it easy with your steps, another have difficult to keep up." Wen apologized with pretty red cheeks and she had hard not to laugh.

"If you stopped being everywhere, it would probably go better." she said jokingly.

"I never thought Mossflower can be so beautiful. Maybe because I have rarely been outside Redwall, the abbot has forbidden me. Sometimes, believe me or not, he treats me like his own daughter. Always defending and caring towards me. That's at least you can tell about Lewi." Sophie laughed when she thought about the annoying and always so happy hare, wash pots and pans.

Wen thought it was funny too. "Yes, I remember his expression when he was sent away to wash! That, I shall not forget in the first place."

Wen went over a small wooden bridge that crossed the stream that had suddenly changed direction and crossed the path.

"What was that with Farhol? He seemed very angry and rude. And you were rude back." Wen asked suddenly. Sophie shrugged her shoulders rather nonchalantly as if it was uncomfortable to talk about when she instead of going over the bridge, jumped over.

"He don't like me and I don't like him, that's all. It started after you and Duncan had left Redwall. When I didn't have anybeast else to tease with, I supposed that Farhol wouldn't be offended when I teased him a bit; but I was wrong."

"Teased a bit? Sofie, you can never 'tease a bit'!" Wen said with a raised eyebrow. Sophie looked a bit embarrassed, but she kept her spirit up anyway.

"Well, often then! But I'm sure he would kill me when I was asleep!"

Wen looked at her with a doubting glance. "Farhol?" she asked hesitantly.

Sophie nodded. "Yep, he'as something against me, maybe all squirrels. I have seen how he looks at me with disgust and how he tries to smile when the abbot pass. He has something against us squirrels."

"You exaggerate Sophie. He may just be tired of your teasing, that's all. I would! Have you not thought that it might be tiring to be assaulted all the time?"

Sophie scratched her head. "When you say like that yes, maybe I was exaggerating but we still don't like each other."

"He's quite so new right? Had not been so long in the abbey as everybeast else. Who knows where he came from and what he did before."

Sophie nodded. Wen thought about it and tried to imagine the background. After a while she felt that she did not get anywhere, so she stopped to think about Farhol and Sophie's fight, but started thinking instead about how lovely the landscape was. Sophie did the same thing, clearing her head of bad thoughts and that strange, rude hedgehog. The path they were on winding constantly and it became more and more a challenge to stay on it. The path was getting narrower and narrower. So narrow that the two friends had to dodge low-hanging branches and avoiding thorny bushes that had spread out on the path. Wen almost stumbled on a big tree root that crossed the path. Sophie got almost her right eye protrusion by a sharp stick hanging out of the trees.

"Aoo, what this path has become overgrown since we were here last!" Sophie rubbed her right eye and a few tears ran down her cheek. Wen asked how it went and Sophie nodded mutely in response. After a number of these kinds of incidents, the path finally began to expand.

"Oh Wen! Look!" Sophie suddenly exclaimed, pointing to a large pine tree in a clearing ahead.

"It still standing. I thought that the storm last season took it. Look at all these branches!" Sophie got something called 'Squirrelrush-kick' and she rushed to the tree, disappeared rapidly inside the overgrown branches. Wen smiled at her friend's playfully mind. Sophie was younger and Wen felt a responsibility towards her. Wen would never let anybeast hurt her. Sophie was not just her best friend, she was the sister Wen never had.

She stood there and examined the surroundings. "Think it has been such a long time I was here. It's so strange and yet wonderful that everything's still the same. Wonder why it's-" A cone hit her on the forehead, interrupted her thoughts and landed on her outstretched paw. Wen looked thoughtfully at it and then looked up at the pine top. Mostly she saw from her friend was her broom-like tail that repeatedly stood out among the overgrown branches drenched in conifer. Giggles came from a lower branch and Wen took aim with a cone and threw it. An "ouch!" were heard up in the tree, followed by "Where did that come from?"

Wen called on her. "Don't worry about magical cones now. Come on down so we can have that picnic before I get too hungry, and perhaps longing for squirrel stew!" Wen stood and swung the bag back and forth as an attempt to threaten her.

"What are we waiting for then?" Sophie said just beside her and Wen jumped with surprise. Wencie just shook her head with a smile and sat down at the big pine tree. Sophie soon made her company, jumping happily. The sun was now just above them and lit up the glade, made it incredibly beautiful. The trees' green leaves reflected the rays in a spooky way and sent them against the two creatures under the pine tree. Sophie protected eyes when sunlight hit her.

"Isn't this life? To be free and do whatever you wanna do, without others deciding over your life and instead be forever young! I wish this could forever stay." She said between bites of a scone she had recieved. They had not taken so much as they actually could. A few scones, elderberry cordial, some apples and a sweet cake that quickly disappeared into Wen's mouth.

"Hey, save some for me!" Sophie threw a pine cone but missed. Wen laughed at Sophie's nonserious outbreak. There they sat and enjoyed the sun, life and freedom, but they did not know that this day was not as good as they thought and their freedom soon will end.

Further down in the south, Blood Deep lay anchored off the coast, very near the great mountain and fortress, Salamandrastron. The extinct volcano stood as a giant, firm guardian, ready to defend the coast and Mossflower against all possible threats and at any cost. Molko had heard rumors that only death awaits the vermin who approach the mountain. He had heard the stories about great warlords perish under that mountain. The story of one particular warlord was the story of Feragho the Assassin. Molko found it very amusing that such a big and dangerous vermin made totally a fool of himself against some rabbits and a badger. This ancient rock has always instilled fear into any vermin, and the badger lord who governing makes the area not suitable for raids, in the vermin's point of view. But the red fox was not afraid of any Badger lord or unbeatable rabbits, but in case, he ordered his crew to lay anchor further out. On the beach there was a small boat half way up with sixteen paw prints leading into the woods. Further inland, a company of eight dreadful, murderous vermin scouting the landscape on Molko's orders after anything worth looting or defenseless beasts to kill. Some of them cursed over the dense vegetation and the spiky thorns, unused after several seasons at sea. The ferret, which went to the front and was probably the leader, spun around and hit them on the head with a stick he had taken up from the ground.

"Quiet and stop sobbin'. The purpose of scoutin' is t'be completely silent, yeer slow-witted worms."

"But Fangeel, it's so jagged here an' my fur is takin' damage." A rat objected. Fangeel sighed before the rage came and he threw the rat into a tree, recieving a pounding headache.

"So, now ye have something else to think about than yeer damn fur. Is there anybeast else who thought about complainin'? Maybe you Slimenose?" The rat who had complained shook his head while he held both his paws over his head in an attempt to stop the spin. It did not work that good. The rest of the crew kept quiet and the ferret smiled.

"Very well then, we continue!"

"Boss, look!" Another rat exclaimed suddenly, pointing to something big and red through the trees ahead.

"Oh, pull the pulley. It's that legendary abbey... what was it called now? Gerhall, Rehall?" Fangeel crept up to the trees bordering the forest and open ground.

The same rat who spot it said. "Renwall I think boss." The ferret nodded in reply. He could not believe his eyes. Of all the places they had been on, he had never seen such great walls before.

"This'a absolutely something to plunder, eh, right buckoes?"

"Aye!" the other said shortly, still petrified after this discovery.

"We better report this to Cap'n, then! Who knows what's in there? Jewels, gold, diamonds, gems everywhere maybe!" They turned about and headed back to shore but stopped when a strange and unfamiliar sound reached their ears. The sound was not unpleasant in any way.

"What's that?" Fangeel asked. A weasel with better hearing, began swinging back and forth. The ferret did not understand.

"Well, spit it out then?" He hit the weasel over the head.

"Aooo boss, there is somebeast who sings ... absolutely adorable." The weasel had a dreamy look and began to swing again. The ferret sighed and did a 'face-paw' when all the others also began to sway in line with the song. Soon, the song reached his ears as well. The voice was soft and sounded lovely. It was the finest he had ever heard, but Fangeel ignore it and made a gesture to keep moving forward and they approached whoever it was who sang.

I runnin' to my love, before the autumn comes.

Feels like I'm 'bove, tomorrow gives the day.

Growin' colder everyday an' hopin' the truth's somewhere, to be found.

But, soon's the time is mere, and the sun's shinin' bright.

Couldn't it be the same ol' dream, I come to know.

We'll find each other here, and it will be all right.

Now I'm living the dream, where I do bow.

Our love remains and will not break away, my love.

The spark will forever burn, inside my heart.

Without you, what's the aim to break, will I this way, forever rove.

I couldn't know that it was too late, to begin the start.

But one day, I will be at your arms, once again.

Now the vermin saw who was singing. In a clearing and under a large pine tree, an ottermaid sat and sang with a smooth voice that could make even the loveliest birdsong jealous. Beside her, a younger squirrelmaid lay with her head in the otter's knee and probably asleep.

The ferret smiled evilly. "It looks like we've just found a barga'n. The cap'n'll be pleased with these two pretty and young singer and dancer. It's exactly what he wants back in his palace at Derra Island!"

"Can't we just kill them? It's been a while I got pierce somebeast with my sabre." A rat said, wearing a sabre and dressed in brown rags.

The ferret shook his head. "No Plugnose, these two're too important for nonsense like that. No, we need them 'live and in good condition. Spread out and approach them quietly. At my command, we jump out and scare the life out of them, haha!" The group split up almost without a sound.

At Queen of the Waves the supplies began to run out, and Jack was not in a good mood. He paced to and fro on the ship, his head in deep thought and his arms behind his back. Many of the crew was everywhere and crowded in the shadows, cursed the hot sun. The smell of sweat was almost unbearable and the heat didn't make it better. Jack wiped his forehead with his sleeve. Sweat that ran down his face, stuck in the coat and made it sticky.

"Blaste' sun an' this drat lands. Who can live here, it's outrageous." He took out a bottle and drank, but when no fluid reached his tongue, he looked incredulously at the bottle and turned upside down on it.

"Well, now's the rum gone too! Why's the rum gone?" He said and asked himself with a sigh and threw the bottle angrily overboard. Darlof walked up to the tottering captain who was now down in the dumps, without his morning rum.

"Yeer orders, cap'n?" Darlof asked gently, not quite sure how the captain would respond. Jack shrugged. He looked up at the mast where a young squirrel lay and sunbathed. He wore a white tunic, like one Baerly wearing, but this one was not dirty. A red ribbon was wrapped around his head and he wore no weapons.

"Jesse, up with yee and report what ya see!" Jack shouted. The young squirrel, named Jesse, was on his feet immediately and began to examine the environment, one paw over his eyes to keep the sun off. He shook his head.

"No, Jack. I see nothing, except trees, trees, trees... trees. Oh have I mention trees?"

"Jesse! Stop foolishin' an' continue scoutin'!" Jack shouted, short-tempered.

"But cap'n, all I see is trees, trees... no wait a minute..." He picked up a spotting scope and raised one eyebrow.

"I see something ... red and large, yonder over treetops. It looks to be some kind of tower, but with bells. Why didn't I see it 'efore. Am I drunk mayb'?" Jessee sat down quite confused.

"Plunderin' time, maybe?" Jack said thoughtfully and turned to Darlof. "What ya say, ol' seadog?"

Darlof grinned and replied with "Plunder, Cap'n, plunder!"

"Glad yee agree'! Well then, matey, take ten lazy, snivellers and check out that tower! Maybe we found something worth stealin'."

"Yee heard the cap'n, yeer salt-lovin' ruffians. Yee ten!" Darlof said and pointed at ten random, lazy-looking beasts. Seven otters, two ferrets and one ermine stood up on dangling legs, their faces radiated pure tiredness and a desire for finding some coolness.

"Follow me, yeer excuse for raida's! It's plunder time!" When the squirrel heard this, he began to climb down eagerly.

"Not yee, Jesse fella. Yeer job is up there not down here." Jack said with a determined voice.

Jesse sighed. "But, please!" He pleaded but Jack just shook his head and walked away, hoping that there might be a little rum left in his cabin. Jesse sighed again and climbed up, muttering to himself.

"Never got t'do something fun here. Always climb up on this bloomin' mast, I must. It's a hard life being a pirate, I say! I even begin to sound like a hare, wot!” He butted his head against the mast several times before sitting down with a headache. "Lovely!" he said to himself sarcastic.

The heat had caused many creatures to seek shade and coolness inside the abbey. The halls were almost filled with panting, sweating and tired beasts. One of those who did not have any of that, was Duncan who went in Cavern Hole, his restless mind could not give him peace.

"They would have been back by now. She said she would only be away for a moment." Duncan was talking to himself and walked to and fro, sometimes hitting the wall with his paw.

"They will be back in due course, Mr Duncan. Unwind a bit like everybeast else, we don't want to have the walls torn down, right?" suddenly a voice said. Duncan spun around and saw that the abbot sat in an armchair in the shade, his eyes fixed on the otter.

"Oh, Father Abbot, I didn't see ya yonder ... uh, I just, I'm worried over Wencie and Sophie! They've been gone for a long time now."

"And this trouble your heart young one?"

"If something have happened them-"

The abbot nodded and stood up. "Love is great ... wonderful infact, mmh! Well, I must be going, feast you know... just don't loose your sense! Be patient, they'll be back before you know it." He muttered before he left Duncan.

"What did you say?" Duncan asked, but Treejolper just shook his shoulders and then he was gone. Duncan started walking towards the exit when somebeast came running towards his direction. It was a middle-aged mousemaid and she looked terrified.

"Ooh, Mr Duncan, I'm so glad I found you!" she said breathlessly. Duncan took her before she met the ground when she fell.

"What has happened?" Duncan helped her to stand on her legs again.

"My Dvun, my son, he ... he's gone!" She started crying and Duncan led her to a chair.

"There, there. Where did you last see him, Joice?"

Joice, as her name was, looked up thoughtfully. "In the orchard with the other ones, I think. Oh dear Duncan, find him before he gets hurt."

Duncan patted her trembling paw. "Take it easy. You will see that we'll find him. He propably lies and sleep somewhere, I suppose. In the cool places are probably best to look first."

Joice nodded between her tears. "You're right, thanks!"

Break was over for everybeast. In the hot weather they were looking for Dvun everywhere in the abbey. When the day began to come to an end, a meeting was arranged in Cavern Hole. Treejolper created order by allowing Duncan to beat the stone floor with his rudder-like tail. All turned to the abbot and Duncan.

"Dear friends. It gives me a great burden to announce that Dvun isn't on the abbey's land and he may be out in the woods. And therefor I cancelling the feast for now on!" Treejolper said and Joice almost fainted. Some other in the room sighed and they could almost have sworn that they heard sobs from inside the kitchen.

"Oh, my Dvun!" She was appalled. Two moles stopped her from passing out again by grabbing her before she reached the ground, while they themselves stumbled and got their faces kissed by the cold stone floor.

"We will 'ave to search through the entire woods then, wot!" Lewi said and jumped forward and turned to the audience.

"Well, who's with me?" He said dramatically. Nobeast answered. Some whistled at the back and one coughed a bit uncomfortable.

"Selfish rutabagas, isn't anybeast who wants to support Duncan and me with the search for the youn' fellow? Go forth as common peasants, returning as heroes?"

Farhol, surely regretting himself and bit his lips, went up. "I will stand by your side, pal!" Three others were also addressed. One of the moles who had got to know the floor more closely and had a towel over his nose to stop the nose blood, two mice, one was Joice.

"If my son's out there, I will not be sittin' here and waitin'." she stood up straight and looked determined.

"That's the spirit we need, matey!" Duncan shouted at the audience.

"Brave comrades on a lethal mission. A suicide mission! A mission we might not return alive! Ah, like the ol' days, mates!" He said jokingly and then he, Lewie and the rest leaved Cavern Hole. Only Farhol was left, his paw shaking and he was sweating uncontrollably.

"Lethal, suicide? B-but...what?"

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