Sandflower the young wildcat looked out her window. Snowflakes twirled down like feathers of a great white bird. The white powder blanketed her home. Sandflower watched the snow flurries, wondering if it would keep coming until their farm house was completely covered.
Sandflower's mother, Lady Felisa, came into the room. In her paws she carried a fresh baked loaf of bread with chopped nuts and fruit. Felisa always baked the most wonderful food. She would make scones, pies, turnovers, tarts, breads, pastries, cakes, and so many other delicious things.
Every time Sandflower's family harvested a crop, Felisa would make her baked goods. They all sat at the table and there was great celebrating. Sandflower's father, Silvestren, often teased her about becoming a Redwall cook. Even though they had never been to Redwall before, they had heard about the wonderful place.
Silvestren was a strong wildcat, yet gentle and a wonderful father. Silvestren's strength had come from work on their farm in Mossflower Woods. Sandflower and her brother, Forestelm, often helped their parents with the farming. Unlike some other wildcats who had frequented Mossflower country, Sandflower's family was peaceful and good.
"Sandflower, go call Silvestren and Forestelm. Tell them that we are going to Redwall Abbey!"
At Redwall Abbey, there was another great summer feast. Moles and mice, hedgehogs and hares, owls and otters, squirrels and shrews, there were so many friends! There was also great feasting as well. A hare named Bellpaw, with several small bells jingling from his sleeves, was challenging Skipper of Otters to see who could eat down the most hotroot soup.
Bellpaw dished up a bowl of the fiery soup and proclaimed rather noisily, "Oh, Skip, I absojollylutely think I can scoff down more of that soup than you can, wot!"
Skipper merely grinned. "It's pretty, hot, Bellpaw. I don't think you should-" Skipper was broken off by Bellpaw bounding out of his chair, clutching his throat. "Aaaahhh! I'm burning up! My throat's on fire!" The hare grabbed a pitcher of iced tea and poured it down his throat. Skipper laughed goodnaturedly. "Well, Bellpaw, that's a lesson for you."
A group of Dibbuns was playing over in the corner, eating candied chestnuts a young hedgehog, Spikewell, was giving to them. "I got these from the Badgermum!" he proclaimed. "Come on and let's feast!"
Suddenly Melanie, the Badger Mother of Redwall, looked and saw them. "Come on, Spikewell," she said. "You know you have to ask before taking my candied chestnuts."
"I'm sorry," said Spikewell. "I wanted to share them with my friends!"
"Spikewell, you can share the rest of your chestnuts. But remember to ask next time."
"I promise, Badgermum!"
After that incident had been taken care of, there were newcomers to the feast. A kindly family of cats sat down at the table. Lady Felisa, the mother, brought in her fresh-baked tarts, talking with Melanie. The father, Silverstren, sat at the table, with Forestelm and Sandflower.
Silverstren spoke with Abbot Timothy, an old mouse. "Good Timothy, we are newcomers to Mossflower, peaceful farmers. We just settled in our farmhouse. We would like to be your friends. This is my son, Forestelm. This is my daughter, Sandflower." The old mouse smiled. "Friends are always welcome to our Abbey!" After the feasting was over, Sandflower talked with the new Recorder of Redwall Abbey, a squirrelmaid named Sister Bluebell.
"Bluebell, I am sure the Redwallers would like to know how we came to Mossflower Woods. I wrote a journal about us, and I'm sure you would like to read it."
"Sandflower, what would you think if I not only read your journal, I made it into a story?"
"Would you? That would be wonderful!"
One season later, Redwallers all crowded around Cavern Hole to hear Sandflower and Bluebell tell the story. There was great chattering and amicable talking back and forth. Then Sandflower silenced the crowd.
"Excuse me, everyone, we are about to begin our tale." The young wildcat motioned to Bluebell. She began.
"Once upon a time..."
Felisa and Silverstern were having an important conversation. Their children, Sandflower and Forestelm, curious as usual, were listening in.
"Felisa, our land cannot produce crops since that devastating flood. We have to move!"
"Silvestren, it's so far. It will be hard on the children."
"I'm afraid it is our only choice."
"Where will we go?"
"There is a place called Mossflower Woods. A great community stands there, Redwall Abbey!"
After some preperations, the four set off for Mossfower. Little did they know what lay ahead for them...
The four good wildcats had set off on their journey in the morning. Now it was noon, and they had reached a lake.
"Let's take a break, Silvestren. Let the young ones fish for a while."
"Okay, Felisa. I could use a break myself."
Sandflower and Forestelm had been fishing for half an hour when they both heard an awful screeching. They both rushed off to investigate. When they arrived at the place the sound had came from, the awful noise had stopped. There were black feathers on the ground and atop a rock lay an injured hawk.
As they watched, the hawk gave a faint cry. Sandflower felt the bird's wing. It was bruised, but did not appear to be broken. The hawk spoke.
"Kreeeaaaahhh! I am wounded. Are you friends?"
"Yes, I am Sandflower and this is Forestelm. Who did this to you?"
"Magpies," the bird answered weakly. "They pecked and ambushed me, and I could not defend myself. What can I do with an injured wing? I have a mate, and eggchicks too."
"We'll do anything we can to help you," said Forestelm. "What name do you go by?" The bird answered.
"My name is Haliaetus. I am an osprey."
Sandflower was confused. "An osprey? Surely you should be able to fight off magpies."
The bird replied, "Well, there's more to it than that. I was on the top of that boulder yonder when they ambushed me. Startled, I fell from the rock. I could not regain my balance and hit the ground hard. The other day, I had bruised my wing, and this made it hurt even more. I was in no shape to defend myself. Kreeeaaahhh! Even my beak and talons were not enough. They peckeed and attacked me. I am not too badly hurt. It is my pride is hurt more than anything else."
"Could you tell us please if there are any other creatures around this area?" Sandflower asked politely.
"This lake is fed by a river, where a small tribe of otters live. I have seen them many times. They are friendly to travelers and they often give friends rides on their boats when they need to go somewhere. Their leader is called Riverdeep. A friendly chap, if I say so myself. Also a tribe of wandering vermin are in the area at the present time. Barbaric beasts they are, with knives and painted faces. So be careful when going through there."
"Thank you, Haliaetus. That is where we are headed next. I had better tell my parents about this. Maybe Riverdeep and his otters can help us get down the river."
The two young wildcats said farewell to the osprey and went to tell Felisa and Silvistren about their encounter.
Soon the four wildcats set off again. Sandflower sang a song as they walked through the forest.
"Birds are singing sweetly
As the sun hangs high
Running water rushes on and on
In the afternoon sky
It's a great day to be traveling
The sky is bright and blue
So come out in the sunshine
I want you to come too!"
When the song was finished, all three wildcats clapped. "That was beautiful, Sandflower," said Silvistren.
"Your voice is very pretty," said Felisa.
It was not long before the family reached the otter tribe Halieatus had told them about. A large, burly otter walked up to meet them.
"Good day, all of you," he said in a deep voice. "Ah'm Riverdeep, the chieftain of Streamrunn Otter Tribe."
"Hi, Riverdeep," said Sandflower. "Halieatus told us about you. I'm Sandflower, this is Forestelm, and these are my parents, Felisa and Silvistren. We are travelers going to Mossflower."
"In that case you should take a ride with us," he said. "See, this river runs across some steep and difficult terrain. I'll advise you to go by boat with us. That's the easiest way to Mossflower."
"Thank you for your kind offer," said Felisa.
"Don't ment'n it," replied the otter. "Oh, and one more thing. Sandflower, Forestelm, meet Streamrudder. He's a young chap who hasn't met any otters his age."
Streamrudder held out his hand. Both Sandflower and Forestelm shook paws with him.
"Pleased to meet you," said the young otter.
"It looks like we've met a new friend," Sandflower said.
"This is Lera, Streamrudder's mother," said the otter. "She's one of the best healers in the land."
"Hello," the otter said kindly.
"We'll help you across the river tomorrow, as it's gettin' to be evening now," the otter chieftain replied.
The two wildcats and the otter became fast friends. Streamrudder told Sandflower and Forestelm all about the Streamrunn Otters. The two wildcats, in turn, told the otter about the farm where they once lived.
"It was a peaceful place, and we grew good food there. But then a flood came and wiped out our crops. We are now moving to Mossflower Woods," Sandflower said sadly.
"I'm glad you came along," said Streamrudder. "We'll have lots of adventures together!"
"I don't think rowing a boat down a river is an adventure," said Forestelm, who always wanted excitement.
Little did they know what lay ahead for them!
Streamrunn grabbed a boat. The wildcats climbed in. "Let's sail down the river!" the excited otter yelled. Suddenly they saw something in the air. Two birds had flown down to their boat. They were ospreys, smaller than Halieatus, but just large enough to fly.
"Hi there, cats," said the larger osprey.
"Who are you?" asked Forestelm.
"I'm Sharptalon, and this is my sister Silverwing, son and daughter of Halieatus and Skycloud," the smaller osprey said.
"How is your father? We found him with a broken wing," said Sandflower.
"Lera is going to treat him for that wing. Kreeee! He'll fly again! I know Lera can fix that wing!" Sharptalon replied.
"I owe you something for finding our father and wanting to help him," said Silverwing. "I know you were fishing before you heard that noise. Here." The osprey dropped four fish into the boat. "We caught these together. We owe a debt of gratitude to you."
"But all we did was tell our parents," said Forestelm.
"True, but you did the right thing. Your parents told the otters about the osprey and Lera agreed to heal him." Then the two ospreys flew off.
"Thanks for your kindness," Sandingomm replied.
"Well, cats, are you going to eat all those fish yourself?" Streamrudder asked.
"You can have one," said Sandflower. The otter grinned.
The three friends set off down the river again.
"I've been sailing for a long time," Streamrudder remarked proudly. "I've learned a great deal about that from my father." The wildcats and otter paddled the boat down the river. For a while it was easy. Then their boat reached some rapids! The boat started swirling around and started getting out of control.
"Maybe this wasn't such a good idea!" Forestelm yelled. Then the boat struck a rock and splintered. All three friends were thrown from the boat onto the rocky ground.
Fortunately Silverwing and Sharptalon had seen the whole thing. Quickly the ospreys flew back to the Streamrunn Otter Tribe. They had a chance to return the favor.
Rakku Kor of the Juskakor was in a bad mood. The ferret stamped his foot growling, "I thought you could catch more fish than that! If you can't catch enough for the clan, I'll go down there and make you catch some more! Move!"
Fifty stoats, weasels, ferrets, rats, and foxes reluctantly started to the river. They made a barbaric sight. Each one of them had a red lightning bolt down their muzzle and four blue stripes on one side.
The Juska reached the river. There they found two wildcats and one otter lying on the rocks. A fox named Reddbrush grinned. "Looks like they'd be strong fighters," Reddbrush said. Then he prepared to grab them. Suddenly, an otter javelin pierced his shoulder.
"Yow!" the fox yelped. Suddenly another javelin landed just inches from Rakku Kor's footpaw. Then they saw a whole tribe of otters running towards them.
"Retreat! Retreat!" Rakku Kor yelled. The clan all ran off forgetting the fishing task.
Then the otters turned towards the task of caring for the young friends. Riverdeep dribbled a little water onto Streamrunn's mouth. He sat up, rubbing a large bump on his head. Then the otter chieftain did the same for the two wildcats. When they were up and about, Streamrudder congratulated the ospreys. "You wanted to return the favor, and now you have. You may have saved our lives. Thank you, ospreys," the otter said.
"Now let's get you home," the otter chieftain said. The otters and two wildcats, with two ospreys flying overhead, headed for home. The sun set.
The next day, Sandflower, Forestelm, and Streamrudder all felt much better. But Lera thought she should help them just to be safe. She gave them some herbs for headaches. They took them. Sandflower saw Halieatus. He was about to be treated for the broken wing.
"Lera knows what she's doing," said Streamrudder.
The otter healer gave the osprey a mixture of herbs to drink. Soon the hawk was sleeping peacefully as Lera started to tend to the wing. Lera noticed that it was a break, she used fish glue to mend it. Some wing feathers were missing. Lera then used some feathers and placed them in the shafts. After an hour, she was done.
The next day, the otters and cats watched the osprey. Confident, he flapped his wings and took to the sky, circling and soaring for the pure joy of it. The audience cheered. "That's way to go Halieatus!"
The cats were overjoyed. So were Silverwing and Sharptalon. After his flight, the osprey swooped down. "I am very proud of you," he said. Son, daughter, you saved the lives of Sandflower, Forestelm, and Streamrudder. Your flight is getting better and better each day. You've come a long way since your first flight when you ran into a tree."
Sandflower smiled. She asked an otter, "I think that that Juska tribe is scared of your otter warriors. But when there's one tribe, there will probably be more. Shouldn't we be careful?"
"I'll tell Riverdeep to keep sentries posted, just in case of a vermin attack." The otter spoke reassuringly.
The next day Sandflower found something interesting on the ground. It was a poem written in an old, fancy style. Puzzled as to what it could mean, Sandflower read it aloud.
"Find the red stone in the moss
To where you must go
Save the river by your courage
You can do it, I know.
The forest will help you out
And the stream will too
Heed my words, good cat
These things you must do."
Sandflower read it over. She was very puzzled. To whom was the poem addressed to? Was it to her?
Suddenly Forestelm walked up to her. "What are you reading?"
"I'm reading this poem, and I can't figure it out. Red stones, moss, flowers, streams, I don't know what it's saying."
Forestelm read it over. "At least we know it's for either me or you-or to our parents. See, here it says 'Heed my words, good cat.'
"But who wrote the poem?" Sandflower asked the puzzling question again.
It was time for the cats to leave for Mossflower. Several otters got in the boat along with the four wildcats, Riverdeep, Lera, and Streamrudder among them. The other otters waved farewell.
"Farewell, good friends,
I thank you for your stay,
Somewhere down the road of life,
I'll see you again some day,
Friendship is the greatest gift,
And kindness we hold dear,
Farewell, good friends,
Be brave and have no fear."
After the last poignant notes of the otters' song rang out, the wildcats headed towards Mossflower.
"We'll make it to Mossflower in no tme," one of the otters said.
"Mossflower! That's it!" Sandflower yelled excitedly. "Find the red stone in the moss-that means we're going to Redwall, in Mossflower!"
"I think that the forest means me, Sandflower, and the stream is Streamrudder."
"Very good, Forestelm. There's only one thing I can't figure out-save the river by your courage."
"Maybe we'll figure that out later. The important thing is that we know we are going to Redwall."
The otters' boat continued swiftly down the river. Suddenly, an otter looked over the boat and fell in the river! the otter splashed about carried by the swift current. Pike started swimming over.
Suddenly Sandflower grabbed a paddle. She reached out as far as she could. The otter grabbed a hold of the paddle wearily. Sandflower, Forestelm, and Streamrudder all helped pull the otter in. The otter was safe! Sandflower's quick thinking had saved the otter's life.
Then Sandflower got a closer look at the otter. "Riverdeep?"
The otter was weary, but he managed to say, "Yes, that's me. You have saved my life."
Then Sandflower realized the meaning of the poem. "Save the river by your courage-that's you, Riverdeep!"
"We still have one question, though. We don't know who wrote the poem." Streamrudder was curious.
That question would still be answered. And Sandflower, Streamrudder, and Forestelm had more adventures to come!
It was a bad day for the Juskakor. They had to face Rakku Kor's fury. "Scared of a few otters and cats?" the chieftain roared.
"It wasn't a few otters and cats, Chief," Morrun Bowbeast said without raising his voice. "It would be foolish to attack them. They are true warriors!"
"Perhaps you didn't know that the cats are peaceful farmers, and descendants of the gentle wildcat Gingivere. They are not used to fighting," Rakku Kor snarled. "The pride of the Juskakor is at stake. This very day we attack them!"
It was late at night when the Juska struck. The otters were taken by surprise, rushing around and gathering their weapons as fast as they could. Sandflower was still asleep. Sudddenly, she saw a mouse in armor, like nothing she had ever seen before. "There comes a time when even the peaceful goodbeasts must stand up for their friends and family. Defend your friends, Sandflower!" She was stirred to wakefullness.
Sandflower shook her brother and parents awake. "Wake up, please! The Juska are attacking the otter camp.
Morrun Bowbeast fitted an arrow to his lethal bow and aimed it - straight at Riverdeep. Grabbing a shield. Sandflower rushed in, delfecting the arrow which would have taken the otter's life. One brawny otter grabbed a javelin and hurled it at the ferret. It struck true. The rest of the otters continued the attack.
"Charge!" an otter roared. "Rouse yourselves!"
Forestelm took an arrow in the shoulder. He dropped back, grimacing. "That weasel thought he could slay a wildcat with one arrow, well Forestelm is tougher than that."
One of the otters was brought down be a sword thrust. Riverdeep gave Sandflower instructions. "I think Rushwater is still alive. Take him to Lera. His life depends on you!"
Sandflower grabbed the wounded otter and rushed toward the den where Lera tended the wounded. The otter blinked and moaned softly. "You'll be all right. Lera will take care of you."
"Thank you - thank you...Sandflower," the otter gasped. Then his eyes closed.
Sandflower reached the den, bearing the limp weight of Rushwater. "He's been wounded, Sandflower said. A stoat struck him with a sword. Help him, please!"
"Don't fret, young cat, healers are always ready to help the wounded," Lera replied.
Onward the battle continued. Riverdeep met Rakku Kor face to face. "You thought you could kill me by ambush," the otter growled. " Remember, no otter goes down without a fight!"
Rakku Kor sanrled and unsheathed his blade. "You're going to die, otter!" he spat. Riverdeep was a true warrior, trained in battle and experienced. He countered the throust Rakku Kor made and struck. Rakku Kor snarled viciously and swungat the otter. Riverdeep ducked just in time, the Juska's blade inches from his head. Then the otter roared and swung. That swipe decided the battle. Rakku Kor fell slain. Some of the otters were woundedd or slain, but The strength of the wildcats helped them to win the day. Without their leader, Juska were beaten. They fled to the North, under the warning of Riverdeep.
"You have saved Riverdeep not merely once, but twice," said Forestelm. "Your quick thinking will not go unnoticed. You are a hero!"
"The spirit of Martin the Warrior visited me," said Sandflower. "I have been told that he lived during the time of our ancestors, Gingivere and Sandingomm. I believe he alerted me to save the life of Riverdeep."
"And this concludes the story of Sandflower, descendant of Squire Gingivere, and the friends she met. Bluebell concluded.
"I'm very hungry, Sandflower. Can you tell the cooks to bring out that grayling?" came a voice from the back.
Eyes turned to see the osprey. "Halieatus," mused the Abbot.
"I decided to fly over to here how my things were going."
"I hope we don't have to catch fish for you every day," Bellpaw muttered, holding an empty iced tea glass he ahd used to cool his throat.
The osprey laughed. "Don't worry, Bellpaw," he said.
"Shall we continue the feast?" asked Bluebell.
The cry was unanimous. "I'm ready!" everybeast shouted.