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Cover art by ForrestFighter
Part 1: The Cat
"Dearie me, that storm last night was indisputably the worst I can remember in all my long seasons as Recorder; I can say with some authority that not a creature in Redwall slept a wink last night. The wind and thunder shook the building so much, Abbess Saffron feared some of the ancient roofing or windowpanes would give way and had all the elders and young ones moved to the cellars for their safety. Let me tell you, an overcrowded cellar full of terrified, squealing babes and frantic elders trying to restore order is not a pleasant place to be in the middle of the night. Those few Dibbuns who had not the sense to be terrified by the storm caused us even more trouble; tiring of the noise in the cellars, they attempted several times to escape to the upper floors so they could look out the windows at the lightning. Jorty the Cellarkeeper and her husband Bumbill tried to solve the problem by blocking the staircase with barrels, but we learned soon enough that this was more a hindrance to us than to the babes so we were forced to take the whole thing down again and take turns standing guard. Add to this the perpetual nuisance of our Abbey Librarian, Brother Willow (who indefatigably tried to boss everyone about, spouting off historical references to past storms the whole way), and there you have our long and wearying evening in a nutshell.
I have yet to tell the worst though; the storm is still raging! It is almost midday now, and there is no sign of its slowing in the slightest. Friar Dimp and a few of his kitchen helpers managed to make us a light breakfast, but all other chores have been suspended by the Abbess until this veritable hurricane finally blows through. I shudder to think of the damage that will be left in the wake of this storm. The orchards and gardens are probably a wreck; furthermore, the building has been struck by lightning at least thrice, to my knowledge. Fortunately, as the majority of our beautiful home is red sandstone, it would be difficult for it to completely burn down, especially in this strong a rain; however, Skipper and his crew of able-bodied Redwallers are busy making sure the flames are completely extinguished. Goodness, I think we've been hit again; that bang was too close for my liking! I certainly hope none of the creatures on the roof with Skipper have been hurt.
Confound that Brother Willow; does he never cease talking? I suppose I should not be so quick to judge him; he's probably just as nervy and frightened as I am. But I do wish he'd keep himself occupied with his own business, not everyone else's. Oh, dear, there goes that hogbabe again; I shall have to postpone recording for now."
"Biddee, you little nuisance; come back here this minute!" Casting her parchment and charcoal aside, Sister Flim rose to chase after the infant hedgehog maiden, who was surprisingly speedy for one of her age and had already made it to the top of the cellar stairs. Knowing she could easily outpace the old, overweight mouse, Biddee paused to wave at her impudently.
"Heehee! Nevernever catchee me Sissyflim! Biddee go to watch lightning; go Boom bangybang!" The Dibbun fled, shreiking with laughter. Sister Flim pursued her for a short distance before becoming out of breath; turning back, she implored the other weary creatures slumped about the cellars, most of whom were trying to catch a few minutes' doze after the long, sleepless night.
"Someone, please go catch that infernal rascal before she gets outside!"
Brother Willow, a tall, thin, dour-looking shrew, chastised the Sister. "You were supposed to be standing guard, you know; if you had been paying attention, you might have headed her off. It's your own fault!"
The good Sister's temper finally snapped. "And, tell me, pray; how does insulting an Abbey Recorder help to catch a runaway Dibbun? If you can't think of anything helpful to do or say, will you please stay out of this?!"
Brother Willow was taken aback by Sister Flim's ferocity; he stammered angrily, searching for a reply. "Why you...you...!"
Grandmum Dawbil, the Abbey Healer, placed herself between the two irate creatures, rumbling in her deep mole accent. "Stop ee this foightin' roight away; it be a bad day enuff wi'out you two gurt foozles makin' it even worserer, burr aye! Yurr, Shurmee, goo ee arter ee liddle 'un."
The young leveret Shermy was the fastest creature in the Abbey; this was the seventh time in the last few hours that he had been sent to round up a stray Dibbun. Though he was red-eyed and weary, as were all the other creatures in the cellar, he saluted obediently and darted up the stairs. "Righty-ho, marm! Be back in a tick, wot! I say, come back here, you spiny little cad!"
Biddee had, by this time, made it to the Great Hall of Redwall Abbey, and was hiding behind a column. The Great Hall was normally used for feasts and celebrations, when it would be decorated with huge banquet tables and rows of brightly lit lanterns. In these instances, the tall stone columns, stained glass windows, and great tapestry depicting the first Abbey Warrior, Martin, would seem to dance gaily in the bright lights. However, in the gloom of the storm, punctuated every now and then with flickering flashes of lightning, the huge chamber looked positively eerie. Shermy tried hard to keep his voice from trembling as he scooted across the back wall of the room, searching for the missing Dibbun. "You fiend, just you wait until I get you back in the cellars! I wouldn't want to be in your fur, let me tell you! Come out from wherever you're hiding this instant; this INSTANT, I say!"
He yelped involuntarialy as lightning struck the abbey building yet again; the accompanying crash of thunder shook the room, knocking out several small windowpanes, which shattered on the stone floor. Throwing himself flat, Shermy covered his ears with his paws until the deafening vibrations ceased.
Biddee, unmoved by the terror of the storm, had now reached the main door of the Abbey, but the door handle was far too high for her to reach. She, too, threw herself on the floor, and began to pitch a horrible tantrum. "Waaaaaaaaahaaaahaaa, Wanna go play in the raaaaaaaaaiiin!"
Shermy stood, sighing with releif. "Oh, there you are, wot." He glanced at the tapestry above him; noticing the two empty brackets above it, he furrowed his brow in confusion. He shouted across the hall to the hedgehog maid. "I say, you rotter, what did you do with Martin's Sword? It was hanging here a bally moment ago!"
Biddee ceased wailing, pouting sulkily. "I never take Ma'tin sword. It dere in da floor."
The bang of thunder had shaken the legendary weapon loose from its holders above the tapestry; it had fallen point first, embedding itself in a chink between two floorstones, directly behind where Shermy had been lying. It was a simple weapon; the only ornament was the bright red pommel stone in the leather-bound hilt. The blade, though countless seasons old, still shone as if it were newly polished. The young hare grasped the hilt and began to tug, addressing the figure of the warrior mouse on the tapestry. "Well, that nearly took off my tailbob, didn't it? Next time I need to hide, I jolly well won't do it under here. I say, this sword of yours is really something, Martin, old lad; it cut this stone like a bally cake, wot! Whoops!"
The blade popped free, sending the young hare stumbling backwards. He started to replace the sword, then thought better of it, propping it up in a corner. "I'll just leave this here, then; we'll put it back after the storm desists. Save other innocent beast's tails, doncha know..."
He stopped rigid and stared. In the dim light of the one lit lantern in Great Hall, Shermy had been watching his reflection in the blade as he talked. The reflection however, had seemed to take a shape of its own, until it was not the leveret's own face, but that of the mouse in the tapestry, staring back at him. Martin pointed at the young hare, then at the hedgehog babe. He spoke but a single word, in an unmistakable voice of command. "Outside!"
Having been brought up at Redwall, Shermy knew from old tales that creatures sometimes saw Martin in dreams when there was a great need. He nodded, being the obedient young creature he was. "Righto, old chap. Hi, you there, Biddee. You wanted to go outside, did you?"
The young hedgehog brightened up; she nodded. Shermy bounded across the room and grasped her paw, warning her sternly. "Well, one quick stroll then. But you do hold my paw and do exactly as I say, understood? One false move and I'll tan your spiky little behind with a big stick, missy!"
Opening the door against the driving wind was no easy task, but between them, the two managed to push it wide enough to nip outside. Together, the leveret and the hedgehog Dibbun plowed their way through the abbey grounds, which were covered with broken branches and turned soppingly muddy with the downpour. His ears and fur plastered flat with water, Shermy took a quick look about, and announced to empty air. "Well, we're outside, wot! What's so jolly well important about outside? We already knew it was a bloomin' mess out here, if that's the case! Oh, lackaday, we're in for it now if we get caught out here in this muck!" He started to turn back. "That's enough for now, little one, we're going back in."
But Biddee pulled her paw free, dashing away, her face a picture of alarm. "Lookee, lookee! Onna path, Shermeeee!"
The leveret started to pursue the little one again, but pulled up with a halt, his mouth hanging open in shock. A bolt of lightning had blasted the huge main gate of the abbey, competely shattering one of the two immense wooden doors. Through the wreckage and pelting rain, the woodland path that led up to the abbey was plain to see; so was the biggest, blackest, most intimidating looking creature that Shermy had ever seen, which was lying in a pathetic, huddled heap just outside the gate.