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Gingiverian: Chapter 13 and 14

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ScottyArtContestEntry by F.F

Cover art by ForrestFighter

With hot noonday sun beating mercilessly down upon his back, Dippertail circled high overhead, watching a group of Abbeydwellers gathered on the path outside the main gate below. This was the supply-gathering detail the Abbess had ordered Skipper Windryder and Foremole Aggit to organize; the group consisted of nearly every otter and mole in the Abbey, plus a few other strong creatures and young volunteers who had determined to come along. Skipper gave his final instructions to the eager party, raising his voice so all could hear. "Don't wander no farther than ye have to. Remember, the main thing to search for right now is strong timbers to repair the gate, preferably from storm-felled trees if you can find 'em. If you spot possible materials to repair the windows or roof, leave some kind of mark near the spot so we can come back later for 'em. Now, listen well, because Mother Abbess has a few words to say to ye."

Saffron was standing in the gateway; she raised her paws. "First of all, I would like to thank everybeast who has helped to protect the abbey from (or repair) storm damage so far; some of you have done so at the risk of your own lives." She smiled at the mousemaid Tings before continuing. "Secondly, I wish to remind all older or experienced creatures that the younger beasts are your responsibility; watch them carefully and teach them all you know. Finally and most importantly, let me say this - young ones, this is the first time some of you have been in Mossflower Woods; it is not a very safe place to be, especially so after a storm. You must obey every order you are given immediately and without question. Any reports of disobedience to elders will result in a loss of supper and a long detail of chores that Brother Willow has helped me to compile." She paused to let this intimidating prospect sink in. "Have I made myself clear?"

"Yes ma'am!" Every beast chorused as one, saluting furiously.

Saffron turned to Skipper, smiling. "I think they have the message; you may move out whenever you are ready."

The brawny otter signaled with his rudder; screeching like a banshee, Dippertail dropped into a dive, swooping low into the woods with the entire column of Redwallers setting off after him. Some of Skipper's crew began singing a comic otter marching ballad; soon, everybeast was roaring the chorus at the tops of their lungs.

Left! Right! Up! Down! Don't ye never whine nor frown!

Down! Up! Left! Right! Soon the end'll come in sight!"

On an' on an' on an' on! March until the journey's done!

"Ahoy there, Skip! Seem's all ye say

Is march 'n march' yore paws away.

We've passed this hornbeam three times now;

We think ye might have lost yore way!"

"Get back in line and shut yore gobs!

I ain't never lost, ye swabs.

I know's exackly where we are;

Now foller me, ye lazy mobs!"

Left! Right! Up! Down! Don't ye never whine nor frown!

Down! Up! Left! Right! Soon the end'll come in sight!"

On an' on an' on an' on! March until the journey's done!

"Hi, Skip! This sure don't look like 'ome;

'Tis full o' swampy mud an' loam.

The sun 'as long since set an' gone;

You sure you know just where t'roam?"

"Get back in line and shut yore gobs!

I ain't never lost, ye swabs.

I know's exackly where we are;

Now foller me, ye lazy mobs!"

Left! Right! Up! Down! Don't ye never whine nor frown!

Down! Up! Left! Right! Soon the end'll come in sight!"

On an' on an' on an' on! March until the journey's done!

"O Skip, the sun 'as rose agin,

An' our patience 'as wore thin!

This new land's desert, dust, and dirt;

T'is where no otter's ever been!"

"Get back in line and shut yore gobs!

I ain't never lost, ye swabs.

I know's exackly where we are;

Now foller me, ye lazy mobs!"

Left! Right! Up! Down! Don't ye never whine nor frown!

Down! Up! Left! Right! Soon the end'll come in sight!"

On an' on an' on an' on! March until the journey's done!

" All right, Skip, now what do we do?

We're back 'ome now, that much is true,

But not because we follered you;

We follered the smell o' yore wife's stew!"

"What'd I tell ye lazy mobs?

I weren't never lost, ye swabs!

We drill again at dawn's first light;

Now get t'bed an' shut yore gobs!"

Left! Right! Up! Down! Don't ye never whine nor frown!

Down! Up! Left! Right! Soon the end'll come in sight!"

On an' on an' on an' on! March until the journey's done!

Shermy's job of giving Sy a tour of Redwall had been usurped by a band of eager Dibbuns; this had left the young hare free to join the woodcutting party. Tings and Raggle caught up to him, eager to ask questions about what had been going on in the infirmary; the mousemaid gave her friend a playful shove. "Well, look whose finally decided to come out of the infirmary. Save at mealtimes, we haven't seen you for nearly a full day, you know. So, what can you tell us about that wildcat? I watched her at breakfast today; for a beast who's been driven from her home by vermin and lost her family, she seems remarkably cheerful and unaffected."

The hare shrugged his shoulders. "I thought the same thing, old chap, but apart from what she told me the first day, I haven't got a bloomin' clue about her past; confounded curious cat asks so many questions a bod forgets to ask his own. She ain't a vermin, though; I'd stake me reputation on it. True blue and a heart of gold, that's what I'd say, wot!"

Raggle nodded, his dark face grim. "Aye, so would I. Do you know, I overheard Brother Willow talking to the Abbess this morning? He was trying to convince her that we should turn Sy and the kittens out to fend for themselves as soon as they were strong enough; said that having her kind here could only bring us trouble and grief."

Tings was horrified at the suggestion. "How could he even contemplate such a thing? Redwallers welcome travelers; we don't turn them out without very good cause, especially not when one of us owes her life to them!"

Shermy agreed whole-heartedly. "One can't argue with that, wot! I say, Raggle old thing, what exactly did the Abbess say to the proposition?"

The black squirrel shruggged. "I don't know; Formole showed up right about then and said I should stop eavesdropping and go help Jorty Cellarmole gather tools. But I can't imagine for one minute that Abbess Saffron would agree with anything like that; it's ludicrous!"

Dippertail, by this time, had led the woodcutting party to a predominantly oak-filled part of the woods, not very far from the Abbey; immediately, the Redwallers scattered, searching the area for timber. In the rush, Tings dropped the long saw she was carrying; she halted to retrieve it, murmuring to Raggle, "You're right there, friend, the Abbess would never do such a mean thing. Those cats are Redwallers just like we are, now; I just hope Brother Willow isn't so mean to them that they decide to leave."

Sy Stoneclaw and her cousins, Speedwell and Rivereye, certainly had no intentions of leaving Redwall any time soon. Having seen the extent of the kitchens, cellars, larders, Great Hall and Cavern Hole the three wildcats were now being led by a rowdy and voluable escort of Dibbuns up the staircase to the dormitories and upper galleries. It seemed as if every little one wished to ask as many questions as the the trio of newcomers did; the cacophony of sound cound be heard the whole length of the stairwell.

"So, young ones, who was that heroic looking mouse on the tapestry back there?"

"Ho, dat be Ma'tin da Worria!"

"He be very, very brave, but 'e die long time ago."

Sy nodded. "I've seen him before, but you wouldn't believe me if I told you where."

A flurry of new questions came from the Dibbuns.

"Burr, whoi do ee babby catbeast stay so quoiett?"

"Can't you talk, likkle kitten?"

"All 'e ever does is point wiv 'is paws, why?"

"Is the baby to young to talk?"

Sy managed to get a word in edgewise. "Rivereye, you mean? He's actually quite mature for his age; he understands everything we say. But he hasn't talked since those nasty mean beasts I told you about chased us away from our old home; I guess he'll start talking again when he's ready. Oh dear, looks like someone spilled some wine on the stairs here, watch your step!"

Shreiks of laughter and fresh babbling broke out from the Dibbuns.

"That no spill, silly!"

"Hurr hurr, et be a shoiny spot in ee rock!"

"That's allus been there, miz Sy."

The wildcat knelt down. "Hmm, must be a lump of quartz in the stone of the stair. I've not seen anything like that before, though."

Squirt the young otter, and self-proclaimed leader of the Dibbun gang, let out a snicker. "T'hee hee hee, you lot haven't seen a lotta things before, it looks like. Foller me!"

The procession continued upward and down the second level corridor, occasionally halting to explore a dormitory or side closet off the hallway. Quite suddenly, all the Dibbuns grew deathly silent, scuttling as quickly as they could past a heavy, ornate pinewood door. Speedwell halted, gazing at the imposing structure. "What room do this be?"

Huffy the molebabe ran back, pulling the ginger kitten's paw. "Coom on, quick loike!"

Kwinsee Pinspikes shook her head fearfully. "Bruvva Willa don' like noisee dibbuns inna Lib'ree."

Sy accurately translated this sentence. "Oh, this is the Library, is it? We used to have a little library back home, didn't we, cousins? Not much, just a few fishing tallies and old catwive's tales, with one or two historical scrolls thrown in."

She placed her paw upon the carved handle; several Dibbuns stifled squeaks of alarm, whispering urgently.

"Nonono, don't go in dere!"

"The h'ole sh'ew's verrrrry grumpy!"

"Burr, Ee'm don't loik no noises."

The wildcat laughed, slowly turning the handle to keep it as quiet as she could. "Your library keeper sounds a fierce creature, indeed. I think I met him at breakfast; he was the old shrew who grumbled under his breath a lot. Don't worry, I know how to deal with grumpy oldbeasts; he won't hurt us."

Chapter Fourteen

A rather sulky Brother Willow was, at that moment, teaching a small class of youngbeasts (those who had not managed to escape to the woodgathering party) on the proper orginization and compilation of written materials. His temper, already inflamed by the embarrassing incident in the kitchens, had not been abated by the Abbess's rather stern rebuttal of his suggestions earlier, and her orders to forthwith cease his campaign to create bad feeling against the wildcats, whom he still firmly believed were dangerous vermin. Still refusing to even consider whether he was in the wrong, Brother Willow slumped in his armchair amid the many shelves of books, sternly watching a group of busily writing creatures compilating excerpts from certain old manuscripts into small textbooks. Accordingly with his mood, the tall shrew had selected writings about old wildcat enemies for his pupils to copy, which they obediently did, though with no great relish.

The oppressive silence of the Library was broken by the creak of the heavy door slowly swinging open; every head turned to see Siyuzin Stoneclaw, ringed by a bevy of curious but nervous Dibbuns, hobbling into the room. After an instant of panic, Brother Willow regained his composure and glared venemously at the intruders; misinterpreting his meaning, Sy smiled disarmingly, holding a claw to her lips and winking to gesture that she and the Dibbuns would keep their silence.

Brother Willow and Sy Stoneclaw

Brother Willow (a shrew) and Sy Stoneclaw (A cat)

Brother Willow, in his turn, misinterpreted the wildcat's gesture as a command to keep his mouth shut. He sprang to his paws, hissing through bared teeth. "How dare you interrupt my class! I must ask you to leave at once, all of you. The Abbess will hear of this intrusion, believe me!"

For the first time in his life, Brother Willow's derogatory remarks were not greeted with a reaction of anger, or with fear. Sy smiled indulgently, as she might do to a troublesome babe. "I'm sorry, I didn't realize there was a class going on. I only wished to visit for a bit, and maybe borrow a story to read."

A hastily stifled gasp arose from the students. Nobeast touched the Abbey writings unless the Abbess or Willow commanded them to do so; the few who had done so without asking had been forced to endure enough learned criticism and browbeating from Willow to wither a full-grown tree. The Teacher-cum-Librarian spluttered angrily. "Borrow?...story?!! What do you think these are, a collection of old wive's tales and Dibbun's bedtime drivel? These, Cat, are thousands of seasons worth of recordings; all historically signifigant writings, and information dating all the way back to before the times of the founders of this Abbey. How could you even think of looking for a story, as you so crassly put it, in here?"

Sy gazed innocently at the shrew. "Well, with as many hundreds of works you seem to have, I'm sure I could find something entertaining."

Several titters and giggles broke out; for a moment the flabbergasted shrew was transfixed, totally unable to articulate in his indignation. Sy seized the moment to address one of the students. "What's that you're copying, friend?"

Frinjjy Pinspikes, glad of an excuse to stop working, passed the Wildcat the scroll she was copying from. "Summat 'bout sumbeast" She pronounced the name with an effort, "Varr-dagg-uh, I think 'is name wuz. 'E had a gel, I think 'er name wuz Tizarrameen or summat like it. "

Sy skimmed over the shriveled parchment, and grinned. "Well, what do you know. Speedwell, Rivereye, look at this, it's all about our infamous ancestors."

Willow's jaw fell slackly open. "You mean to say you are descended from Tsarmina and her father Verdauga Greeneyes?"

Sy shrugged. "Well, they were unfortunately related to us through Tsarmina's brother, yes. We're Gingiverians, you see; I myself am directly descended from his line."

Now that the conversation had become historical, Willow immediately regained his composure; he snorted contemptuously. "Rubbish. That line died out ages ago and that's final."

The wildcat still did not seem perturbed; she smiled. "I'm afraid I must disagree with you there, friend; I know why you would think that, though."

By now, every other creature in the library save Brother Willow himself was keenly interested. Squirt hopped eagerly onto a small table, nearly upsetting a bottle of ink. "Oh goody, we gonna hear a story, h'ain't we?"

Twigga the harvest mouse called from another corner of the room. "Oh, please, do! We can get back to copying this old stuff later. Come on, tell us a story!"

Brother Willow started to protest, but was drowned out by cheers; clearly, his self-assumed authority had drifted away from him for the moment. Sy sat painfully down upon the table, next to Squirt. "Well, seeing as the librarian claims there's nothing entertaining to read around here, I suppose I shall. Oh, with your permission, sir?"

Willow was too dumbfounded at the disruption of his controlled environment to respond; Sy shrugged. "Well, if he decides I should stop, I suppose he'll let me know. Right, where to begin...."

A crowd of youngbeasts and Dibbuns gathered about her footpaws as she began. Sister Flim, who had been working on her daily recordings in another part of the room, waddled over, charcoal and parchment in paw to take down the wildcat's recital of the strange family history she had learned long ago.

"Gingivere and his wife Sandingomm were peaceful creatures, much like you, but because of the bad history of their controlling, tyrannical family, vermin bands kept attempting to get them to help with despicable things no decent wildcat would ever dream of doing, such as robbing travelers, or enslaving the group of beasts building this very Abbey; friends of the two cats, in fact. In the end, some gangs of vermin became downright nasty about the matter, threatening violence; however, they were not too eager to attack two large wildcats, peaceful though they seemed. Still, life became a bit uncomfortable for the duo, whose only goal in life was to be peaceful farmers.

"All farmers need children to help carry on the work as they grow older; Gingivere and Sandingomm had three, as a matter of fact - two sons and a daughter. The two wildcats kept their offspring as safe as they could from marauders, who they knew would be only too happy to kidnap and torture the kittens in order to take control of their parents. However, when the three had matured into young adults, and were allowed to go out alone, a pair of particularly brazen nomad weasels tried to use flattery and wheedling to turn the daughter, Muranda, over to the side of evil. They found out that it is not a wise idea to bandy words with a young female cat who has a garden hoe, especially when her brothers are nearby with hoes of their own; the pair of weasels were driven off after a savage beating. After this fiasco, enough rumors spread to convince the vermin to leave the farm alone for many, many seasons.

"Time went on, and Gingivere and his wife grew older. Then, one winter, their two sons Kiddle and Asah went off to the unknown lands from which Sandingomm had come in order to seek adventures, and possibly wives, for themselves. Muranda had already wed a wandering healer cat by the name of Snowtail the Wise; he had settled down with her at the farm. By this time, a savage horde of river rats had wandered its way into Mossflower. Their leader was one Scratchnekk Bluddaxe; it is said a nastier, dirtier, fouler-mouthed rodent never lived. He and his crew took up residence near the farm, but did not attempt to talk to the wildcats or even show interest in them.

"Later that same winter, a particularly cold and bitter one, Muranda gave birth to twins, a son and a daughter. Gingivere named his grandchildren Feliks and Shingul, ancient wildcat toungue names for 'Happy' and 'Secure', as this is what he hoped the babes would grow up to be. Unfortunately, this did not immediately come to pass.

"As soon as the last snow had melted away into spring, Scratchnekk and his horde invaded the farm, carrying off the two little ones. He then sent an illiteraly scrawled ultimatum, threatening to slay the twins unless all four of the grown wildcats joined the horde, and helped them attack the unfinished Redwall Abbey. They had three days in which make their decision.

"Immediately, Gingivere sent Chirripp, a robin who was a friend of the family, to get help from Kiddle and Asah, if they were anywhere nearby. Fortunately, they were on their way home at the time, both with wives and their wives' extended families. Chirripp's ancient father Chibb also flew off, right here to Redwall Abbey, and told them help would be needed. A force of otter and squirrel archers came to the aid of the wildcats; with the help of the new arrivals, Gingivere's now augmented family completely wiped out the band of river rats and rescued the young ones. Gingivere then begged the returning Abbey warriors to say nothing of the incident, or existence of the wildcats, to anybeast, fearing that other vermin might attempt a similiar maneuver.

"After the Redwallers left, the large family of Wildcats had a conference, with the elderly and patriarchal Gingivere at its head. Clearly, for such a group of cats to stay so near Redwall would be a disadvantage and a danger to the goodbeasts, especially if vermin kept trying to use them as sort of war-machines-cum-slaves as they had through the years. The question was, could there be any way they could change this situation?

"Finally, Sandingomm and Snowtail came up with the suggestion that they move far away, and start a new life somewhere remote, where neither vermin nor goodbeast would be bothered by them. Most of the cats agreed to this, and packed up to move out the next day. Kiddle and his wife Berrycane did not go with them; the eldest son of Gingivere was loath to leave the farm his father had built after just returning home, so he and his wife stayed. I imagine it was their line that the good Librarian here mentioned as dying out.

"Gingivere and Sandingomm led their family northwest for so many seasons they lost track of time, constantly searching for their new home. Finally, they found it; an atoll of smallish, wooded islands just visible from a deserted shoreline. The cats made crude pine rafts and sailed to the islands; upon their arrival, they discovered the fishing and plant growth was fairly plentiful in that region. So it was that the Gingiverian villiage of cats came to be established; it stood, untouched, for thousands of seasons, just like this abbey. Now, it no longer exists; the villiage and everything on the islands were destroyed by a marauding vermin band who finally managed to find us. And here we three are, the last of the Gingiverians...and every bit as friendly to Redwallers as our fathers before us."

Laughter and applause broke out from the Dibbuns and youngbeasts at the conclusion of the story. Brother Willow had been shaking his head and snorting in a derisive, superior manner the whole time the wildcat was talking; he muttered under his breath, trying to convince himself he was still right. "Utter balderdash, the whole thing; word of mouth legends are not to be trusted, they become warped and fantasized upon. How some of her anscestors heard of us, or Gingivere, I don't know, but it's obvious they created this story to bring undeserved honor to the family name. Balderdash, rubbish, that's all it is."

The other beasts completely ignored him; Sy beamed upon her audience. "So, does anybeast have any questions?"

Leeam volebabe raised a paw. "Worra happen to Jinnyveere, did he get slayed by d'vermins too?"

Sy shook her head. "No, he and Sandingomm lived to a ripe old age; some say they were the oldest cats who ever walked the earth."

Twigga also raised a paw. "You said Muranda and Kiddle both had descendants. What about the other son, Asah?"

Speedwell answered this time. "A course 'e did, lotsa kittens. Me from that line, my dadda said so."

Brother Willow, a sudden malicious grin appearing on his face, finally managed to gain a note of attention. "I have a question, Cat."

"Yes sir?" Sy's innocent gaze was trasnferred to the old shrew.

The shrew's face was suddenly harsh. "If your ancestors dubbed it safer for us for you to stay away, what in the name of seasons did you come here for?"

Sy's imperturbable cheerfulness nearly drove the old shrew mad. "Hmm, I wonder how to explain this. You see, I recieved implicit instructions from two beasts to come here. The first was my aunt..."

Speedwell again interrupted. "When d'vermin's come, mama tol' Sy to run, and take us to Red Walls."

"And the other?" Twigga ventured to ask.

Sy's response caused nearly every jaw to drop. "A mouse I dreamed about, who said he was the guardian of this place. Harrbuckll here told me his name was Martin the Warrior, didn't you, little one?"

The hogbabe, and several others, nodded assent. Deflated for the moment, a stunned Brother Willow sank back into his armchair, his face a picture of blank bewilderment. Before anybeast could comment further, a highly agitated Sister Jerrabeau came bustling into the room. "Beg pardon, I'm sure, but Ayeriss Pinspikes has just come round. She won't talk to us, except to insist that she needs to see the cats right away."

Sy heaved herself upright. "Well, this is interesting. No one's told her about us yet, so I wonder how she knew we were here."

Speedwell thought. "Maybe that Ma'tan mouse tol' her."

Sy began to hobble after the retreating infirmary sister. "Well, if that's the case, something strange is definitely going on here. Come on, Rivereye, and you too, Speedwell; we'd better see what the poor creature wants."

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