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story collab: The Ruin of Marshank

Selound November 3, 2011 User blog:Selound

This is a fan fiction story by Selound. It is not considered canon, nor is it a policy or guideline.

This is a fan fiction story by Riftgard_Princess. It is not considered canon, nor is it a policy or guideline.

The following story is a collab done by me and Riftgard Princess. The first chapter was written by me, while the second one will be written by her. Then the pattern continues. Please enjoy :)

Chapter one: Long awaited meeting

TROM chapter one by Selound

The warm sun glowed brightly in the blue sky. Clouds scattered across the sky. The waves of the ocean lapped over the sandy shore. There, in plain view, was the unfinished fort of Marshank.

Marshank was a crude fort owned by the evil stoat known as Badrang the Tyrant. Slaves worked laboriously to build the Tyrant’s fort. The sounds of cracking whips and hard work filled the air. It was a place of gruesome fates.

Along the wall, two weasels were on patrol; Fleabane, and Rotnose. They searched around their surroundings to make sure everything was as it’s supposed to be. Then they spotted a young white female stoat lying on the wall top without a care. Unaware that she could fall and break her neck.

Not wanting to get yelled at for killing Badrang’s niece, one of the two weasels called over to the young one in a demanding voice. “Oi, get yer tail down from there!”

There was a reply. “Ha, and you keep your nose where it belongs, Fleabane!”

Frustrated by the stoat’s comment, Fleabane snarled. “Stay silent, rip, and do what I says.”

Aquastar Dawn (called Aquastar for short), the stoat, sat up and smiled charmingly. Her blue eyes shone of pure innocence. “And how does relaxing cause any danger to me? I’m in no major threat, weasel. It's perfectly safe up here as long as I don’t do anything stupid, like you.”

Not wanting to increase the argument any further, Rotnose nudged fleabane. “I thinks we should tell ‘er n’uncle about her actions.”

Fleabane nodded and the two went off to get Badrang.

The older stoat arrived at the wall top. He folded his arms and spoke sternly. “Aquastar, come down, please, before you hurt yourself.”

“Okie doke!.” Aquastar winked cheerfully, and leapt down from her perch. She pranced smartly past her uncle and the two weasels. The white stoat winked at the two weasels, who eyed her madly. “See, you can always get what you want if you ask politely.”

As she walked away, the two weasels growled and tightened their grip on their weapons. “Smart mouth.”

Badrang shook his head, and left.

It had been almost three months since Aquastar started to live at Marshank. Her father Vilu Daskar died, and the only place she could live was at Marshank, where her uncle Badrang adopted her. She didn’t trust the other vermin there, and preferred to help the slaves, but only when the others’ backs were turned.

Aquastar walked casually up to a light grey and black ferret, which was by the gates. He nodded to her and smiled. “Hey, Aquastar, what’s up?”

“Me, a few minutes ago--I was resting on the wall tops before Badrang shooed me off. I wish he wasn’t too protective of me, Tailwart.” The stoat folded her arms unhappily and imitated Badrang. “Aquastar, come down, please, before you hurt yourself.”

Tailwart giggled at Aquastar’s version of her uncle. “Ahaha, nice one, Star.” Tailwart liked to Aquastar ‘star’ sometimes.

Aquastar brushed her headfur away from her eyes. “Not really; it’s true, that’s what.”

“Hmm, I bet it is,” Tailwart said, giving the stoat a charming smile. Aquastar’s heart felt light as she giggled like a little school girl: she really like the ferret a lot.

Tailwart opened the gate door a crack to see if anybeast was outside. He then noticed a ship far in the distance. “Star, what do you make of that?”

“A ship by the looks of it, but I wouldn’t worry about it--it’s probably just a simple woodland merchant ship.”

“Yeah, maybe it is.”

Tailwart closed the gate, and continued his post. Aquastar left him behind, and went to do some work with the weapons.

Meanwhile, on Captain Tramun Clogg’s ship the Seascarab, the corsairs were celebrating their captain’s soon to be victory over Badrang. Everybeast was enjoying themselves, except for the young female stoat below decks.

The female stoat sat on her bed with her back leaning against her giant pillow. She wrote in a beautifully decorated journal her mother gave her before she died. The stoat was Elonwyn, Captain Clogg’s only daughter.

Her bright green eyes gazed at the page she was writing on in her journal. She worked calmly despite the noise outside.

Today is like any normal day; corsairs fighting, drinking, and singing till they fall over in a drunken state. I never participate in any of their celebrations--I think it’s because of the way I’m treated by them. They ignore me, and avoid me any way possible in fear I may harm them. But I’m not that kinda stoat, but they don’t care.

I try to talk to them and become friends, but they make excuses to avoid conversing with me. Maybe I’ll have better luck at Marshank, where my uncle and cousin live. I have only been to Marshank when I was very little, and hardly remember it. I wonder if things had changed, or stayed the same. Whatever the reason, I'm eager to find out.

My dad has business to take care of there, so that’s the only reason why I’m going now, since I was too little to handle the harsh conditions there. The only reason why I was there as a child, was because I was born on the ship, and they couldn’t leave me alone on land. So my parents had to take care of me while aboard ship.

After my mum died, my father became very protective of me and grew very proud of me, since I'm his only child. Personally, I think he’s too protective of me. When we go to port to get more supplies, he doesn't allow me to step foot off the ship and make friends with the locals. Sigh, I guess I’ll never make friends. But today, I’m going to try.

I hear there are plenty of beasts my age there including one of my cousins, in whom I only saw once in my life. She had said that her father was Vilu Daskar, but I was too young to know him, and I still don’t. Maybe my dad knows him, since they’re brothers.

Elonwyn stopped writing, and looked over at the lantern next to her on her nightstand and sighed. “Brothers.” She then continued writing.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll find some one in whom I could trust; someone who’ll understand me.

Her writing was interrupted by a grey female rat with crimson paws and eye rings. She was knocking loudly on Lonny’s door and shouted. “All paws on deck! Captain’s orders!” The rat then left.

Elonwyn sighed and put her journal in her satchel. The stoatmaid got off her bed, and went above decks.

When she arrived above deck, she was greeted by her father, who patted her head lovingly. “Ow’s mah little girl doin’?”

Elonwyn lowered her ears and held her satchel close to her chest. “Nothing, father, just writing.”

The corsair captain smiled. “Oho, so ya were! Well, are ya ready to set paw on shore?”

Lonny nodded slowly. She looked behind her father and saw a glimpse of the fort in the distance. Now it was the time to ask her father about her family. “Daddy, who was Vilu Daskar exactly?”

Clogg scratched his beard in thought. “Hmm, been a long time since oi last ‘eard o’ ‘im. But I’ll tell you wot I do know.”

Lonny sat up on the ship’s railing, but used her satchel strap to tie her wrist to the railing to prevent her from falling in the water. She was eager to know more about her uncle.

Clogg took a swig of grog and started to tell his daughter about his brother. “Vilu was defiant young ‘un; never listen’d to mom nor dad, an’ always wandered away to do more important things. When ‘e gre up, he started ‘is own crew and sailed away from ‘ome, never to come back again. Later, ‘e killed a tribe of cowardly mice, but only left less than o’ pawful o’ them alive. One of the remain’ mice, was a warrior who went after Vilu to avenge ‘is tribe losses. E’ caught up with Vilu, but both were killed in the big crash. Now I’m not sure wot really ‘appened, but that’s all I really know.”

“But, what about his wife?”

Clogg seemed to shake his head sadly. “Aye, so he did--’e married a beautiful stoat, and ‘ad a daughter with her. ‘Is wife died long ‘afore ‘e did. ‘E thought the outside world wasn’t safe for ‘is daughter, so ‘e sent ‘er to an old friend o’ ‘is. After ‘e died, I believe the ole’ friend o’ ‘is was growin’ too old to raise a young stoatmaid, and gave ‘er to Badrang, who adopted ‘er. Pfft, didn’t bother to ask Ole’ Clogg if ‘e wanted to keep ‘er.”

Elonwyn kinda liked the idea of her getting a sister, but what has happened has happened.

Just as the conversation was about to continue, the lookout called out. “Captain, we’re almost to shore!”

Clogg nodded and called out. “Onwards, mateys, onwards to Marshank!”

Chapter two: Intuition

TROM chapter two by Selound

this chapter was written by Riftgard Princess

Findo leaned casually on the crude battlements, his eyes half closed, and his chin cupped in his paw. He was extremely bored. Watching wall-tops sucked mud.

He groaned and stretched, letting out a yawn. He was the second best fighter in the whole fort, and the only respect he got was from the sniveling underlings below the captains and of course, Lord Badrang.

“Wake up sleepyhead.” Someone tapped Findo lightly on the head with the butt of a pole. Findo rubbed his head exaggeratedly.

“Ow! Ralken, take it easy, my heads only so thick.” He grinned and looked up at the ginger and white furred stoat that stood cooly behind him, a spear rested on his shoulder.

Ralken was the son of Badrang and an unknown stoat maiden. Badrang had shown up at fort marshank with the tiny bundle that was his son in his arms. The horde hadn’t dared ask what happened. The only thing they had needed to know was that they were to treat the little toddler with respect or Badrang would know the reasonwhy.

At least that’s what Ralken had told Findo.

Findo had shown up fifteen seasons later, a young weasel with a bloody bandage on his cheek. When it had been removed three huge deep slash scars had been revealed on his cheek, and Findo didn’t speak of how he got them or wear he was from.

However, he had become very popular do to his laid back and fun loving personality.

“Don’t worry. I can’t damage your head any more than it already is.” Ralken growled darkly, bonking his best friend on the head again a little bit harder. “anyway. That ships getting closer. Recognize the sail?”

Findo raised an eyebrow. “Yeah. Clogg wasn’t it?”

“Tramun Clogg, actually.” Ralken ran a paw through his rough orange head fur. “So… wanna place a bet?”

Findo grinned wolfishly and rotated to face Ralken. “On what?”

“Juni and Skalrags baby.” Ralken purred.

Findo raised both eyebrows. “What do you mean?”

“Aw come on.” Ralken purred. “Everyone except you and Skalrag himself must know by now. She’s starting to show.”

“What do you want to bet about then?” Findo smirked. “If she’s already showing we don’t need to bet on whether there’s going to be a mini Skalrag running about.”

“You’re stupid.” Ralken stared at the ship. “I’m saying we should bet on whether it’s going to be a mini Skalrag or a mini Juni.”

“Mini Skal definatly.” Findo grinned.

“I’m glad to know you boys are doing something productive.” A high pitched voice sounded from behind. Ralken and Findo let out identical “eeps” and tensed. They both turned stiffly and saluted.

Skalrag stood with his arms crossed, and a scowl on his face. “I’d appreciate if you two let me keep my private life with my mate private, if you get the drift.”

“Sorry Skal.” Findo beamed. “but you have to admit, a little skalrag would be cute.” He laughed at the confused look on Skalrags face, before Skalrag cuffed him across the head.

Ralken was watching the ship, ignoring his companions. His ears perked up. “Hey. Better warm dad. Their coming onshore.” He suddenly let out a little noise.

Findo turned to stare at him. “What’s going on?” he blinked. Ralken was holding a paw to his mouth and there was a blush on his face.

“Ralken?” Findo perked his ears.

Skalrag grinned and leaned over the battlements. “Hey, Ral. You’re first kiss is back.”

“Shut up.” Ralken whirled around and stamped down the ladder. “I’m gonna tell dad.”

“First kiss?” Findo glanced at Skalrag.

“See that tiny little stoat in the striped shirt? She gave Ralken his first kiss.” Skalrag winked. “Of course, she was only six seasons and he was twelve. But it’s still a first kiss. Ralken got teased like hell gates afterward. It’s kind of hard to forget.”

Findo grinned. Both he and Ralken were twenty one seasons now. Skalrag was twenty six seasons, and his mate, Juni was seventeen. The four of them were close friends, and now they had the addition of Alya, the ermine healer, who had joined marshank a couple of seasons ago. She was blind, but clever, and Findo knew ralken had a crush on her. So did Skalrag. Juni was oblivious.

Findo stared at the little stoat maiden. “Hey, she’s adorable.” He grinned and rubbed his chin. “I wouldn’t have minded having my first kiss from someone like that.”

Skalrag grabbed Findo’s ears and pulled his friends head down. “Don’t think about it. That’s Clogg’s daughter, Ral and aqua’s cousin, and Badrang’s neice. you’ll be in deep trouble if you make some sort of creepy pass. Got it?”

“You jerks can’t take a joke.” Findo grinned and hopped down, ignoring the ladder Skalrag climbed after him.

■ ■ ■

“Well burn me bilgers! Cap’n Tramun clogg! How are ye, ye old wavedog?” Badrangs voice rang into Elonwyn’s ears. She remembered now. His voice had scared her so much as a dibbun.

She wandered away from the group of corsairs and horde-beasts, staring up in wide eyes wonder at the high walls. Everyone around here was giant compared to her. She hugged her satchel to her chest.

Without warning she bumped into something solid. She blinked and looked up. She let out a squeak and jumped back.

A tall, mahogany colored weasel with a black throat and underbelly stared down at her with a small surprised smile. The three deep scars on his left cheek caught her gaze more than anything else. His red headfur had black and blonde highlights, and his eyes were such a dark blue, like the sea before a storm. Elonwyn swallowed and stared around, looking for help. A few spare horde-beasts were watching with looks of cold amusement.

She let out an involuntary whimper.

“Hey.” The weasel grinned at her. He was three times her size in height, and he had muscles. Sinewy, hard, muscles.

He put a paw on her head. “Aren’t you… kind of short?”

Elonwyn felt her whole face grow warm. The horde-beasts around them laughed uproariously. The red furred weasel leaned down so he was face to face with her, but he still loomed over her.

“She’s so tiny!”

“And he’s so tall!”

“They look so weird!”

The others around them were whooping it up, and the weasel grinned at her. Though the grin was supposed to be friendly, it felt more like a creepy leer to Lonny.

“You’re cute.” He winked at her.

Lonny trembled all over. She had never had any sort of contact with anyone, especially guys, and she was terrified.

“I’m sorry!” she gasped, and bowed quickly. “I n-need- to find-

“Findo!” a paw clutched Elonwyn’s shoulder. “Stop harassing my cousin.”

Lonny turned around to see a white and ginger stoat glowering down at the red furred weasel. Lonny’s eyes widened. He was familiar. Somehow.

“Hey come on Ralken.” Findo stood up. “You can’t get jealous now, I haven’t had a chance with any of the pretty girls, and you’re always getting to them first.” He grinned cheekily at Ralken.

Elonwyn felt tears sting her eyes. ‘’He’s saying I’m not pretty.’’ She blinked them away.

“Shut up idiot.” Ralken rolled his eyes. He leaned down and smiled at Lonny. “Hey, he’s just a jerk. Don’t take him personally. Don’t know if you remember, but I’m you’re older cousin, Ralken. You’ve got another cousin who lives here too. Want to meet her?”

Elonwyn nodded up at him. ‘’I do remember you Mr. Ralken.’’ The words formed in her mind, but she couldn’t speak them. She remembered how when she was little she’d meant to give him a goodbye kiss on the cheek before she left with her father and his crew, but he had turned his head suddenly and she had kissed him on the mouth instead. She’d spent the rest of the time hiding behind her mother’s skirts.

She gave a weak little smile. He smiled back. A silent agreement had passed between them both.

“Come on.” ralken took her paw and gently pulled her along. “There are some girls I know who I bet will really like you Lonny.”

Lonny blinked. She hadn’t been called Lonny in a long time by anyone besides her father. She followed Ralken, who was taking her to a small tent at the south wall.

“So, how old are you now?” Ralken looked down at her.

“I’m… fifteen…” Lonny whispered.

“You look younger, somehow.” Ralken stared at her as he pulled the tent flap back. Elonwyn nodded, embarrassed as she realized the feeling of her cousins paw in her hand. She had always liked him, she remembered that now. He had been her protective older brother. But it had been nine whole seasons since they had last seen each other, and the both of them felt awkward. She knew she felt that way, and she could sense his embarrassment.

“Ralken?” Lonny tore her gaze from her older cousin. A fox and a stoat sat on a wooden table, while a pretty ermine wiped her paws with a wet rag.

“Hey, Alya.” Ralken kept his paw intertwined with Lonny’s. Lonny stared fearfully around at the other girls. She then saw the ermines eyes were blind. She let out a tiny gasp.

Alya gave her a smile. “Yeah, scary ermine with gooey looking eyes right?”

Elonwyn shook her head vigorously, blushing.

Alya laughed. “It’s alright for you to be intimidated.” She turned her face in Ralken’s direction. “I was checking on Juni. She’s been throwing up more than she should.”

Juni looked at her foot paws. “What’s going on out there?”

Loud yells exploded from outside.

The girl stoat laughed. “You need to ask?”

“ralken.” Juni looked up. “Why are you holding hands with that little stoat?”

“Oh, yeah.” Ralken glanced down at Elonwyn. “This is Lonny, my cousin. And yours Aqua. Oh, and I had to rescue her from Findo the wonder weasel.”

Elonwyn untangled her paw from Ralkens and stepped outside the tent. The tent was stuffy and she felt scared by all the new people inside. She saw a flash on mahogany fur and hid behind a group of logs and peeked out. That red weasel called Findo was talking to a blue furred ferret with a white stripe down his back. A tall fox stood beside them with his arms crossed.

She stared. That weasel… was so tall.

He turned slightly and their eyes locked. Elonwyn hugged herself and let out a whimper. He was so… creepy. He was even grinning at her right now. And waving.

“Hey.” Lonny jumped and turned. The pretty stoat was smiling at her.

“So, we’re cousins. I’m Aquastar. What’s your name?”

Elonwyn tried to stammer out a reply.

Aquastar laughed. “It’s alright. We’re going to be great friends!”

■ ■ ■

Clogg walked ahead of his crew, grumbling to himself about his humiliation with Badrang. Then he stopped, causing Crosstooth to bump into him.

“What is it cap’n?”

“Where’s Elonwyn?!”

Chapter three: a bully and an assassin

TROM chapter three by Selound

written by me

Lonny had to look up at Aqua, since she was taller than her. The white stoat smiled her charming smile. “It’s okay, I understand--being at a place filled with adult malebeasts while you’re the smallest of them all and a young girl. You may not remember me much, since we only crossed paths a few times in our past, but if you want I can show you around.”

Elonwyn rendered speechless, then nodded slowly. She allowed Aquastar to show around the grounds and walls of Marshank. The young stoat took one gaze back at Findo and the other two he was talking to, and followed her cousin close behind.

Just when the two were about to climb onto the wall tops, a rock zipped past elonwyn’s head, barely missing. She let out a small squeak and ran behind Aquastar who picked up the rock and looked around to find the culprit who threw it.

The white stoat’s friendly features turned into an angry snarl as she grasped the handle of her scimitar that was thrust in her belt. “Who threw this rock? Speak up!”

She was answered by a slightly haughty high-pitched voice, which grated the stoat’s ears like sandpaper. “I did!”

A young female rat sat upon a large pile of wood with an evil grin plastered upon her mischievous features. In her paw she held a sling, in which she used to throw the rock. She was the type many would call “the wicked one.”

Aquastar growled and laid her ears flat against her head. “Why did you take aim at my cousin? She didn’t do anything to you, Keena!”

Keena, the rat, rolled her eyes as she leapt off of the pile of wood. She swung her sling around while she eyed the irate stoatmaid. “Why? Because she’s just another excuse for having another stoat in this fortress. Certainly Lord Badrang must have a twisted mind into letting a wet-behind-the-ear runty whelp enter through those gates; like what he did with you, stoat.”

Aquastar was about to take a swing at the rat, when the rat let out a strangled squeak. Keena froze in fear. She gulped and never kept her eyes away from the stoat.

A voice as cold as ice rasped into the ratmaid’s ear as the cloaked figure had her paw on her shoulder. “Dare make a comment like that again, and I’ll have the honor of showing you the true meaning of pain, rat. Am I making myself clear?”

The ratmaid was too scared to answer. All she could do was make a frightened squeak and a nod of her head.

The cloaked figure released the rat. After being released, Keena ran as fast as she could away from the three, never looking back. After the rat was out of sight, the cloaked figure looked over at the two stoats. “Are you two okay?”

Aquastar put her sword away. She nodded. “Yes, thank you, Trusiae, if you weren’t here, I would’ve had red fur instead of white.”

Trusiae, the younger sister of Bluehide the ferret, nodded slowly. “No problem, Aqua.” She approached the two and caught a glimpse of Lonny, who was still hiding behind her cousin. “Who’s this one?”

Aquastar smiled. “Oh her? She’s my cousin, Elonwyn--her father is doing business here with his brother.”

The ferret nodded slowly and smiled softly. “So she is. Well, Elonwyn, it’s nice to meet you. My name is Trusiae`, or simply Sia if you like.” She held out a friendly paw to the small stoat.

Lonny blushed and covered her face with her satchel. Trusiae` chuckled and rustled Lonny’s headfur. “Shy little one, aren’t you? Well, welcome to marshank.” She looked at Aqua and bowed her head. “Good day to you, miss, and you too, miss Elonwyn.” The ferret then left. Lonny lifted her satchel away from her face, knowing that the ferret was away.

After the ferret left, Aqua explained to Lonny what happened. “You see, Keena is Nipwort’s daughter, but she’s not the one to be friends with. She hates both me and Ralken, since we’re the younger generation of Badrang’s family. She mainly hates me, because I'm not entirely Badrang’s offspring, and that I have white fur. Also it’s because I get away with things more than she, since I’m part of Lord badrang’s family. She also feels that way about you, since you’re his niece.

Now with Trusiae, she’s the one in whom one could fear--she is an assassin after all. She normally looks after me and a few others, but you may rarely see her around Marshank, since she’s always doing other things.”

Lonny was too nervous to ask what were those things, knowing that the ferret could kill a beast in a split second with one flick of the wrist.

“Hey Aqua, who’s that?” Tailwart asked as he approached the two.

“This is my cousin, Elonwyn, she’s here because her father has business to deal with.”

The male ferret looked down at the small stoat and smiled. “Hiya, my name is Tailwart. Yes, silly name I know, but it was my mum’s idea; she said that a weird name makes the offspring more dangerous. To me, it’s more embarrassing. is their any meaning to your name?”

Lonny was too shy to answer. “Uhh...” was all she could say.

“Hey kid, maybe you could get hooked up with that weasel Findo, he’s a real charmer, huh?”

Aqua gently punched Tailwart in the gut. “Cool it Tailwart.”

The ferret smiled oafishly. “D’aaww, come on, Star, lighten up a little. She’s too cute to ignore.”

“Isn’t that what you said about me? Aquastar said, raising an eyebrow.

Tailwart blushed. Sweat started to bead down his face and he smiled in embarrassment. “Well, you’re cute too, hehe.” Lonny couldn’t help but giggle a little at the ferret.

Aquastar smiled a side smile and gave him the serious teacher eye gaze. “Hmm...”

Finally, feeling a bit more comfortable, Lonny managed to ask Aqua a question. “Cousin, what do you do here?”

The white stoat twisted her long headfur around her finger. “Oh, not much. I’m just in charge of the weapons and help with making them.”

“And I stand by the gates, making sure I know who shall leave or enter these walls.

“Elonwyn, where are ya!” Familiar voice called out. Lonny gasped. It was her father looking for her. She waved goodbye at the two, and ran off to her father.

As the small stoat was gone, Tailwart sighed. “Cute girl, isn’t she?”

Aqua nodded in agreement. “Aye, but I’m worried.”


“She’s a small teenage female stoat living with a bunch of full grown males, can’t you spot anything wrong with that picture?”

Tailwart scratched his chin. “Hmm, now since you mentioned it, that does seem odd. But I’m sure she could take care of her self. Well, I gotta get back on post, see ya!”

“See ya.” the two left back to their duties, unaware of the watchful blue eyes of Findo.

Chapter four: So what?!

TROM chapter four by Selound

written by Meeks

Elonwyn hurried down the rocky hill, tripping, stumbling, and sliding painfully. She felt panicked the further she ran. She had no idea where the crew had gone and her father wasn’t calling her name anymore. Her breath was catching in her throat and she was coughing.

When her mother died in a fire, she had managed to save her infant daughter, but the smoke had caused Elonwyn to have severe asthma attacks whenever she exerted herself. “Oi!” she turned, still wheezing and coughing, and caught sight of Crosstooth, her father’s first mate. Relieved, Elonwyn rested her palms on her knees and breathed deeply, but her breathing hurt her even more and she just gasped.

“Ere. Ya alright miss?” Crosstooth placed a paw on her back and patted her as though she were choking.

Elonwyn sucked in air and nodded. She was starting to breath normally again.

“Ye’d best come on then.” Crosstooth rubbed his head. “Yer dad’s even trying to look under rocks.”

Elonwyn started laughing, then coughed again. Crosstooth smiled blankly and placed a paw on her shoulder and pulled her along.

“We’re gonna head around the bay an’ hide the ship then come back an’ give ol’ Badrang a lil surprise.” Crosstooth chuckled.

Elonwyn stared at him as they walked deeper into the woods. Did this mean they were going to attack marshank? She hoped her new friends wouldn’t be hurt. But if they could manage to injure Findo or that mean rat from earlier, she wouldn’t be too broken hearted. But, they wouldn’t have to kill anyone.

“Come’n kid we need to get ready.” Crosstooth called.

Did that mean her father wanted her to fight too?

■ ■ ■

Ralken trooped up the ladder, fuming.

Findo lay sprawled against the wall top, sleeping in the sunlight, his arms draped over the battlement.

Ralken crossed his arms. “Alright. Stop faking it, I need to talk to you.”

Findo looked up and grinned. “Ralken, you have no idea how wonderful it is to hear your voice and see your face first thing in the morning.”

Ralken kicked him in the ribs and Findo let out a grunt. Ralken sneered. “What did you think you were playing at, tormenting my cousin?!”

Findo’s smile disappeared. “Sorry Ralken, I was only fooling. I wasn’t trying to-

“I don’t care what you were trying to do!!!! You made things worse!”

“How did I make things worse? What things were bad to begin with?!”

“She’s going to tell her father about you! And if he learns you’re my friend we’re both in trouble!”

Findo made a face. “She hardly spoke. I highly doubt she’d say anything of the sort!”

“guys.” A calm voice spoke from behind. They turned around to see a tall, slender, and very pretty black footed ferret with a black pony tail standing in front of them.

“What?!” Ralken and Findo snapped in unison.

She smiled. “It’s my turn on watch.”

“Yeah, thanks Tara.” Findo grumbled, hauling himself up. “How’s Stumpy treating you?”

“Just fine!” she beamed and tossed her sleek black headfur back. “He’s getting jealous that Skalrag’s gonna be a dad now, but, I’m not ready for that sort of thing just yet.” She giggled.

Findo gave her a charming smile. “Well, two seasons a tad early to become parents. Hey, why don’t you and Stumptooth join us around our fire tonight?”

“Sounds great!” Tara laughed. “I’ll tell him. Sorry to interrupt…” she raised an eyebrow. “Whatever it was you too were doing.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Ralken growled. “Come on Fin. Let’s talk about this somewhere else.”

Tara smiled to herself as the two friends stepped down the ladder.

“We’ve had very few agreements in our time, but I thought I made it clear that unless you want to lose an eye, you DON’T CALL ME FIN?!?!”

“Shut up, playboy wonder weasel!”

Tara leaned on the battlements with a sigh, wishing she had a friend of her own age and gender like Findo and Ralken. But, she did have her mate, Stumptooth, and that was a blessing in itself.

■ ■ ■

The crickets chirped loudly in the summer night air, but no one in Marshank heard the small insect’s symphony. Most of them were celebrating their victory over clogg and others watched the walls.

Skalrag sat by a fire with his arm around Juni, his brown eyes narrowed as he watched Ralken and Findo, who were sitting next to each other in identical poses: glaring at each other out of the corner of their eyes and hugging their knees to their chests.

Juni wriggled slightly and Skalrag squeezed her shoulders a little tighter. Juni was rather timid, which was what he liked most about her. He liked feeling like he had something important to protect. He couldn’t understand what Stumptooth, who happened to be sitting next to him, could find so great about the feisty, and tough (albeit sweet and pretty) black footed ferret maid he had taken as his mate.

Ralken sipped the hot soup out of his tin mug, still glowering at Findo.

Juni looked up. “I… have a bad feeling.” She murmured.

Alya, who had been distractedly drawing uneven circles on the ground with a smoldering stick, raised her head, her eerie eyes reflecting the fire light. “What do you mean? Are you feeling sick again? I thought for sure those herbs would work.”

“No.” Juni rubbed her eyes. “Nothing at all like that.”

“What do you mean then?” Skalrag peered at her. “You can tell me.”

“I know.” Juni sighed, and flattened her ears. “But you’ll just think it’s strange.”

“This day an’ age nothin’ surprises me no more.” Stumptooth chuckled, glancing at Tara, who was staring wearily into the fire, her chin resting on her knees.

“Well.” Juni said, looking around at them all. “I have, one of those feelings, you know, that something really awful is about to happen.”

“I get those feelings whenever Findo opens his mouth.” Ralken said darkly, chugging his soup.

Findo bristled. “Stick it up your nose daddy’s boy.”

“Will you two give it a rest?” Alya sighed, running a paw through her headfur.


A flaming arrow landed right next to her footpaw and she let out a gasp. Then more started flying over the walltops.

Skalrag leapt to his feet. “Tara! Get Juni and Alya to safety! Findo, Ralken, take the left wall. Stumptooth and I will take the south.”

They raced away in opposite directions. Findo glanced at Ralken as he ran, and gave him a wolfish grin. “Bet you I’ll kill more of them than you do!”

Ralken sneered. “Don’t try playing that old game with me! This is probably Clogg coming back to wreak havoc, and I think you had something to do with it!”

Findo narrowed his eyes. “You worry too much, you know that?”

Chapter five: visions

TROM chapter five by Selound

written by me

Aquastar had heard the commotion, and was quickly at work. Hastily, she gave the fighters weapons as they passed by ready to defend the fort. She nearly worked her tail off trying to avoid incoming arrows and giving the fighters their weapons. The stoat was trying to save all the other beats lives and hers!

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a young male otter gathering up the arrows that had fallen. Aquastar rushed up to him and whispered urgently. “Keyla, what in the name of fur and feathers are you doin’ here? You could get killed!”

Keyla looked around shiftily and lowered his head to the stoat. He whispered to her in a serious tone. “I'm trying to help my fellow slaves and I escape from this place, mate--so I’m gathering weapons to help us defend ourselves.”

Aqua plucked an arrow from a wooden beam that nearly went through her ear. She gave it to the otter, and nudged him to move faster to avoid being killed. As the otter was leaving, Aqua called out to him. “Good luck to you, mate, and may your hopes stay strong for freedom!”

Another arrow buried deep into the wooden beam, cutting some of Aqua’s headfur in the process. She grabbed the arrow and threw it in the arrow bin. After everybeast was in battle, the stoat grabbed her scimitar, and headed towards the battlefield, oblivious of the watchful eyes that spied on her.

Elonwyn’s blood was rising as she tried to keep up with the elder beasts. She was tripping and falling behind due to the large heavy armor she was made to wear. She struggled with keeping her large sword up and to keep her chain-mail tunic from tangling with her footpaws. The small stoat lifted up the visor of her helmet to unblock her sight; but she had to take it off, due to the lack of air she desperately needed.

The young stoat stopped running and fell on her knees. She grabbed her shirt with her paw and was gasping for air: she was having another asthma attack. Her vision was becoming blurry and she began to feel weaker. Everything went black, before she passed out on the battlefield.

“Elonwyn, Elonwyn.” a voice echoed inside her mind. The stoat looked around at her surroundings. She was on a beach.

The waves splashed against her footpaws and the sounds of the waves filled her mind. Where am I? She wondered.

Suddenly, the voice called out again, “Elonwyn, Elonwyn.” she looked around to see who was calling her.

“Who’s there?” she asked, but her words were as silent as a leaf. She then turned around to see a beautiful female stoat. Lonny knew this stoat: it was her mother.

Her mother was wearing a white robe with a burnt fringe. Her arms and legs were covered in burn scars. However, her face remained a face of a gentle angel.

“Mother?” Elonwyn gasped out. The other stoat did not reply. A soft smile spread on the older stoat’s face.

Just then, the older stoat spoke;

“You do what is not of evil

But still you posses the blood

Your heart is pure and is tender

Though, others disbelieve

You’re not like those who surround you

But those other young creatures are with you

For you must help them bring hope to the ones in need”

Then the voice called out again, but grew louder and louder. “Elonwyn, Elonwyn!”

Everything started to fade away, along with the spirit figure of Elonwyn’s mother. The young stoat called out to her. “Mother, don’t leave me!”

“Elonwyn, Elonwyn wake up! Wake up, Lonny, please! Wake up!”

Elonwyn’s eyes opened slowly as she started to wake. The blurry image of Ralken looked over her calling out pleadingly. “Lonny, please wake up! Please!”

Elonwyn was in the infirmary tent. Many vermin laid on the mats asleep and recovering from their wounds. The ones who only received minor injuries continued their daily living.

The small stoat gave a faint moan as her cousin shook her. “Enh.” She managed to swat a gnat that tickled her nose.

Ralken smiled in relief. “She’s alive!”

“Lie still, Elonwyn, it’ll be all right,” Alya said as she damped Lonny’s forehead with a wet rag. “Just stay still, and breathe gently.”

Elonwyn rubbed her eyes with a weak paw. “Enh, what happened? Did we win?”

Ralken laughed with joy as tears ran down his face. “It’s so good to hear your sweet voice again. You passed out after you had an asthma attack. If it wasn’t for us, you’d be dead. I’m so glad you’re alive!” Ralken was so overjoyed by his cousin’s awakening he accidentally knocked Findo, who was sitting next to him, in the head with his paw.

“Ouch, could you stop doing that already? You’re going to give me brain damage.” “Oh I don’t need to give you anymore brain damage than you already have,” Ralken said cheekily, smirking.

Findo rolled his eyes and looked down at Elonwyn, whose eyes were wide open with fright. Why is he here? Lonny thought.

“Ralken and I spotted you lying on the ground not moving. Assuming you were probably dead or something, we went to get you to safety. Thank the heavens you were still alive, or we would have lost a fellow comrade.”

“Yeah, we both managed to carry you to the infirmary tent, where Alya tended to you. You’re one lucky stoat. I’m surprised that you weren’t stomped to death by those vermin.”

Elonwyn tried to sit up, but Alya gently pushed her back down on the mat she was lying on. “Just rest awhile, till you feel better.”

Elonwyn looked up at the ermine’s blind eyes and nodded. She then looked at Ralken. “When I was asleep, I had the weirdest dream.”

Juni, who was sitting on a mat next to Lonny, spoke up. “What was it?”

“I was on the beach and saw the ghost of my mother--she went and said something about me not being evil and that a few others and I will bring hope. I wanted to ask her who, but she vanished.”

“Well, what did she say?”

“She said:

You do what is not of evil

But still you posses the blood

Your heart is pure and is tender

Though, others disbelieve

You’re not like those who surround you

But those other young creatures are with you

For you must help them bring hope to the ones in need

What does that mean?”

Ralken scratched his chin thoughtfully. Before he could say anything, a voice called from outside. “Ralken, Findo, back to wall duty, ya two lads! Get goin’!”

Findo sighed. “Great, another day in paradise. Oh boy, what fun.”

Ralken gently jabbed Findo’s side. “Well, it’s either that, or bury the fighters we lost, eh? I’d much rather stay and watch, than handle dead bodies.”

The weasel made a show of picking up dead bodies and dying along with them from the terrible smell. Both of them chuckled.

Findo walked out, leaving Ralken and the others. Ralken smiled at his cousin. “You take care now.” Then he left.

After her cousin and Findo left, Lonny fell back asleep; knowing she was safe with the blind healer.

While Ralken was on his way to the wall tops, he noticed a shifty looking vole slave snooping around. Swiftly, the stoat hid behind a block of stone, and watched.

The vole was talking to someone, but the other one was blocked by a wooden beam. Knowing that the vole was scheming something suspicious, Ralken sneaked his way to his post.

Chapter six: doublecross and the slave's pity

TROM chapter six by Selound

again, written by me, since Riftgard_Princess couldn't figure out how to write it, but I didn't mind

Outside the gates of Marshank, Clogg, along with the other members of his crew, recovered from their wounds and were planning another plan.

Bluddnose walked up to his captain, who gazed at Marshank in pure anger. The grey rat lowered his head, knowing that the news he was going to give was not going to please his captain.

Still gazing at the unfinished fort, Clogg spoke to the rat. “‘Ow many did we lose?”

“Only a pawful, sir, but many o’ them was wounded by the brutal forces o’ Badrang’s army. That stoat is no fool, Captain.”

Ignoring Bluddnose’s last statement, Clogg replied, but carried a worried tone in his voice. “Where’s Elonwyn?”

The rat gulped in fear, knowing that his answer was not a good one. he didn’t respond, and remained quiet. An uneasy silence fell onto the crew like a fog at seas. The air became tense as time went by.

“I’ll ask again, where is Elonwyn, an’ I want a proper answer.” The stoat’s voice was dangerous, and caused Bluddnose to take a step back.

“S-sir, she was on the battlefield, but we could not find her anyway, nor did we even find her body. All we found was ‘er armor, but nothin’ else. I’m afraid she’s, ahem, gone, Captain.”

“Gone, whatta mean she’s gone!?” Clogg roared at the rat.

Bluddnose winced as Clogg’s hot breath blew in his face. “We can’t find ‘er anywhere, is wot I'm sayin, Cap’n. She’s gone like the wind.”

Clogg tried his best to keep his temper under control. “Badrang,’”he said, in a harsh whisper.

Crosstooth was next to Clogg. “So yer sayin’ she’s inside Marshank, sir?” he enquired.

“That’s exactly wot I’m sayin’. Now if ya’ll excuse me, I ‘ave some more business with that scum o’ the earth.”

Elonwyn woke up. She was well enough to stand by herself. She walked out of the healer’s tent, and was on her way back to her father’s crew. “Father must be so worried,” she said to herself.

Lonny stopped, and looked around. She didn’t know where to go. Now was the right time to ask someone to show her to the gates, but however, she just couldn’t ask anybeast, no matter how hard she tried. Everybeast was so tall, and mean looking. They all looked down at her like a weakling. She felt lost.

All of this unneeded stress caused Lonny to run away to a safe place. No matter which corner she turned, a tall scary vermin was in her way. Lonny didn’t know where to turn.

Desperately, she searched for a safe place to hide. She kept running. Tears ran down her face as she searched in fear; unaware that she was about to run over somebeast.


“AAAAHHHHHH!!” Both Lonny and the other beast fell over as they collided into each other. Dust flew in the air as they fell.

After the dust cleared away, Lonny and the other beast sat up and glared at each other. Complete silence went between the two. The beast Lonny ran into was Keyla, the otter slave.

Lonny was speechless, and was surprised by her sudden encounter with one of the slaves. Keyla stood up, and brushed himself off. “Hello, ma’am, are you lost? Here, let me help you up.”

Lonny accepted the otter’s help. She dusted herself off and looked at Keyla. She was too shy to say a word to him.

Keyla raised an eyebrow at the stoat. “Say, aren’t you the daughter of Cap’n Clogg?”

All Lonny could do was nod.

“If you’re his daughter, then why are you here in Marshank? Shouldn’t you be with him?” Lonny lowered her ears and backed away slowly. She had no answer. “Hmm, a shy one, aren’t you?” Keyla then expected her from head to tail tip. “You don’t look the other vermin. Wot’s your name?”

“Elonwyn,” she said in a small whisper.

The otter smiled, growing fond of the young stoat. “That’s a very pretty name--mine’s Keyla. I'm a friend of your cousin Aquastar.” The otter held out his paw for her to shake.

Lonny’s eyes widened. How was her cousin a friend with a slave? She then looked at the crude looking structure that stood behind the otter slave.

“Wot’s the matter, mate?”

The stoat pointed behind Keyla. Keyla looked behind him. “Oh that? Well, that’s where the slaves, like me, rest. Aye, tis a cruel fate we have ever since we became slaves under Lord Badrang: that devil. So many poor souls lost into building this cursed place. But one day, we will escape from this cursed place. And I thank my lucky stars that your cousin is helping us.”

Elonwyn felt grief and sadness for the otter and the other slaves. She wiped a tear from her eyes at the sad story. It’s true, her uncle really was a cruel monster that kept poor creatures locked up and forced to work such hard labors. And for what? To build an evil fortress filled with the blood and suffering of innocent creatures. She started to weep.

The otter looked at her in worry. “Are you okay, miss?”

Elonwyn rubbed the tears from her eyes, and nodded, but Keyla knew she wasn’t. He knew that she felt so bad for her uncle treating other creatures poorly. He knew how desperately she wanted to leave this place. The otter patted Lonny’s back in sympathy.

“There, there, it’ll be all right, we’ll get out of this place. If you want, you could help us.”

Lonny was about to respond when a cruel voice hissed from behind her. “Oi, you, otter! Get back to work, or I’ll feed ya to the gulls. Now get movin’!”

The otter leaned over to Lonny and whispered in her ear. “Just wait, and see; we’ll be fine, friend.” The otter then left to do work.

Elonwyn wiped another tears from her eye. A voice from behind caught her attention. “Hey, Elonwyn.”

The stoat looked behind her, and saw Juni. The fox had a look of worry on her face. “Have you seen Skalrag anywhere? After I left the tent this morning, and went to look for him, but I couldn’t find him anywhere. I dearly hope he’s okay. Can you help me look for him?”

Knowing that her friend was in trouble, Lonny nodded. Both fox and stoat went in search for the lost Skalrag. ~ Skalrag was not within the gates of Marshank at all. Instead he was surrounded by the crew of Cap’n Clogg. The night he burned down Clogg’s ship, but he was caught. Now he was in deep trouble.

No one noticed the watchful eyes of Trusiae, who was watching from the trees. She knew this meant trouble, and was aware to tell the others about this. Mainly Juni, since she knew that Skalrag’s life was on thin ice, and that would be a huge problem and creating a lot of stress for the pregnant vixen.

After gathering what information she needed, the ferret swiftly and silently slunk away back to Fort Marshank. She snuck in by climbing up the walls, where she was greeted by Findo and Ralken.

The stoat and weasel helped her up. “What news of Skalrag?” Findo asked.

Trusiae rolled up her rope and grappling hook. ‘Not very good, I’m afraid. Looks like Skalrag’s going to play spy for Clogg, and I have a terrible feeling that his fate won’t end well.”

Ralken looked at the smoldering ashes of Clogg’s ship and sighed. “Who’s to say what Badrang will do if he catches Skalrag sharing information to that corsair. But I know it won’t end very well. Better not tell Juni about this--she’ll be worried to death.”

Findo shook his head sadly. “And who’s to help take care of Juni’s baby if Skalrag dies?”

“I don’t know, but let’s wait and see. However, there has been a shifty looking vole among the slaves. I have a feeling he’s up to something. I’ll keep an eye on him.”

Ralken nodded, remembering the vole. “Aye, I’ve noticed him too. We should all keep an eye on him.”

“What are you two talking about?” a voice said from behind the three.

“We were talking about Skalrag and the shifty vole, Tara.”

The black footed ferret tilted her head in puzzlement. “Wot makes you say that?”

“Because I saw it for myself, Skalrag and Clogg were discussing an act of double cross to Badrang. And with the vole, he’s up to no good, even Ralken knows, for he saw him before.”

Tara scratched her chin in thought. “Hmm, so, what are we going to do about it?”

“We’ll keep an eye on them,” the three said simultaneously to the black footed ferret.

“Okay, I’ll help you guys.”

“Okay, but remember to not let them suspect that you know something, okay?” Tara nodded.

Ralken's voice piped up. “Hey, has anybeast seen Elonwyn?”

Chapter seven: Hurricane

TROM chapter seven by RGP

wrriten by Meeks

The next morning, Ralken watched his father from across the table, his eyes half closed. He supposed one could only hold so much wine, but it was amazing how much Badrang could chuzzle down.

“Ere. Son, aren’t ye going to eat?” Badrang looked up, swallowing a mouthful of pheasant.

Ralken shook his head. “I’m not very hungry at the moment father.” he examined his nails. “Seeing as we aren’t doing anything else, perhaps you could tell me what it is you brought me in here for.”

Badrang grinned. “You’re my son alright. The straight to the point type.” He leaned over the table as though confiding something secret. “Skalrag’s one of yore good friends isn’t he?”

“Yes.” Ralken said slowly, a sick feeling in his stomach. “Since the first time we met.”

“Good! Then you should know why he hasn’t returned from that mission of his by now.” Badrang narrowed his eyes.

Ralken laughed softly, trying to hide his growing anxiety. “Well, he’s either dead or captured. Did you want me to go find him, father?”

“Of course not!” Badrang spat. “Your blood isn’t worth spilling over that weak fox. I have a feeling that Skalrag will have given his services to Clogg in order to keep his life. If he has, he will be punished.” His voice ended in a growl.

“Of course, I’m going to test that theory first. If Skalrag is a traitor, then his suffering will be endless. If not, he’ll be back to his regular duties.” Badrang stood and draped his cloak over his shoulders. He glanced at his son. “So, how’s that new healer coming along?”

“She’s keeping up with her duties, considering all that’s been happening.” Ralken stood, trying to keep his voice steady. If he knew what his father’s test was, he could do something to keep his friend alive.

Badrang smiled. “That’s good to hear. But I also hear that you seem rather taken with her.” His father’s eyes narrowed. “And I can’t have any grandchild of mine being blind of a half-breed. Do you understand?”

Ralken smiled. “Of course not. I have no interest in petty things such as romance. I’m more interested to hear what this plan of yours to test Skalrag is.”

“It’s very simple really.” Badrang purred. “I’m going to ask Clogg to hand Skalrag over as a sign of good faith. If Clogg agrees, it’s because Skalrag is a spy, and Clogg has nothing to lose with Skalrag being inside our walls. If he doesn’t, then Skalrag is innocent.”

This was very precise reasoning, and Ralken swallowed, hoping for the entire world that Clogg would refuse to give up Skalrag.

  

Ralken lay in Alya’s tent, his head resting against the table leg and his eyes staring unseeingly at the ceiling. He felt as though he had died brutally inside. He didn’t have the heart to tell his friends what was going on. They didn’t need to know. It was too horrible.

He heard footsteps entering the tent, but he didn’t move. ‘’dear seasons please don’t let it be Juni.’’ He thought, bile rising up his throat.

“Ralken?” Findo’s voice echoed in Ralken’s ears. “You okay mate?”

Ralken sat up. If he had to tell anyone, he at least should tell Findo. “Clogg gave Skalrag back.” His voice was hoarse.

“That’s great!” Findo cheered.

“No it’s not.” Ralken groaned and put his head in his hands. “That means Skalrag’s a spy.”

Findo was silent. Then he spoke, and there was anger rising in his voice. “Well what are we gonna do about it?! We know he only did it so he could live and take care of Juni, and see his kid grow up! We can’t let Badrang-

“I’ve already tried explaining this to my father.” Ralken said dully. “He won’t listen. There’s nothing we can do.”

“Dear Stars above.” Findo whispered, and slid to the floor in a daze. The two of them sat in solemn silence, too lost for words.

“Archers! Fire!” Badrang’s voice called from outside. Then there was a horrible piercing scream, which could only be one beast.

“SKALRAG!!!! NO!” Juni’s voice was like the cry of a wounded dove, shrill, and full of inconsolable anguish.

Ralken stood up, his legs shaking. “She shouldn’t have had to see that…” his voice broke and he fell to his knees with his head in his hands, his shoulders shaking. It was the first time since infancy that he had ever cried.

Findo looked away, his own eyes burning, but a deeper fire was coursing in him. The fire of revenge. Revenge against Clogg for his stupidity, revenge against Badrang for his lack of mercy, revenge against every archer that stood on the battlements now.

An icy wall surrounded Findo’s heart. Just like it had, the day he had received those three deep scars on his cheek.

  

Elonwyn stared in sickened horror at the corpse of Skalrag, hanging like some vile flag on the battlements. Vomit rose in her throat, and she sank to a crouch, trying hard not to let herself be sick all over the ground. She could hear Juni, who was sobbing quietly on Alya’s shoulder.

‘’I know how you feel. I know how you feel.’’ The words repeated in Elonwyn’s mind. She did know. Her own mother had died horribly in front of her very eyes. And on that day Elonwyn had become afraid. Afraid to speak, afraid to walk on her own, afraid of everyone around her. And this fear had been kindled by her father’s over protectiveness.

“Come on Juni.” Alya whispered. Elonwyn turned her face away from the sickening sight, and watched Alya lead Juni to the tent. Elonwyn followed. She was not really welcome in this silent procession. She hadn’t really known Skalrag. But she wanted desperately to tell Juni that she wasn’t alone, that she would be alright.

But these words were so empty. So very, very empty.

She stood awkwardly outside the tent and her eyes widened. Findo was standing in front of her, and his red rimmed blue eyes were hard and icy, full of hatred. She staggered back, letting out a moan.

Findo blinked and stared down at her, as though only just seeing her. “Elonwyn?”

Elonwyn shoved past him, hugging herself. Those eyes… were so dead of everything except bitterness and evil.

Ralken sat on the ground, hugging his knees, staring across the room with unseeing eyes. Dried tear-tracks ran down his cheeks.

“Your dad asked for you, Lonn.” Ralken said hoarsely. “Asked Badrang to hand you over in exchange for Skalrag. But dad didn’t know you were in here, so Clogg just left. That’s a good thing, it means Badrang won’t try and use you as a hostage.”

Elonwyn nodded slowly, then wrapped her arms around Ralken’s neck and gave him a brief hug.

“You’ve done your best.” Elonwyn whispered, and then stood up. Juni sat on the table, rocking back and forth, no longer crying. She stared at nothing, her eyes dead of life, like the eyes of a mad beast. Elonwyn remembered these eyes. Her fathers had been the same when her mother had died.

“I’ve given her a sleeping draft so she can rest and not have any nightmares. But I think it would be best if someone kept an eye on her.” Alya sat down beside Ralken. Findo still stood at the doorway, watching everyone in Marshank mill about.

“Hey.” Findo spoke up. “Clogg’s being let in the gates.”

“That will mean the three of us will be wanted.” Ralken groaned and stood. “Elonwyn, could you watch Juni and keep her company?”

Elonwyn nodded and climbed up the table to sit beside Juni.

“Good.” Ralken gave her a forced smile, before he, Findo, and Alya left the tent. Findo gave Elonwyn one last glance with those hate filled eyes. Lonny shuddered, but the Findo smiled and left.

Lonny let out a sigh and watched Juni rock back and forth, trying to gather the courage to talk to her. Finally she took a deep breath and spoke.

“My mother’s name was Baina. She was a gypsy fortune teller my father met on one of his travels. She could do all sort of magic tricks to entertain the crew, and read fortunes, and cards. My father, married her, and had me. I was runty, and I look more like my father than my mother, but we were my dad’s life. But, you see, some of the crew were terrified of my mother. Corsairs are very superstitious, and the called her a witch, and bad luck.”

Elonwyn hugged her knees. This was the most talking she had ever done at once and it frightened her. But this was important. It could help Juni.

“When I was seven seasons old, we landed at this bay, and these corsairs who were conspiring against my mother, lured her away from the ship, and she had me with her. I was scared, but my mother was more trusting. When they had us far away and alone, they tied my mother up and threw her and me on a pile of sticks and lit fire, to burn us. My mom managed to free me and get me out unharmed, but she burned. I watched her die in front of my very eyes. The corsairs took me away and tried to drown me, but my dad and his loyal corsairs had seen the fire and they came and rescued me.”

Elonwyn played with the fishbone tailring on her fluffy sand colored fur. It had been her mothers. The only thing left of her in the fire.

“Dad went berserk and killed the ones who had killed my mother. After that, I was scared to speak to anyone, to be with anyone. I was afraid I was going to die too if I came too near anyone. If I trusted someone. And dad became very overprotective of me.”

Elonwyn stared at Juni, who was staring back at her with blank eyes. Juni was no longer rocking.

“But, my dad was just like you for a while. But then, he realized, he had me to take care of, and he went back to his usual self. But I do understand what you’re going through, Juni. I watched my own mother burn in front of my very eyes. But, you can’t just give up. Your baby needs you.”

Elonwyn let out a little gasp as Juni suddenly hugged her tightly. Elonwyn sat there, tense, but then she relaxed, and pet Junis head awkwardly.

Findo sat outside the tent, a smile on his face. “So that’s why.” He muttered, then stood up and walked away.

Chapter eight: How to save a life

TROM chapter eight by Selound

written by me

Trusiae heard and saw everything that happened. She entered the tent with an emotionless expression. The ferret walked over to Juni, who was still sitting next to Elonwyn.

The ferret looked down at the vixen and stoat. “It was my duty to handle your mate’s belongings. I’ve searched through his stuff and found this letter he had written. It's meant towards you, Juni. It’s short, but it sends a message that I think you should know.” She handed Juni the letter, which brought more tears to the young vixen’s eyes.

Elonwyn placed a comforting paw on her friend’s shoulder. “What does it say?”

Juni dried her eyes with free paw. “It says:

‘to my dearest Juni,

By the time you read this letter, I'll be gone.

I’ve done pretty mean things in my past that I regret doing.

I’ve decided to sacrifice my life to save yours from the wrath of the evil corsair.

Now listen, you must understand that I didn’t want to end this way, but I had no choice.

I had to prove that the cruelty of the Tyrant has gone too far.

You must leave Marshank so you won’t end the way I did.

do it for me...and our kid.

With all my heart,


Juni wiped another tear from her eyes. “He just died to help save me as a sign proving the cruelty that Badrang could bring to anybeast, no matter what.”

Trusiae understood the grieve and suffering the vixen was going through. Her blue and black eyes showed sadness and regret of what happened.

The ferret then pulled out a folded up article of clothing from her cloak. “He also wants you to have this.” She handed it to Juni. It was Skalrag’s cloak.

Juni buried her face into her lover’s cloak and wept. Trusiae bowed her head in respect. “I’m very sorry for your lose.” She then walked out of the tent.

As soon as the cloaked ferret walked out, Tailwart came dashing into the tent with a face of worry. He breathed hard and looked terrified. “Has anybeast seen Aqua? I can’t find her anywhere!”

The others looked at him in puzzlement. “You mean, she’s not anywhere within the gates of Marshank?” Alya asked with a touch of worry in her voice.

“That’s exactly what I’m saying! She’s gone! Vanished!” The ferret went into a frenzy and started searching all over the place yelling up a storm.

Ralken sprang up and grabbed hold of the frantic ferret, and slapped some sense into him. “Control yourself, man! Calm down! Now tell us, when was the last time you saw her, and try to keep calm.”

Alya and Ralken helped the ferret sit down on a chair. He was shivering all over. His red eyes were wide and filled with regret and intense fear.

“Ayla, get this ferret some water!”

The blind ermine rushed to get to water for Tailwart. She gave him the glass of water. The ferret was shaking so bad that he couldn’t hold the glass, so Alya had to help him.

Ralken looked over at the vixen and stoat sitting by each other. Juni was a little shaken up by the sudden events. Elonwyn was terrified--she buried her face in her knees and covered her eyes with her paws.

“You see, Tailwart suffers from extreme anxiety--when something he desires or is really close to, he goes into a panic attack and starts acting like this. I know it’s hard to see happening to a fellow like him, but it is true. We’ve seen it before the last time Aqua went missing--but that was when she was accidentally left behind on a little trip to the beach. Aqua was calm, but poor Tailwart--well, he was like what he was now.” Ralken explained to his younger cousin.

Elonwyn uncovered her eyes, and looked over at the ferret, which was shaking mildly while he grasped the blanket that Alya threw on his back. Tailwart was a mess.

After the ferret calmed down, he was able to tell the others what happened. “The last time I saw Aqua was when she was giving out weapons. I was too busy defending the gates to even notice her. Could’ve she gone out to the battlefield? Oh dear! I hope she’s okay!” Tailwart started to shake again.

Alya patted his back and talked to him in a gentle soothing voice to calm him down. “Shh, it’s okay. We’ll keep an eye on her. Unfortunately I kinda can’t” Alya smiled at her last statement.

Tailwart managed a small chuckle. “Y-yah, that’s a great idea. I’ll stay by the gates and keep an eye to see if she comes through those gate doors. Oh, believe me; she’ll be back all smiles and laughs with a proud stance and barely a scratch on her. Just wait and see, I just know she will!”

Deep in the woods, where the attackers had struck from, the bodies of many laid about. Everything was still, all except for Aquastar.

The stoat slowly limped away from the woods. She had a deep gash on her shoulder and her leg was broken. Aqua used her scimitar as a cane as she plowed through like the undead. She held her gut with a blood covered paw, for she had been cut badly. Little patches of her white fur was barely showing through, due to all the blood that covered her.

Upon sighting home, the stoat managed an extra burst of speed to her painful limping. If she was to die, it might as well be a place where she was surrounded by the beasts she loved.

Tailwart had recovered quickly form his ‘panic attack’ and was standing guard at the gates of Marshank. A scratching noise caught his attention. The sounds was like of a beast scratching at the door, begging to be let in.

The ferret opened the gate a crack when suddenly the beast on the other side of the gates collapsed. Tailwart jumped in sudden shock as the blood covered paw of Aqua fell through gates. The ferret gasped and quickly opened the gate. He covered his mouth with his paw as he stood there looking at the fallen form of Aquastar with her scimitar at her side

Tailwart threw his spear aside and threw the female stoat over his shoulder. He then ran to the healer’s tent as fast as his legs could carry him; for Aqua’s life depended on it.

Alya was hastily at work trying to save the young stoat’s life. Blood covered rags littered about as the healer performed her duties. Ralken stood by Tailwart and did his best to comfort the ferret, who was in tears for the fear of losing his best friend in the whole wide world.

Even though she had only seen her cousin a few times, Elonwyn decided to help Alya by giving her the supplies she needed.

“I need more clean rags, quick! More water, I'm losing her!”

Elonwyn’s heart was beating fast. Never had she felt so scared of losing another member of her family--she didn’t want to see her cousin die in front of her eyes, just like that of her mother. If she was going to save a life, now was the time!

Hours went by, and the healer’s job was finished. Aquastar was breathing softly as bandages covered her injuries. She was still alive.

The worn out healer plopped down on a chair. She wiped a blood covered paw across her sweaty brow. Elonwyn was by her side, and sat down with her legs over her chest and her face lowered. She had saved a life for the first time in her young life.

Tailwart was sitting by Aqua’s side as she slept. Ralken walked over to Alya and gave her a bowl of water and a clean rag. “Thank you, Alya, for saving my cousin’s life.”

The blind ermine cleaned her paws and forehead with the water soaked rag. “Tis the sort of action I go through every day. That stoat is lucky to survive. She suffered from a gash in her shoulder, a cut close to her chest, a half torn ear, and a broken footpaw, which would probably give her a permanent limp.”

“And I thank you for that.” Ralken then looked down at Lonny, whose gaze was fixed on the sleeping form of Aquastar. The older stoat sat down beside his younger cousin. He rustled her headfur. “You did good, Lonny, you showed the courage I was expecting for you to show. You’re starting to get out of your shell, and I’m very proud of that.”

Still keeping her gaze upon the sleeping stoatmaid, Lonny replied. “Yes, it was something I have never felt before. I just didn’t want to suffer more from the fact that I could’ve lost another family member that I was growing very fond of.” The stoat looked down. “I didn’t want to lose another friend.” She wiped a tear from her eye.

Ralken smiled softly. “Aww, it’s okay. Maybe this is what your mother means by hope. let’s just wait and see.”

Lonny smiled softly. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

“Aye, it be true, matey,” Aquastar said weakly from her bed. Lonny’s ears went up as she ran to her cousin’s bed.

The young stoat grasped her older cousin’s paw and cheered happily. “Aqua, you’re alive! Thanks to me and Alya!”

The white stoat smiled her winning smile. “Heh, so you did. I’m very proud of you, cousin. If it wasn’t for your bravery and Alya’s healing power, I would be a deadbeast.”

Tailwart placed a gentle paw on Aqua’s non-injured shoulder. A tear rolled down his face.

“Star, I thought I lost you. I was worried sick.”

Aqua chuckled weakly. “If you worried any more, you’d be on the mat dressed up like an ancient history mummy, hehe.”

Aqua then looked over at Alya. “Where’s my ole’ pal Skalrag? I haven’t seen him in awhile.”

A dead silence fell over the young vermin. Everyone looked sadly to the ground. Then all eyes were on Juni as she stood up. Trying to hold back tears, the vixen replied. “Skalrag...was brutally Badrang’s army...he had no where to go.”

Aqua’s heart sank. This harsh event changed her from the out going, happy-go-lucky self to a remorseful figure of sadness. She shook her head sadly as she sat up. Her voice trembled from the fact she lost a good friend. “And Badrang...did this?”

Juni nodded sadly. “Yes, he ordered his army to fire arrows into him. I saw the whole thing and Lonny too.”

The white stoat’s face then turned cold and filled with hatred. “But yet, we’re still here in this dreadful place. I will not rest until every living woodlander is freed from their chains! I’ve now realized the cruelty of my uncle for killing one of our own! He’ll see the day when his fate will end as what he did to Skalrag’s!”

Aquastar painfully got off the cot and supported herself on Tailwart’s spear. Her voice was filled with rage and hatred. “I will not rest till the day he knows the true meaning of cruelty! My friends, we are leaving Marshank no matter what!”

“But, how? We have no army to fight with. And besides, Badrang will slay us with one paw behind his back.”

Aquastar looked over to the one who spoke, whom was Tailwart. “I’ll tell you, as soon as that warrior mouse who escaped here a few days ago comes with an army of his own, we’ll leave this place once and for all!”

Tailwart shook his head doubtfully. “But when, when will he arrive?”

“Only time could tell, mate, only time could tell.”

Elonwyn looked outside the tent. Ralken looked at her. Elonwyn had a face of worry.

“What’s wrong, Lonny?’

“I don’t know, but I have a bad feeling for what’s soon to come.

Chapter nine: Animal I have become

TROM chapter nine by RGP

written by Meeks

Findo watched Hisk romp about giving orders from the battlements. Stumptooth kept his gaze on the gates, though Findo could sense his new friends’ shoulders shaking with silent mirth.

“Hisk certainly knows how to be important and make a fool out of himself all at the same time.” Findo yawned, crumpling his headfur with a paw. He had had nightmares all of last night and he was surly and exhausted that morning. His paw kept sliding from his head fur to his cheek and back again.

“Aye. That he do.” Stumptooth snickered. He turned slightly and raised an eyebrow. “Findo, ye look like the walkin dead. Wutsa matter wit ya?” Findo crumpled his headfur again. Those scars... a constant reminder of his past, of that vile jezebel. He bared his teeth. He had sworn to himself that he would tell no one of how he had come to live at Marshank, and how those scars had been placed on his face.

“Aw, just Skalrags death, that’s all.” Findo turned with a smile on his face. Stumptooth took a step back. “By me stumps that’s scarier than Badrang without his clothes on! quit smilin’, Ye look like a piranha!”

Findo put on a mock mournful expression. “But I’m told my smile’s quite charming!”

“Yeah, when it’s real.” Stumptooth sniffed. “Ye don’t have to act cheerful today, yer in morning dangit.”

Findo couldn’t help himself. He burst out laughing. “You there!” Hisk’s voice boomed from below the battlements. “Quite yore chattin and get on with yore watchin!”

“We are watching!” Findo called down cheerfully. “We’re watching a dumb weasel yell orders while he does the conga! Why don’t you come see?” “If ye weren’t up a flight of steps I’d flog ye!” Hisk snapped and marched off. “Keep on walking! Your tail’s so cute when it bobs like that!” Findo called down, grinning.

Stumptooth was writhing on the ground, trying to keep himself from screaming with laughter.

“Findo!” an annoyed voice called from behind him. Findo jumped and turned. Ralken stood with his arms crossed. Badrang was standing beside him. Stumptooth let out a slight cough and stood to attention. Findo felt his face grow warm. “I hope, for your sake Ralken.” Badrang said darkly. “That this is not the beast you wanted me to promote.”

Ralken let out an exasperated sigh. “Unfortunately… yes.” He glanced at his father. “He acts like an idiot every other day. But he is very reliable in a crisis.”

Findo glowered at Ralken. “I don’t remember you mentioning you were going to have me promoted ‘’sir’’. I could have been better prepared to meet Lord Badrang.” “I promise.” Ralken said coldly. “I won’t surprise you anymore.”

If Badrang had not been present, Findo would have swatted him. But he just bowed formerly.

Badrang rolled his eyes, and Findo’s hackles raised. That son of a seagull! Skalrag would be avenged if it killed him. ‘’I’ll show you. MY LORD.’’ He smirked to himself.

“I’ll give you a chance to prove your worth, Findo.” Badrang let out a sigh. “Clogg has insisted to letting some performers in the fortress. If you can keep everyone in check tonight, I’ll allow you to be a captain.”

“In check?” Findo cocked his head. “I’m not quite sure what you mean, Lord Badrang.” It was taking every ounce of his strength not to leap on Badrang and rip his head off.

“There’s going to be booze drinking.” Badrang ran a paw across his sword hilt. “Which will cause fights and other such things. I don’t want these visitors, whether they are just performers, to think we’re barbarians.” Findo felt his blood boil. Barbarians, was it? You murderer.

“Understood. Lord Badrang.” Findo watched as Badrang walked down the ladder. Only when Badrang had entered his cabin did Findo let loose the rage that had been boiling inside him.

He slammed his fist against the railing, causing it to splinter. He ignored the piercing pains shooting up his arm, but instead let a low growl rumble from his throat.

“Findo.” Stumptooth’s voice was calm, but shaky.

“Let him be.” Ralken said darkly.

“Who does he think he is?!” Findo turned to both of them, his face plastered with a grimace of hatred. “Barbarians?! My worth?! He’s the one who had Skalrag killed! He’s the one imprisoning innocents in this fortress!!!! He’s the one who left Juni without a husband!!! He’s the one who made a child fatherless!!!!!” His voice was unrecognizable, a low roar that made the fur on the back of Ralken and Stumptooth’s neck stand up.

“Findo, that’s enough.” Ralken said, grabbing Findo’s hood and pulling him forward. “I have to talk to you about something important.” He lowered his voice. “Just the two of us.”

Findo shoved Ralken away. “Later.” He climbed down the ladder and walked away. “I’ll get Tara to take his place.” Ralken said, exasperated. “He needs time to cool off.”

“I’ve never seen him like that. He’s always so easy and good natured.” Stumptooth shuddered.

“Yes, well.” Ralken sighed. “He gets like that some time. You don’t want to be on his bad side, that’s for sure.” He glanced at Stumptooth. Should he trust him with the plan to escape Marshank, or their aid to the slaves? No… not just yet. “Did you know Findo’s the one who taught me how to duel?” Ralken asked, trying to change the subject.

“He did?” Stumptooth’s eyes grew wide. “But you’re so much better than him!” “Aye.” Ralken let out a forced laugh. “And I won’t let him live it down.”

  

Findo wandered aimlessly, fuming. Badrang was nothing but a worm that needed to be cut in half with a hoe. That murdering scum! There weren’t any words nasty enough that he could place on Badrang’s head. Just like the wench who had murdered his entire tribe. The one who had mutilated his face.

“Findo? What are you doing in here?” Alya’s voice woke him from his burning thoughts.

Alya was sorting herbs while Elonwyn sat beside a still weak and wounded Aquastar. The two of them were playing a go fish game with leaf cards. Findo’s eyes rested on Elonwyn and he let out a groan. She looked just like his mother and his little sister all at the same time.

“Findo?” Alya repeated. Findo shook his head to clear it and rested his paw on a chair.

Unfortunately it was his bad paw.

“Ow!” he yelped, drawing back.

“What happened?” Alya leapt to her feet. Elonwyn and Aquastar watched with raised eyebrows and tiny grins.

“I smashed my paw.” He muttered.

“Well, why did you do that?” Elonwyn piped up without thinking.

“Just sit down.” Alya stifled a smile.

Findo sat on a chair and folded his arms. Alya grabbed a handful herbs and a ribbon of bandage cloth. “So, what’s going on out there?”

“Why do you care?” Findo growled sulkily.

“Because, we need to know everything that’s going on if we’re going to try and escape this place.” Aquastar snapped.

“Well, it seems that Clogg’s managed to get some performers to come tonight.” Findo grumbled.

“Performers?!” Elonwyn suddenly squealed, leaping to her feet. Alya gave a start jerking Findo’s paw causing him to let out a hiss of pain.

“Sorry.” Elonwyn squeaked. “But what kind of performers are they?”

“Why the hellgates do you want to know?” Findo said, wriggling into his chair, sucking on his paw. Alya pulled his paw away from his mouth and wrapped the herbs around it. Then she untied the bandages and grabbed a pair of tweezers.

“You’ve got splinters all over your paw, I didn’t realize that earlier.” Alya muttered.

“I just wanted to know.” Elonwyn shuffled her footpaws awkwardly.

“Well how in the world should I know?” Findo sighed. “All I know is they’re performers.”

“I really really, really, really, really hope they’re magicians!!!” Elonwyn danced around the tent. “I haven’t seen any magic tricks since my mom died!”

“That’d be fun.” Aquastar said cheerfully. “It’d be nice for something uplifting to happen after all the stuff that’s been going on.”

“Ow!” Findo tugged his paw away from Alya’s grip. “You’re supposed to be fixing my paw not ripping all the skin off!”

“Quit squirming you big baby.” Alya sighed. “Let’s just hope everything will go smoothly tonight.”

Chapter ten: a gateway to disaster

TROM chapter ten by Selound

written by me

Findo smiled half heartedly. “Yeah, like anything runs smoothly when it involves Clogg?”

Alya shook her head. “I know you’re upset about Skalrag’s death--we all are, but we’ll escape this place, you’ll see...unlike me.” The blind ermine managed a small chuckle as she removed the last splinter from Findo’s paw.

Findo winced as the healer applied some herbs on his paw to dull the pain and to prevent any infections. The healer re-wrapped Findo’s paw and patted his arm. “All better now, are we?”

“Much.” Findo looked over at Lonny and Aquastar, who continued to watch the wounded weasel fuss. He grinned at the two stoatmaids. “Are you guys going to watch the performers tonight? I heard that Miss Lonny would like to see some magic.”

Ralken entered the tent, and was standing outside the entrance. He had his arms crossed. “Yeah, I can do some magic. Anybeast want to see how I can make Findo suddenly silent?”

Lonny and Aqua giggled at the stoat’s witty comment that made Findo blush: how dare he make him embarrassed in front of the women.

“As I was saying, would you like to see them, Lonny?”

Lonny nodded her head quickly. “Yes, very much!” She tried her best to keep her excitement leveled, incase a hordebeast passed by the tent.

Aqua, however, sulked. She picked up a leaf card and watched it gently fall on her cot. “I can’t see them; Alya says to stay here and heal up.” The stoat let out a sigh that sounded like a mock sob. “And to just think I would have to miss out on seeing performers for the first time, due to my war injuries. Oh how dreadful one must miss out on a wonderful event that would only happen once.”

“Aqua, we could carry you there to see.” Lonny said, feeling sorry for her injured cousin.

The white stoat shook her head sadly and held up a paw. “No, you guys go on--I’ll only be a burden that’ll make you miss the show due to my wounds. I’ll probably see another show till I’m old and silver. Just go and enjoy the show: go.”

Findo rolled his eyes and looked over at Ralken, then at Lonny, who was standing behind Ralken. “I guess we have to play protect the princess, eh?”

Ralken jabbed his pal in the injured paw. “Yeah, you play the mean princess eating badger, while I come in and swooped the fair lady off her footpaws, and ride into the sunset with her in my arms, while you lay slain in your evil castle.” While he was talking, Ralken swooped Lonny into his arms like an actual prince and princess.

Lonny managed to giggle at her older cousin as he held her. “Oh fair Prince Ralken, thank you for saving me from that dreaded monster that was going to eat my tail for soup.”

Ralken smiled charmingly as he picked up Aqua’s scimitar and pointed it at Findo. “Stay down, vile beastie, and leave while you still have a head. From this day forth, you will be banned from eating princesses ever again!”

Findo smirked and made a fierce look in his eyes as he grabbed a random sword. “But you didn’t say I wasn’t allowed to eat princes, especially handsome ones, oh great ruler of the stoats.”

The girls couldn’t resist laughing at the two men playing around. Aqua tore off a black piece of her blood stained shirt and wrapped it around her head and over her left eye like an eyepatch. She made an evil snarling face and started to speak in her best corsair accent. “Aharr, ye ‘avent got the guts ta challeng’ ole’ Captain Sapphireeyes, the most evil corsair o’ the seven seas, arr! If ya slays the beastie thar, ya ‘ave ta challeng’ me, aharr!”

Ralken made a fearless stance that made him look like a brave warrior. “But he has to catch me first!’ Then the older stoat ran out of the tent with Lonny laughing in his arms. “Onwards, fair ruler, onwards towards the show!”

Findo chuckled and chased after the two, laughing.

Alya wiped a tear from her eyes from too much laughter. “Aho, that was rather fun. Now as for you, Aqua, get plenty of rest, and--” The ermine paused. Something wasn’t right. She felt around the cot Aqua was laying on, to find it empty. Alya pursed her lips and rolled her eyes. Aqua had escaped the healer’s tent, and oddly fast.

The ermine healer shook her head. “There’s no way keeping that one in one place for so long. But how did she escape so fast?”

The answer to Alya’s question was simple. Aqua leapt on Findo’s shoulders and rode him like horse. “Onwards, me hearty, catch them blasted stoaties!”

“Aye, Captain!” Findo was actually enjoying himself, despite the incident earlier.

The three finally made it to the show, and just in time, it was just starting. However, Aqua had a feeling something was amiss. One was that the fox sounded like somebeast she knew from the slaves. And Two, the magic tricks were too obvious to her. She grasped Tailwart’s spear (she still kept it from earlier) tighter and slinked painfully away from the others to investigate.

Elonwyn was enjoying the show a lot, but she then notice her cousin leaving. She wanted to know why. Sighing, Lonny decided to follow her cousin, even though she had to sacrifice watching the show.

The young stoat followed her cousin to the slave compound, and hid behind a pile of wooden logs. She listened intently as Aqua conversed with the squirrel in the fox costume. Aqua must’ve known the squirrel, because they were talking like old friends.

Lonny kept listening, unaware of the two shady figures that were near.

Keena, and her older brother (he’s only older by a year) were sneaking around, spying on the slaves. Blackdash, Keena’s brother, groaned. “I don’t like this, sis, why do we have to do this now?”

The ratmaid elbowed her brother sharply in the ribcage. “Because, I want my revenge when my target is wounded, got that, thick head?” Keena hissed in her brother’s ear.

Blackdash moaned and tightened his grip on his sword. “That’s not fair, Keena, didn’t dad say that if you strike your rival when they’re injured, and only makes you look weaker?”

The ratmaid growled and stamped her spear butt on Blackdash’s footpaw. The older rat let out a painful scream before his sister clamped her paw over his mouth to silence him. “Shut up, you idiot, can’t you see we’re hiding?”

Blackdash nodded, then pointed franticly at Lonny. Keena looked over to where her brother was pointing and grinned evilly. “Nice job, bro, you deserve a great reward for that.”

She looked over at her brother, who had a puzzled expression. “There has been a change in plan; let’s pay the little stoat a short visit, shall we?”

Knowing that he would be the one to blame if he didn’t agree with her, Blackdash nodded. Keena patted her brother’s back. “Good, now let’s wait till we make our move.”

Findo and Ralken were enjoying the show. Juni walked over to them with a worried look. “Where’s Lonny and Aqua?”

“Aqua and Lonny are with us. Care to join?”

Juni looked around. “I don’t see them? Are you sure they’re with you?”

Ralken looked all around him. Sure enough, the two maids were gone. “Findo, where’s Lonny and Aqua?”

“I thought they were with you.”

“Lonny was with me, but Aqua should’ve been with you.”

“Then, where are they?”

Ralken sprang to his feet and grabbed Findo’s good paw. “Not in any danger, I hope!”

Chapter eleven:Run Away Run Away I'll Attack!

TROM chapter eleven by Selound

written by Meeks

ELonwyn stood nervously beside Aquastar, casting furtive glances back at the rambling rosehip players. She wished Aqua would stop chatting to the squirrel in whispers, she wanted to get away from here before they were spotted by Badrang’s guards.

Elonwyn’s ears perked. Two rats were skulking nearby, and she recognized one of them. Keena.

Elonwyn bared her teeth. She was going to prove to them all she wasn’t afraid anymore. That bully would get a lesson she’d never forget!

Lonny slid away from Aqua, unnoticed, and hid behind a barrel of unknown strong smelling booze. Keena was practically dragging the other rat along. Elonwyn drew her shortsword.

“Keena, I can’t see that little stoat no more.” The bigger rat whispered, sounding nervous.

“Shut up! It’s because we’re in a different position! No pipe down!”

Elonwyn stepped out from behind the barrel. “I’d say you’re in a very interesting position indeed.” The young stoat said coldly.

Keena smiled evilly and pulled out her sling and notched a stone. “Well it looks like the little wench came to us! Done drooling over Prince Ralken are you?”

“Jealous, Keena?” Elonwyn raised her sword. “I’ve seen that nude drawing you have of him.”

“That’s a lie!” Keena screeched, raising her sling to crash it between Lonny’s ears.

Lonny dodged the sling by a second, and the stone clanged against her blade. Elonwyn took a few steps back. The bigger rat tensed, then turned and ran.

“Blackdash you son of a seagull!!!” Keena turned to yell after brother. Elonwyn took the chance to brace herself. She held the sword with both paws, and waited for the second Keena turned her head back, then she leapt, her sword flashing in an arch.

Keena screamed and swung her sling like a club. It struck Lonny on the eye and she fell back, her paw pressed to her hurting face, staggering back in agony. Keena laughed and swung the sling again, hitting Elonwyn on the shoulder, hard. Elonwyn cried out in pain and swung her sword as she fell back with the force of the blow.

Keena stared at her chest in horror as blood oozed down from a cut on her sternum. Her mouth hung open and her eyes were wide with shock. Then she looked up from her chest, her face contorted with fear and anger. Elonwyn struggled to her feet, raising her sword again.

“How dare- you little- I’ll make you suffer!!!” Keena lunged at her, raising her sling, lashing it around wildly. Elonwyn dodged desperately, barely keeping from having her skull crushed.

Keena was suddenly knocked off her feet and smashed against the wall with a great force. Elonwyn, who had been shielding herself with her arms, looked up.

Findo had Keena pinned hard against the barrel, with her head and shoulders on the top, and the rest of her hanging down.

Findo snarled down in Keena’s face, ignoring her gasps and screams as blood ran down the corners of her mouth.

“Findo!” Elonwyn said desperately, holding a paw to her throbbing shoulder. “Findo! Please!”

Findo didn’t seem to hear her. “You seem to be taking liberties you don’t have Keena my dear.” He growled, his face dangerously close to hers.

“Help!” Keena screamed. “Let go of me you monster!!!”

“Oh, I can’t do that!” Findo purred. “You’ve attacked someone my cousin holds very dear, and we could have Badrang kill you for that you know.”

“That’s enough Findo.” Ralken’s calm voice came from behind. Findo glanced up from his tormenting Keena. Ralken stood, flanked by Alya and Aquastar. Alya immediately leaned over Lonny and lifted her arms. Elonwyn gave a gasp of pain.

“She’s fractured her shoulder.” Alya said.

“Did you hear that?” Ralken smiled darkly at Keena. “You’ve possible ruined my friend's Cousin’s arm. I hope you have a good explination. Let her go Findo.”

Findo flung Keena to the ground, and she stared up at Findo with pure hatred. Then she sniveled at Ralkens feet. Ralken raised an eyebrow darkly.

“Prince Ralken, she attacked me for no reason! I had to defend myself! Please belive me my prince!” she groveled at his feet, sobbing. Ralken rolled his head.

“I don’t like liars Keena. Get out of here or I will make your life miserable.” Keena struggled to her feet and ran, sobbing. Fakely.

“Elonwyn…” Findo glanced down at Lonny.

“Don’t talk to me.” Elonwyn whipered. “You could have killed her.”

“And she could have killed you.” Ralken said coldly. “You have a black eye, several bruises, and a fractured shoulder to prove that.”

“Why did you do that by yourself?” Aquastar demanded. “You should have called me to help you!”

“I’m capable of protecting myself.” Elonwyn whispered resentfully.

“Oh, yes.” Findo said sarcastically. “Really capable.”

Elonwyn blushed, and then winced.

Alya helped her up. “Come on, let’s get you fixed up.”

■ ■ ■

Keena rubbed her bleeding chest, sniffling dramatically. Blackdash came up behind her cautiously.

“You left me to get killed.” Keena snarled.

“I got scared. At least now you know-

“Shut up!” Keena snarled. “I’m going to get that weasel and that little wench for this. Believe me! I have a fail proof plan this time!”

Blackdash swallowed.

Chapter tweleve: deep, deep trouble

TROM chapter twelve by Selound

written by me

Nipwort walked casually away from the show. He was getting rather bored of it and was growing concerned about his kids. Suddenly, he spotted Keena walking slowly and with her paws over her face. Her father ran up to her.

“Keena, what’s wrong? Holy, you’re bleeding! What happened?” Nipwort said as he wrapped his cloak over his daughter’s shoulders.

The ratmaid was sobbing and wincing at the pain that went through her chest. Her eyes were red from the many tears she shed and floods of tear poured. “Oh father, the most worst thing has happened to me.” Her voice quivered and blended in with her constant sobbing.

Nipwort looked very concern at his daughter then he looked over at Blackdash, who was patting his sister’s shoulder in sympathy. “What happened, my child?”

“I was just walking to the walls to see the stars when suddenly, that weasel guard, Findo, pushed me over with his spear and cut my chest. And he--” Keena let out a strangled sob. “Then he took advantage of me! That little stoat helped him out to by holding a spear to my neck so I won’t escape. Oh father, it was TERRIBLE!!” The ratmaid sobbed harder after telling her father her sob story.

Nipwort shook his head in disbelief. “Findo would never do a thing like that, but since there’s no other reason why you’re like this, and you never lied to me, I’ll have to report him to Badrang.”

Keena wiped her eyes with the edge oh her father’s cloak and followed him to report to Badrang. Nipwort never noticed the sly grin and wink Keena passed to her brother. Never did they notice Trusiae watching them from behind a wall of wood.

Alya had escorted Elonwyn and Aqua to the healer’s tent to check up on her wounds. Aqua, however snuck away knowing that there was some work to be done. She reunited with her slave friends who were attempting on escaping the dreadful place.

Ralken and Findo kept their eyes on the vermin enjoying the show. They did not see Nipwort and his kids, since they were more focused on the badger and the hare performing their act.

Findo just wanted to forget about what recently happened. All his troubles were about to be over with when suddenly Trusiae approached them with a cold look on her face.

“What’s wrong, Sia? What bad news have you recovered?” Ralken asked.

The ferret shook her head. “Findo’s in a lot of trouble. That little rat told up a huge story that claims Findo had attacked and took advantage of her, with Lonny helping him. Now they’re going to talk to Lord Badrang and Findo will be punished since Keena’s injuries are very convincing. Now I may not have seen what really happened, but by the way she sounded and winked at her brother, it was nothing but a big lie to prevent Findo from protecting Elonwyn, since it seems Findo always had been there to protect Lonny, and is a better match against her.”

Findo gritted his teeth and clenched his fists in pure anger. “That rat! She's just doing this to get over Lonny and to be rid of me. Ralken, have you notice Keena always flirting with you?”

“Yes, why did you ask?”

“I think that--” Findo was interrupted by the calls of a vermin guard.

“Escape, the slaves are escaping!!” Then a scene of total chaos happen.

Findo, Ralken, and Trusiae ran to the scene of the crime with weapons drawn. They arrived just in time to see the murder of Druwp, the vole spy. Ralken then noticed Aqua’s voice from out side. She was helping the slaves escape.

The orange stoat nudged Trusiae. After a few nods they swiftly slunk away to aid Aqua. No one noticed their departure but Findo.

Vermin were yelling at a male squirrel and a hedgehog, who were both defending against the vermin. The squirrel managed to get away, but the hedgehog stayed behind to defend his friends.

Not wanting the hedgehog to die a humiliating death like Skalrag, Findo quickly ran in and stabbed the hedgehog. The last words the hedgehog heard was those of Findo whispering in his ear. “Sorry, sir.”

Just then, Badrang arrived and not in the best of moods. He ordered a few of his vermin to chase after the escaped slaves. But they didn’t succeed. They followed their leader on the chase, leaving Findo behind with the remaining vermin. The other vermin walked away from the stoat in high tempers.

Aqua, Ralken, and Trusiae managed to get to the scene, as if they never left. Ralken looked at Findo, who was standing over the fallen body of the hedgehog he slain. “What happened, Findo”

Findo answered looking blankly at his friends eyes. “I had to.”

Aqua was quivering with rage, for both she and the squirrel had witnessed the hedgehog’s, who they knew as Hillgrose, murder. Before Findo could explain any further, Aqua whispered darkly to the assassin and Ralken. “I need to have a word with Findo...alone.”

The other two knew that Aqua wasn’t the best one to argue when she was in this mood. They walked away from the two.

As soon as the two left, Aqua lashed out at Findo with Tailwart’s spear, knocking him to the ground. Aqua winced as the pain from her injuries increased, but she didn’t stop. She then grabbed his shirt and pulled him up. Before Findo had a chance to defend himself against the white stoat’s rage, Aqua slapped him across his scarred cheek and threw him up against the wall while still holding onto him.

Eyes narrowed and teeth clenched, Aqua hissed. “You killed one of my friends. Why did you slay Hillgorse? Why? Speak!”

Findo had never seen his friend this mad. He didn’t reply. Aqua raised her paw to hit him, but he swiftly grabbed her paw, and pushed her back. “It was either me or we let Lord Badrang have him, and unless you wanted another Skalrag-like incident, I suggest you thank me.”

Aqua sighed, sitting painfully on a barrel. She glared at Findo. “So you did it as a friend?”

“Yes. But now we have another problem to deal with.”

Just as soon as Findo finished his statement, Badrang arrived. “You, weasel, come with me. You have a lot of explaining to do. Oh, and bring that little stoat Elonwyn too.”

Chapter thirteen:Crime and Punishment

Written by Meeks

Findo opened his mouth to argue, but suddenly, both his arms were grabbed by two guards.

“Wait, Stumptooth? Bluehide? What are you guys-

He let out a snarl of pain as they roughly pulled his arms behind his back and tied his wrists in place. Findo struggled fiercely, trying to break from their grip.

“Sorry mate.” Stumptooth muttered. “Badrangs orders.”

Findo stared at the crowd of angry, unfriendly faces. He caught Keena, watching him from beside her father and brother. She was smiling evilly.

“You little- I won’t let you get away with this!” he yelled angrily at her.

“Come on you.” Bluehide yanked Findo forward. The crowd parted to let them and Badrang through. Findo continued to struggle. He was going to kill her!

Findo found himself shoved into Badrang’s meadhall. He landed painfully on his knees. Badrang seated himself on the throne and Findo glared up at him. He was distracted by an unexpected movement and he turned his head.

People were milling inside. Elonwyn, her arm in a sling, with her father’s paw placed firmly on her shoulder, Ralken, escorting Alya, and Keena with her father and brother.

When everyone had found a place to stand, Badrang rubbed his temple. “Keena, why don’t you tell us what happened.”

Clogg exploded. “Ere! I don’t know about that Weasel, in fact, I never trusted him, but Elonwyn would never do anything like help some-

“Tramun.” Badrang said coldly. “I asked Keena to speak, not you. We especially don’t want to hear something from you, a fool who lets the enemy into Marshank and had the gall to call them friends!!!!”

“They said they was magicians!” Clogg snapped.

“Never mind about all that.” Ralken said. “The guards are taking care of the traitors. Let’s get down to business. Keena. Speak.” He glared at her, letting her know he didn’t believe a word she was going to say.

Keena went slightly red, but she stood straight, and Findo could see her eyes were red and her face was streaked with fake tears.

“I *sniff* got bored with the circus and went to get some fresh air. I *sob* barely got to the healer’s tent when I was grabbed by that weasel and he…. *sniffle* he…”

She burst into violent sobs. Elonwyn swallowed and glanced at Findo, who was staring at the ground, his blue eyes dark with hate. Cold, murderous hate.

“Keena, if you can’t compose yourself, purpose you’d better leave and let someone else talk for you.” Alya said pleasantly, masking her disgust with a smile.

“No!” Keena said a little too sharply. She made up for her mistake by rubbing her eyes. “I’m… I’m the only one who was there…”

“I’m sure.” Badrang said threateningly. “Continue.”

“Then Elonwyn hopped out and tried to kill me. I defended myself, but then I was grabbed from behind and pinned against a barrel. I saw, Findo and I tried to scream, but that little stoat… she… she put a spear to my neck and he… Findo… he…” her voice broke. And she collapsed to her knees, trembling.

Nipwort put his arms around his daughter and rubbed her back and head comfortingly. “I’m... sorry, my lord. My daughter has said all she can. If she may-

“No.” Ralken interrupted. “She’s going to stay and answer questions. Now, Keena, it was dark out. How are you sure it was Findo and Elonwyn?”

“I could recognize them by the firelight.” Keena murmured.

“There were no torches lit near the healer’s tent, Keena.” Ralken said, his eyes narrowed. He gave a furtive glance at Findo, who was still staring angrily at the ground.

“There was light behind me from the bonfires.” Keena snapped, starting to sweat.

“don’t tell me you’re saying my daughter is lying Ralken.” Nipwort said in a shocked voice.

“I’m simply saying she might be misled.”

“I know what I saw and what happened to me!” Keena snapped.

“That’s enough Ralken.” Badrang said coldly. “Blackdash, what do you know?”

“I simply found my little sister with blood running down her body and she was crying and trembling. Then dad came.” Blackdash wrung his paws and gave Elonwyn a miserable grimace, as though he was trying to apologize. Elonwyn stared at Findo, whose eyes were tightly shut.

The evidence is completely against us. Elonwyn thought. The only ones who “saw” what happened were Aqua, Ralken, and Alya. And Alya’s blind. Ralken has some reliability in the horde, but he’s a friend of Findo and, my cousin, therefore biased. As is Aqua, who is not reliable.

She hugged herself. I’m safer than Findo. I should be alright.


“I agree.” Badrang stood up. “Elonwyn is too timid and cowardly to threaten someone or help someone else do something vile. Keena is possibly mistaken about Elonwyn being there. But she is probably right about Findo. Normally, the sentence would be death. However, Seeing as not enough people saw what happened, Findo shall merely be tied to a post on the morn and lashed with a leather strip fifty times as a warning and thrown tied out on the battlement for the gulls to peck for the day and night for everyone else to see. He’ll be put on duty the next day. He’s to be given no food or water both nights and both days. Everyone is dismissed. Bluehide, Stumptooth, take Findo away. His sentence begins tomorrow.”

Elonwyn stared in horror as Findo was lifted like a limp rag. He provided no struggle, but as he was dragged out of the meadhall, he gave a glance at Keena, who was smiling evilly. He glared at her before he was thrust roughly out the exit.

Elonwyn glanced at Ralken who was watching, his eyelids ticking. He was angry. Alya walked away from him and placed her paw on Elonwyn’s waist.

“Come now Lonny.” She smiled at Clogg who stared at her suspiciously. “Excuse me Cap’n, but your daughter needs her arm looked at every day. Come Lon.”

Lonny nodded and walked beside Alya.

“We don’t have to do everything, Badrang says.” Alya winked At Elonwyn.

“Yes.” Lonny nodded.

Chapter fourteen: apologize

written by me

The sun had risen, and Findo was rudely kicked from his short doze. He was escorted away to his punishment.

Juni and Trusiae had seen what went on in the mead hall. Trusiae shook her head gravely. “That dirty rat. How does she manage to make a lie so convincing. I've known Findo since he came here, but I know he’d NEVER do anything like that.”

Juni sighed as she rustled her headfur. “I should’ve been there with Findo and help him gain his trust, but instead I was watching the show. How could’ve I been so foolish?” The vixen wiped a tear from her eye.

The blueish ferret looked down at her friend with a look of concern. She placed a paw on Juni’s shoulder to comfort her. “There, there, dear. It was best you stayed for the show than be in harm’s way from what took place. I mean, you’re more fragile now since you’re pregnant and can’t take any risks of harming yourself and your kit.”

The pregnant vixen looked down at her pregnant belly and brushed her headfur away from her eyes. “Yeah, but still, I could’ve been used as a witness.”

“I know, but they won’t listen. I would’ve defended Findo if I was there, but would they listen to me, an assassin? No.”

Then the girls heard the struggling of Findo being taken to a post and being tied up. After the guards left, Juni rushed to Findo. “Findo, are you okay?”

Findo kept his gazed focused on the ground. Hatred burned in his eyes as he gritted his teeth. “That filthy rat! She should be the one punished, not me! It should’ve been her to be tied to this post, but no, she’s out in about like a free bird: enjoying her freedom!”

Juni looked up at Trusiae who folded her arms and shook her head. The vixen patted Findo on the shoulder and whispered in his ear. “Don’t worry, Findo, the others know your innocence. I'll get Alya and Elonwyn to help you out.”

Findo looked at the vixen and gave a small smile. “Thanks, Juni.”

The vixen nodded and scurried with Trusiae to the Healer’s Tent.

Alya was mixing up some herbs to treat Lonny and Aqua’s wounds. Aqua scratched angrily on the wooden framework of her cot. “I’d do anything to have that rat’s body eaten by the teeth of the sea.”

“Calm down, Aqua, we’d all like to see Keena punished, but revenge leads to nothing. The events that had occurred recently has brought a lot of stress on us all, even me.”

Lonny gazed out of the tent to where Findo was tied. She sniffed. “N’uncle Badrang has no heart. He didn’t even bother to ask how my shoulder got fractured or how I received a black eye.” She looked at her cousin and the healer with an angry glint in her eyes. “Why should he suffer for what Keena did?

Ralken entered the tent with his fist clenched. “I tell you why--that rat has been causing trouble since the day she was born as an evil little whelp.”

Aqua winced in pain as Alya applied some new herbs onto her foot. “She’s the devil-spawn, that’s for sure.”

Juni walked into the tent and whispered to her friends. “Alya, Lonny, Findo’s not going to make it out there without nourishments. can you two secretly treat him while no one’s looking?”

Lonny nodded. “I think I could, despite my shoulder.”

“I don’t know if I can, because I need to tend to my duties.”

Aqua’s ears perked up and she waved her good arm in the air frantically. “I will! I know some healing remedies!”

Alya sighed. “Fine, you can be in charge while I tend to Findo.”

Aqua smiled broadly; no more painful herbs for her and foul tasting pain killers.

Keena pranced about the grounds with a proud evil look on her face with Blackdash at her side. “Ahh, isn’t this great? No more little whelps getting in the way of me and Prince Ralken!”

Blackdash just stared at the ground with grief.

Keena groaned in annoyance of her brother’s silence. She elbowed him sharply.

“Ow!” Blackdash squeaked, rubbing his sore arm. “Why’d you do that for, Keena?”

“Because, I hate feeling ignored. Plus something’s buggin’ you, and I’d like to know why.”

The bigger rat looked at his sister with hate in his orange eyes. “You framed Findo for something he didn’t do, Keena.”

The girl rat scoffed. “Duh, wasn’t that the whole point? Getting that little whelp and weasel out of the way. He deserved it. Now we need to take care of that other stoat when she heals up. Curse her soul for trying to steal the Prince away from me. Isn't that why we’re doing this?”

Blackdash pushed Keena away from her. “We? What do you mean, ‘we?’ I never volunteered to help you frame Findo! I never wanted to! He’s a good weasel and friend to me! Same with the small stoat, she never laid a paw on you!”

Keena was taken aback by her brother’s harsh words. She snarled. “What do you mean? She and Findo attacked me! See?” she pointed to the wound on her chest and her bruised arm.

Blackdash lowered his ears. “No, you did that to yourself! It should’ve been you to be the one tied to the post and made to suffer, not Findo! And I’m tired of always being you’re pet and saving your hide for your crimes!” Keena gasped in shock. Blackdash continued. “I don’t even know you anymore, rat! You’re nothing but scum to me!”

Anger swelled up inside Keena. Before her brother could say another word, she grabbed her concealed knife and stabbed blackdash in the gut; right in front of Elonwyn.

Elonwyn had just arrived to witness the stabbing. She gasped out in surprised as Keena stabbed her own brother.

Blackdash’s eyes were wide with terror as he slumped down against a barrel with his paws grasping the handle of the knife sticking out of his gut.

Keena grinned maliciously as she stood over her dying brother. “You won’t be needed this anymore,” she said, taking her brother’s sword.

Lonny was horrified by what happened. Blackdash was on her side all along. Quickly she grabbed a stone and threw it at Keena’s head. The rat let out a yelp and turned around to face the stoat. Keena hissed as she clenched her brother’s sword. “You little pest! I should’ve killed you!”

Before Lonny could run, Keena charged at her with the sword pointing at Lonny. Just as she was about to strike the stoat, Elonwyn quickly dodged out of the way, causing Keena to run into a wooden beam. The rat pulled the sword from the wood and turned to her rival.

Despite the pain in her shoulder, Lonny drew out her sword and swung it at the rat. Her voice was filled with rage and hate. “You don’t deserve my cousin! You’re the devil in rat’s skin! You bother to attempt to kill me and your brother! You must think I’m some sort of wimp, but you’re wrong!” Elonwyn swung her sword just as Keena swung hers.

Metal clashed against metal as the two girls dueled. They clashed their blades furiously as the fought to gain the upper paw. Lonny’s arm was weak, causing her swings to become lousy and pathetic.

Elonwyn managed to cut keena a few times on the cheek, and ears, but she failed to cause any great damage. However, she was more swift and lighter on her footpaws than Keena, and managed to avoid any deadly injuries.

The rat however had strategy on her side as she backed Lonny up against the wall, preventing her from moving any further back.

Lonny knew she was tapped, so with a swift movement, she grabbed a pawful of sand and threw it at Keena’s face.

The rat screamed as she was blinded by the sand. She wiped at her eyes to be rid of the blinding sand. She swung the flat of her sword at Lonny’s shoulder, sending sparks of pain through Elonwyn. Lonny winced in pain as she grasped her shoulder.

After regaining her vision, Keena saw her chance. She swung her leg and swooped Lonny of her feet, causing the stoat to fall. As she fell, Lonny’s sword fell from her grasp. Elonwyn gave a yelp of pain as she landed hard on her bad shoulder.

Keena wiped blood from her muzzle as she kicked Lonny’s sword out of reach. She looked down at the stoat, who was crying in pure pain as she grasped her shoulder. The rat hissed as she kicked lonny savagely in the gut. “You better learn to keep your mouth shut, whelp. I’ll help you do just that.”

The rat raised her sword above her head to strike Lonny. Elonwyn closed her eyes knowing her life would end. Just as soon as she was about to strike, Keena gave a gasp of shock. Suddenly, she collapsed; dead. Horror filled her terrified face as she laid slain with her knife protruding from her back.

Blackdash had used his final amount of strength to throw the knife in order to save Lonny.

After recovering from the sudden event, Elonwyn got up and ran to where Blackdash sat with his back against a bunch of logs. She knelt down next to him and placed a paw on his shoulder. “You killed your own sister, to save me. Why?”

Blackdash slowly opened his eyes halfway and gazed at Lonny. His voice was faded into a whisper. “I did it, because she chose to follow in the path of Badrang. I’ve been listening to you guys talk about freedom from the tyrant, and dreamed to join you, but Keena...she wanted to control me into doing wrong. I never wanted that. I did what I had to, to save you, Elonwyn.”

Elonwyn's voice cracked with emotion. “W-we’ll get you healed--you’ll be all right! Y-you must be strong, Blackdash. you and I can both escape this place and be free, I promise!”

Blackdash meekly placed a paw on Lonny’s cheek and looked deeply into her green eyes. “I’ll find my freedom in the kingdom beyond the sunset. That’s where I’ll spend my new life. I’m a free beast, thanks to you, Elonwyn.” Blackdash gave his final silent gasp before her went limp and died in the comfort of his new found friend.

Alya and Ralken arrived at the scene. Ralken looked down at the dead body of Keena.

“What is it, Ralken?”

Ralken rolled Keena’s corpse with his footpaw and shook his head. “It’s Keena, Alya. she’s been slain.”

“Slain? By who?”

The stoat then nudged Alya as he looked at the two figures against some logs. “I think our answer’s over there. Blackdash looks hurt!” The two ran to where Lonny and blackdash was. Alya was hastily getting out some herbs whee ralken placed a paw on her shoulder. His voice was grim. “That won’t be necessary, Alya.”

The two listened as Lonny hummed a song that her mother taught her before her death. She cradled Blackdash’s head in her lap and stroked his headfur. Her eyes were red and tear stains ran down her face.

Without looking up at the two, she whispered. “Blackdash redeemed himself after killing his sister to save me. His sister had stabbed him and he spent his final moments saving me and being with me.” She looked up at Ralken. “Why? Why do so many innocent creatures die so young, why?”

Ralken knelt down by his cousin and held her closely. “That’s just the things that happen when you stay here. I’ve seen many friends die at the paws of Badrang--like Skalrag. The sooner we leave here the better.”

Alya sighed sadly. “Aye, even though I have never witnessed the deaths of innocent beasts, it still hurts me to know they died in vain.”

“Yes, now come, Lonny. We’ll attend the burial for Blackdash after we fix you up. Seems as you had a little combat with Keena judging by the ripped sling and the really bruised shoulder.”

The two stoats left to the healer’s tent, while Alya attended to the dead siblings.

Chapter fifteen: The Cure

written by Meeks

Findo gritted his teeth in agony as Hisk’s whip bit into his flesh. Each crack of the whip hit his ears, before the blinding pains shot up his back. He could feel his strength draining, and he could tell Hisk had had practice using the leather strip on slaves.

Blood ran down his back as the whip flayed him over and over, and sweat poured down his face into his eyes. He squeezed his eyes shut and let out a moan as another lash struck his back.

Hisk grinned cruelly as Findo shuddered in agony. He had always hated the wisecracking weasel and each lash was like the taste of rum in his mouth.

Elonwyn sat stiffly in Alya’s tent, her ears flat against her head as the sound of the whip and Findo’s cries of misery.

“Lonny.” Alya put her paw on Elonwyn’s shoulder.

“I can’t stand it.” Elonwyn covered her ears. “Blackdash slaughtered, now this. Will this nightmare ever end?”

“It’s alright sweetheart, he’s gat twenty more lashes to go yet.” Alya rubbed Elonwyn’s back soothingly.

“How do you know?” Elonwyn wrinkled her nose, going tense as Findo gave a piercing scream.

“I listen a lot better than other beasts.” Alya winked.

Another cry of pain rang throughout the fort.

“Almost over.” Alya said. She raised a paw and put one finger down. “One.” another finger. “Two.” Last finger. “three.”

Badrangs voice could be heard. “Right everyone! Shows over! Untie him and string him to the battlements. He’ll spend all day and night there. Everyone back to your duties!”

“Tonight’s our chance.” Alya busily began to gather herbs and bundle them in a basket. “right Lonny, I’m going to teach you to use this.”

“Why- Lonny began.

“You’re smaller than me, and won’t be noticed. plus I can’t get up the wall tops what with being blind. You can use my cloak. We’re going to bring Findo some food water and healing herbs tonight. Ralken’s getting the food.”

“B-but…” Lonny shrieked. “I can’t! What if I’m caught?!”

“Then I’ll take the blame.” Alya snapped. “Now pay attention! This herb is called horsetail. You mix it with the oregano and rub it on Findo’s wounds. It will stop infection. But you have to mix it with a little water and lemon juice. Here, I’ll show you.”

Elonwyn watched, tensed with anxiety.

■ ■ ■

The night wind blew bits of sand into Findo’s cuts and he groaned with misery, slumped and chained by his wrists to two thick wooden poles, his foots brushed the battlements.

He hissed as his back stung with greater burning fury. He closed his eyes. He was blacking out and he could see his parent being slaughtered in front of him. With a cry he lunged at the tall thin female pine marten lady who stood, her broadsword soaked with his parents blood. Fire raged everywhere and he could hear his neighbors screaming as they tried to run and were either killed by the Pine martens minions or burned in flames.

The pine marten raised her paw, which had three knives placed in between her fingers. She struck and Findo fell back, blood pouring from his cheek.


He snapped back to reality. He turned his head as best he could due to his stiff neck and bleeding back. A small figure in a black cloak, a small basket over its wrist.

“Who- he stammered, blood trickling down his mouth and his throat.

“It’s me, Lonny.” Findo blinked at the pair of green eyes gleaming from the hood. “Alya sent me up here to help you.”

“I don’t need help.” Findo snarled, pain lancing up his body.

“Yes you do.” Elonwyn uncorked a small bottle with yellowy green contents. She pulled a rag and soaked it with the disinfectant. “Alya taught me how to use these herbs, and I’m going to clean you up. here.” She pulled out a canteen of water. “Drink this.”

She pressed the flask to his lips and Findo gulped down the water greedily. Elonwyn rubbed his back with the cloth and her let out a choke and water slopped down his chin.

“That stings!” he gasped.

“Don’t be such a baby!” Elonwyn hissed. “You endured a whipping, you can take being disinfected.”

“Lonny, stop, please!” he shuddered. “I’ve had enough pain today.” He coughed. “You could be caught. There’s another guard shift coming. I don’t want you to go through what I just did.”

“It’ll be okay.” Lonny continued to clean his back with the cloths, ignoring the blood getting on her paws. “You’re innocent; the least we can do is keep your cuts from festering.”

“Thank you.” Findo closed his eyes.

Lonny finished up cleaning the cuts and took another flask, this one full of broth. She placed it to Findo’s mouth and he sipped it.

Elonwyn paused. She could hear the sound of a couple guards coming up the ladder, talking together.

“gotta go.” She hissed gathering up the flasks and bottles.

“Good luck.” Findo murmured. When she was out of earshot he breathed, half to himself. “I love you, Lonny.”

Lonny planned to wait for the guars to pass, but then let out a relieved sigh when she saw it was none other than Stumptooth and Tara. She walked casually over to them, unveiling her hood.

“Elonwyn?” Tara blinked. “What are you doing up here? Didn’t you hear? There’s an assassin on the loose, Gurrad’s just been slain.”

Chapter sixteen: Taken

written by me

Elonwyn gasped. “You don’t mean Trusiae did this?”

Tara shook her head. “We aren’t sure, but to make things worse, the rest of the slaves had escaped, so now Badrang and the others are gathering around to go out and chase them.”

“And with no body else left here to guard this place, Clogg’s sure enough to take over very soon,” Trusiae said as she arrived.

“What do you mean?” Stumptooth asked.

“What I mean is, this place will vunerable for Clogg to conquer. We don’t stand a chance against him--his crew out numbers us.”

Lonny thought about a solution. “Maybe I can convince him to let Marshank be. He is my father after all.”

Trusiae sighed. “It’s not even worth a try; he’ll most likely ignore you, since he’s so desperate to take over.”

Tara nodded. “I agree with Sia--if you’re father came here for slaves and a place of his own, he won’t back down. I’m sorry, Elonwyn, but we have no choice.”

Lonny sighed. She was disappointed that her father would do such a thing. But the others were right.

Stumptooth noticed the flasks Lonny was carrying. Forgetting about Clogg, he said, “Say, what are ya doing with those flasks?”

Lonny blushed nervously. “I was getting them for Alya, since she needs them.”

Tara was about to say something, when suddenly Fleabane’s voice called out. “Stumptooth, Tara, and Trusiae! Badrang needs ya!”

Tara groaned. “Looks like he wants us to help retrieve those slaves. Well, see ya later, Lonny. Come on, Stumptooth, let’s go before ole’ Badrang gets suspicious.”

The ferret nodded and the three ferrets ran off to join Badrang.

Elonwyn sighed in relief and continued her duties for Alya. She arrived at the tent to see Aqua gone. “Where’s Aqua?”

“She, Ralken, and Tailwart were called to get the slaves back. Alya and I have to stay here, due to our disabilities,” Juni said as she helped Alya fold the blankets.”

“But, why is Aqua with them? She’s crippled?”

“Like Badrang cares? Plus he needs her since she’s a bit faster than us; crippled or not. Have you treated Findo’s wounds with the herbs I gave you?” Alya said.

Elonwyn nodded and gave Alya her cloak back. “I did.”

“Good. by the way, have you noticed something odd?’

The two others looked at each other in confusion and shook their heads. Juni looked at Alya with a puzzled look. “No, why’d you ask?”

“Hear that? Sounds like somebody’s opening the gates. And by the sounds of it, it’s your father and his crew, Lonny. I think they’re taking over Marshank.”

“I’ve heard Sia and Tara talking about this, but I didn’t believe my father would do such a thing.” Lonny sighed sadly. “He has always been the difficult type, but taking over a place when nobody’s around, that’s just selfish.”

“I agree, but what’s Badrang going to do when he finds out Clogg took over Marshank?”

“That’s the part I fear. If Badrang manages to get to clogg, who knows what may happen to him, and you, Lonny, since you’re Clogg’s daughter.”

Elonwyn was about to reply, untill Crosstooth’s voice rang out. “Elonwyn, your father wants ya!”

“I gotta go, see you tomorrow.” The stoat waved good bye and left the tent.


It was early next morning by the time badrang came back. The sun hadn’t even rose yet. He fumed in anger over the lose of his slaves and that Clogg had taken over his fort. He and his horde managed to sneak back into marshank and gathered up Clogg’s crew.

Clogg’s crew were tied up and lined up against the wall. Badrang nudged Tailwart. “Get my niece, Elonwyn. Bet you anything she’s sleeping somewhere near where Clogg might be. I’ll deal with him, while you deal with her. When you have woken her, bring her to me, and that’s an order, ferret.” Badrang’s voice was of an evil hiss.

Tailwart hesitated, but he knew badrang wasn’t in the best of moods, so he went off to wake up Lonny. Badrang grabbed the ferret’s shoulder before he got any further. “Oh, and when you wake her, tie her paws behind her back and put a gag on her muzzle--I don’t want her speaking once I’ve woken her father.”

The ferret looked over at Aqua and Ralken, who had looks of remorse written on their faces, for they knew their cousin’s fate won’t be at all good. Tailwart shook his head and left while Badrang followed.

Lonny was sleeping peacfully while clutching her journal close to her chest. She hadn’t notice the other crew members being taken away, since she was so deep in her sleep.

She gave a faint moan as Tailwart shook her. Elonwyn sat up and yawned. She rubbed her eyes and looked sleepily at Tailwart. “Ehn, Tailwart, why are you back here? Is uncle badrang back?”

Tailwart shook his head sadly. Then without a split second, the ferret tied Lonny’s paws together and put a gag in her mouth. He muttered grimly into Lonny’s ear. “Sorry, Lon, Badrang’s orders.”

He then helped her up. Elonwyn had no idea what was going on; but she had a feeling that whatever her uncle was planning on doing, it wasn’t going to be pretty.

Chapter seventeen: Beautiful Liar

written by Meeks

Findo gave a gasp of agony as he was kicked awake by Nipwort.

“Get up you slimebag.” The rats voice was hoarse and his eyes were red-rimmed. “Badrang says your punishments over. Everyone gets to see him deal with Clogg and his crew. Even perverts and murderers, like you.” He vented his feelings by stabbing Findo in the shoulder with his sword.

Findo coughed up the burning bile that had been stuck in the back of his throat. “I never touched your daughter. And ain’t it just like you to stab a beast who’s tied up.” he vomited painfully. “And I haven’t murdered anyone you dirty-

His sentence was finished as he let out a snarl of pain. Nipwort had let his sword slide up against Findo’s raw and whipped back. The rat brought his mouth close to the weasels ear. “I know you and your friends had something to do with the death of my children. You’ll all pay.”

Fleabane pulled Nipwort away. “That’s enough Nip. Badrang wants him untied. You two can fight it out some other time.”

Rotnose sniggered as he untied the ropes around Findo’s wrists, his voice high pitched and nasally. “Das righ. We all getta see Clogg an his crew bumped off.”

“Wait.” Findo rubbed his wrists. “Everyone in his crew?”

“Yeah. Maybe not the daughter though.” Fleabane rubbed his chin. “But I dunno. Hey!” Findo had shot down the ladder faster than a bar of soap in wet paws despite his back and shoulder. Rotnose, Nipwort, and Fleabane followed him.

Findo arrived on the scene to see Badrang holding Elonwyn who had her paws tied behind her back. Badrang was staring at the crouching and sniveling crewbeasts, and Clogg stood beside him, his eyes fixed on Elonwyn, his braided beard quivering.

■ ■ ■

Elonwyn was trying not to let out a whimper as Badrang’s claws dug deep into her flesh. He had snatched her from Tailwart the second they’d left the tent and she could feel her heart pounding against her ribs.

“Pay attention!!!! Ya horrible lot!” Badrang roared at the crew. “you have three simple choices.” He raised a finger. “One, is slavery.”

The crew muttered and Elonwyn shivered.

“Two.” Badrang raised another finger. “You stay loyal to Clogg and get executed.”

Elonwyn’s father snarled, and then gasped.

“Three!” Badrang raised a last finger. “You swear allegiance to me. Paws up if you chose number three.”

The crew glanced at each other and then at Clogg, then to Badrang and his soldiers, before every one of them raised a paw. Elonwyn winced. That had to hurt her father’s pride. But why was she in such a position that she couldn’t raise her paw up for any one of Badrang’s choices?

“One more thing.” Badrang almost purred, and her wrenched Elonwyn in front of him and she could feel his breath in her ear. He’d shifted his paws so they were clasped underneath her arms, almost caressingly. Elonwyn wanted to vomit.

“This one here…” Badrang gazed around at the assembled beasts. “Will be the Slave of every male beast here, who wants a little extra pleasure.” He smiled darkly. “Unless, any one wants her as their own private slave?”

Clogg exploded then and tried to charge his brother. Several of Badrangs Horde grabbed him and pulled him back.

“Take him to the prison pit!” Badrang roared, and Elonwyn trembled as her father was torn away.

“Anybeast?” Badrang purred, staring around as though nothing had happened.

Every beast there knew that if they spoke up Badrang would have their food poisoned, otherwise someone would have spoken.

Elonwyn stared around in fear. Would anyone help her? Her eyes fell on Tailwart. He was having an anxiety attack and Alya and Aqua were holding him up.

She glanced at Ralken, her eyes filling with tears. Someone speak up please! Someone I know. She willed desperately.

Ralken turned away from her, and the tears spilled from Elonwyn’s eyes in an unstoppable flood. She could hear mutterings, some jeering, some sympathetic from the gathered horde.

“I’ll take her.” Elonwyn looked up, blind with tears, and she could feel Badrang’s grip tighten and he let out a snarl.

“Findo. I hardly believe you deserve an honor like this.” Badrang spat.

“NO!” Elonwyn shrieked before she could stop herself. Not Findo! Anyone but him!

Badrang slapped her and she winced.

“Lord Badrang, you said yourself there wasn’t complete proof for what Keena said happened. And if I had a mate perhaps other fathers would have no fear for their daughters and there wouldn’t be any more incidents like Keena.” Findo’s voice was hard and calm.

“Perhaps you have a point.” Badrang threw Elonwyn away from him. “Alright, take her. You’re all dismissed. Yes, even Clogg’s former crew can go about their duties, no need to keep spears on their necks Bluehide.”

As everyone milled away from Badrang’s hut, Badrang pressed his sword against Findo’s neck. “You’ll pay for that Weasel. No one humiliates me. you know as well any beast here that I was punishing Clogg by making his daughter the property of the malebeasts.”

Findo smiled. “What does it matter? She’s taken against her will either way, just by one beast rather than many.”

Findo gritted his teeth as blood dripped down his neck, then Badrang let the sword fall and he flounced away. Findo watched him go.

Elonwyn sat on the ground, trembling. She dully took the paw that covered hers and let herself be pulled to her feet. she found herself staring up into the cold hate-filled blue eyes of Findo. He was pulling her closer and she let out a cry and shoved him away.

“Elonwyn- he grabbed for her, looking confused but she dodged him and tripped. She fell on her tail.

“Stay away from me!” she shouted.

“Stop being an idiot!” Findo crouched down in front of her and clutched her wrists when she tried to push him away. “I’m not going to do anything to you! Stop it!” he pulled her forward and hugged her tightly.

Elonwyn was shivering uncontrollably and she started to cry. Findo stroked her head and murmured soothingly. “It’s alright, it’s over. I’ll protect you little one.”

Elonwyn was in too much pain to do anything but cry softly into Findo’s chest. None of her friends had done anything to help her. Only Findo, her least favorite person had done anything for her.

“Look at me.” Findo put her at arm’s length so she had to look into his blue eyes. “everything will be alright-

His eyes had suddenly become hard pools of burning fire and his face contorted with hatred. But he was looking over Lonny’s shoulder, not at her. Who was he- she turned, her vision blurred with hot tears.

Ralken was staring down at them, flanked by Tailwart, Aqua, and Alya. Before Elonwyn could get up to speak to them, Findo lunged.

“You!” he grabbed a startled rat and snatched a sword out of its paws. “Give me that!”

He whirled the sword in an arch and slashed Ralken across the cheek. Ralken pushed Alya and Aqua away and drew his own sword, but only used it to block Findo’s frenzied swipes, and metal clashed metal.

“YOU SON OF A SEAGULL!!!!” Findo managed to stab Ralken in the knee, so the stoat was forced to the ground, and relentlessly continued to bring his sword down on his best friend. “YOU DID NOTHING TO HELP HER!!!! YOU HAD A CHANCE TO SAVE HER AND YOU DID ABSOLUTLY NOTHING!!!!!!!!”

“WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO?!” Ralken shouted back, shielding himself with his blade. Several people had come to watch, their eyes wide with shock. Ralken and Findo ignored them all, their eyes only for each other. “MY FATHER WOULDN’T HAVE LET ME TAKE HER, WE’RE COUSINS!”

“Stop it both of you!!!!” Alya shouted. “This isn’t helping anything!”

Findo ignored her. “YOU SELFISH IDIOT!!!!” he clipped off half of Findo’s ear with a wild slash. “DON’T LIE TO ME!!!!” he kicked Ralken in the stomach and the stoat doubled over in pain. Findo leaned close to Ralken’s remaining ear, and hissed. “You did it because if you had Elonwyn you wouldn’t be able to marry Alya. You left your own cousin, who loves you, to the mercy of Badrang’s army because of your own selfishness.”

He drew back and raised his sword high above his head and swung a killing blow.

His sword stopped suddenly. All eyes were on the glimmering blade, which had stopped, an inch from Elonwyn’s neck.

Elonwyn stared up at Findo, her eyes red with tears, shaking her head frantically, shielding Ralken from the blade.

Findo stared at her, then tossed the sword away with a growl, then turned away. his back still turned on his friends, he spoke.

“Alya. Do you need an assistant?”

What?” Alya blinked, her eyes, mushy and grey as gravy, wide.

“I said do you need an assistant?!” Findo snapped. “Are you deaf and stupid as well as blind?!”

“Yes.” Alya whispered, frowning at him.

“Then take Elonwyn. She should be safe with you.” Findo whispered, and walked away before anyone could speak.

Elonwyn collapsed beside Ralken, shaking like a leaf in November.

Chapter eighteen: new face

written by me

Lonny sat on a cot with a blanket over her head and shoulders. She shoke mildly from the events that had taken place. On the cot next to her was Tailwart, who had passed out from all the stress.

Juni wiped Tailwart’s brow. “So, exactly what happened? I wasn’t here during the events that lead to Tailwart passing out and that Ralken almost lost his head.”

Ralken winced as Alya dabbed his bleeding ear with some ointments. Trying to keep his voice calm, he anwswered through gritted teeth. “Badrang captured Clogg’s crew, who voted to be under his command. But to humilate Clogg, he offered up Lon to the malebeasts as a personal servent, or for them all to share. I couldn’t help her since--” he hissed in pain as Alya continued to treat him.

“You couldn’t help her since?”

“She’s my cousin, and my heart belongs to...someone else.” His sentence ended in a small whisper that no one could hear.

Lonny’s small voice piped up. “What about Aqua or Tailwart? Why couldn’t they have stepped in to help me?”

“Because, Aqua’s a female and your cousin, and with Tailwart, he’s needed on guard and can’t spare any other time to be with you since the one who has shift after him is dead.”

It had just dawned upon Lonny that the beast who took shift after Tailwart was Blackdash.

Juni sighed. “But wasn’t all that had happened, did it?”

Ralken closed his eyes tight and ground his teeth. “No--Findo was the one who offered to take Lon. But after the trial, he attacked me.”

Juni dropped the damp rag and stared wide eyed at Ralken. “You mean, Findo did that to you? But, he’s your best friend; he’d never want to kill you. Why?”

“Because I couldn’t help Lon, who saved me from being headless. He went crazy! I tried to stop him, but he was berserk, like a badger in Bloodwrath. I don’t know what made him so angered.”

Alya shook her head. “Everything that had happened has been putting us all on the brink of self destruct. The lose of Skalrag and Blackdash, escaped slaves, everything. I hate to admit it, but we’re falling apart.”

Lonny looked at Alya with puzzled eyes. “What do you mean?”

“We have friends trying to kill each other--who knows what’s going to happen next.”

Juni then noticed Aqua sitting in the corner with her back turned. She sat completely motionless and silent. “What’s wrong with Aqua?”

Alya put some dockleaves and some thick ointment on Ralken’s ear. “like i said, we’re all on edge. I’m not sure what’s wrong with her.”

“It wasn’t all Ralken’s fault,” Aqua said in a calm but choked up voice.

Everybeast went dead silent. Never had they heard her talk like that. “It should’ve been me to be the one who was almost killed, not Ralken.”

“But, you two couldn’t have done anything.”

Aqua painfully stood up, and looked blankly at the others. “That’s the point, nothing. I’m just worthless crippled seagull scum who couldn’t do anything.” She grabbed Tailwart’s spear and slowly limped out of the tent without another word.

Alya closed her eyes and shook her head slowly. “when will this nightmare end?”

“As soon as we leave,” Juni said as she redamped the rag.

Alya shrugged. “Soon, I hope. oh, by the way, Lon, are you well enough to run a little earrend for me?”

The stoat nodded. The healer picked up an empty basket and handed it to Lonny. “I’ve ran out of dockleaves--could you see if they have any more in the storage center?”

The small stoat accepted the basket and stood up. “I’ll see what I can do.”

She was about to leave the tent when Ralken grabbed her arm. Lonny looked up at Ralken. The older stoat gave her a chain-like bracelet. “Wear this, it’s Findo’s.”

Lonny looked at him with a puzzled look on her face. “Why?”

“Since you’re property of Findo now, the others have to know you’re his now.”

Lonny lowered her ears sadly as Ralken slipped the bracelet on Lonny’s wrist. It was a little bit big on her, but she tried to keep it in place. She gave Ralken a small hug and rushed to do her duty.

Lonny made it to the storage center and gathered up the dockleaves. She looked around to make sure no one was watching her and slunk away from the storage center. However, two wicked eyes had spotted her.

Elonwyn managed to make it past the slaves compound, till suddenly she was grabbed from behind. She let out a surprised squeak as she dropped the basket. She fearfully turned around to see a male ferret with her wrist in his grasp.

The ferret grinned wickedly as Lonny tried to wrentch her wrist away from him. He chuckled evilly. “Well, well, if it isn’t the property of Findo the weasel? What are you doing out her instead of being with your master, little stoat.?

Lonny grunted as she tried her best to get free. “I’m doing some errands, you’re not suppossed to harm me! I belong to Findo, not you, you big bully! I have his bracelet!”

The ferret pulled out the chain bracelet from his pocket an twirled it around his finger tauntingly. “Oh, ya mean this little thing? Why, I found it on the ground all alone. Finder’s keepers!”

Lonny gasped and desperately tried to get the bracelet out of the ferret’s grasped. The ferret chuckled maliciously. “Oh that won’t do, you have to reach higher, haha!”

Sweat ran down Lonny’s face as she was getting tired. The ferret laughed a bit more, but suddenly stopped as somebeast snatched the bracelet from his grasped. He looked around and saw another stoat with the same fur color as Elonwyn with the bracelet in his paw.

The male stoat tut-tutted the ferret as he wriggled a finger at him. “Now that’s not very nice of you, stealing things from children. Now I may be getting this wrong, but doesn’t she belong to Findo?”

The ferret looked around in confusion as the male stoat gave a mocking smile. “Well, err, yeah, she is.”

“Then why is it that you’re messing with her without Findo’s permission, hmm? Now let me make you a deal--you can leave the little stoat alone, or I’ll just have to report to badrang that you were stealing someone elses property. And trust me, mate, I don’t think he’ll appreciate that.” He winked at Lonny who gazed in awe of the older stoat.

The ferret spat at the ground in anger as he released Lonny. He then walked off in foul spirits. The stoat scoffed and looked down at Lonny and gave her the bracelet. “Well, young ‘un, how about I help you pick up all these leaves.”

Lonny nodded and the other stoat knelt down to help her clean up the dockleaves. Lonny couldn’t keep her eyes off the stoat. He seemed oddly familiar. “Thank you, sir, for helping me from that mean ferret.”

The other stoat smiled at her. “Ahh, twas nothing, really. I was just doing what Findo would’ve done, but he’s cooling down at the moment so I had to come in for your rescue.”

Lonny blushed slightly. She was warming up to the other stoat, who didn’t seem at all like the other vermin. “Sir, how long have you been here?”

“Oh, I just arrived here just in time to save your pretty tail, Elonwyn.”

Lonny’s ears went up. “How’d you know my name?”

The other stoat chuckled. "Let’s just say, I’m a close friend to your family. Oh, pardon me, my name’s Malwyze the Seer.” He held out a friendly paw.

Lonny hesitated for a moment, but fineally shook his paw. “Hmm, a shy little critter, aren’t you. But be careful now, we don’t want to have another incident like that again, don’t we? I may not be here next time.”

Elonwyn nodded slowly as she threw the last leaf into the basket. Malwyze rustled Lonny’s headfur as he stood up. “Well, see you later, kid, hopefully it won’t be in another situation like that.” He waved good bye and left with a swift move of his cloak.

Lonny shook her head in bewilderment and stood up. “What a nice guy,” she said to herself as she continued her duty.

As she was on her way back to the tent, she heard Badrang fuming at a female rat. Quickly, she crotched behind a barrel and listened in to their conversation.

“What do you mean he’s here? He was suppossed to be killed many seasons ago, and you say he just turned up out of the blue and walked through these very gates very much alive!”

The female rat Myst, who was Wulpp’s mate, cowered low in fear of Badrang lashing at her. “Aye, that’s what I saw. Even Greenflask told me he stopped him from harming that stoat girl, Elonwyn I think her name was. There’s no kidding that your half brother if within these very walls, sir.”

Badrang slamed his clentched fist into a wooden beam, causing it to have a huge chunk taken out. He grabbed his paw in pain and plucked out the splinters with his claws. “Well don’t just stand there, get back to work!” The ratmaid sped off to do her job.

Elonwyn continued to listen in. So that male stoat who had rescued her was her half uncle. How come she never heard of him before? All Lonny’s thoughts were interrupted when somebeast placed a paw on her not injured shoulder. She let out a startled squeak.

“Shh, it’s only me, Sia,” Trusiae whispered.

Lonny wiped her brow in relief. “What is it?”

Trusiae sighed. “It’s Findo; he wants you, right now.”

Chapter nineteen: Still Alive

written by Meeks

Elonwyn swallowed nervously. “Where is he?”

“He’s up on the battlements.” Trusiae glanced at the small stoat. “Are you alright? You’ve been through quite a bit for one day.”

“I’ll be fine.” Elonwyn rubbed her arms nervously. What did Findo want?

“bye Sia.” Elonwyn raced to the battlements before the ferret could open her mouth. she had to admit, she was scared. Findo was unpredictable and vicious, just like Badrang.

Elonwyn stopped and stared at the sky. She couldn’t help but think of Blackdash. His pleasant smile, sleek dark fur and his deep friendly eyes. Would he have been the one to have spoken up and taken her as his mate?

Elonwyn’s shoulders drooped. What could she and Blackdash have had if he’d lived? Keena had destroyed so much.

Elonwyn sadly walked up the ladder, twirling the bracelet around her wrist. Technically she wasn’t Findo’s mate, just his love slave. When they left Marshank she could mate with who she loved and wanted. Blackdash was gone from her life, but Ralken…

She stared at Alya’s tent where Ralken, Alya, Aqua and Juni were. Ralken had always been there for her until today. Why had he stopped protecting her? Or had he? Why had he left her to be taken by all the male beasts? Why had he left her to the mercy of Findo?

But, Findo hadn’t done anything to her so far, he just scared her. She could tolerate him, but she couldn’t trust him. She didn’t even know why he and Ralken were friends.


Lonny jumped and almost fell off the edge of the battlements, but was grabbed by her wrists and hauled back up. She found herself staring into cold blue eyes.


“Take it easy Lonny.” Findo grinned down at her. When she didn’t smile back his face fell. “I need to talk to you.”

“There’s nothing to say.” Elonwyn mumbled. She scuffed her toes on the wood and stared at the ground. Findo released her arms and half sat, half slumped against the wall. Elonwyn licked her lips nervously. “Aren’t you supposed to be guarding the fort?”

“I’m on break. Nothing to say huh? How about ‘I’m Sorry’?” Findo smirked at her.

“For what?” Elonwyn looked up. “You… you did save me from being used as…well you get the idea.”

“Yeah, I do.” Findo rubbed the back of his neck. “I wanted to apologize for going insane like that. You didn’t need to see that side of me and I almost cut off your head.”

“I’ve seen that side before, from my father.” Elonwyn sat on the railing. “After my mother died, so I’m used to it. It’s not me you need to apologize too. It was Ralken you beat up, and you insulted Alya.”

Elonwyn started as Findo leapt to his feet, his eyes blazing with anger.

“If you even knew what Ralken did you wouldn’t want me to apologize him!!!!” He snapped. “You think he’s a perfect little hero don’t you?! Well he’s not!!!!”

Elonwyn swallowed, but as quickly as he had attacked, Findo relaxed, running his paw through his headfur. “No… I’m sorry. I’m not angry with you.”

“What’s made you like this?” Elonwyn whispered.

“My parents and tribe mates were killed by a pine marten and her minions.” Findo ran a paw down his scars. “I tried to fight her but she ripped my face. She managed to nick my left eye so, the eyesight in my eye is a little bit weak.” he grinned. “she had me in her band and tortured me to near madness, but I fought her and kept my sanity. I finally escaped and made my way to Marshank. I made up for my slight blindness by being the best fighter I could be. I taught Ralken how to fight did you know that?” he grinned and rubbed his neck. “But to everyone else I’m just a foot soldier.”

“But you don’t care about promotions do you?” Elonwyn asked.

“Nah.” Findo chuckled. “All I want to do is slaughter that murdering wench called Asmodeus and her gang they call the torturers.” He gripped his sword hilt. “But…” he gazed at her. “You don’t realize how much you look like my mother and little sister.”

Lonny blushed at the intensity of his stare “Was your little sister-

“Killed?” Findo nodded. “She and I were the only survivors of the attack, but my little sister couldn’t survive the torturing.”

Elonwyn stared at him, and then sighed. “all the same, you and Ralken have been best friends for a long time. You don’t need to end it on my account.”

“I’ll apologize to him and Alya, for your sake. But it’ll take more than that for me to like Ralken again.” Findo hoisted himself up. “I have no quarrel with Alya, just Ralken, anyway.”

“That’s good to hear.” Elonwyn murmured, blushing. Findo’s story had explained some things, but she still couldn’t bring herself to trust him.

“You know, you’re becoming a really tough little pipsqueak.” Findo slung an arm cheerfully around her shoulder. “I like that in a mate.”

“I’m not your mate.” Elonwyn grumpily pushed his arm off.

“Yes you are.”

“No I’m not.”

“yes you are.”



They continues this as they walked to Alya’s tent, and it would have gone longer if Findo hadn’t imitated her voice, adding a lisp and a wheezy undertone, causing Elonwyn to finally burst out laughing when he did it for a fifth time.

Even as Elonwyn and Findo messed with each other, Elonwyn couldn’t help but think about Ralken. Did he think she was Findo’s mate now? Did that mean she didn’t have a chance with him?

She sighed inwardly. She would gradually get Ralken to see her as more than just his cousin and friend. And one day, he would love her, and they’d marry and have children.

Lonny blushed to herself. No, maybe they wouldn’t. but, now, whenever she thought of her handsome older cousin, her heartbeat quickened and her cheeks grew warmer. She was in love with him, and had been since he’d introduced himself.

She blew a raspberry at Findo and he blew one back and they both continued to make raspberry noises at each other as Findo lifted the tent flap so Elonwyn could step inside.

“What ARE you two doing?” Elonwyn grinned at the expression on Alya’s face.

“Where’s Ralken?” Lonny asked looking around for her cousin.

“his dad wanted him for some work.” Alya tossed a pawful of herbs in a bowl and ground them into a powder. “Where are the leaves?”

“Leaves?” Elonwyn cocked her head in confusion.

“Leaves!!! The dock leaves!!! Don’t tell me you forgot!” Alya snapped and threw her paws up in frustration.

“No! here they are!” Lonny hurriedly handed over the dock leaves, dropping a couple as she did so in her hurry. Findo picked them up and bowed low to Alya, handing them to her with a courteous smile.

“Alya…” Findo gazed at the blind healer. “What I said to you today…. I’m sorry. It was unnecessary. You’re the smartest beast I know.”

“It’s fine.” Alya ground the herbs harder, and Elonwyn could tell she was still a little angry.

“Findo, how’s you back?” Juni asked gently, glancing at Alya, who was wildly stirring the ground herbs, glaring at the bowl.

“Agonizing my sweet Juni.” Findo leaned over and kissed the young foxes paw. “But not deadly. Elonwyn’s gentle touch was all I-

He dodged a pillow flung at him by Aqua.

“Stuff it up your tail weasel!” Aqua sounded stern and she was glaring at him, but her eyes were twinkling with amusement.

Findo examined the pillow with a twisted, quizzical look, as though considering how to do as Aqua had asked, causing everyone except Alya (who couldn’t see) to laugh.

Elonwyn grinned to herself. It was a fresh, clear day, and they were friends again. Blackdash had given her so much. He had given her a chance to be with her friends, and to make new ones. He had given her a chance to love Ralken and understand Findo a little better.

Chapter twenty: Waves

written by me

Lonny’s ears perked up. “Oh, Aqua, when’d you get back?”

Aqua chuckled weakly. “About ten minutes ago. I have to get my bandages changed; they’re starting to fall apart. Plus my leg’s hurting a lot since I’ve been on it too long.” She sat down on the cot and allowed Alya to change her bandages.

“Oh, by the way, Lonny, is it just me, or is there an older stoat in the fort that looks a bit like you?”

Lonny blushed. She had forgotten to tell them about her half uncle. “Oh? Him, he’s our half uncle, Malwyze the Seer.”

Aqua scoffed as Alya re wrapped her wrist. “So that’s what ole’ bossy paws was fuming about earlier. I guess he doesn’t like that brother either. N’uncle Badrang must have something against siblings. Poor him, I only have none”

Lonny couldn’t help but giggle. Findo chuckled and rustled Lonny’s headfur. “there, feeling any better?”

The small stoat nodded. “Yes. How about you?”

Findo winked. “Much.”

Aqua let out a sharp yelp of pain as Alya applied some new ointment on her wounds. “Gosh darn it, Alya! Are ya tryin’ to hack me ole foot off! Ouch, you’re killin’ me!! Help, murder, Alya’s trying to kill me and then dress me up like a mummy! YEEOCH!’

The others except Aqua and Alya, laughed at Aqua’s comments. Juni wiped tears from her eyes in pure merriment. “Oh, Aqua, you’re killing us, actually. You’re starting to sound like a wounded hare who just got a little splinter in his paw.”

Aqua lowered her ears and closed her eyes shut. she then started speaking in a mock hare accent. “Oh you don’t know the bally half of it, m’ lass. it’s like an army o’ spears stabbin’ in m’ footpaw, wot!”

Lonny fell to the ground from laughing so much. findo was trying his best to remain calm, but it was too priceless; he had to let his laughter out. Juni pounded the table as she laughed her heart away. Alya, however, remained solemn.

Just then, tailwart ran into the tent waving a sword around screaming. ‘AWAY YOU FIENDS!! YOU’RE KILLING HER!! BACK OFF!!” Apparrantly he didn’t know that it was all just a joke. Alya shook her head. “No one’s killing anyone, tailwart. Aqua’s just being usual.”

“Who’s Aqua? I’m Captain Nofoot, to you, m’gal. No Aquas around here, wot!” Aqua said in pride, puffing out her chest in military fashion while holding her paw to her chest like a noble knight.

Alya just closed her eyes and shook her head. “What are we going to do with you?”

“Feed me bally good vittles, of course! I’m famished, wot wot!”

Alya’s face remained straight as she finished re-applying Aqua’s wrappings. “Okay, you’re free to go, Aqua.”

Aqua leaned over to a pillow, pretending it was Aqua. “Did ya hear that? She said you can go, Aqua ole’ lass. Away from this confounded place, wot.”

Alya stood up, while everybody giggled like a group of hyenas. Alya sighed as she wiped her paws on a wet rag. “Why do I bother?”

Tailwart held his paw over his mouth as he snickerd. He then removed his paw and looked over at Aqua. He walked over to her. The ferret shifted his footpaws nervously as he scratched his neck. His cheeks turned bright pink as he blushed. “Umm, Star, could I speak to you privately?”

Aqua tilted her head giving Tailwart a charming smile. “Sure.” She slowly stood up and supported herself with Tailwart’s spear, and followed him out of the tent. on her way out, she winked at the others who watched in wonderment.

when the two were gone, Juni whispered to Elonwyn. “I think he has the hots for her. He’s been acting like that since she arrived here.”

Lonny just nodded in agreement. How lucky of her cousin to have a male like her so much, and wanted to talk to her secretly away from others. It must’ve been wonderful to be with the one you loved so dearly. She knew Blackdash had felt that way about her before his death, but he’s gone, and she has to move on. If only Ralken did the same for her, then maybe they’d be together forever. After all, who said that cousins can’t be mates? No one, that’s who.

Tailwart and Aqua stood secretly in the corner of the walls away from the tent. Aquastar looked itno Tailwart’s red eyes. Her charming smile and eyes like sapphires were liek those of an angel to Tailwart. Her soft white fur was like snow when Tailwart held her close and stroked her headfur on cold winter nights alone near the gates, as he protected her from the pouring rain. He had to tell her his true feelings for her.

“So, what do you want to tell me, Tailwart?”

The ferret scratched his headfur and blushed even redder. “Do you remember that one stormy summer night when the rain poured like millions of buckets?”

Aqua chuckled. “Yes, I do.”

“And when I sheltered you with my old cloak and right the the rain stopped and the moon came out, that you kissed me on the cheek?”

The stoat giggled. “Yes, I did it to thank you for protecting me.”

Tailwart grasped his brooch on his hood tightly. “Well, that kiss means more to me than anything. I even stopped washing the cheek you kissed me on”

Aqua gave him a quizzed look. “Oh, what do you mean.”

Tailwart grasped Aqua’s paws and pulled her closer to him. He looked longingly in her eyes. “Aquastar...I love you.”

Aqua couldn’t keep herself from blushing. Tailwart continued. “I loved you since I first laid eyes on you. And hopefully, by the winter once we’ve escaped this place, we’d be mates and sail the seas in search for adventure. And, maybe, when we’re ready, we could start a family.”

A tear of joy ran down Aqua’s cheek. Tailwart’s words touched her deeply, and she had felt the same way with him since the day she moved to Marshank. She dropped the spear and wrapped her arms around Tailwart. “Of course, Tailwart, we’ll be mates for eterninty--you and me.”

Tailwart hugged her back. They had both admitted their true love for each other.

Trusiae sat watching them in the shadows with a smile on her face. She was happy to see happiness in Marshank for once.

Back with Lonny and the others, Juni decided to take a nap in the tent, since she was exhausted by the previous events. Findo was called to go to his post. Growing lonely, Lonny left the tent.

Elonwyn decided to take a small walk around Marshank. She then spotted some rare blue flowers growing in the corner of Marshank. Quickly, she ran to them in delight.

The stoat knelt by the flowers and admired their beauty. “Woah, such pretty flowers growing in a depressing place like this.” She went on her paws and smelt them. Her smile grew wider. “Ohh, and they smell so pretty! I think I’ll pick some for Alya, since she’d been a really good friend of mine. plus flowers like these are sure likely to be killed by all the cruel beasts here.” She carefully picked several big flowers and stood up.

As she was walking back to the healer’s tent, she felt so happy and merry. “Alya’s going to love these!”

Meanwhile, Alya had discovered a hole in the back of her tent when she was fixing up a new cot. Even though she couldn’t see the hole, she still felt it with her paw. “Ahh, bugger, got to do some repair to this before it gets bigger. Must’ve happened when the four were playing around the night the performers came.”

She gathered up some supplies to repair the damage, and left the tent. “this won’t take very long since it’s small enough. i should be done in just a few seconds.”

during this time, Ralken had finished doing what his father wanted him to do. He walked from the fort with his paws clinging to his belt and his head lowered. He was till mad for Findo attacking him. I wonder what Fin’s doing right now? He wondered.

Then he began thinking about Alya, and how Findo hurt her feelings. He didn’t like to see her get harmed by anybeast. The stoat then gave a little speed to his walk as he walked to the healer’s tent.

He arrived at the tent to only find Juni sleeping peacfully on a cot. Lowering his ears, he sighed. “Fin must’ve drove her off after she fixed me up.”

Ralken sat down on the chair by the table and rested his head on his paw. Then he noticed the silhouetted form of Alya behind the tent repairing the hole. He gave a sigh of relief. His heart had longed for her for a long time now, but he knew that right now he was ready to tell her how much he loved her.

The stoat got up, and walked behind the tent. The healer was hard at work on repairing the hole. She had heard Ralken’s approach and spoke while still focusing on her work. “Ralken, what are you doing here?”

“I’m done doing my duties, and decided to pay a visit to you.”

Alya finished sewing the material of her tent with a patch, and turned her blind gaze on him. “I’m sure there’s more to just a simple visit you had in mind. So what have you been up to?”

Ralken casually looked around as he stroked his headfur. “Not much. Nice weather out today, eh?”

“Yes, very nice. So, are things getting better between you and Findo?”

“I dunno; haven’t seen him. How’s the patients?”

“Getting better. How’s your wounds?”

“Healing.” Ralken Closed his eyes. He couldn’t continue the small talk any longer. without warning, he grabbed Alya and kissed her; right went Lonny arrived.

Lonny’s green eyes were wide with horror; the one who she loved so dear, was kissing the healer! She instantly dropped the flowers and stood there in total shock. She then gasped sharply.

Ralken had just turned his head to see who it was when Lonny ran away. She didn’t stay long enough for Ralken to identify her.

Ralken broke his and Alya’s kiss and chased after the small stoat. “Wait, who are you?! Come back!” He left Alya standing there with a surprised expression on her face and a huge blush.

Tears poured down Lonny’s face as she ran away from the scene. Her tears blinded her view, so she tried her best to not run into anything. Her heart was broken again, but by her own cousin. She felt like dying. Lonny had to hide from him; never wanting to see him again.

Elonwyn found a barrel of wine and hid behind it to cry. She once again, felt lost and alone.

Chapter twentyone: Hungry Like The Wolf

written by Meeks

“I’m sorry.” Ralken whispered, heading back to Alya, who had fallen to her knees in shock. “That could have been a spy.”

“Ralken…” Alya stood up shakily. “You… I didn’t realize you cared about me like that.”

“Ever since I found you washed up on the shore.” Ralken smiled, brushing her headfur from her face. “You’ve been my inspiration to keep going in this mad house.” He drew his paw back, glancing uncertainly at the tent through the corner of his eyes. “But… my father would do something horrible to you, if he knew. And I don’t even know if you feel that way about me-

Alya leapt and threw her paws around his neck, and hugged him tightly, causing Ralken to stagger backward.

“Of course I feel the same way about you! I love you Prince Ralken, you saved my life and kept me safe. How else can I repay all your kindness?”

Ralken brushed his mouth against her ear. “Be my mate.”

Alya let her paw intertwine with his, and her tail hooked around his waist, then touched his cheek with her free paw, feeling every detail. “If what you want, is lifelong partnership, then I’m yours.”

Ralken closed his eyes, feeling her touch. “If we become mates… I cannot say for sure what will happen… but if that was a spy earlier, we will need to gather our friends together.” He kissed Alya’s paw. “We can’t stay here any longer. We’re leaving tomorrow night, whether that warrior mouse comes or not. I can’t risk what my father will do.”

“I agree.” Alya sighed. “But in the meantime….”

She gave Ralken a passionate kiss, and drew away from him. Ralken gripped her paw tightly and together they walked towards the tent.

■ ■ ■

Findo winced as he limped down the ladder. His back was burning and stinging and he was hot, sticky, and exhausted. All he wanted to do was to go to the healer’s tent and get his back treated and then sleep for a season.

His back wasn’t even the beginning of his horrible day. He had felt the burning stares of many of his fellow guards. He had ignored them, but he could feel their suspicion and distrust piercing his back like arrow shafts.

But, aside from that, Findo was in a good mood. He felt light, happy, and content, as though a large weight had been lifted from him. He had returned to being the usual, witty, carefree, and fun loving Findo from before.

He let out a groan of pain as he gazed up the sky and rubbed the crick out of his neck. The sun was setting, but the moon and stars were starting to appear in the peach, rose and orange crème sky.

Findo smiled to himself as he rubbed his neck and gazed at his paw, which held something that Aqua had given him earlier that day, a small charm in the shape of an owl, which Aqua had told him was the meaning of Elonwyn’s name: “Little Snow Owl”

“You may want this.” Aqau had said, limping over to him as he chatted with Stumptooth and Tara, the only beasts that looked at him with friendship. “It’s something Elonwyn’s mother gave to me when she was pregnant with Lonny. She told me to give it to the one Lonny would become mates with.”

Findo pressed the charm to his lips. He knew that he and Lonny were only mates in the eyes of the creatures of Marshank, but for the time, until he and his friends left the atrocious fortress, he could dream.

“She loves my best friend. She may not say it, but I can sense it when she looks at him. she doesn’t trust me, but I won’t ever go berserk like that again, I’m going to be Findo, not a monster.” He whispered against the charm.

“Talking to yourself pervert?” a snide voice said from behind him. Findo’s grip around the charm tightened and he let his fist lower to his waist.

“Hello Risk.” Findo didn’t turn around, recognizing the voice of Hisk’s son. The scrawny weasel had been even more unbearable since his father’s death.

“Where’s your little slave? Waiting for you in your bed is she?” Risk grinned an hefted his axe over his shoulder, grinning cruelly.

“Why don’t you go bother someone who can’t fight back like a normal idiot Risk?” Findo asked, turning to face the silver furred weasel. Risk had pale grayish silver fur with a long ponytail that hung over his shoulder blades. If it wasn’t for his constantly hateful expression he would have been rather handsome.

Risk responded by aiming a punch at Findo, but Findo idly blocked it with his arm. Risk let out a growl.

“I’m not an idiot! Roll over and die you-

“Better not finish that sentence Risk, or I’ll have to damage your face.” Findo gave a slight grin. “It’s the only alternative, since you don’t have a brain to harm.”

“Shut up!!!!” Risk backed away, braced for a fight.

“Alright.” Findo turned away. “I don’t want to bother with you today. I’m tired, and I want a nap.”

Risk glared after Findo’s retreating form. “You just wait Findo. I’ll destroy you.”

■ ■ ■

Juni winced and clutched her stomach. Her baby was kicking again, and each pang made her feel sick. She clutched the side of the log she was sitting on, and let out a hiss.

“Dang it!” she growled. “Why does it have to be six months?! I can’t take this much longer!”

“Juni?” she looked up with a start and glanced over her shoulder. Findo was staring at her, his head cocked with a quizzical expression on his face.

“Findo, I was wondering...” she hauled herself up, still pressing her arms to her belly. “If you could help me make some supper, I’m having some *grunt* distractions.” She made a confused face as Findo suddenly crouched and pressed a paw against Juni’s bulging stomach. “What… are you doing?”

Findo smiled up at her. “You’ve got a feisty one here Juni. Remind you of someone?”

He started as Juni’s eyes filled with tears. “Hey! Sorry, I didn’t mean-

Juni pressed a paw against Findo’s head and ruffled his headfur. “It’s not your fault. I’m just not… over his death yet.”

“I didn’t mean to remind you of that.” Findo shuffled uncomfortably, and then leapt up, ignoring his back. “Here! I’ll make supper! You rest!” he tripped over the log in his hurry and hit the ground beside the unlit fire.

“I think...” Juni helped Ralken up. “That since we’re both crippled, we should work together.”


“what’s this?” Juni snatched something from out of Findo’s paw.

“Hey!” Findo yelped. “That’s mine!”

“I know, but I want to look.” Juni examined the charm with interest. “It’s really detailed. Where did you get it?”

“None of your business.” Findo muttered.

“Here.” Juni ripped the hem of her tunic and strung the charm on it, and stood on tip toe to tie it around Findo’s neck. “It’ll be safer here that clutched in your fist.”

“Thanks Juni.” Findo smiled at his friend.

■ ■ ■

Elonwyn rubbed her burning eyes. Her throat was sore and she was extremely thirsty. She didn’t have a tear left to cry and she felt sick to her stomach. “ Hey! It’s the pipsqueak!” an unfamiliar voice rang in her ears and with a squeak she turned her head to see a tall silver weasel with a cruel smile.

“Aw wook! Da widdle pipsqueak’s been cwying!” the weasel crooned sarcastically. “Did Findo tell you to stop-

“It figures I don’t have my sword on me right now.” Elonwyn thought as the weasel finished his sentence. “I need someone to beat up.”

She let out a startled yelp as the weasel suddenly grabbed her shoulders and shoved her down, pressing his knee in her stomach. He gripped her chin, forcing her to sit upright.

“Why don’t you play with me instead?” the weasel purred.

“Get off!” Elonwyn spat, struggling. She managed to free herself long enough to punch her attacker hard in the cheek.

“Punch a little harder you might actually cause me to bruise.” The weasel shoved her back against the ground hard, and a pain shot up Elonwyn’s back.

“What’s your problem?! What did I ever do to you?!” Elonwyn snarled and kicked with both her feet and nailed him in the chest. The force of her kick got her to her feet, and she raised her fists, ready to fight for her life.

Risk, for that was whom she was dealing with, rubbed his chest a huge grin on his face. “Aren’t I lucky? I got to see up your tunic that time!”

Elonwyn let out an angry hiss. “Shut up!!!!”

She screamed in pain as he grabbed her left ear and pulled her head down with a swift twist.

■ ■ ■

Findo looked up from the stew he and Juni were making together.

“Did you hear that?”

Juni was listening intently, her eyes wide. “That sounded like Elon-

She didn’t finish her sentence; Findo was up and running towards the sound of the commotion.

Chapter twenty two: what hurts the most


Findo finally arrived top see Risk looming over Lonny, who was terrified of the silver weasel. findo was breathing hard and his eyes were filled with cold hatred. “Leave her alone, Risk!” he hissed, clenching his fist.

Risk truned around to face findo and smirked darkly. “Or what, you gonna kill me, Findo? I can’t see why you want to save her--I’m only doing a favor. Now If you’ll excuse me, Lonny and I have some things to discuss.”

Findo let his rage take control of him. He ran fatser than an arrow and lunged at Risk before the silver ferret could turn to face Lonny. Findo punched Rish in the cheek with full force; knocking him to the ground.

The silver ferret let out a painful yell and Findo slammed his footpaw down on Risk’s arm, causing sharp pains lancing through him. Risk raised his head to face Findo, but only to be greeted by a sharp blade an inch away from his nose.

Findo glared down at his foe and noticed Trusiae standing near. The red weasel pointed at her. “You, ferret, keep this scum down while I tend to Lonny.” Findo lifted his footpaw as soon Sia came over.

Trusiae drew out her dagger. “With pleasure.” She knelt down behind Risk and pinned him down to the ground with her arm, and pointed her dagger to his neck. “Any false moves, and I’ll have you spitting out your own gut.”

Risk snorted in hate. “Since when did you decide to appear, ferret? We’re you spying on me and the little one?”

Sia ignored the pinned weasel and looked over at Findo, who was approaching Elonwyn.

Findo looked down at Lonny with worry in his eyes. He held out a paw to her. “Are you okay, Lonny?”

Tears sprang from Lonny’s bright green eyes. she pushed findo’s paw away from her. She scrambled up and ran away. “Leave me alone!”

Findo watched her leave and brushed his headfur. “what’s wrong with her? Did someone hurt her?” Findo then turned to look down at Risk with an icey glare. “Did you have something to do with this? SPEAK!”

Sia pushed her dagger closer to Risk’s neck, allowing a drop of blood run down her blade as her dagger pierced his skin. Risk hissed in pain. “Hey, hey, don’t go blaming me, Findo, she was like that when I saw her. Looks like sombeast else did the upsetting, not I?”

Findo kicked Risk in gut, causing Risk to gasp out for air. Findo roared at Risk. “YOU LIE!”

Risk had his eyes shut as he breathed hin pain. ‘I’m tellin’ the truth! Honestly on my ftaher’s grave!”

Findo looked over at Trusiae. “What do you think, Sia--is he telling the truth?”

“I’m not the one to lie, Findo, but he is telling the truth. I saw Lonny run to this spot with a waterfall of tears. No doubt sombeast upsetted her.”

Findo shook his head. “Who, is what my question is.”

The blue ferret looked up at the darkening sky. “It’s getting late; might as well start settling down.”

“Yeah, and who knows what tomorrow has in store for us.” Findo sighed as he leaned on his sword. “You’re free to go, Risk, but if I or Sia catches you harming Lonny, I’ll have clogg dig you a grave next to your dad’s, understand?”

Risk spat on the ground and groaned. “Yes.”

Findo looked away. “Good, no go.”

Sia let the weasel loose, and stood up. She kept her eye on Risk, who walked away sulking and rubbing his bruised ar,. The ferret shook her head. “Don’t be so harsh on him, Findo, the guy just lost his father.”

Findo kept his back turned toward the ferret. “So what, Juni lost her mate, both keena and Blackdash killed each other, who knows who’ll be next on Death’s list?”

Sia sighed. “I have that feeling too: that someone’s going to lose somebody dear. The longer we stay here, the more of us die.”

Findo turned his head to face the ferret. “Tomorrow, maybe: tomorrow we may escape this place.”

Sia nodded. “Aye, now come, Findo, let’s have supper with the others.” Findo nodded in agreement. Sia walked away to join the others, while Findo stayed behind a little longer. He kept his eyes focused on Lonny, who was on the battlements looking in the sky. He let out a sigh, and left to join the others.

Elonwyn gazed up at the starry sky. Her eyes were red rimmed from all the tears she had shed. Her heart was broken, and no one could help her overcome the heartache she endured. The only one she had loved so dear was in love with someone else.

She stared to cry again softly as she buried her face in her paws. Suddenly, a friendly voice spoke from behind her. “Are you okay, Elonwyn?”

Lonny’s ears stood up as she quickly turned around to see Malwyze, her half uncle. he looked at her with worry in his eyes. “Were you crying?”

Lonny rubbed a tear from her eyes and sniffed. “No, not at all.”

Malyze placed a paw on her shoulder. “You’re eyes tell a different story. What’s wrong?”

Lonny rubbed her arm and looked down at her footpaws. “Nothing really.”

The older stoat lifted Lonny’s chin to look into her pretty eyes. “It’s more than that, is it?” Elonwyn sighed, knowing it was hard to keep her feeligns hidden from this stoat. She turned around and looked up at the sky. “N’uncle, have you ever suffered from a broken heart?’

Malwyze walked next to her and leaned against the battlements. “Not say that I have--did someone break yours?”

Lonny nodded sadly. “Yes, he did.”

Malwyze looked at her. “Who?”

Lonny closed her eyes and lowered her head. She placed a paw on her cheek. ‘My cousin, Ralken; I saw him kissing the healer today--it broke me.”

“And your cousin, you loved him?”

Elonwyn brushed a tear from her eye. “Yes, I thought he would be with me, but he chose to be with someone else.”

Malwyze could tell by the tone in Lonny’s voice that this wasn’t the first time she had her heart broken. “But, he wasn’t the first, was he?”

Elonwyn opened her eyes and gazed at the ocean. “Yes, there was another one. His name was Blackdash; I’d only known him for a few moments, but knew he was perfect for me. He was nice, and even risked his life to save mine.”

“What happened?”

“Both he and his sister, who was really mean to me, killed eachother, but Blacky did it to save my life when I couldn’t defend myself. And that moment when Ralken was kissing Alya, it felt like that day when Blacky died in my arms.”

She looked at her half uncle. “Do you know what it feels like to have someone you love die in your arms? Or somebeast you loved kissing your friend?”

Malwyze looked at the sky. “Now I may not’ve experienced those things, but I know how it feels.” He looked at Lonny. “You are not going to be alone forever, Elonwyn, somebeast here in this camp loves you very dear, and would do anything to protect you. Someone you’d least expect to be your mate. You can’t change what has happened, Lonny, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go on and live your life with happiness. Don’t choose the life of hate, and grieve.”

“And you know this how?”

“My half brother, Badrang, he loved this maid, but she died, and it broke his heart. Instead of forgetting about the past, he chose to hold onto his grieve and become a hateful ruler, wanting everybeast to suffer like he did. That’s why, I hate him; he can’t let go of the past and bring nothing but suffering to others who treated him with love and respect. I don’t want you to end up like him, choose the path that you feel is right.”

Elonwyn was about to ask him who loved her, but the older stoat already departed down the battlements and left. The young stoat sighed and looked into the starry sky. Which path was she going to choose?

The next day had arrived. Aqua was strolling around, exercising her injured foot. Alya had told her earlier to do some exercise on it so it can gain its strength again. since it was healing rather well, today Aqua was testing it out.

The white stoat inhaled the fresh air and smiled. Today was a new day. Her foot was feeling better and her injuries were healing. Pretty soon she’ll be running along the beach with Tailwart by her side all the way.

She looked up at Findo, who was guarding the wall tops. Aqua chukled and walked up to the wall top. She waved a paw at Findo and called out to him. “Hi, Findo!”

Findo returned a friendly wave. “Hey Aqua!”

The white stoat approached him with her charming smile on her face. “Today’s a great day, isn’t it?”

Findo manged a small laugh. “Aye, and it seems you’re healing up.”

Aqua tugged her ear. “Yeah, but my foot still needs to be taken care of since it’s still a bit sore. Other than that about me, what about you? I haven’t seen you much yesterday.”

Findo sughed, his smile turning into a frown. “I had to save Elonwyn from Risk, but she never thanked me for rescuing her. She was really upset, even before Risk attacked her. I don’t know who made her so upset. Plus Ralken’s not doing his job, so I’m wondering where he is,”

Aqua tapped her chin in thought. “Now since you mentioned it, it does seem odd that Ralken is up here with you. Maybe he’s doing another mission for Badrang.”

Findo looked down at the beach and spotted a small orange figure down below, running towards the fort. “Hmm, I’m not sure. Looks like sombeast is heading towards the fort with enough javelins to defeat an army.”

Aqua’s face became serious. “What does he look like?”

Findo peered closer at the figure. “Looks like a squirrel of some sort, his fur is kinda orangy tan. I think he’s going to attack Marsnhank.”

Aqua looked down. “No, i-it can’t be?” She looked closer at the figure closer. “It is, it’s Felldoh!” her voice was filled with worry.

“Felldoh? You mean the squirrel slave that escaped Marshank along with that warrior mouse?”

“Yes, it’s him! And Brome and Keyla are folowing him.” Aqua let out a gasp. “Oh no...”

“What’s wrong.”

Aqua looked at Findo with fear in her blue eyes. “Badrang has his army prepared for an ambush. Badrang’s luring Felldoh into a trap!”

Aqua took another look down and gasped. Badrang was standing at the gates while his army awaited the squirrel’s arrival. The white stoat quickly darted down the battlements. “I HAVE TO SAVE FELLDOH!”

As Aqua ran to the gates, her foot gave out as she tripped over a rock. She fell to the ground in pain. she rubbed her footpaw as blood oozed out from the reopened wound. Her heart was beating fast-- she had to save her friend.

She still had Tailwart’s spear strapped across her back. She got up using the spear for support. Suddenly, Badrang’s voice called from outside. “Marshank, Marshank!!”

Aqua’s ear rang with the sound of weapons clashing. She limped hurriedly to the gates in hope to save her friend. Her whole world was of slow motion. Her heart was beating faster than ever. She was breathing heavily as she ran.

She then spotted Tailwart by the gates. “Tailwart, open the gates, NOW!” The ferret quickly opened the gates, but it was too late. The vermin were all around the limp form off Felldoh. Badrang was chuckl;ing evilly as he retrived his sword from the squirrel’s dead paw.

Aqua let out a sharp scream of despair. “FELLDOH!!” Badrang turned around to see his niece standing by the gates with a look of shock horror on her face. Tears poured down Aqua’s face and anger swelled inside her.

“You...MONSTER!!” she was about to leap onto Badrang when Malwyze held her back. Aqua kept trying to escape his grip, but she didn’t succeed. She cried helplessly as she kept yelling. “NO! FELLDOH!!”

Badrang gave her a look of disgust. “You, were friends with this slave?”

Aqua kicked furiously to escape. “YOU MONSTER!! YOU MURDERER!!!” she sobbed out. Her eyes were burning from all the tears.

Malwyze escorted her away from the gruesome scene and tried his best to comfort her.

As the two left, Badrang shouted out orders to his vermin. “Everybody back in, now!” Everyone went inside the fort, leaving the broken body of Felldoh behind. Tailwart looked at the fallen friend of Aqua, and sighed sadly as he closed the gates.

Aqua was being comforted by Alya, Elonwyn, and Malwyze. Aqua had stopped crying, but was now shaking with rage. “That greedy fiend, he killed my friend. THAT COLD HEARTLESS SCUM OF THE EARTH KILLED MY FRIEND!”

Malwyze allowed Aqua to burry her face in his chest as she started to cry again. He brushed her headfur and whispered in her ear. “It’s okay, Aqua, we’re here for you.”

Just then, a ferret approached them. “Oi, you, stoatmaid; Lord Badrang wants to see you.”

Alya faced the ferret from attending Aqua’s footpaw. The ermine’s voice was cold. “Has Lord Badrang created enough damage? Tell him he can roast his tail, Aqua’s not going to see him. And if you don’t, we’ll see who suffers.”

The ferret backed away in fear as the burning hatred from Alya’s blind eyes focused on him. He gulped and walked away.

Elonwyn looked in sympathy for her cousin as she sat by her side. In the distance, on the wall tops, Ralken looked down at his crestfallen cousin. Stumptooth walked by his side. “She could’ve saved him, if she wasn’t crippled.” Stumptooth then noticed the thoughtful look on Ralken’s face. “What’s on your mind?”

“Tell Juni, Tara, Sia, and the others to pack up; we’re leaving!”

Chapter twenty three:Bloody Mary


Tara sat on the battlements, her eyes closed, letting the breeze rush her hair.


Creatures scuttling over Marshank like ants on a hill.

Tara snapped her eyes open and let the moonlight wash over her face. She had just reviewed the visions she’d been having ever since she’d joined the ranks of Badrang’s soldiers. The ruin of Marshank.

She let out a sigh and closed her eyes again. If only she’d envisioned something more important, like the deaths of Skalrag and Blackdash, then things would be different.


The young blackfooted ferret looked up and smiled as she saw her mate, Stumptooth, standing over her. Her smile fell when she got a better look at his face, which was contorted with worry.

“What is it my love?” she got to her feet in a hurry, tripping on her cape.

“Shhh.” Stumptooth caught her before she fell and pressed a finger on her lips. “Not so loud. Gather your belongings. Ralken’s given the word. We’re leaving.”

“Leaving Marshank?” Tara clutched her mate’s shoulders tightly. “Tonight?”

“Yes.” Stumptooth nodded. “Now, we must hurry. We’re going to meet the others at the gate in an hour.”

Tara brushed past him and almost flew down the ladder, her cape billowing from behind her, trying to keep from laughing aloud, her heart was light, and she felt warm and full of sunlight, they were leaving the hell hole of Marshank! And just in the nick of time.

■ ■ ■

Elonwyn stood beside Juni, helping her pack a few necessary items in a haversack. Elonwyn had put her thing in a small backpack. She only had her diary, her stuffed animal, a couple of books, and a blanket. Juni had a few more things than Elonwyn did, and they were trying to pack the things but keep the sack light.

If they were caught trying to leave Marshank, they would all be executed, or most all.

Tailwart and Aqua were hurriedly packing food, and Alya was putting herbs in a small bag, listening to the sounds of the soldiers outside.

Tara entered the tent in a whirl, causing the three girls to jump, then relax, but Alya, was poised, her paw, brushing the table top.

“I don’t like it.” Alya whispered. “Something’s wrong.”

Tara tied her sack about her belt. “I don’t know what you’re talking about-

There was a great deal of shouting from outside and Elonwyn stiffened her paw on her sword hilt and Juni let out a moan and clutched her stomach.

The sound of shouting and snarling was louder and they could make out Badrang’s voice above the melee.

“Tie my niece up to the post! Take the ferret and execute him.”

“No!” Aqua’s voice cried out, clear and shrill. “Don’t do that! I’ll do anything you ask! Leave him alone!”

“Oh no.” Alya whispered. She whirled around and clutched Tara’s shoulders. “Tara, get Lonny, and Juni out of here! I’m going to find Ralken, Findo, Sia, and Stumptooth. We need to rescue Tail and Aqua.”

“I want to help!” Lonny grabbed the hem of Alya’s tunic. “I can help! Don’t just push me off! Aqua’s in trouble!”

Alya grabbed Elonwyn without warning and hugged her tightly, almost crushing the tiny stoat. “I know. And you will help. You’ll help Tara protect Juni and her baby. I’ll join you as soon as I find the boys.”

“Come on you two.” Tara pulled Elonwyn away from Alya and hoisted Juni’s pack over her own shoulder. “All of Badrang’s cronies will be distracted, and that will give us time to leave.”

The three of them rushed across the grounds, past the snarling and jeering soldiers surrounding Tailwart, who was being whacked about with spear butts. Elonwyn froze in horror, staring at the brutal scene, but Juni shoved her hard from behind.

“Don’t watch. Run.” The young vixen whispered into Lonny’s ear.

The three girls ran all the way to the gate, and Tara stood in the shadows, pulling her cape around herself. “Stumptooth will be here to open the gate soon.”

“No he won’t.” A paw landed on Lonny’s shoulder, and she started to cry out, but a paw clasped around her mouth too.

“Let go of her!” Tara leaped forward, but staggered back. “Findo!”

The young weasel nodded and Lonny relaxed then shied away when Findo attempted to hug her. Findo’s face fell but he sighed and glanced over his shoulder. “He’s with Sia and Ralken. Ralken asked me to open the gate and keep you girls safe.” He turned sharply. “Quick! Hide! Someone’s coming.”

“It’s only me.” Alya staggered her way over to them. “Hurry up Findo!”

“We aren’t going to go out the gate.” Findo took Elonwyn and Juni’s paws. “It’ll attract too much attention. We’re leaving by climbing off the damaged wall. It’s short enough for us to climb over safely with a rope.”

“Let’s go.” Tara pulled her cape tighter about herself.

“You aren’t going anywhere.”

All of them turned, to see two black eyes glinted from the shadows.

“Who’s there?!” Findo raised his spear.

“Me.” Risk stepped out from the shadows, a smile on his face.

Chapter twenty four: kryptonite


Findo clenched his fists and spear while he turned to face the silver weasel. “What are you doing here, Risk?”

Risk chuckled sinisterly as he walked around Findo like a pack of wolves circling thier prey. The two weasels kept in eye-contact: wicked black eyes gazing into ice cold blue. risk grinned wickedly revealing his sharp teeth. “I don’t know--why are you trying to escape Marshank?”

Findo kept his spear pointed at Risk. “It’s none of your business, now leave, or I’ll make you leave on a streacher with a sheet covering your carcass.”

Risk’s voice sounded almost cheerful, but with a teasing tone. “Oh I will leave, and tell Badrang about your batrayal from him. Ahh, yes, Findo being eaten alive slowly from hungry seagulls,” he turned to face the girls, who looked angrily at Risk. “Or be executed quickly like what’ll happen to poor ole Skalrag and Tailwart. Imagine Badrang’s army having a field day with getting rid of the runaways,” he looked at Lonny with an eyebrow raised. “Except for Elonwyn; she’ll be available to all the other males, and I’ll have first dibs.”

Lonny had her paw on her sword hilt and stepped forward to strike at Risk, but Alya held her back. Juni groaned and placed a paw on her tummy. She knew that their fates won’t end happily if Risk told badrang of them leaving.

Risk stopped walking and turned to face the girls. “And who’s going to stop me, eh?”

Little did Risk know that Findo had a cloth gag in his paws and a rope around his shoulder. He raised his paws over Risk’s head with out the silver weasel noticing. Findo nodded at the girls as he prepared to gag Risk.

The silver weasel was growing impatient from not recieving an answer from the girls. “I said, who’s going to stop me?”

“Me,” Findo hissed in Risk’s ear before putting the gag into Risk’s mouth and pouncing on him to tie him up. The two struggled for a moment before Findo had Risk tied up and gagged. Risk struggled about trying to free himself from his bonds, but horribly failed.

Findo looked at the girls. “I’ll take care of Risk; just get out of here as fast as you can. I’ll be right behind you.”

Lonny hesitated. “But, what about Aqua and Tailwart? Are we going to help them?”

“There’s no time! We must be quick, now go!” Lonny nodded with haste and ran with the other girls with Findo close behind. The red weasel carried Risk over his shoulder, but was struggling to keep him still. Findo sighed and threw Risk down onto the ground and knocked him over his head with his spearbutt, knocking Risk out. Findo threw the silver weasel over his shoulder and caught up with the girls.

They made it to the damaged gate. A rope ladder was thrown over the top for them to climb. lonny went up first since she was much more agile than the others and jumped onto a straw filled bedding down below. Stumptooth and Sia helped her up. She looked desperatly into Stumptooth’s eyes. “Aqua needs our help! She and Tail have been captured and Tail’s sent to be killed!”

Stumptooth held a paw to Lonny’s mouth. “Shh, stay quiet or we’ll be caught and killed too, Elonwyn. Now go into those bushes and wait for us. The others should be coming down soon.”

Then Alya jumped down onto the bedding and soon everybody who was with Elonwyn were on the other side of the wall; free from Marshank. Findo still had Risk over his shoulder, and looked over at Stumptooth and Sia, who were puzzled as to why they brought him along. “Long story,” Findo said blankly.

“Okay, then, now let’s get as far away as possible, before Badrang finds out we’ve departed,” Sia said urgently.

Lonny shook her head. “But, what about Aqua? She needs our help.” Ralken, who had hidden the bedding looked down at his cousin. He felt like part of his heart died.

“You mean she’s been caught? But why?”

“Badrang found out about her secret and caught her and Tailwart. Tailwart’s going to be executed.”

Ralken looked at Alya. “Then we need to get them out of there, before it’s too late!”

meanwhile at the slave compound, Aqua was tied up and was guarded by Bluehide and Flake. Badrang looked down at her and gave her a disgusted look. “You lied to me, Aqua--you said you had no contact with the slaves, and now you were caught escaping. What do you have to say for yourself?”

Aqua kept her gaze at the floor she sat on. Her eyes were red rimmed from all the tears she said. “Just leave Tailwart alone. Please, uncle, please.” Her voice was hoarse and choked up.

Badrang snarled. “But he was also escaping. Since I can’t kill you since you’re family, you must be punished somehow. So, why not kill the one you love oh so dearly? Answer me!” Badrang grabbed her injured shoulder causing her wound to ooze out fresh blood.

Aqua closed her eyes and gritted her teeth as pain. “How did you know? How did you know Tailwart and I became mates?”

Badrang hissed. “It doesn’t take a blind bat to know that one, Dawn. He even admitted that he and you became mates. Now, he even told me that he’d die to save you, so it has to be done.”

Aqua looked up at her uncle with icy hatred burining in her eyes. “You aren’t my uncle--you’re dead to me, devilspawn.” Her voice was of an unfmailiar hiss that caused Badrang to back away.

The older stoat pointed at the two guards. “You two, keep an eye on her. I have some more business to deal with. And make sure she doesn’t escape, understand?” The guards nodded as Badrang left.

Badrang didn’t even notice Malwyze hidding from behind a wooden pillar.

Aqua closed her eyes and arched her neck to let her head rest against the wall. A tear rolled down her face. “Please, don’t kill Tailwart, please.”

Tailwart laid on the ground curled up into a ball while the vermin guard continued to beat him.His light grey fur was patched and mottled with crimson and long bleeding scars stung the young ferret. His face was stining in pain as tears rolled into his face wounds. This was the day that he would die.

A vermin brought a whip and started to whip Tailwart, which caused him to un-curl and scream out in pain. A tall strong male weasel with orange headfur roughly hauled Tailwart up. He hissed savagely into the weak ferret’s ear. “Stand up, ferret!”

Tailwart looked at the weasel with cloudy eyes as blood ran down the corners of his mouth. “I-I can’t, sir,” he said weakly and painfully.

The weasel smacked Tailwart across the face with much force. “YOU DO AS YER TOLD, FERRET!! NOW STAND UP AND PUT YER PAWS ON THE WALL!!” the weasel roared at Tailwart.

The ferret moaned as the weasel released his grip. Tailwart struggled to stay up and cried out in pain. He turned his back against the guard and put his paw on the wall. He lowered his head and closed his eyes, knowing what will happen next.

The weasel turned to Crimsonpaw, who held the whip in her paws. “Rip off his tunic, so his back is bare.”

The ratmaid did as she was told and cut the top half of Tailwart’s tunic with a dagger leaving the rest as a kilt-like garment supported by his belt. The weasel groweled and snatched the whip from the ratmaid. Before the weasel raised his paw to strike Tail, Crimsonpaw whispered in Tail’s ear. “I’m sorry, mate, truly I am. Pray that help will come, young brave ferret.”

Then the weasel rose his paw holding the whip and struck the ferret’s bare back, causing Tailwart to scream in agony.

Seven, eight, nine, and ten times the whip lashed at Tailwart’s now bleeding and raw back. Tailwart’s legs gave out and he collapsed onto the sandy ground. He lay there bleeding and broken.

The weasel snorted and kicked at Tailwart’s gut, and recieved no reaction. “Heh, he’s a goner, let’s not waste our time killing a dieing ferret.” The weasel turned away and started to depart from the group. “Since’s he’s gone, his mate will be mine.”

Tailwart’s eyes went wide open. His vision was a red clouded mist. Despite his injuries, he stiffly rose from the ground and looked in the direction the weasel was headed.

The weasel stopped as he felt the burning hatred from Tailwart’s eyes. He gulped and turned to face the half bleeding weasel, who’s eyes were now a deep crimson hue like those of a badger with Bloodwrath. Tailwart hissed in a voice as cold as ice. “Don’t you dare lay a paw on her, you sick son of a seagull.” Without warnign, Tailwart grapped his spear that a vermin stole from him before his beatings, and the whip from Crimsonpaw. The ferret then lunged at the weasel and started beating the weasel savagely.

The weasel tried to defend himself, but Tailwart was too quick and too savage. Rage and wrath took over the young ferret’s mind as he beat the weasel. Then, using the whip, he brought the weasel down to the ground and whipped him repeatedly. The weasel curled up into a ball and was crying out hoarsely. “Do something!! Help me!! He’s killing me!!” But the other vermin guards remained completely frozen in horror by the young ferret’s strength and wrath.

Tailwart nearly killed the weasel, but stopped and hissed into the nearly dead weasel. “Now listen to me, weasel, I’ll let you live, but now everytime you see those scars on your body, think of the pain and suffering of those innocent slaves...and me.” He gave the weasel a final blow to the head and knocked him out.

Tailwart stood up and looked at the other vermin while he held the blood covered whip and spear. He pointed at them and called out in a voice that sounded like thunder. “Now you’ve witnessed the cruelty that Lord Badrang has brought upon the land. You have a choice: live the life Badrang leads and become like this weasel, or leave Marshank and become a free beast.” With that being said, he left, leaving the vermin guards and the weasel behind in the dust.

Wulpp, who was among the vermin guards ran up to Tailwart. “Ferret, wait!” he grabbed Tail’s arm and looked desperately into Tail’s eyes. “I have a son, who’s only two. I want you to take him away from this place.”

Tail felt the concern and worry in the rat’s voice--he had to help. “Okay, but let me rescue my friend first, then I’ll take care of your son. What about your mate? does she agree to this?”

the corsair rat nodded. “Yes, yes, she was the one who asked me about our son’s freedom. She had heard you young ‘uns talk about freedom, and since I was once loyal to Captain Clogg, I don’t want my son raised in a place ran by someone more evil than Clogg.”

The young ferret placed a paw on Wulpp’s shoulder. “Then a free beast, he will be.”

Wulpp shed tears of happiness as he gripped the ferret’s paws tightly. “thank you, kind sir, thank you!”

Tailwart couldn’t help but smile. “Just meet me by the gates with your son. While I’m rescuing my friend, pack up your son’s belongings and tell him he’s going to a much better home.” Tailwart then turned around and headed towards the slave compund, where Aqua was.

Wulpp held his paws to his chest, and closed his eyes. As tears of joy ran down his face, he said, “Bless, you, bless you.”

Malwyyze knew Aqua would die of heartache from Tailwart’s execution; he had to do something about it. Since he knew how bad his half brother’s rep was, he didn’t want to bother asking him for compasion for them. Since Badrang had the stregnth, Clogg had the humor, and Vilu had the looks, Malwyze had the brains, and thought of a plan to free his half niece.

The stoat approached the guards who were in charge of guarding Aqua. Bluehide snarled and pointed his spear at the stoat. “What’d ya want, stoat? Lord Badrang says to not bother the prisoner.”

Malwyze shook his head and chuckled softly. “Aye, but he said that was meant for the other vermin, not members of his family, so I do have rights to see her.”

Flake spat at the ground and groweled. “Yeah, but yer only ‘alf o’ his bruder; since ‘e don’t liek yous, yews don’t see her.”

Bluehide stared at the ratmaid. “I don’t think so. Family visits family no matter wot, rat.”

Flake shook her head and pointed at Bluehide. “Oh, since when did ya become ole’ smarty all o’ a sudden? Badrang says no visitors, and that an order!”

The blue ferret hissed. “Shut yer yapper, maid, family sees family and that’s final!!”

The rat had enough of the argument and lunged at Bluehide, causing a fight to break out between the two. They rolled, bit, and kicked at each other while throwing insults and really colorful language.

While the two brawled, Malwyze secretly pass Aqua a knife to cut her bonds. Despite her injured footpaw, the white stoat was able to get the knife into her mouth, and balanced it on her shoulder till it was in her paws.

The older stoat winked at her. “That should take care of ya, mate,” he whispered to her.

Aqua’s face lit up with hope. “Thank you, n’uncle.” Malwyze nodded his head and left casually away like he never came to the slave compound.

Since the rope was old, it was easy to cut. once her paws were free, Aqua crawled on hands and knees to hide behind a barrel. She winced in pain as she unwrapped the crimson red bandage off her footpaw. It was crusted in blood, and caused great pain. The white stoat sighed sadly. “Now how will I escape from her crippled like this?”

“I’ll help you out with that,” a familiar voice said from behind the barrel. Aqua’s ears perked up as she filled up with joy and relief.

Tears of joy ran donw her face. She looked up into the kind red eyes of Tailwart. “Tailwart, you’re alive!?”

The ferret smiled. “Aye, it seems I am.”

Aqua then gasped in shock as she noticed Tail’s wound. “Taily, what happened to you? You’re badly hurt!”

The ferret swooped Aqua off her feet and looked deeply into her sapphire eyes. “I may be broken, but I still have strenght.”

Aqua wrapped her arms around Tail’s neck and closed her eyes. Tailwart blushed as Aqua kissed his cheek. “Hehe, now let’s get going before those two stop fighting and the others see us.” Before Aqua could agree, Tailwart sped off with her in his arms, making Aqua have a rather bumpy ride.

The two made it to the gate where Wulpp and his son stood waitng. The rat corsair nodded to Tailwart. “A couple of your friends have talked to me, and are waiting for you.”

Tail nodded solemnly. “Good, because we’re in no condition to climb the wall.”

Aqua looked at Wulpp’s son with a soft smile on her face. “Is this little one your son?” “Yes, his name is Kenroy, he’ll escape with you.”

The white stoat chuckled. “A free beast he’ll be then.”

Wulpp then opened the gates to let the three out. “Now hurry, young ones, before you’re caught.”

Tail would’ve shaken Wulpp’s paw if he wasn’t carrying Aqua, so he gave him a bow with his head. “Thank you, mate. And I promise your son will be safe.”

Wulpp hug his son one last time, and left. The three exited the gates of Marshank, never to come back again.

Once the gates were closed, Tailwart whispered to Kenroy. “Listen, young ‘un, hold on to my belt and run as fast as you can.”

The little rat nodded and grabbed Tailwart’s belt with his paw. Then the three ran to the bushes where their friends were waiting.

They were reunited once again. Ralken walked up to Tailwart. “We thought you were a goner, and came to rescue you.”

Tailwart blushed nervously. “Aww, sorry, mate--didn’t know you wanted to come to our aid.”

“But then again--” Ralken looked down at Kenroy, who was sucking on his paw and looking up at the tall stoat. “We wouldn’t have a new member on our team.”

Alya nodded in agreement. “And what about Malwyze?”

Aqua looked ahead into the dense forest. “I’ll talk about that when we’ve reached as far away from here as we can.”

“Then follow us, we set up base in a place where Badrang’s army can’t track us.”

They finally made it back to the others. Tail laid Aqua down on a bed of soft moss with a boulder to support her up. Lonny ran up to Aqua with tears in her eyes. “Aquastar!! You’re alive!!” Lonny knelt close to Aqua and gently hugged her.

Aqua chuckled as she rustled her cousin’s headfur playfully. “Hehe, I’m more happy that you escaped safely.”

Lonny wiped happy tears from her eyes. “I was so worried about you and Tail; I thought n’uncle Badrang was going to kill you.”

Aqua laughed. “Aww, he won’t kill me--” then she paused and looked over to Tailwart, who was sitting on the other side of her. “But, how did you survive?”

Tail scratched his neck. “Well, something happened to me that made me live. I can’t describe it. I didn’t seem like myself at all--it all happened so quick.”

Alya aproached the two with her pack of herbs and healing supples. She knelt down next to Lonny, and started to clean Aqua’s wounds. “And one other thing, Tail’s not freaking out. I think his anxiety’s gone.”

Tail’s ears perked up. “By the fur, you’re right! maybe all the anxiety was caused by living in Marshank. But now, since I’m free, it doesn’t bother me anymore.”

Kenroy sat on the other side of Tailwart. He looked up at the ferret. “Mista ‘ail, why you awll ‘urt?”

Tail gave the little rat a kind smile. “Let’s just say, I ran into some not very friendly beasts.”

Kenroy made a fierce face. “I defeat dem baddies for ‘urting mista ‘ailwot, for oi’m Kenroy da fightah!” he punched the air, but accidentally punched his nose.

The others giggled as the little rat rubbed his little nose. “Maybes oi pwactice lader.”

And that comment made the others laugh.

Chapter twenty five:All I Ever Wanted


Findo lollopped over to them then, his face emotionless, but his eyes dark. “So, you lot escaped.” He scanned Aqua and Tailwart with his blue eyes. His gaze fell on Kenroy, and his eyelid twitched. “What’s with the brat?”

“Findo!” Juni cried, outraged. She had come up from behind him to greet Aqua and Tail, and she gave Findo a slight punch on the shoulder. “What’s gotten into you?”

Findo’s eyes met his good friend’s and her angry expression softened for an instant, then she swooped down and cuddled Kenroy who was staring at Findo with wide, frightened eyes.

“We can’t take a child on this journey.” Findo snapped. “It’s too dangerous!”

Elonwyn stared up at Findo, her green eyes narrowed in thought. What HAD gotten into him? He did seem out of character. She’d expected him to be jubilant at their victory over Badrang, but he looked surly and cold, as though someone had done him a terrible wrong.

“Yes, Findo, that reminds me.” Ralken, who had been leaning against a tree, raised his eyebrow at the weasel. “What are we going to do with that extra cargo YOU brought along?” he jerked his thumb in the direction of the prone form of Risk.

Findo stiffened and glared at Ralken, before giving a small, Findo-like smile “Kill him of course. I couldn’t do it in Marshank, his body would attract attention. But out here, no one will notice, it’ll just seem as though he escaped with us.”

“Quick thinking on your part Fin!” Aqua cheered. ‘I’d never have thought of that. I’d have just killed him.”

Findo gave her an icy stare. “Call me Fin again and you’ll join him Star.”

“Sorry.” Aqua shrugged, unfazed. “But why couldn’t you have just killed him in Marshank and then leave his body out in the woods?”

“He’d have left a blood trail. Anyway, I wanted Elonwyn to have the pleasure of stabbing him.” Findo gave Elonwyn a pleasant grin.

Lonny gasped and pressed her paws to her mouth in horror. “K-kill him?! me?! no! no! nonononono!”

“Alright then.” Findo hoisted his spear up. “I’ll kill him.”

“Findo, before you start that lovely little task,” Alya staggered over to them from where she had been sitting. She wasn’t familiar with her new surroundings and she made her way about slowly and cautiously. “I’d like to make a few announcements and suggestions.”

“Go right ahead Alya.” Ralken bowed to her in mock elegancy. Lonny felt her throat tighten and she stared at the ground, knowing what Alya was going to say.

She was quite taken aback however as Alya grinned and said with sheer delight. “I’m not sure if any of you have realized this, but starting today, we are FREE OF MARSHANK!!!!”

Everyone, (except the unconscious Risk) burst out laughing and clapped as Alya bowed as though she had just sung an opera.

“I would also like to announce,” Alya beamed around as everyone stopped clapping. “That our good friends Tailwart and Aqua have become mates.”

Lonny and Juni let out identical squeals of delight and Sia let out a whoop while Ralken and Findo playfully tussled with Tailwart (carefully so as not to hurt him).

“I have an announcement as well.” Ralken strode over and gave Alya a half hug. “Alya and I also, have become mates.”

Lonny felt her heart sink down to her toes and her eyes burned as Ralken and Alya both entwined together and kissed passionately. Everyone let out identical and playful ooooos. Kenroy made a face.

Lonny hadn’t noticed, but Findo had suddenly gripped the charm around his neck and his eyes lit with understanding and anger.

I will not feel jealous and self pitying. Not today of all days. Lonny gripped her knees, trying to stay calm. She smiled as cheerfully as she could but she noticed Aqua and Findo watching her.

“And, I have a wish.” Alya unhooked herself from Ralken. “I am entitled to one, after all.”

“And what would that be?” Ralken laughed.

“Findo, come here.” Alya gestured for the weasel to come and he warily rose to his feet. Alya put her hand on his shoulder, and another hand on Ralken’s shoulder. “I want you two to make up.”

“WHAT?!” Ralken and Findo choked in unison. Everyone in the group perked up in interest.

“I want you two to apologize to one another and be friends again. This is a new start. We need no more enemies.” Alya gazed in blind earnest at the two beasts who were glowering at each other in hatred.

“There’s no way in hell gates I’m apologizing to him!” Findo snarled.

“Likewise.” Ralken said icily. He faltered when he caught Alya’s gaze. She stood, her arms folded and with one eyebrow raised.

With a sigh, Ralken held out a paw to Findo. “I apologize to you. Even though it was Elonwyn who was wronged, and I have apologized and been forgiven by her, I apologize to you.”

Findo glared at Ralken before he burst out laughing and clasped Ralken’s paw. “Well, since you apologized first, I forgive you!”

“You son of a seagull!!!” Ralken spluttered in indignation. “You mean all this time you were waiting for ME to apologize FIRST?!”

Findo just doubled over in laughter. Ralken knocked him over and the two wrestled on the ground, both of them hooting in delight.

“Fight! Fight!” Kenroy squealed happily from Juni’s lap.

Findo finally pushed Ralken away his face solemn. Elonwyn felt Juni stiffen beside her. Findo strode over to Elonwyn and held out his paw to her.

“We’ve left Marshank now, so, you’re free of me as well as your uncle’s tyranny. We are no longer mates in the eyes of anyone. You can give me that bracelet back now.”

Elonwyn stared at him in surprise, then unhooked the bracelet from around her wrist and handed it to him. Their paws brushed for a second as Findo took the bracelet from her. Lonny thought she saw redness in Findo’s eyes as he pocketed the bracelet, but she could not be sure.

“W-whas goin’ on?” a slurry voice mumbled from behind. Everybody glanced in the direction of Risk, whose eyes were blurred in confusion.

“Ah! Risk!” Findo picked up his spear, which he had dropped. “Glad to see your up. Now, we can get on with what’s been coming to you.”

“What are you talking about?” Risk wriggled upright, still tightly bound. “Let me go you-

“You’re in no place to threaten and curse Risk.” Ralken stood beside Findo.

“Is this necessary?” Sia, who had been sitting beside Risk the entire time, stared up at Ralken and Findo.

“Very necessary Sia.” Findo said, giving her a weary smile, and the young ferret blinked in surprise. Was Findo crying?

Findo raised his spear. And risk began to struggle more frantically, terror in his eyes. “Ere! Put that thing away!!! I won’t die this way!!! Ya hear me?!”

“Risk.” Ralken sighed. “You have threatened and harmed my family and friends. Give us a reason to let you live and we’ll free you.”

“You think you’re so great don’t ya, you illegitimate spawn?” Risk sneered up at Ralken. “So, now you’re gonna murder me like your scum hide of a father did to my dad!” Risk suddenly lapsed into hysterical laughter. “The father kills the father and the son kills the son! Ain’t this ironic?!”

Findo started to bring the spear down on the laughing weasel, and something inside Lonny snapped.

“No!” she leapt to her feet and grabbed Findo’s arm, pulling him away.

“Elonwyn.” Ralken gazed at her. “This beast tried to take advantage of you. Are you sure you want to spare his life? It’s your choice.”

Elonwyn ignored all the eyes locked on her, knowing that is they drew her attention her nerve would fail. She noticed Risk staring at her in shock.

“We can’t kill him!!!!” she cried, clinging to Findo’s arm all the tighter. “Remember? This is a new beginning! We’ve left Marshank to get away from the killing and slaughter and slavery! How can we curse Badrang and then do as he would do?!”

Findo stared at her silently and emotionlessly, his eyes red rimmed. He lowered his spear and Elonwyn released her grip. Without saying a word, Findo walked away into the forest.

“Risk.” Ralken turned to the weasel who was staring in open mouthed shock. “Lonny here has spared your life. We will keep your arms and legs tied, until we travel, then we will release your legs and you will walk. Once we are far from Marshank, we’ll let you go on your own path.”

Risk lowered his head his mouth opening and closing wordlessly, still shocked.

■ ■ ■

Night had fallen and everyone slept soundly. Findo had not returned, and Lonny lay on her side, watching Sia, who was on watch. Lonny sighed and hugged the blanket closer to her. What had gotten into Findo? He had seemed so solemn, as though he had been at a dear friends death bed.

She felt Juni get up beside her and walk away. Elonwyn sat up. “Juni?”

“I’m going to find Findo. Go back to sleep.” Juni murmured.

“Be careful.” Lonny buried herself deeper into the blankets. “Take my sword.” She stuck her paw out of the blanket to point to the sheath lying at her feet.

“Thanks.” Juni leaned over and kissed Lonny’s blanket covered forehead.

■ ■ ■

Juni found Findo, sitting at the top of a bluff, his back leaning against a tree, gazing out at the moonlit ocean, and at Marshank, far away. Juni sat beside him. She had befriended Findo since the second he had entered Marshank, and they were very close and fond of each other.

She could see wet streaks on Findo’s cheeks, bright in the moonlight. Juni laid her head on the weasel’s shoulder and rubbed his back soothingly.

“You were very brave.” She sighed. She knew what was hurting her friend. She had realized it almost at once and her heart ached for him.

“Was I?” Findo’s voice was hoarse.

“But, I noticed you didn’t give her the charm as well. Aqua told me what it was. Since you aren’t mates, it doesn’t belong to you…”

“I know.” Findo sighed. “But it is to be given to the one Elonwyn will marry, not her. When she falls in love, I will give it to her husband. Until then…” Findo gave a watery smile. “I will wear it.”

“Findo, it must be hard, loving someone, who doesn’t return your love.” Juni sighed. “I know how much you love Lonny.”

“And of how much she loathes me.”Findo rubbed his eyes.

“She doesn’t loath you.” Juni whispered gently and ran her fingers through her friend’s hair. “She’s just scared of you. You can’t blame her, when you’re roused, you’re very terrifying.”

“How do you know this?” Findo gazed at her.

“She told me.” Juni smiled.

Chapter twenty six: slow fade


Dawn had finally broke over the lands. The sun was barely up from its deep sleep. The first sounds of the morning filled the air. Stumptooth, who was enjoying his early morning watch over the camp, started to cook up a light breakfast for the others.

Aqua’s nose started to twitch in her sleep was she snuggled up against Tailwart, who had his paw locked with hers and had his other arm wrapped around her shoulders. Aqua managed to open one eye and gave a soft smile. First morning of freedom. Very carefully, she released Tailwart’s paw and took his arm off her shoulders, and stiffly stood up. Using a tree for support, she stretched out her tired limbs and messaged her aching foot.

The white stoat grabbed Tailwart’s spear, and looked down at little Kenroy, who was sucking on his little paw as he huddled up against Alya. Aqua smiled and walked towards Stumptooth. “Good mornin’, Stumpy,” she said through a yawn. “What’s for breakfast?”

The ferret looked up at the stoatmaid from where he sat, and smiled. “Oatcakes, dried fruit, and cider, Aqua. Here, have a seat by the nice warm fire to warm up yer bones.”

Aqua sat by the ferret and accepted a plate of food. “Good to be a free beast, eh?” she said through a mouthful of oatcake.

“Aye, maybe now Tara and I can start a family once we’ve found a decent home to live. Wot about you, young ‘un? What do you and your mate ‘ave planned for your free life?”

Aqua chuckled and took a sip from her cider. “Maybe buy a decent vessel, find a decent crew, and sail the seas for adventure. Oh, and maybe have our own ferret stoat kits.”

Stumptooth winked at the young stoatmaid. “Aye, it seems you two are thirsty for adventure. Will be easier now since Marshank’s only a memory now.”

Aqua’s eyes lit up from over the rim of her cup as she was about to take another sip. “Oh? That reminds me--what will be of ole’ grumpy paws an’ his savage hoard of miscreants?”

The ferret shrugged. “Beats me; I don’t want anymore o’ things to do with le’ Marshank. Too many bad memories I wish to not remember.”

“You said it,” Trusiae said as she stretched and took a seat next to Aqua. “But the only thing I regret is leaving my brother behind. I hope he’s all right.”

Aqua passed Sia a plate of food and a cup of cider. “I’m sure he’s all right. Remember, you told him to meet with us when he can.”

Sia’s face became of disappointment. “Yeah, but still, why hasn’t he shown up yet? I dearly hope Badrang hasn’t done any harm to him.”

The white stoat patted the female ferret’s back gently. “He’s an adult, Sia, he can take care of himself.”

Trusiae managed one of her rare smiles that didn’t mean death. She then noticed Findo and Juni approaching the camp. She waved at the two. “Findo, Juni, come on over and have some breakfast.”

Findo rubbed the sleep from his drowsy eyes. “I have to wake up the others first, so we can all join you.” Both he and Juni woke up the others, except for Risk, who was gently snorign as he leaned against a log.

Findo shook his head. “Might as well wake you up too,” he muttered. The weasel grabbed a bucket with water, and threw it on Risk.

Risk woke up instantly and wriggled to be rid of the water that was thrown on him. He looked up at Findo and growled. “What gives, man?”

Findo just stared at him coldly. “Be grateful you woke up, because if it was up to me--you’d be asleep permanently.”

Findo walked away to join the others leaving Risk soaking wet alone. Risk moaned as he looked at the others eating breakfast. “Freedom my tail--you’re acting just like Badrang; never giving the captive food, is that it? Oho, might as well continue in his footsteps. Ha!”

Findo was about to teach the silver weasel a lesson if Ralken hadn’t gently pushed him back down. “Just ignore him, he’s nothing but a jerk,” the stoat said casually while munching on a dried slice of apple.

Sia looked at Risk, who looked miserably at the others as water dripped off his whiskers. The ferretmaid sighed and stood up with a plate of food and a cup of cider for Risk.

Elonwyn looked at the blue ferret as she warmed up her paws by the fire. “Where are you going, Sia?”

“Getting the silver weasel something to make him shut up.”

Lonny smiled a tiny smile. “Okay.” Then she went back to warming her paws.

The blue ferret approached Risk with his breakfast. Risk looked up at her with coldness in his eyes. “Heh, I was expecting the little maid to come to my aid, not an assassin.”

Sia placed the breakfast in front of Risk and had her dagger under Risk’s chin. “Yeah, but this assassin is very dangerous too. And who knows, the food you’re about to consume might be poisoned. So if I were you, I’d stay silent.” With that being said, she walked away, leaving the silver weasel, who shuddered in fear of those dangerous words.

After breakfast, the gang started to pack up, but first held a meeting for who would be in charge. Findo walked in front of the others, who were sitting by the fire. He had his paws behind his back and marched like a hare general of Salamandaston. “You may be wondering why where all here like this?”

Kenroy waved his paw frantically in the air. “Because we needs a leeder ta gu’d usen.”

“Very good, kid. Now, let’s figure out who will be are chosen leader. I propose myself, because I’m a bit more experienced with these woods.”

Ralken stood up and walked over to his friend. “Yeah, but you have to remember who’s idea was it to leave before the warrior mouse would come. So with that, I propose myself.”

Findo smirked. “But you must remember who was it who was better at a duel.”

“Sure, sure, but you forgot it was me who was Badrang’s child, and the leader blood runs in my veins. Therefor, I should be the leader.”

“Oh really? Well, if your so a total leader, then why didn’t you save Elonwyn?” Findo said darkly as an eerie smile spread on his face.

Ralken gritted his teeth. “We’ve been through this already, I couldn’t because my heart belongs to Alya. And that Lon’s my cousin.”

The two kept going at it, till it got too ridiculous. Alya stood up and walked over to the two. “Listen, guys, why not let Lonny decide, since you two keep bringing her up into the conversation?”

Ralken and Findo looked at each other and nodded. Ralken looked at Alya. “Sure--let’s hear what Lonny has to say.”

All eyes were on Lonny, who was g around at all the waiting faces of her friends, even Risk. Lonny blushed and scratched her head. “How about Ralken and Findo both become leaders, like Findo being second in command?”

Sia, who was sitting behind Lonny on a tree stump, nodded. “Aye, that’s a good compromise. What do you lot think?

All the others replied. “Aye.”

Sia clasped her paws. “Then it’s settled. We should start moving now before Badrang send his troops to hunt us down.”

“That’s a good idea,” Ralken said as he shouldered his pack.

The group ventured a bit further along, in which they were now a fair distance away from Marshank. A little bit later, they untied Risk, and left him in the custody of Sia, in whom Risk feared and disliked. Suddenly, Sia stopped, causing the others to stop as well.

Ralken looked at Sia with a look of worry on his face. “Are you okay, Sia?”

“Fire, I smell fire. And I hear the sounds of war and battle and the cries of many.”

Findo looked at Ralken then at Sia. “Hmm, must be that warrior mouse back for the action. I’m sure he brought reinforcements to defeat that Tyrant.”

Sia finally gasped, and dropped her pack. “But that means!” without warning, she ran back to Marshank.

“Sia, wait!” Findo yelled as he, Lonny, and Risk chased after her.

Ralken looked over at the remaining members. “We’ll stay here until the get back. I think I know why Sia’s going back.”

“Why?” Aqua asked as she sat on a log.”

“Her brother.”

Trusiae ran as fast as she could. Thoughts of death buzzed through her mind like a swarm of angry bees. Was she too late? She dearly hoped not.

The ferret finally arrived at Marshank. It was a scene of destruction. Bodies of many fallen friends and foes scattered the outside . Her heart was beating faster as her face went pale. She could not see Bluehide anywhere. The young ferret gulped and opened the gate and entered, not noticing the watchful eyes of her comrades in the bushes.

Elonwyn nudged Findo. “Should we follow her?”

“Let's, but quietly.” The three entered the gates. Elonwyn’s breath was taken away. Corpses of many where in every corner of Marshank. She had flashbacks of her mother’s death, and was sad, not only for the vermin, but for the innocent woodlanders that fought for freedom. Why, why did they have to die from freedom while she didn’t? Her thoughts of regret over came her. This was the cruelty her uncle had brought onto the land.

She then noticed Findo standing over the slave pit. He was quiet, and never moved. The little stoat walked over to Findo, and saw what he saw: the dead body of Badrang the Tyrant.

Elonwyn’s stomach churned. She had feared and grown to hate her uncle, but now he was gone; along with all the evil he has brought.

“He got what he deserved, Elonwyn, you’ll waste your energy digging a grave for this coward,” Findo said quietly while his voice served no remorse for the fallen stoat.

“But, he’s my uncle.”

Findo turned to face Elonwyn with clenched fists as his voice raised to an angered roar. “Elonwyn, look at what he’s done to all these lives! Can you not see what your uncle has done? He was giving you away and treated you like scum! And you call him an uncle? He has killed hundreds of innocent lives, and would do it again if he wasn’t slain! He killed Skalrag, almost killed me, Tailwart, and Aqua, and offered you to be abused by older beasts! What uncle does that?”

Elonwyn’s eyes widened by the weasel’s outburst. She took a couple steps back. Lon held her satchel close to her chest as she looked into Findo’s cold blue eyes.

Findo unclenched his fists as he realized what he had done. He sighed and closed his eyes. “I’m sorry, Elonwyn, it’s just that...he has been nothing but a demon on these lands.”

Lonny looked down. “I understand.” Lonny then noticed Sia with her back turned towards them and kneeling over a body at the far wall. Lonny tugged Findo’s shirt, and pointed at Sia’s direction. Both of them approached the ferret cautiously.

Lonny felt like half of her heart died. Sia rested her head on the chest of her dead brother: Bluehide. Tears ran down the ferret’s cheeks as she clung onto her deceased brothers tunic. “He didn’t deserve this, it’s my fault--all of it.” Her voice was quiet and choked by her emotions. She had lost her last known family member.

Elonwyn was so swelled with emotion as she remembered her final moments with her mother, before she passed. Elonwyn lowered her head in remorse of her friend’s lost.

Risk approached them, and realized that there was a different side of Sia; a side he had longed to see from anyone: love for a fallen family member. Risk never got to be close to his father when he passed, and by the time he found out, his father was already in the ground.

Risk knelt beside Sia and wrapped his arm around her shoulder. “I’m very sorry for your brother’s lost.”

Sia took her head off of her brother’s body, and buried her head into Risk’s chest. “He was more than a brother: he was a father I never had,” she said quietly as tears ran down her face.

Findo looked around the ruin of Marshank, and then noticed Clogg hiding. “Best we leave, Elonwyn’s father still lives.”

Elonwyn sighed. She knew she had to leave her father, but it was best for her. She followed Findo out, while Risk and Sia made a grave for Bluehide.

They then left Marshank, for the very last time.

Chapter twenty seven: where will you go


As they made their slow and silent procession back to the woods, Elonwyn walked beside Sia and Risk, Findo way in the lead. The small stoat glanced at Risk who had had his paws retied behind his back.

“you had a chance to run away earlier.” Elonwyn eyed him almost sternly. “Why didn’t you?”

Risk gave her an amused look from across his shoulder. “And where do you think I was gonna go runt?”

Elonwyn had to admit, he had a pretty good point. Where WOULD he have gone? He certainly couldn’t have gone far even if he’d tried; Findo was the second fastest scout in Badrang’s horde next to Juni (who had had to step down since her pregnancy).

This also brought another point into Lonny’s head. She stuck her thumb in her mouth and nibbled her claw in thought. Where would THEY all go? Now that Badrang was dead, they didn’t need to GO anyplace to get away from him. He was in a place where he could not touch them.

“We have no plan.” Elonwyn said aloud.

Risk grinned at her. “Speak for yourself.”

“And what’s your plan then?” Sia said coldly, her eyes still red rimmed. Findo had convinced her not to bury her brother and she was still in mental anguish.

“Not me.” Risk gave a sneer. “But all the lovey-dovey couples sure as hellgates do. They’ve probably all left us in the dust now we singles are gone.”

Elonwyn noticed that Risk was grinning in Findo’s direction and allowing his voice to carry over to the weasel.

Findo’s shoulder’s sagged but that was about his only reaction. Elonwyn gave a relieved sigh. The last thing they needed was a brawl.

“You aren’t helping anything you know.” Lonny looked up at Risk in earnest. Elonwyn thought she saw his blush.

“He was gonna kill me.” Risk grumbled, averting his eyes from hers.

“What happened?!” all three of them, including Sia jumped. Aqua had limped over to Findo’s side as fast as she could and her voice was somewhat shrill with apprehension. “You guys just took off after Sia without a word!” her slightly crabby look softened as she noticed Sia’s pinched features. “Is anyone… alive?”

“Just Clogg and he’s nuttier than a tree in fall.” Findo grinned down at Aqua.

Lonny sighed. The guilt of leaving her father still clung to her insides.

“He got a leak in his dingy!” Risk called.

“He’s got splinters in the windmills of his mind!” Findo shot back.

Risk retaliated. “Someone blew his light house out!”

“That is enough the both of you!” Ralken strode over angrily. “Do you not have any consideration for others?!”

Everyone was staring at Lonny and she realized she was crying. The little stoat bit her lip in embarrassment, a blush going up her face. Why did everyone have to stare at her? She hated being the center of attention.

“D’aaaaw.” Elonwyn almost shrieked as Risk suddenly wrapped his tail around her (as his hands were tied) and rested his cheek on her head and glared in mock reproach at Findo. “Look what you’ve gone and done Fin, you made her cry.”

“Don’t act so innocent you were making jokes too.” Findo’s tail bristled at the sight of Elonwyn being fondled by Risk, but he resisted the urge to attack him. “And don’t call me fin.”

“Get off!” Elonwyn fell over backward trying to scramble away from the silver weasel.

“This is not the time or the place for fooling around!” Ralken tapped his foot impatiently. “Juni, Alya and the others are waiting for us up the hill-

“Don’t mind him ladies and gentleman he’s just being a crab because Kenroy took his place in Alya’s bed.” Findo grinned around at the others and Ralken went rigid.

“Findo- Sia let out a frustrated sigh.

Ralken gave Findo a hard punch in the stomach and the weasel doubled over with a slight “oof” before he grinned up at his friend. “You call that a punch?”

“Come on.” Ralken turned away and started up the hill. “We’ve got a lot of ground to cover.”

“What ground?” sia said darkly.

Ralken turned to stare at her. “What?”

“I said: What ground?” Sia snapped, raising herself to full height. Risk let himself flop on the ground next to Lonny and the runty stoat and the silver weasel exchanged apprehensive glances. Aqua and findo crouched down beside them.

All eyes were on Ralken and Sia.

“As Elonwyn pointed out a while ago,” Sia flattened her ears. “We have no place to go. We have no plan.”

“We have a plan.” Ralken’s tail lashed back and forth in annoyance. “We’re going to travel until we find a decent place to separate-

“Travel?!” sia let out an almost hysterical laugh. “Juni and Aqua are hardly in any fit state to travel! Juni’s going to give birth any day now, and you tell me we’re going to TRAVEL?!”

“We can wait until she gives birth and then-

“And then what?!” sia snarled. “Tote little ones around? How will we feed them if we end up in, say, a desert, or a mountain?! Are you willing to put their lives on the line?”

“No, of course not!” Ralken said, looking shocked. “But we can’t just hang around here!”

“Badrang is gone. We can stay here as long as we wish, now he’s no threat!” sia snapped. “You’re willing to put us all in peril, and you don’t even have a decent plan! WE HAVE NO DESTINATION!!!!” she shouted, and her voice echoed across the woods.

“I hate to say this…” Findo sighed, rubbing the pack of his neck as he padded over to his best friend. “But she’s right. We need a plan before we do anything.”

Ralken flattened his ears, refusing to look anyone in the eye. “And if I make the wrong decision… and beasts die…”

“You’ll make the right decision mate.” Findo put an arm around the stoats shoulder.

“You think so?” Ralken let out a weary sigh, and Elonwyn realized how much he was burdened now they had left.

“Of course!” Findo ruffled his friend’s fur cheerfully. “I’m your second in command so you’ll have me to help you decide! You can’t possibly lead us astray!”

There was a collective groan from the group and Ralken responded by punching Findo again.

Elonwyn smiled. She had been slightly undone by Findo’s sudden cheerful behavior, what with his cold angry personality he’d somehow managed to gain in Marshank. Now she understood.

Badrang was dead, and all the worry and pressure that Findo had been going through had been lifted, and he was acting the way he had before their lives in Marshank had become complex.

He was Findo the playboy wonder weasel again. Lonny beamed at Aqua from across Risk and her cousin gave her an evil grin in return.

“Let’s get back to the others before they think we died.” Aqua said as she and Lonny both hoisted Risk onto his feet.

■ ■ ■

At the top of the hill, everyone sat in a big circle, while Ralken and Findo crouched in the middle.

“Not entirely sure how to go about this ya know.” Stumptooth gave a nervous smile as he ruffled his head fur in thought. “Makes me feel out of place, us making all these decisions. With Badrang you were just told what to do and didn’t question nothin’ he said.”

“This is Ralken and Findo, not Badrang.” Juni smiled at the simple ferret, one arm around Kenroy, the other around her belly.

“Why do I still have to have my paws tied?” Risk muttered to Elonwyn, who was nestled between him and Aqua. She simply shrugged and he muttered something under his breath.

“Alright.” Ralken called over the others mumblings. “Are there any ideas as to where we can go? Has anyone heard of anything, even a rumor? And any plans about what to do with Kenroy and Juni’s future babies on the journey?”

“Babies?” Tara glanced at Alya in confusion.

“She’s huge.” Alya smirked slightly. “I’m fairly certain it’s twins.”

Stumptooth cautiously raised a paw and Findo pointed at him. “You, the scruffy old ferret in the back there.”

“Very funny Fin.” Stumptooth growled under his breath as everyone laughed. “Well, what I wanted to say is that I heard of this place when I was real young… about ten seasons.”

“What do you know about this place Stumpy?” Ralken elbowed Findo in the ribs.

“Well, there was an old fairy tale we was told, and I believed in it, see.” He blushed. “It was called Court Sanctum. I was told, see, that it’s this vast amount of land, ruled by a king and queen and their council, and it was a place where woodlanders, and vermin like us, ya know, not evil, would live together in harmony…”

“Do you have any idea where this place would be?” Ralken cocked his head.

“What I was told… you follow the path of the rising sun. There was a poem see, that was like a map… but I can’t quite recall…” he let out a breath and started again.

“Ye who search for that sanctuary.

Ye who wish to join our court.

Ye who are chivalrous and daring…” Stumptooth trailed off awkwardly.

Tara took his paw. “I’ll help you… just try to remember it.”

Ralken raised a paw. “While you’re doing that… who has a plan for what we can do for Juni and her babies… not to mention Kenroy.”

Elonwyn hesitated, and then raised a paw tentatively.

“Yes! The gorgeous beauty over to the left!” Findo pointed at her and Elonwyn’s face burned.

“W-well…” she trailed away, until Risk gave her a slight poke in the ribs. “Since, Aqua, still needs to heal, and… Juni is going to have babies sometime soon… I thought, maybe, those who are stronger, can go ahead and a pawful of us can stay here-

“WHAT?!” Ralken and Tailwart both leapt to their feet and Lonny’s fur fluffed up in terror.

“Hey, let the kid speak!” Risk snapped.

Aqua glared at her mate and cousin. “Sit down and shut up!”

Lonny wriggled uncomfortably. Findo smiled at her. “Go on kiddo.”

Elonwyn swallowed then continued. “Well, me, Juni, alya and Aqua can stay here until Aqua and Juni are ready to travel, then we catch up with the rest of you…”

“But, how will you catch up to us?” Findo and Ralken said in unison.

“I GOT IT!!!” Sia leapt to her feet knocking Alya over. She raised her right paw over her head and everyone stared at it. Clasped in her fist, was a handful of white ribbons.

“Brilliant!” Aqua shrieked clapping her paws. “You’ll tie a white ribbon onto something every so often to leave a trail!”

“That sounds good.” Ralken sounded as though he had doubts, but he continued. “Now, who all will stay behind? I don’t feel good about leaving you without protection…”

“Well…” Alya tapped the ground with a claw thoughtfully. “I’ll have to stay behind because I’m the healer. Lonny’ll stay because she’s my assistant, and Findo and Tailwart still need to heal from their whipping ordeal, and Juni because she needs to give birth first, and Aqua because of her leg. We should also keep Kenroy with us because he’s young.”

“I’ll stay behind.” Sia said, twitching her tail. “so I can protect them all in case of danger.”

“And me.”

Everyone stared at Risk because it was he who had spoken.

“What?!” he spat. “It’s either that or be stuck traveling with Findo and Ralken!”

“Well, it seems we have a plan…” Ralken let out an uneasy sigh. “Now all that’s left is for Stumptooth to remember his map poem.”

Chapter twenty eight: stronger


A few hours went by when the ones who had volunteered to go with Ralken left to go to the beach for Stumptooth to relax and remember the poem. Plus it was a way to cool down a bit. Findo had insisted on coming with Ralken to catch some fish, who had no other choice, but take him along.

Lonny was building a fire for a late lunch she was planning on cooking. “Hmm, now what shall I make.”

Aqua, who was having her foot treated more by Alya, spoke, “Maybe some kind of woodland stew with potatoes.”

Kenroy stuck out his tongue in disgust. “Eww, potatoes.”

Sia sat away from the group to recover more from her brother’s death. She didn’t look very well, and constantly wiped tears from her eyes every mentioning of Marshank or the beasts who died along with it.

Lonny felt sympathy for her. Never had she seen the assassin so depressed by a loss. Lon understood her pain, and wished to help her more, but there was nothing for her to do. All Sia needed was to have someone protect her, and love her more than anything in the world.

Sighing, Lonny searched through a haversack to find some things to make into the stew. Luckily, she found some carrots, potatoes, radishes, and a few herbs to give the stew some more spice. She also found a plant that she had never seen before. The stoat examined it carefully with a thoughtful look on her face. “Now what do you suppose this is?”

“Gimme that,” Risk barked as he snatched the plant from Lonny’s paw. Lonny looked up at Risk with a slightly angered expression. “Hey, who untied you?”

“Myself; found some lamp oil and slipped from my bonds. Now what are you doing?”

“Making supper. Now give me that plant back, please, you don’t know what type it is. It could be poisoned.”

Risk rolled his eyes. “Duh, it was packed in the food sack, so it must be edible. And plus, I’m hungry. Now shut up and cook.” The weasel gobbled down the plant greedily, and swallowed. His eyes widened as his face turned beet red. Sweat beaded off his face. “AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!” he screamed in pain as his mouth burned from the hot plant. The silver weasel ran around the camp with his arms flailing and tears running down his cheeks. “HOT, HOT, HOTTTTT!!!” he kept on running, desperate to find water to cool his singeing mouth.

Lonny had no idea what was happening to Risk, but couldn’t resist giggling at the weasel’s comical show.

Alya wrapped a bandage around Aqua’s foot as Risk zoomed past her. “Hmm, he found the hot root pepper I forgot to grind...I was wondering where I put that,” Alya said, with no sympathy in her voice.

Risk eventually found some plants and cider to cool his mouth. He sat down next to Lonny, who was cheerfully boiling some water for the stew in a metal bucket they brought along. Risk grinned at her creepily. “Hey, since Finfin, isn’t here at the moment, why don’t you and I get together.”

The silver weasel was smacked in the head by Juni. “You keep your filthy paws off her, Risk, she’s with Findo and that’s final.” The vixen walked off to watch over Kenroy, who went to play warrior with Tailwart.

Risk curled his lip in disgust. “Yes, mum,” He muttered with a mocking tone.

He then noticed Sia sitting completely still with her back facing the others. He raised an eyebrow. “Is she still sad about her brother’s death?”

“Yes, ever since Ralken left, memories of her brother made her upset. Since she didn’t want to let us see her like that, she decided to stay away from us for a while,” Lonny said sadly as she chopped some carrots to put into the bucket of boiling water.

Risk moaned in annoyance and looked down at the bucket of water. “People sure didn’t treat me like that when my father died. And you don’t see me crying.”

Lonny gave the weasel an angry look. “That’s not very kind of you to say that--she was closer to her brother than anyone else. She doesn’t have anyone else, so she’s very upset about it, and making her feel even worse by saying she’s a cry baby is not helping at all.”

“I wasn’t calling her a cry baby; I was saying that I was stronger when my dad died, so I could continue life, and not live in eternal depression.” He sighed and looked over at Sia. “I’ve known Trusiae since we were children, and she is not the type that’d overcome personal deaths so easily. You may not have noticed, but even though she’s all calm and everything, she’s a very emotional person, but keeps it all bottled up inside. And this death has triggered her emotions to let out.” He then looked over at Sia and sighed. “But I’ve never seen her like this before.”

Elonwyn looked down sadly for what Risk was saying. It was true, Sia has been holding in her emotions for too long, and when she lost her brother, it all went out. Which is why she never cried for Skalrag and Blackdash’s death, was because she hid her emotions.

Elonwyn sighed. “I’m going to get some more herbs for the stew--I’ll be right back. Oh, and Aqua, can you please keep an eye on the stew?”

“Of course,” Aqua said as she limped towards the bucket and stirred the contents. Elonwyn gave a sigh, and left the camp to gather more herbs.

Risk grinned evilly; now it was his chance.

Elonwyn gathered a few edible herbs and placed them in her satchel. She was humming a song as she picked some herbs. “There, that should do it,” she said as she threw a few more herbs into her bag.

The little stoat took a deep breath of fresh air, and sighed with a soft smile on her face. It was really nice to be away from the depression once in awhile. Elonwyn closed her eyes and allowed the wind blow through her sandy colored fur.

Suddenly, a paw grabbed her shoulder. Lonny gasped in fright and raised an arm to hit her attacker, only to find it grabbed as she lifted it up.

“Well, well, well, where’s you knight Findo now?” Risk hissed in her ear.

Elonwyn was about to use her free paw to grab her sword, until she heard Trusiae yelling at Risk. “Risk, get your slimy paws off her!”

Risk turned around to face the ferret, who’s expression showed no emotion. Risk snarled. “And what are you going to do if I don’t?”

Lonny saw her chance to escape Risk’s grasp. The wrenched her paw free and ran away from him.

Risk quickly turned to grab her, but suddenly turned to soon just as soon Sia tripped over a root as she was running to stop the weasel from capturing Lonny again. The blue ferret collapsed, right on top of Risk. The two fell to the ground with a lout “oof!”

Lonny stopped to witness the scene. Her eyes widened and she put a paw over her mouth in shock. All that she could say was, “ouuhhhhh...”

Sia rubbed dirt from her eyes, and looked down at Risk, who was grinning with an eyebrow raised. “You know, you could’ve just asked if you wanted me to hug you.”

Trusiae slapped Risk across the cheek, and got off him. She straightened her brooch on her cloak and eyed Risk with anger. “It was your fault.”

Risk chuckled as he stood up and brush leaves off his tail. “Well, if you weren't being all emotional, then Lonny wouldn’t have left, and I wouldn’t have followed.”

Sia felt her anger boil up. “I CAN’T HELP IT IF I LOST THE ONLY ONE WHO MATTERED TO ME!! IF WE WERE STILL AT MARSHANK, BLUEHIDE WOULDN’T HAVE DIED!!” Trusiae roared in a voice the others have never heard her use before.

Lonny turned pale. Never had she heard someone so calm use such a harsh tone, and especially out of anger.

Risk’s face softened to a concerned look. “ wasn’t our fault he was yours, right?”

Sia looked down to the ground with her paw stroking her headfur and sighed. “I guess it was; if I hadn’t had told him to wait for me to return, and tell him to come with us when we all left, he would be still alive.” She looked up at Risk with tears running down her cheeks from her red rimmed eyes. “I lost everything...everything I ever had.”

Risk approached her and placed a paw on her cheek to wipe off a tear that was slowly running off her cheek. He looked into her red rimmed eyes with his deep green eyes. “You haven;t lost everything; you have friends who love you dearly. But, you must be stronger, and overcome this. I know your pain, but instead of letting my emotions take control of my life, I was stronger, and let it go. You must let go of the burned of your brother’s lost: You must be stronger.”

Sia flushed for the first time. The coldness that always gleamed in her eyes ever since she and Risk were children, died and revealed the true nature of the ferret behind the bitterness.

She gave Risk one of her rare smiles as she wiped a tear from her eye. “I will.”

“Good, now let’s get back to camp--I’m starving.”

Lonny smiled cheerfully. “Okay.”

The three walked back to camp, and Lonny had finally finished cooking her stew. Risk looked at the stew with caution. “There’s no hot root pepper in it, if that’s what you’re wondering, Risk,” Alya said casually, like she knew what he was thinking.

Risk raised an eyebrow in suspicion, but shrugged and started eating.

Suddenly, there was a rustle in the bushes. Tailwart placed his bowl of stew down, and grabbed his spear ready to attack the intruder. “Come out, whoever you are! Show yourself!”

Suddenly, Malwyze stumbled out of the bushes with a haversack strapped to his back. “Sorry about the sudden appearance, but seeing as I have no place to go, I’ve decided to join you guys on your journey.”

Lonny squealed with delight. “N’uncle Malwyze, you mean you want to join us in a trip for a new life?’

“If it means going to a place of freedom, then yeah, why not?”

Juni chuckled dryly. She was about to eat some more stew, when she suddenly dropped the bowl and her eyes went wide with terror. “Guys...”

Tailwart saw the vixen freeze. “What’s wrong?”

“I-I think it’s time,” Juni gasped in pain.

Risk rolled his eyes. “Great, make that a few more members to join lovely.”

Chapter twenty nine:He Just Won't Give Up


“Miss Juni!” Kenroy attempted to run to the vixen’s side as she let out a screech of pain but Risk grabbed him and pulled him back.

“Ah no ya don’t. yer comin’ with me.” Risk slung the little rat under his arm and walked towards the woods. “I’ll keep him occupied while you guys work.”

“Miss Juni’s dying!! Lemme go!!” Kenroy struggled violently, his face wet with tears. “I wanna help!”

“Ya can’t help.” They heard Risk snap as he disappeared in the tree line.

Elonwyn felt herself shaking uncontrollably as Juni cried out in agony. She could smell blood and Alya was shouting at her but the words were not making themselves clear. Terror gripped her like a vice and she shook like a leaf in November, and the smell of blood got even stronger. Unable to control her terror and anxiety, she hunched over and vomited.

“Lonny!” Aqua grabbed her cousins’ shoulders and clutched her, her eyes wide with concern. “Alya-

“I can’t do anything for her!” Alya snapped as she supported a gasping Juni. “Get her away from here!”

“Won’t you need help- Tailwart started but Alya shook her head fiercely. “Malwyze can help me. Elonwyn isn’t in any state.”

Malwyze nodded. “I’ll find a stick for Juni to bite on.”

“Come on.” Aqua pulled her paralyzed and trembling cousin after Risk, and Tailwart hefted his spear and walked after them. Elonwyn shuddered her eyes wide and glassy with fright.

Sia crouched on a rock a few feet from Juni and the others, keeping guard.

■ ■ ■

Findo walked through the tree lines, three large fish slung over his shoulder. He felt a wave of uneasiness and bit his lip, his ears pricked for any alarming sounds.

There was a loud rustling and Findo raised his spear even though it had his fish tied to it and held it out expectantly.

He relaxed as Aqua and Tailwart came into view and Aqua jumped. “Findo! Those things stink!”

“Sorry.” Findo grinned and rested the spear on his shoulder, the fish swinging back and forth. “I was the best. Ralken can’t even bait a hook.”

Tailwart grinned. “So he can give orders but he can’t catch his own meals? And here I thought he was perfect at everything. When he gets back with nothing can we gloat?”

“You guys are horrible!” Aqua laughed, flinging her arms around Tailwarts neck and nuzzling him. Tailwarts face turned crimson but he smiled happily.

Aqua thought she saw a flicker of jealousy in Findo’s eyes and she perked her ears at him and released Tailwart, but Findo suddenly gave an evil grin.

“Hey! Save it for when no one’s around you two! Have you no shame?!” Findo poked Tailwart in the chest with the butt of his spear playfully and the fish tied to it swung and slapped Tail in the face.

“Watch it!” Tailwart batted them away angrily.

“Where’s Elonwyn?” Findo embedded his fishy spear in the ground. “She usually isn’t far from the two of you.”

Aqua and Tail glanced t each other with Identical faces of embarrassment, and shrugged. “Ehhh. Well about that.”

“She’s kind of… Ill,” Aqua rubbed the back of her neck. “We left her by a nice bush… you know… to vomit.”

“You left her when she’s sick?” Findo made a face. “What kind of cousin are you?”

“A sympathetic but squeamish one.” Aqua grinned. “She’ll be fine. It’s Juni we’re worried about.”

“What’s wrong with Juni?” Findo stiffened. A loud scream rang through the woods and all three beasts went rigid.

“She’s going into-

“JUNI!!!!!!!!” Findo yelled and raced off towards the sound, his eyes wide with panic, but aqua grabbed his tail. “Wait!!! You’ll just get in the way!”

“I have to go to her!!! “ Findo whirled around to face them, his blue eyes sharp with dread. “Skalrag is dead and she needs someone with her!”

“Alya will have your hide.” Tailwart rested a paw firmly on the young weasel’s shoulder. “You know how she gets when she’s concentrating. We’re all scared for Juni. But we have to leave nature to work its course.”

Findo bared his teeth and started to protest, but a small voice called from behind. “Findo?”

Findo turned and gave an attempt at a wolfish grin as he saw Elonwyn wandering over to them. “Hey! It’s the invalid!”

Elonwyn blushed. “I feel really bad about leaving Juni like that. I’m supposed to be Alya’s assistant…”

She gasped as Findo suddenly scooped her up in his arms. Lonny went red all over and stiffened as he stared in her eyes, his face full of mischief.

“How about you and I walk through the threshold to make you feel better?” he grinned at her and Elonwyn felt a little thrill seeing him acting like his old self. “You’d make an adorable bride.”

“FINDO YOU JERK!!!” Aqua started punching him. “LET GO OF MY COUSIN THIS INSTANT!!!!”

“Aqua!” Tailwart raised his paws in alarm as though uncertain whether to stop her or not.

Findo raised an eyebrow as he stood un-phased by Aqua’s furious attacks. “Oh look. A flea is attacking me. Should I squish it Lonny?”

Lonny opened her mouth but her face burned as she locked her green eyes with his blue ones and her mouth opened and closed wordlessly. “I-I-I”

“Stop harassing my girl Finny.” Risk’s cold voice snarled from behind.

Findo simply turned his head to stare at the silver weasel and smirked. “But she and I are already married.”

“Don’t be an idiot.” Risk carefully picked up Kenroy from his shoulder and set the little rat on the ground. “She doesn’t like you, and I don’t blame her.”

“Who are you to say how she feels and doesn’t feel risk?” Findo snarled, putting a still stuttering Lonny down by Aqua and Tailwart, who were staring at the two in wide eyed apprehension. Kenroy clung to the hem of Risk’s tunic nervously, gazing up at the two weasels.

“We all know she’s terrified of you.” Risk curled his lip. “You were always such a playboy around Marshank.”

Findo narrowed his eyes. The stress caused by Juni’s screams in the distance was building up inside him and he needed a suitable vent. If only Kenroy would move.

“That’s enough!” Tailwart stepped between the two. “We’re not enemies anymore, remember?”

“Speak for yourself.” Findo and Risk growled in unison.

“You guys will have plenty of time to beat each other up later.” Aqua gripped Lonny’s shoulder. “Now is not the time. Alya certainly doesn’t need any more to worry about.”

“I don’t give a- Risk began but Findo turned away.

“fine.” The mahogany colored weasel smiled. “We’ll finish this later. Come on Lonny, I need some help cleaning these fish.”

“I don’t think thats a good idea.” Aqua smiled nervously as Elonwyn went slightly green.

“Oh yeah. I forgot. Well I can do it myself.” Findo picked up his spear and gave the little stoat a slight smirk.

As he walked away, he heard Kenroy squeak. “You could take that big weasel couldn’t you mista Risk?”

“Shut up kid.” Risk growled.

■ ■ ■

Juni gasped as the last convulsion began to fade. The stick they had given her to bite on to distract her from the pain had splintered so much it pricked her tongue and she could taste her own blood.

Another wave of agony shot up her body and she cried out, clamping onto the stick and she could feel Malwyze clutching her shoulders.

The pain was like a giant hand was crushing her. She really hoped Alya was wrong about twins. Her mind was beginning to fade to when she had been little. Skalrag had been alive; he had always been there for her. Why did he have to go? Why?

“You’ve just had a cub.” Malwyze crooned in her ear. “A boy. Hold on, it will be over soon young one.”

Please!!! Juni thought as another spasm of pain rippled through her.

“Keep pushing!” Alya’s voice was tight with stress. “Don’t give up!”

Juni could hear the wailing of her new born cub and she let out a sob of terror as she saw through her blurry vision that Alya’s paws were soaked with blood.

My mother died giving mirth to me… Juni clamped her eyes shut. What if I share that same fate?

“It’s alright little one.” Malwyze’s voice was supposed to be comforting but it was more like a dagger stabbing her continuously. It was as though he knew she was going to die and he was only trying to calm her. Like that horrible healer of her and Skalrag’s clan, she could still remember how he had comforted Juni’s older sister after she’d been bitten by that adder. His voice had been as sickeningly soothing.

“Another boy cub.” Alya let out a relieved laugh. “One more, come on Juni!”

Juni sunk her teeth into the stick. She hadn’t the strength to keep pushing…

■ ■ ■

Stumptooth sat up beside Tara, who was lying on her back in the sand beside him. Ignoring Ralken’s cursing as his hook got embedded in his fingers, Stumptooth shouted.

“I can remember!!! I can remember the entire map poem!”

Chapter thirty: good life


Tara sat up quickly and looked at Stumpy. “What, you mean you remembered the poem?”

The male ferret nodded his head. “Yes, I do. Wait, did you hear that?”

Tara’s ears perked up as the sounds of footsteps and rustling of the foliage caught her attention.

Ralken walked up to them as he sucked on his finger in pain after removing the dreadful hook. “Gosh darn it, why can’t I catch a single stupid fish like Fin--” he was shushed by Stumptooth giving him an evil look. Ralken then heard the sounds too. He drew his sword, and edged closer to the bushes.

The stoat looked at Stumpy who clenched onto his weapon, ready to attack. ralken and Stumpy engaged a few nods and Ralken called out to the bushes. “Who goes there? Show yourself! Are you friend, or foe? Speak up!”

“Quit yellin’ stoat, tis only us,” Tailwart said as he snuck up behind Ralken, who gave a slight jump in surprise.

Ralken lowered his sword and sighed in relief. “Whew, it’s only you guys. I thought you were a foebeast making all the screaming earlier.”

Tailwart shook his head. “Well, you were right about somebeast screaming, but it’s Juni.”

Ralken’s eyes widened. He grabbed Tail’s arms and quietly said. “You mean to say...she’s having her babies? Now?”

Tailwart winced slightly since Ralken reopened a wound on his arm, but smiled. “Yes, she’s having her babies.”

Ralken gave a small smile and released the ferret. “But, why aren’t you there with her?”

“Alya needs some concentrating, plus Lonny got sick, and Kenroy’s too young, we had to depart. But I’m hoping she makes it, since she’s so young and small,” Aqua said as she rubbed Lonny’s back.

Ralken looked down. “I see.” Then he looked over at Risk, who was staring at Lonny with a creepy smile spread on his usual. ralken gave a small snarl, knowing that he fancied his smaller cousin and caused a lot of problems for them. “Why is he not tied up?”

Aqua rolled her eyes. “He finally got the brains and escaped from his bonds. About time he gains the knowledge to know how.”

Risk had heard Aqua’s comment, and was not happy at all. His grin turned into a fierce frown. he walked over to the stoat and clenched his fist as he glared down at her. “So, you think I’m stupid, eh? Or, you’re just trying to make me look bad in front of Little Lonny, do you? You know you’re as bad as Findo, but you got a snake’s tongue you pathetic crippled.” He raised his paw to strike her, but gasped in pain as a paw bent his paw backwards and twisted his arm behind his back.

“Dare touch my mate, and I’ll kill you, weasel,” Tailwart his in Risk’s ear. He use his other paw to make a chopping motion, and hit Risk in the side. Risk bent over and Tail then kicked the silver weasel in the tail, knocking him flat.

Lonny and Aqua’s eyes were wide. Tail wrapped his arm around Aqua’s shoulder and placed his other paw on arm. He looked over at the other two. “Don’t worry, I just hit a pressure point to cause him to fall asleep so he won’t bug us anymore.”

Ralken scratched his chin. “Did you learn that move from Fin? Because I’ve never seen you do that sorta move.”

Tailwart shrugged. “Back when I was in my old clan, I was taught how to use my body as a weapon, but never really needed to use it. So that was the first time I’ve done it in a very long time.”

Kenroy came over, picked up a stick, and started poking at Risk. “Is he dead?”

“No, but it won’t be a good idea to wake him either.”

Lonny’s eyes brightened. she gave an admiring look at Tail. “Ohh, can you teach me how to do that?”

Tailwart gave a small chuckle and smiled. “Of course, when I’m feeling a bit better.”

“You’re certainty acting like you’re better, Tailwart,” Tara said as she and Stumptooth approached them.

Tailwart blushed slightly as Aqua elbowed him gently. “Well, I’m still a bit sore, but I am feeling a bit better.” He looked down at Aqua. “What about you? I see you’re walking okay.”

“It still hurts. But hey, did Stumpy remember the poem?”

Kenroy tugged at Stumptooth’s vest. “I’m hungry,” Kenroy squeaked.

Findo arrived with freshly cut and clean fish. “Well, if the little one’s hungry, might as well have a little something to eat while Stumpy tells us his poem and Juni has her cubs.”

Tara clapped. “Excellent, I’ll get a fire going.”

The other’s sat down in a semi circle as Tara built a fire. Stumpy opened a flask of wine and poured himself a cup. “Well now, here’s what I remember.”

Juni gasped out weakly as pain lanced through her body. Alya kept encouraging her to move on. “Come on, Juni, just one more push, and it’s over.”

“I-I can’t, I can’t,” She cried as tears poured down her face.

“Come on one more push, you can do it, I know you can,” Malwyze said.

Juni gave one final scream as the last cub was born. A silvery white female was born, but she wasn’t crying and was much smaller than her brothers.

Juni began to panic as she noticed the silence from her daughter. “The baby’s not crying! Why isn’t she crying?!”

Alya knew this situation was bad, and knew that when a kit doesn’t cry, it means they can’t breath and will die, or if they’re already dead. She hoped it wasn’t the latter one.

“Malwyze, get me some damp cloth, hurry!” Malwyze ripped part of his cloak and dipped it in a bowl of water that was by Alya’s side. Quickly, the ermine healer wiped away blood from the tiny vixen’s mouth and rubbed her back.

After a few heart pounding moments of tension, the little vixen opened her mouth to gasp for air. Finally, she started to cry.

The sound of her little daughter’s cries and the sound of her taking her first breath in the world, brought tears of joy in Juni’s tear stained face. Alya wiped her paws clean with a wet rag. “It’s done, Juni, you’re a mother now.”

Malwyze notice the slight shivering in the kits. “Juni, may I please have your cloak? The cubs need warmth.”

Juni weakly un-fastened Skalrag’s cloak from her shoulders and passed it to Malwyze before falling asleep.

Malwyze wrapped all three of the little fox kits in their father’s cloak like a blanket. He set the now sleeping kits down of a soft bed of moss and looked at them with a warm smile.

“Precious, aren’t they?” Alya said as she smiled.

Malwyze sighed. “Aye, they do. What makes me happier is that we saved Juni’s daughter from death. Now let’s hope their mother wakes from her sleep to see the babies.”

Alya nodded. “Aye, but tis sad that they’ll never get to see their father.”

“I remember Skalrag before I first left Marshank. He was a good soldier.” Malwyze then noticed something odd about the second boy. “Hmm, is it just me, or does this little one look more like his father?”

Alya shrugged. “I wouldn’t know, for I cannot see him. But I’m sure he’ll do just fine.”

Malwyze stretched as he laid his back against a tree stump. “Now, let’s wait for the others to return.”

Sia was watching the whole thing from the distance, and smiled. She got up, and went to tell the others about the good news.

“Well, tell us, Stumpy, tell us the poem,” Tara said as she roasted some fish on a stick over the fire she had started.

Stumpy cleared his throat and started from the beginning.

“Ye who search for that sanctuary.

Ye who wish to join our court

Ye who are chivalrous and daring

Ye who can take the dangeorus Task

Ye who can avoid the musky path

Ye who can find the hidden path

Ye who can survive the beasts of pain

Ye who crosses the river of darkness

Ye who can outwit the heights of fear

Ye who survives the evil deeds may live in peace

Ye who strives for the second chance

Ye should join us for a new start.”

Aqua smiled. “It sounds very lovely, but what does it mean?”

“Like I said before, it’s a place for a new life. The only problem is the musky path. Now what do ya suppose that is?”

“Maybe it’s the place where Finfin came from, since he smells bad enough to scare Miss Lonny away,” Risk said teasingly as he edged closer to Lonny. He had awoken a few minutes ago, but he was being a jerk, as usual.

Findo felt his temper rise. He gripped his stick that held his roasting piece of fish and stared at the fire, hoping for Risk to shut up.

But of course, Risk pushed the red weasel’s buttons even more. “Aye yes, we don’t want pretty Elonwyn to sleep with a weasel that smells like a dead body, don’t we.” Risk was about to kiss Lon on the cheek, but he straightened out like a ramrod as he felt his flesh burning. Findo had the hot end of his stick on Risk’s tail.

“Dare kiss her, and I’ll use your tail for a scarf,” Findo hissed.

Risk stood up and looked down mockingly at Findo with that evil smile. “Aww, did I hurt Finfin’s feelings? Aww, maybe ole’ Ralken can take the widdle baby out of his misery.”

“Don’t bring me into this, Risk,” Ralken said as he kept his gaze on his roasting fish.

Risk rolled his eyes. “But little baby Findo needs a time out for trying to hurt an elder. Tut, tut, how rude of you, Fin for trying to hit on poor Lonny back in the woods.”

Findo had enough. He snapped the stick in half and stood up with his spear pointing at Risk. “Shut up, you sun of a seagull! You’re the one who’s beein hitting on her, not me, so if I were you, I’d shut up!”

“Ohh, strong words for a coward. Ha, you didn’t even bother to see if poor Juni is okay. What if she died? It'll all be your fault for not protecting her.”

Tailwart sighed. “Guys, we’ve been through this.”

“Stay out of this, ferret, it’s not your fight!” Both weasels said at the same time.

The light grey ferret rolled his eyes and continued to cook his fish. “Why do I even bother?’ he muttered.

“Oh, so it’s Juni now? Alya says we need to leave her alone, so I did!”

“She said that, because you would cause her so much stress that she and her kits would die.”

“That’s a lie! She’s a good friend of mine, and I don’t want to see her hurt!”

“Ha! Well the truth comes out; you love Juni now, do you? Oh boy, I bet you’re the one who insisted on Skalrag getting executed so you can have Juni all to your greedy self.”

Findo was really starting to get really mad. Not only was he lying about him and Juni, but he also accused him of killing her husband. “You sick, sick, SICK snake tongued fool! I had nothing to do with Skalrag’s death, and you know it! Juni is one of my best friends and is under a lot more stress now since she’s a mother! I actually care about her and Lonny, unlike you who cares only about yourself!”

“Ohh, so I’m the greedy one? Well let me tell you this, where were you when Aqua and Tailwart got beaten?”

“I was stopping you from hurting Lonny!”

“You know, I really hate it that these two keep dragging us into this argument,” Aqua said with a frustrated tone.

“But you didn’t stop Badrang from making poor Lon a slave.”

“Stop talking that way about Lonny! And stop bringing up those things!”

“Ha, you think you’re so cool, but let me tell you--”

“ENOUGH!!” Sia yelled as she stood between the two weasels. Then; complete silence. The others had never notice Sia’s arrival, they didn’t even know she wasn’t with them.

Sia looked at the two, who stood completely frozen. She grabbed Findo’s arm and sat him on a tree stump away from camp, and took Risk to a flat boulder on the other side of the fire away from camp, and sat him down.

“Now you two sit here and think about what you’ve done. I don’t want any more of this quarreling from you two on the rest of this trip. So if you two can’t get along like civilized adult weasels, then stop pushing each other’s buttons and leave each other alone. Understand?” There was a stern motherly tone in Sia’s voice as she eyed the two sternly.

“Yes ma’am,” both weasels said in unison.

“Good, now what have you guys been up to?” She said to the others who sat looking up at her.

“Well, Stumptooth remembered the poem, but what are you doing here? I thought you stayed with Juni and Alya?” Aqua said.

“Well, that’s why I’ve come here; Juni has given birth to three fox cubs--two male and a small albino female. Now Juni’s in a deep sleep from all the exhaustion and may not be able to travel for a while since she’s regaining her strength. Now she will make it, but we’re going to have to travel more safely, since we now have three young cubs to take care of while we travel. Now I would like for all of you to lend a helping paw and help Juni since she’s a first time mother, and has no mate.”

Elonwyn squealed with joy as she clapped her paws together. “Three babies! Two mini Skalrags AND a mini Juni? D’aawww, I want to see them!”

“Tomorrow, but right now we have to rest for the night, then meet up with the others.” She looked down at Kenroy, who was curled up and sleeping by the warmth of the fire as scraps from his fish clung to his whiskers. “Seeing as Kenroy agrees with me, we should all start getting some sleep soon, but right now, let’s eat some fish.”

“Agreed,” said Ralken.

Sia sat next to Elonwyn, who offered her a cup of wine. The Blue ferret accepted the drink. “So, what’s going to be on Kenroy when we fins his father?” Lon asked as Sia sipped her wine.

The ferret wiped her mouth before replying. “I don’t know, but if we can’t find him soon, we’ll have to keep him with us.”

Lonny had a worried look on her face. “But who’ll take car of him while we tend to Juni’s babies?”

Trusiae shrugged. “I still haven’t thought of that, but we’ll find out soon.”

As the others sat and ate fished while they conversed with each other about their plans and the poem, Risk kept looking at Sia.

He felt that she had a burden lifted from her chest and that she was happier than before. Ever since that incident in the woods with him, her, and Lonny, she has been more like her true self: the Sia he knew long ago.

The weasel sighed, and felt something he had never felt about her before. Was it that he had found true love, or something else? Risk had kept that question in his thoughts for a long time.

The sun had completely set, and the others were fast asleep. Findo was chosen to keep watch over the camp, knowing that Juni was in good paws with Malwyze protecting her.

Findo sat on the beach with his arms resting on his knees as he kept his legs close to his chest. His spear was by his side, incase of danger. He gazed up at the clear starry sky and thought about what life would be like when they reach the sanctum.

He then heard somebeast approaching. He turned his head to see Lonny. She walked up to him, and sat next to him. “Thanks, Findo, for standing up for me when you were fighting with Risk.”

“Any time, Lon, but if he ever bugs you again, just call for me.” Findo looked at Lonny with his cool blue eyes.

Lonny couldn’t help but blush. “Findo, what are your plans for when we reach our new home?”

“I’ll marry you properly, of course, since we’re mates. But unlike Marshank, it’s our choice whether to be official mates or not, since they didn't care about it as much.”

Lonny knew what he was saying was true. All the time she had been in Marshank she had wanted to marry Ralken, but since he’s with Alya, Findo was her only other option, besides Risk, and Kenroy, but she didn’t like Risk and Kenroy was too young, so Findo was the remaining male alive. She couldn’t become mates with Malwyze since he’s her half uncle, but he was still family. Lonny had been wanting to be married when she grew up, but she didn’t feel quiet ready. “Well, I don’t know, Findo. Like, what if something bad happens to either you or me during the trip? What if one of us gets hurt or killed?”

Findo wrapped his arm around Lonny, and held her close. “I’ll never let anyone hurt you, Elonwyn, and that’s a promise I attend to keep,” he whispered softly in her ear.

Lonny smiled, knowing that she was safe with Findo. who knew what the next day would be like.

Chapter thirty one:We've Already Said Goodbye


Juni opened her eyes slowly, her eyelids heavy with sleep. her body felt sore all over and she felt a burning sensation in her throat. But… she felt, lighter, somehow.

“Good morning.”

Juni turned her head against her right shoulder to see Findo smiling down at her.

“Have a good sleep?” the mahogany furred weasel gently ran a paw through the young vixens’ headfur.

“Y-yeah.” Juni hoisted herself into a sitting position. “How long have I been out?”

“A day.” Findo grinned and sat back, letting his paw slide down his friends cheek and then fall to the ground. Juni gazed at him in surprise. Findo was limp and heavy, like a wet bit of sailcloth. He was only like this if he hadn’t slept.

“Have you been awake and watching me all night?” Juni cocked her head.

“Aye.” Findo gave her one of his wolfish grins.

“Stalker.” Juni said with mock severity.

“yeah well, I felt bad for not being by your side. I did promise, when I first came to Marshank that I’d look out for you when Skalrag couldn’t…” Findo ran a paw up the back of his neck, not making eye contact. “Seems I’m not good at keeping my promises.” He looked into Juni’s pale golden eyes. “But, your babies are just fine, don’t worry.”

“My… babies?” Juni stared at her friend in confusion, then her eyes snapped wide open and she shoved the blanket that had been wrapped around her off her lap and started to shoot to her feet but Findo grabbed her.

“Hey! Easy, you don’t want to wake them up!”

“But I have to make sure they’re alright!” Juni choked. “I can’t lose them! I-

“Calm down…” Findo pushed her back into a laying position, kneading her shoulders soothingly. “Look.” He pointed to three little cubs, wrapped in blankets sleeping in one of Elonwyn’s baskets. “You two did well. Look how cute they are.”

Juni’s face broke out into a small smile at the sight. One of the cubs, the female as snuggling her face against the biggest male cub, and the smaller male cub had his thumb in his mouth. The biggest one yawned and twitched.

“Triplets…” Juni murmured, letting her head sag against’ Findo’s shoulder and she curled into a tight ball. “Skalrag… would have been so surprised.”

“Yeah.” Findo hugged her close.

“Well this is an interesting scene.” The two jumped and looked up to see Malwyze smiling at the two of them with one eyebrow raised in amusement. “My Findo, aren’t you the ladies man!”

“don’t be stupid.” Findo curled up closer to Juni and glowered at Malwyze in defiance. “Can’t a guy congratulate his own best friend?”

Juni turned scarlet and looked away. “Please get off of me Findo…” “Alright, alright.” Findo laughed softly and pulled himself to his feet. “I need to say goodbye to Ralken and the others.” He disappeared through the tree line.

“Say goodbye?” Juni glanced up at him in bewilderment.

“Stumptooth remembered the poem.” Malwyze pressed a paw on Juni’s shoulder. “Ralken, Tara and Stumptooth are leaving us now. As am I. it would be best for me to guide them, as they will come on troubling times I’m sure.”

“But, I won’t get to say goodbye to them.” Juni murmured sadly.

“Don’t worry; they know your love goes with them.” Malwyze sat down and hugged his knees to his chest. “There’s something I’d like to talk to you about, Miss Juni, if you don’t mind.”

“What is it?” Juni stared into the earnest older stoat’s eyes.

“You’re a widow now Juni, and I’m sure it’s very hard for you.” Malwyze gazed at her seriously. “I’ve always been a bachelor, so I cannot really begin to understand what it is like to lose a spouse.”

“Skalrag and I were always like brother and sister.” Juni murmured, hugging herself and staring at the ground. “I loved him, as closely as though we’d been born from the same womb. We were… made for each other…” the vixen’s eyes burned and she closed them tightly.

Malwyze took her paw and squeezed it. “I wish I had words that could make you happy again dear one… I have a proposition for you.”

“I’m not sure what you mean.” Juni looked up, feeling suddenly nervous.

“Your children, need a father, and raising children as a single parent is very difficult. I know I could never be another Skalrag, but, if it helps you, the two of us could marry, and you would have someone to help you raise your babies.” Malwyze sighed. “I find it hard to explain, but I want to help you… you’ve been through so much.”

“NO!” Juni pulled away, and malwyze started in surprise.

“I… I’m sorry.” Juni stared at him in wide eyes horror. “But that wouldn’t be fair for either of us. You and I… I know you mean well, but… you don’t exactly love me, and I don’t love you… it, doesn’t seem… what I’m trying to say is-

“No, it’s fine!” Malwyze raised his paws in submission, smiling. “I didn’t mean to alarm you. I hadn’t expected you to say yes in the first place… perhaps marriage is a bit extreme… perhaps… godfather then?”

“I believe… that would work a lot better for the both of us.” Juni rlaxed, glancing at her cubs. “But you’ll be going away.”

“Aye. But we will meet up as soon as everyone is fit to travel.” Malwyze got to his feet. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to say goodbye to my nieces.”

“Of course.” Juni nodded timidly.

■ ■ ■

“I wish I didn’t have to leave you all.” Ralken sighed, gazing around at the group. “I just can see every bad thing that will happen…”

“We’ll be fine.” Alya hugged her mate tightly. “There are lots of us to take care of each other here; it’s you we should worry about.”

Findo could see Lonny trembling slightly as she looked away from the couple, and he felt a yank in his chest. Feeling a bit stupid he stuck his paw out as though to shake hands, knocking a startled Ralken away from alya. “Well, don’t get Tara and Stumpy into trouble old man!” Findo grinned, feeling like a world class idiot.

“I’ll make sure to keep them safe.” Ralken clasped his friends paw tightly, smiling slightly. “Watch over Lon and Aqua for me alright?”

“Tail’s already got Aqua covered, haven’t ya tail?” Findo winked at Tailwart and Aqua.

“You remembered all those herbs I told you about?” alya grumpily turned to Tara.

“Oh yeah, I can remember everything.” Tara tapped her skull, smiling. “and Malwyze knows his herbs too, so we should do fine!”

“Did I hear someone say my name?” Malwyze pushed a bush out of his way as he padded towards the group standing on the hilltop.

“Aye, we did.” Stumptooth grinned.

“You ready then?” Ralken gazed solemnly at the older stoat.

“Probably more ready than any of you youngsters!” Malwyze winked. “And Juni sends her love.”

Tara smiled sadly. “Tell her bye from us then.”

“We need to get going.” Stumptooth glanced up at the sky. “It’s already noon time.”

“We’ll miss you all.” Sia sighed. “Be careful.”

“We will.” Ralken gave Aqua and Elonwyn a half hug, and then turned to Risk with a murderous look. “Keep yourself a good distance from Lonny. Got it?”

“Don’t order me about!” risk snarled.

“Come on.” Stumptooth was already halfway down the hill as he called over his shoulder.

“Goodbye!” Malwyze, Tara, and Ralken called as they raced down the hill after the tall ferret.

Ralken glanced over his shoulder, his eyes locked on Alya. “I hope I’m doing the right thing, leaving them behind.”

“They’ll be fine.” Tara grinned. “I see a lot of good things coming their way. And we have the ribbons so they’ll be able to catch up to us in no time.”

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