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Queen of Ice

BOOK ONE: A JOURNEY BEGINS CH. 1 It was cold in the North. A motley array of vermin were huddled around a fire, cloaks wrapped tightly about them. A skinny pheasant was spitted upon the fire, and some edible roots were boiling in a pot. Leska, a weasel who was the captain of the group, passed around a flask of last winter's elderberry wine, remarking "Huh, wish the Queen had sent us with more food." He spat into the fire. "'Tis a hard and cruel life so 'tis." Thaer, a large fox, took a swig of the wine and passed it on.

"Aye, such a fine plan, being left to transport this wretched thing to the Southern Isles." he kicked a small bag tightly bound with rope. It moved slightly, and a small growl issued forth from it. Thaer kicked it again, growling "Shurrup, or I'll give yer' something to moan about!" He turned the pheasant slowly. It was late. Snow started to fall around the group and their smoldering fire. Thaer and several others had fallen asleep with pheasant bones in their paws. The bag was still.

High up on the summit of Mount Samsalene, a fortress made of granite ansd shale sat, boasting it's defiance to the elements. The fortress was merely a wall, but inside, a large building of granite held the Queen of the Ice. A savage pine marten, the Queen sat upon her carved wooden throne, fully garbed in her barbaric regalia. She wore a shining brass breastplate with matching chainmail and gauntlets along with a green kilt. A wide snakeskin belt finished the outfit, along with an enourmous halberd that never left her side. The Queen picked at a roast bird, while an ermine lady named Fiercefang watched her closely. When she was done, the Queen tossed the dish to Fiercefang to finish the remains. She beckoned to her lady-in-waiting, saying "When you are done, Fiercefang, bring me Captain Claw" She swept from her chair and walked down the corridor. Fiercefang put down the platter, and scurried to the barracks to find the Captain. All creatures under control of the Queen knew orders were to be carried out swiftly....or else. Captain Claw was a bulky fox wearing a spiked helmet, a loincloth and a beaten breastplate. He shuffled his footpaws nervously, awaiting the Queen in the Hall. A door slammed, and the pine marten herself came in, turning to the wall her throne was against. An enourmous tapestry hung over it. It depicted the Queen of Ice sweeping over the mountains, cleaving a passage of death with her halberd. Small woodlanders shrank away, into the clutches of vermin waiting with chains and spears. In her wake was a vast horde, and a large monster of some sort lurked in the top right corner. She turned slowly, and gestured at the tapestry to Claw. "My kingdom's legend. I rule this mountain range, yet I am not native to this region. You, my brush-tailed friend, are native to these Northlands. Tell me, how long does it take to get out of these mountains from my fortress?" Captain Claw was indeed born in the North, and had a thick accent to show it. "Highness, I ken tell ye 'tis aboot three guid days o' marchin' will send ye oot o' these mountains." He knew that the Queen had ordered Leska's squad to take the package south. He foresaw his Master's next uestion and replied, "Mah patrol o' the first few miles south o' your fortress showed that the squad you had sent six days agoo' has been laggin' behind." "Yes, very good, Claw. Release the Dirgesinger. Bring one back to me, and give that squad something to march about."

Captain Claw and seven guards opened the great wooden doors that held in the Dirgesinger. A massive crazed wolf. It was blind, for the pine marten had scraped its eyes out with her halberd long ago. It was a grizzled grey, and terribly mad. The soldiers grabbed at the restraining chains, leading it torwards the doors to the fortress by a rope halter. The Queen of Ice watched from her chamber window, smirking at her plan. The Dirgesinger pawed anxiously at the snow. The soldiers under Claw's command led the wolf out into the open, and removed a few of it's resticting chains. They then tied a great pine branch to the end of it's rope halter. It took more than the seven guards, so the wall patrol stepped in to tie it. Once this was accomplished, they let go of all the chains, letting the branch hold the wolf back when it ran so they could keep up. It set off, trying to sense any moving thing. It ran crazily, despite the pine branch crashing behind it. Claw and the others ran doggedly after it, following the great trail of plowed snow the Dirgesinger had left behind. Thaer heard the noise before he saw what was making it. His blood ran cold when a rat cried "It's de' Dirgesinger! Run fer' yer' lives!" The rat sent the rest moving, each pushing and shoving to get in the front. A runty ferret was trampled, and another rat got his leg caught on a root sticking up from the snow. The rat wailed, but tried to feign death when he heard the mad wolf coming closer. It sent up a wave of snow as it turned, smelling the rat. The pine bough got caught between two smaller pines, but the Dirgesinger pulled vicously, almost to the point of strangling itself by the line that held the two together. SNAAAP! One pine crunched like a twig, and the wolf was sent forwards in a flurry of snow. It clawed at the rat, tearing it free and whipping it about like a rag doll. Claw came rushing up, panting. He quickly diverted the beast with a large dead bird, then his seven guards took the rat. Amazingly, it was still alive. He whined as he nursed a broken paw and several gashes to his sides. Claw commanded the guards to retrieve the wolf, and re-shackel it. This was done with much difficulty, but the party was soon under way. And so were Leska's lot. They ran like they had never run before. It was one of the Queen's "games", to kill off one or two stragglers when her commands weren't being carried out. They began a long descent from the last of the mountains in their way, running at top speed.

CH.2 Juppy the otter friar of Redwall wandered about in the forest, admiring the beauty of spring. He stopped by a creek, gathering some watercress, his whiskers dipping into the water. He whistled softly and sang a little tune that went;

"Oh! Metty, darlin',are you at 'ome? Practicing on your little green flute? Will you feed me some food so wholesome, and supply me with fresh otter 'otroot?"

A young ottermaid came out from the trees to meet the friar. She hugged Juppy, exclaiming, "My! O' course you can 'ave some 'otroot, brother o' mine!" She balanced back on her rudder. "My, you're gettin' fat as a bumblebee, Juppy!" Juppy looked at his younger sister, slim as a twig in her cut down tunic and skirt. She wore a bright yellow bandana over her head. He smiled. Metty smiled back, beginning to lead him to her house in the woods. It was a small one-room cottage in a peaceful glade, only sixty steps to the creek. Inside, there was a small hearth of mud bricks, a bed in one corner, a closet, a large table and a couple chairs. Large rush mats covered the floor, and nets hanging above held various dried foods. Metty gave her brother a beaker of dandelion cordial and led him back outside. They walked around the cottage and into a garden with a stick fence. A large dark green beetle was tied to a post, Metty's constant companion Wuddshell. In the garden, various plants flourished in the soft moist earth. Metty came over to a great bunch of hotroot shoots and selected a large amount. She also gathered some peaches from a tree in the garden. "'Ere you go, and a rare peach to add in a pie." She smiled and they rested awhile in the cottage, having a light lunch and catching up. As usual, Juppy asked Metty about Redwall. "Don't 'et get lonely here? Why don't you live with me at Redwall? Wuddshell would be welcome and your talents in cooking and gardening are far better than mine. You would have company too." He knew it would be hard for her to leave her dwelling, she had lived there since their mother had died. "I'm flattered that you think of me, Jupp', but I'm just so used to bein' 'ere. I love these woods, and I know this is my place. Maybe I'll visit in the winter." She looked almost apologetic. But Juppy knew he could not make her move, so he nodded his head. As if to break the mood, Wuddshell looked at Metty and scuttled around in circles. He then rolled over in a somersult, landing flat on his back. He rocked helplessly as Metty laughed and set him upright and gave him a pecan slice.

Juppy entered the Redwall gate and waved hello to Viscal, the mouse gatekeeper who had let him in. Juppy went through the vast lawns and orchards, selecting some of the harvest for lunch. He tugged a wheelbarrow round and filled it with fruits, nuts, berries and vegitables. A young squirrel suprised him as he reached for a ripe bunch of strawberries. "Ahoy Juppy!" the squirrel popped his head out from the bush. His face was stained red from the berry juice. He leapt nimbly from the bush onto the wheelbarrow, twisting his tail over his face and giggling. "Elmstak! You walloping brushtail! You must not be hungry, trying to scare the Friar to death!" He ruffled the squirrel's fur, putting on a face of mock ferocity. "'elp me with this barrow, ye frightface or no breakfast!" Elmstak pushed the fat friar out of the way, pushing the wheelbarrow energetically off torwards the Abbey. Juppy had to jog after him, yelling "Mind those vittles, ye scamp!"

Redwall Abbey slowly awoke to the pleasant aromas of fruits, breads and other delicacies. Mother Alevinia, a young badger, herded a pack of dibbuns to table, assisted by a hedgehog named Frimp. Six warrior hares from the seaside fortress Salamandastron were already guzzling down food and drink. Foremole and Cellarhog Tinneypins were sharing a fruit and honey salad. At the head of the table sat Abbot Gable, a squirrel in his midseasons.

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