BOOK ONE: THE FOX
icy rain lashed the trees of mossflower. angry clouds scuttled above the twilight world. a flash of lightning illuminated a small moving bundle of rags. the bundle was soaked through and caused the wearer great difficulty in movement. the creature tripped in the mud and lay there exhausted.
two hedgehogs and a mole hurried along, heavy habits keeping the rain at bay. they carried a small log and atop it was a covered basket. they stumbled down the path and the leading mole almost tripped over the pile of rags. "wait oop, yurr Tumble. oi gots a gurt pile o i dobt know what!"
Tumble, a male hedgehog, put down his end of the log and picked the bundle up. he laid it on the log alongside the basket. "hurry now! this beast 'as stopped with exhaustion!" he picked the log end up again. "quickly! we need to let sister march fix 'er up!" the trio moved faster, tumble carefully holding the beast still, hoping they would make it to redwall in time.
Sister March, a jolly fat hare, shooed the three away when they brought the bundle in. she brandished a window pole in mock ferocity. "get on, wot! change those habits and get some supper afore you catch a death of cold yerself!" with much wot-wotting and gentle prods of the pole, she sent the beasts out.turning suddenly serious, she tended to the sad beast. peeling the wet rags and dressing the beast in an old habit, she gasped.
Abbess Dewdrop was a tiny mouse. she was was in her late seasons, but very agile and active for her age. she had just finished the supper grace when the infirmary Sister March bustled in. she whispered something in her ear that made the abbess's ears perk up. she followed the sister back to the infirmary, stopping to grab three beakers of warm mushroom soup.
The infirmary was dark, having only one wall illuminated with candles. the sister took a beaker and sipped at the soup, while telling Dewdrop.
"that pore creature lying on the far bed is a fox!" dewdrop stared straightfaced at march. "so? redwall welcomes all." "yes yes but don"t you remember old methuselah? surely you have read about the last time we have had vermin here! don't forget cregga, john churchmoue, myrtle who was almost poisened to death..."
"i know, i know. easy march. but as i have said all creatures are welcome. she will be guarded once she regains conciousness. that is my final word on the matter!"
the sister sat back, resigning. "all right then, but mind you...." she stopped and took the other beaker to the fox. It was a large she-fox, red with black eartips and muzzle. the length of her body was covered in poultices and bandages. she parted the lips and gently poured the soup down. color flushed into the fox's face. she turned on her back, winced, turned back again and curled up. "this fox is a great beast. she had knife wound all down her back and her face was heavily wounded. tis a wonder!"
it was midway through winter. the sun gleamd off the pure white snow that clung to the rosy sandstone walls of redwall. bit by bit, the sun rose and bathed the peaceful abbey in sunlight. it had been several moons since the fox had come, and she had slept the entire time. a death sleep, sister march called it. though the horrendous wounds had healed, her body was covered in scars. she slept on, not aware of the world just outside the window
the dibbuns (as abbey young ones are called) were out playing in the snow making snowangels. even the brothers and sisters of the abbey were playing in the snow. skipper the otter and his twin sons patrolled the pond banks, which had a slim layer of ice over it. they made sure nobeast came near, lest they fall through the ice. karee, an abbey sparrow, was flitting between groups of abbeybeasts, lilting his wigs to glance off the snow.
Jann and Burr, two dibbun squirrels, were in their element. dusting themselves with snow, they crept up on unsuspecting beasts and pelted them with snowballs. they crept behind the iced orchard trees and torwards the pond.
"look, Jann, lets slide aroun' the ice! the likkle fishers be's sleeping! we gorra wakey 'em up!" he scrambled down a snowdrift and scurried torwards the pond. Jann slid after him. when they drew close, Jann drew back, hiding behind Burr. "i norra going to skate, Burr! Skip be's guardin' the fishers. i norra wanna get in trouble." Burr huffed. "we norra get in trouble, Jann. we's gonna go roun' the other side." he proceeded to do so, hiding in the icy withered reeds. Jann held back, then turned around. she was a good dibbun, and she didn't want to get in trouble. Burr slid onto the pond, his tiny claws scrabbling. he slid once, twice, the he slowly got up and began to tap the ice with a stick. "fishers wakey up nows! give Burr a ride on yer backs, fishers!" he tapped harder, peering through the ice. he stomped, trying to wake the elusive 'fishers'. a crack appeared. then another. tiny bubbles rose through. Burr giggled.
up in the infirmary, the fox twitched. she was vaguely whimpering, dreaming. she was thrown to the ground in her nightmare, shadowy figures surrounding her. she flinched, trying to cover herself with her paws. then, a golden mist came, and the creatures fled. a mouse in shining armor came, wielding a great sword that shone in the dreamlight. he helped her up, gesturing with the sword to a window that hung in midair. she saw ice and a squirrel crying for help. the mouse spoke calmly, "go now, awake!" her eyes snapped open.
Burr was on a small piece of ice, having broken the ice around him. skipper and his sons, Jutt and Rutt, ran to the edge of the pond. skipper was in before them, his powerful frame breaking the remaining ice as he swam torwards the dibbun. as quick as lightning, a reddish blur blocked his vision. it plummeted from the high windows of the abbey, and sent up an enourmous splash as it entered the water. the fox soon bobbed up, and desperately paddled to the squirrel on the ice. she reached him far before skipper and siezed him. swimming as best she could with the squirrel tugging her ears as he rode on her shoulders. he screeched with laughter. it was all such fun to him! slopping ashore on the far side of the pond, the fox handed Burr to the nearest brother and sat down. Sister March, fussy as ever rushed from the abbey with warm blankets. the fox was being patted heartily on the back as she panted. She lay back on the snow, breathing in precious air. "Tut tut, missy! so it seems you have woken at last, wot." March said, folding a blanket around Burr and the fox. Abbess Dewdrop came up, smiling."thank you, thank you! All of Redwall welcomes you. You are free to stay here as long as you like!" she helped the fox up, showering her with thanks as they all headed to the Abbey. Once inside, the Abbeydwellers bombarded the fox with questions as food and drink were laid out. Eventually, the abbess took the fox upstairs with Skipper, Sister March, Tumble and Brother Jacob, the shrew recorder. They went to the Abbey library, long abandoned by Villim, the owl. Skipper found some wood in the corner and he stoked the fire. Soon the room warmed and they sat down to talk. Brother Jacob recording everything said. "Poor Villim. He passed on six seasons back you know." said Tumble. "This library contains all our records and books. Just think! Ages and ages of hist-" Abbess Dewdrop gave him a warning look that set him silent. "Now. What is your name?" said Jacob, scratching his pen upon parchment. "Silas Switch, sir. Where am I? How long have I been here?" Sister March raised a paw. "since the beginning of winter. Tumble here found you in the mud while he and some other Redwallers were gathering wood and roots. You are at Redwall Abbey, as the Abbess explained earlier, in Mossflower territory. When Tumble brought you here, you had passed out from exhaustion. You had several nasty wounds, good thing they didn't fester. Your tail was broken, as was your right leg. What happened to you?" "Well," began Silas. "I was running away from Morlifor. He's my older brother. Before our mother, Queen Jewelweed, died, she told us I was to rule. Morlifor did not like that, so he killed mother and took her Scepter. But I, YES I, took the one thing he needs to rule!" she smiled, but then gasped in horror. "B-but where is it? What happened to my old clothes?" "Burned. They barely held together. is this what it was?" She took from her pocket a small dagger and a wrinkled yellowed piece of parchment." Silas sighed with relief. "No, the dagger is mine, but the parchment! These are clues to where I hid the crown!"
Far out on the endless sea, there was the Isle of Kilnn. Steep cliffs slanted to farming areas and woodland groves. on the northern side of the isle was a large hill. A monumental palace sat there, brooding. The stones were slate grey and the turrets and spires spiked with crystal shards. Inside, a large grey fox sat on a throne. His claws tapped the arm of the throne impatiently. "Well?" His voice was sharp. "My sister is dead?" a rat quaked, looking at the fox but avoiding his eyes. "S-sire, the fox id dead." he flinched as the fox took a oak scepter, also tipped with crystal, and lifted the rat's head to meet his eyes. "Look at me when you speak! Did you even think to look for the crown?" His voice was slowly rising, his eyes flecked with red. The rat scooted away, out of reach. "there was no crown sire she just lau-!" In a flash, the fox grabbed the rat and flund him viciously against the nearest wall. The rat fell like a broken doll, his head hanging at an unnatural angle. In his rage, the fox stood and laid out with lightning strikes to the crew of vermin the rat spoke for. When he had seen the massacre he had commited, he turned, pulling a purple cloak around him. He looked at a small grass snake, his aide Smarlic. It coiled around the scepter, hissing in the fox's ear. "That wassss not very wisssse, Massster. You would be quick to bridle your temper." Its black tongue swished in and out. "Bah. Useless scum! I must have that crown!" Suddenly becoming bored, he played with the white feathers lining the cloak. "Tell the servants to bring me food." Smarlic obeyed, slithering down the hall. There were no slaves on the isle. Only devoted vermin. They quickly served the impatient "king" fish, wine and fresh bread. He then ordered some guards to get rid of the slain crew. It was done quickly, for all the beasts on the isle knew of his short temper. Night drew in, darkened waters lapping at the isle cliffs. The fox king tossed and turned in his bed, muttering. Two weasels stood outside of the bedroom, leaning on polished spears. "Huh, Garty, so much for shells and acorns." Garty, the other weasel, sat on the floor and pulled some nutshells and acorn caps from his pocket. It was a favorite game amongst vermin, and they both sat down and quietly squabbled over winning pieces. Morlifor, the fox came awake. He rushed to the door, pulling his favored cloak about him as he wrenched open the door. The weasels were frozen in terror. Garty dropped a nutshell from his shaking paws. Morlifor grabbed the two by the scruff. "Get out of my sight before I have you thrown to the fishes. He dropped the two in a heap. The weasels scurried away, leaving their game. Morlifor walked briskly down a flight of steps and down a corridor. He awakened his Commander, Leo, a pine martin. He signaled for wine, and they sat at a table, Leo yawning quietly. Morlifor put his scepter on the table. The polished cherry wood and crystal attachment glittered in the candlelight. "Tell me, Leo, what is missing from this picture?" his voice was as smooth as oil over ice. "Er, a crown, sire?" "precisely. Now, can you tell me where that crown is?" "With your sister, I presume..... in er, Mossflower country?" Morlifor nodded. Leo smiled, amazed at his own intelligence. "Now, why, just why, is that crown not in the picture you see now?" The fox leaned in close. "Because, er, b-beacause...." Leo trailed off, putting his paws in his lap. Morlifor slammed the table with his fist. "Beacause you let my sister get away! Even if she is dead, the crown could be anywhere! Can you explain that!?! I DEMAND excellence. I must have that crown!" He picked up the scepter and turned torwards the door. "and you will retrieve it. This time, I will go, to make sure it is done CORRECTLY! Bring the great ship, a schooner, and the Blooddrinkers. Thewy will be handled especially well. Rouse others and bring only the best warriors to me. Pack the ship. We sail at dawn!"
Afternoon sunlight peered through the grey clouds. The newly awakened Silas and the rest were still in the library, going over Silas's history. She had been the runt of the two, Morlifor being six seasons older. When the Queen had decided that Silas would rule, Morlifor had killed her. In escape, Silas stole the crown and took a small ship. It made it almost to Mossflower, but a larger ship had crushed it, rats pouring out and stabbing the small crew she commanded. Silas had tried commanding the oncoming numbers by using the crown and her mothers death wish to persuade them. The rats did not stop, and so Silas had jumped ship, the crown clutched in her paws. She ran and tried to hide the crown. The rats had pursued, and after she had hidden the crown, they attacked her. She feigned death, and the rats left, knowing it was no good to question deadbeasts.
"So, there is my story. I must go, though. My mother's death shall not be in vain, and only I can destroy Morlifor!" She rose quickly, twisting the dagger in her paw. Abbess DEwdrop placed a paw on her shoulder, trying to get her to sit down again. "We realize you have scores to settle, and we feel for you. But you are still very weak. Sister March is unsure of your leg and those wounds still have a ways to go. You need food and rest. Wait until spring, then would be better for you." "Thank you, Abbess, and for your hospitality, but I need to go." she made another move for the door. "Look, if you will just stay until your wounds have healed-" Sister March began to rise from her chair. She held on to Silas' paw. "But wait. Would it not be wise just to decide about this crown?" Skipper said. He sat up straighter in his seat. "Well...." Silas seemed at a loss for an answer. "Precisely, Skipper. Where is the crown?" Abbess dewdrop folded her paws in her wide habit sleeves. Silas was at a loss. I-I don't know... I am not native to this territory. When the vermin left me, I g-got rid of it....."