Book Four: Fire &Lightning
Hellgates was just as Cluny expected: a wasteland.
The blank, colorless landscape devoid of vegetation was in contrast with the verdant sky filled with booming thunderclouds. Cluny could barely make out winged shapes among them.
He turned around to see the Gate, but it was gone. He shrugged it off, thinking it could not serve him anyway. He continued to study Hellgates; off to the distance, he could see a… a point, a spire of some sort. He knew it was very, very far and very, very far.
That was where he would Vulpuz. He closed his eyes as dark, horrifying memories washed over him at that name. He snarled at this new world of death, ready to tear at any who would get in his way.
Cluny the Scourge walked towards the Spire of Hellgates.
Such things like hunger, thirst and fatigue did not affect Cluny the Scourge. He walked for three days straight, keeping his eyes always on the Spire, as he called it.
He walked for three days before he encountered his first soul.
It came to him at first as nothing but a grunt, then a squeal behind boulder. He flexed his claws, in preparation for tearing. He pressed his back to the boulder, and then peered behind it.
Two creatures were battling each other; both were furless; one was in the air, with batlike wings and one eye. The other was on the ground, with padlike footpaws and a chubby torso. It also had long, droopy ears and knobby teeth.
Cluny kicked a pebble to the winged creature, crushing its head, felling it.
A single wisp of smoke flowed out of the wound, right to Cluny. An overwhelming force pried Cluny’s mouth open, and the smoke went down his gullet.
An overwhelming cascade of thoughts and emotions screamed and rammed at his skull, before subsiding to a dull throb and whisper.
By this time, the chubby beast was on top of Cluny, throttling him. Cluny gagged and snarled at the monster, and punched him square in the abdomen.
A pillar of lightning shot through its stomach and out its back, leaving a sizzling hole.
Cluny gasped, both in shock and loss of breath. He shoved the thing off of him, clumsily backing away on his back.
Magic! He had used magic! He, Cluny the Scourge! He panicked for a half-second, and then thought seriously. Why not magic? He was in Hellgates, after all. Perhaps such things were commonplace.
He stood up shakily, and studied the creatures more closely. The tubby one had lengthy, slitted eyes, and he had a considerable amount of drool on his chin. All in all, he looked stupid.
The winged one had batlike wings, and its legs were thin, like those of a beach bird. Its one eye was a dull grey. Its tail, like a lizard’s, had a spike on the end for stabbing.
He scratched the side of his head, where the whispering initiated from. What was it? It was no ordinary mist or smoke, or whatever the blazes it was! It whispers increased in volume in timing with his pulse. He could make out two distinct voices.
More clueless than ever, he shook his head and kept on walking.
A figure watched the lone rat crossing the wasteland. It scrutinized the beast without any real interest, but when he chanced upon a goblin and a harpy and killed them both, it smiled to itself.
This rat just might be useful.
Cluny shot a ray of lightning at a small rock, leaving a soot-covered patch. He fired off several more, and then the rock began to melt into pure white ooze. He flexed his paw, sending a jolt down from his claws to his wrist. He took in his sights a boulder. He made a fist and punched in the direction of the boulder. A tornado of electricity thundered towards it, leaving a sizzling hole.
He chuckled as the electricity bounced off his claw.
His ears perked up as a shriek rent the air. He pointed a single claw in the direction of the noise, and a sizzling winged corpse fell to the ground.
And once again, a white mist flew into his mouth. It was not so forceful this time, but he gasped at the raw emotions accompanied with it.
“You learn quickly.”
Cluny whirled around, his paw crackling. On the boulder he had fired upon, a mouse stood on the top. He was a young creature, but riddled with scars. He wore a jacket of the skin of those winged creatures, and two heavy, steel gauntlets that shone like ice. On closer inspection, they were ice; three icicles extended from the knuckles.
In a flash of white-blue, he teleported right in front of Cluny, who did not even flinch. The mouse smiled smugly.
“Walk with me.”
And so they began to walk toward the Spire.
“So… who are you?”
“Call me Adam. So, your name?”
“Hmm. So, Cluny, want to know what that mist was?”
“It was a soul.”
Cluny stopped walking. “Say again?”
“A soul. Somebeast’s soul. You die, your soul comes here. Well, not all of them. But most. And then they turn into the legions of Hellgates. Vulpuz’s minions. I noticed that he’s back. Know anything about that?”
“I killed him.”
They started walking again. “Well, well, well! Impressive! But it only make things worse for me. I saw him descend from the sky and fly to the Spire.”
“Oh yes. In his true form, Vulpuz is a giant dragon. Very, very giant. Almost as tall as the Spire.”
“So you’re going to have to prepare. Those souls you gathered? They gave you magical powers. Keep getting them, those powers will expand and you may even gain new ones. There are other, stronger creatures than the two you encountered.”
“What were they?”
“The fat one is called a goblin. The one with wings is a harpy. They are the lowest of your enemies.”
“Tell me everything.”
And so Adam spoke of the various monsters of Hellgates, such as the minotaurs, the giants, the cyclopes, griffins, leviathans, werewolves, ogres, and golems. And he told that stronger monsters are made up of more souls, and the strongest containing several hundred. He listed the following monsters in order of the amount of souls they contained:
Goblins and Harpies: 1
After a while, Adam’s ears perked up, he said his goodbyes, and left.
Cluny continued walking on. Along the way, he encountered three goblins, killed them, and collected their souls.
He experimented with his powers and found that, by clicking his heels together, the electricity allowed him to run twice as fast as normal.
And so he ran.
Excerpt from the diary of Cluny the Scourge, during his time in Hellgates.
Sometimes I wonder why I keep fighting. Not trying to kill Vulpuz or anything, just why do I always start a fight, knowing it’ll only end in more pain? I wonder this often. But I know why; I fought Ugarth because he stole my weapon. That seems so childish now. At least I killed Zorkaan for the right reasons. But before that… I used to wish I were like other rats, so I wouldn’t feel this guilt. I wish I couldn’t feel anything sometimes. I wish I couldn’t feel a blasted thing. Ah, but I can’t change these things. I heard this idea from a slave from Sovlergash once. He said that those born at the very top, the greatest of the great, who are at the top, can only degrade themselves. Can only bring themselves down. And those born at the bottom of society, with nothing to their names, can only become better. Can only go up. Which am I? Am I at the top? Or the bottom?
Cluny tore out the throat of a goblin, the gurgling beast falling dead in his grasp. Cluny collected its soul, and then threw it at a werewolf, breaking the creature’s back, collecting thirty souls. He shot a volley of lightning at a group of harpies, collecting eight.
To Cluny’s own surprise, he had done all of this stone-cold calm. His breathing was still regular, his heart hardly pounded. He clicked his heels, sending a frantic blue current running between his paws and his knees, and ran faster than any mortal beast ever could.
He shot a goblin along the way.
He ran and ran and ran and ran and ran and ran and ran…
And stopped cold when Adam teleported right in front of him.
“Brought you something,” He said. He held out two stones; one was a scarlet red and the other a deep leaf green.
“Stare deep into them.
“Now crush them.”
And Cluny squeezed them hard, and they fell apart like crushed ice. A tornado of thunder ran up his left foreleg, while his other caught on fire. He roared at the sensation. And as soon as it had begun, it stopped. In his left paw was a sword of leaf green. The blade was in the shape of a lightning bolt, zigzagging right to the grip, which was pure gold. In his right was a shield. Its height was right up to his chest, and its width as wide as himself, but was light as a feather. It was triangular in shape, scarlet on the rim, and pure ruby in the center. Its rims were wavy, like flames.
“The Lightning Sword and the Fire Shield are both ancient artifacts of Hellgates. Use them wisely. Let us see them in action.” And Adam snapped his claws, and four minotaurs ran towards him. He pointed the Lightning Sword at one, and a thin jolt shot from its tip, frying the beast. And from it he gained ten souls. He did so with two more, but the last one threw a boulder at him. The Fire Shield deflected it, and it zoomed straight back to the minotaur, flaming. And so he gained another ten souls.
“Hope that helps,” shouted Adam, and he disappeared.
Cluny clicked his heels and ran.
In three days time, they met again.
“See you’ve been keeping busy,” said Adam at the griffin corpses sprawled around Cluny.
“I’ve been thinking.”
“Why are you helping me? Why not just go after Vulpuz yourself? You’re certainly strong enough. Adam smiled and shook his head. “It would only end in ruin. Neither I nor anyone else will be able to. Only you.”
Adam paused. “Because you chose this. You had the opportunity for eternal piece, but you were responsible and came here of your own volition. What you did has no precedent. Goodbeasts don’t normally come here.”
“And you’re evil? Is that what you’re saying?”
“No, I just… did something.”
Adam sighed and gazed out into the green thunderclouds. “When I walked the earth, I had a friend. A hare named Skivit. He was as hares normally are; disrespectful, gluttonous. But he was a friend, and a very good one. One day he crept into a vermin camp, ate all their supplies, got caught. I watched him die. Well, I got them back. But the rage wouldn’t go away. I went back to my village, killed lots. My father, Luke, put me down, and I came here for the innocents my rage murdered.”
“Did- did you say Luke?” stammered Cluny. “Not Luke the Warrior?”
Adam stared at him for a long moment. Then he summoned the gauntlets of ice he wore, and said, “I am Adam, Son of Luke, and Brother of Martin. I am the Lost Warrior.”
He chuckled and waved a paw in the air. “You know, my little brother never even knew I existed. Father probably thought it would only shame Martin. He wouldn’t have been wrong, but still… Do you know what it’s like, watching your family’s accomplishments, without them even knowing abut you?”
“It would preferable to my situation.”
“Ah, don’t be so melodramatic. Everybeast dies, Cluny. Your sister never harbored ill feelings toward you, and never will. But Martin will never know about me. He will have no feelings towards me.
“I envy you.” And he teleported away.
Excerpt from the diary of Cluny the Scourge.
'When I think about it, my entire life has been directed by my feelings for Glae. I fought Zorkaan for her. If she never existed, I would just be another rat. It’s always been about Glae. Her death made me who I am. I don’t know whether to thank her or curse her. All I can do is keep fighting, really. For her. To make the world a better place. A place she would cherish. I wanted to see her again so badly, and then I come here and lock myself away from her for eternity. And Simu.
Ah, there will never be another like him. He was a perfect example of what vermin could be, if they just turned a blind eye on their instincts. What he represented… It used to scare me. Before Redwall. He was so carefree, so boisterous, that I thought he was a monster among monsters. What a fool I truly was.
I miss you, Simu.'
Cluny lost track of how long he had traveled Hellgates. Had it been a year? Or a thousand? He knew it was a long time and that he had captured many souls. They pounded away at his skull, whispering, always whispering. He would sit still for days trying to decipher them. All he was able to understand was a few words in a language he had never heard.
How many souls had he collected? A thousand? A million? So many minds in one body. His fire and lightning powers were well developed.
He also noticed two large knobs on his back. He did not dare to pry at them, for fear of what they could be. Until the golem, that was.
He had never seen a golem before. A huge rock giant, twice as tall as the abbey, it spat boulders out from its mouth. He ducked as a huge saliva-covered stone flew past him. He summoned the LS (Lightning Sword) and the FS (Fire Shield). He the FS bounced back several boulders, and then Cluny jumped very, very high and landed on the beast’s shoulder. He stabbed, sending a huge thunderbolt coursing through it, and again and again.
But golems are not that easy to kill. It grabbed Cluny and tossed him two miles. He skidded across the landscape, halting by stabbing the ground with the LS. He shot off several fireballs, which had nil effect.
There was a flash of blue light above, and a slab of the golem’s head broke off.
And Adam appeared before him. Adam waved at the golem, and the entire left side froze. With a jab from a claw, the entire thing fell to the ground. And then the golem spat a boulder, and the boulder hit Adam head-on.
Cluny roared and pointed the LS to the sky. A huge, emerald thunderstorm rained down upon the golem, shattering its rocky skin. Slowly but surely, it began to fall. The entire falling would take a good three minutes due to the golem’s size, so Cluny ran towards Adam.
The Lost Warrior was pinned beneath the rock, blood spurting from a hidden wound. Cluny crouched before him. “This… This wound is grievous, Cluny. I can’t move, and you can’t move me before the legions of Vulpuz descend upon me.” Adam pulled a small skinning knife from his jerkin.
“You know what you have to do.”
Cluny was horrified! “You can’t ask something like that of me.”
“Listen to me! If one of that monster’s beasts kills me, then it gets all my souls! You can’t let them escape, Cluny!
“But first… you need to know something. Vulpuz’s psychic powers are ten times more powerful than in the mortal world. If you want any hope of killing him, you’ll need to concentrate more than anybeast has ever thought possible. And you can’t do that with your mind in such turmoil! I can see your guilt, Cluny! Whatever made you feel it, you have to let it go! Or you die!”
Take my souls, Cluny, and you will have the power to kill Vulpuz! NOW!” And so Cluny gripped Adam by the side of the head and broke his neck. A flood of souls poured into Cluny. They wormed in through his mouth, his ears, under his claws, even through his tear ducts. Millions. He did not even begin to comprehend the voices… the endless voices…
He then felt an unbelievable pain in his back: the two knobs on his back throbbed and jutted.
Two sharp, jagged spears of bone popped out from his shoulder blades, symmetrical to each other. They then both split in two, mucus and blood dripping.
Cluny heard a rustling, and he turned his head.
His wings were of a dark, dark emerald with feathers as wide as a claw and shimmering like glass. Their wingspan was over ten feet each, eight feet tall.
Cluny was more fascinated than frightened. He rolled his shoulders experimentally, flapping his wings.
He crouched, jumped, and flew off.
Cluny flew over the valley right outside the Spire. The entire scene was packed shoulder to shoulder with monsters of every shape and size, with the ogres composed of swamp stuff and the leviathans, evil crosses between spiders and scorpions.
He folded his wings and dove. All the while he dove, boulders and arrows and fireballs shot past him. But the monsters were stupid, and did not know the definition of skill. And as he neared the ground, his wings retracted into his back and the FS materialized in his paw. As he landed, its bottom tip stabbed the ground.
Six pillars of fire erupted from the ground, surrounding Cluny in a perfect circle and burning many monsters alive. With a feral yank, he charged into the army.
He slashed and blasted and barreled through the ranks, sending corpses and limbs flying. He jumped up on a leviathan’s knee and fired off several fireballs, then slashed off the beast’s stinger. And electrocuted its eyeball. And he threw himself back into the battle. Scorched bodies piled around him, their species lost to him in the bloodlust. He did not feel the thousands of souls flying into him.
Eventually, the monsters piled onto him, burying him in stinking, evil flesh. He struggled and twisted every which way, but he could not get free. He could not spread his wings. He could only sit and wait to d- Whiptail, don’t give up.
Cluny’s heart stopped cold. Glae.
And then he unleashed his power.
A huge explosion of fire & lightning burst from his chest, encapsulating nearly five miles of land. The explosion was more of a spherical force field that expanded rapidly, disintegrating every monster in its grasp. What beasts escaped, massive beams of electricity shot out and vaporized them.
Cluny lay on the scorched terrain, panting as the force field disappeared. And then a flood of souls washed over him, revitalizing him.
And then he knew that, at long last, he was finally strong enough to kill Vulpuz. He half-ran, half-flew to the base of the Spire. With a short jump, he landed a kick, breaching the wall.
And he saw Vulpuz. The dragon’s head alone was all he saw, for it was so very large. The rest of his body must have been deep underground. Vulpuz chuckled deep in his throat, like a mountain shifting. And then he spoke: “I HAVE WAITED FOR YOU FOR FAR TOO LONG, RAT. YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW BORING IT CAN BE IN HERE. AH, THAT’S RIGHT; YOU SENT ME HERE! AND I’M GOING TO TAKE IT OUT ON YOUR SOUL! I WILL NEVER LET YOU DIE, CLUNY! YOUR ONLY FUTURE IS ETERNAL TORTURE! AND THAT GOES FOR THE MOUSE IN YOU, TOO!”
And Vulpuz thrust his head upward and rose from whatever lay below, his torso so large it pushed against the walls and caused the Spire to collapse in on itself. Cluny flew out just as Vulpuz did, a titanic beacon of desolation, with wings that could cover a continent.
Vulpuz fired fireballs as large as the moon at Cluny, who nimbly floated, glided, and fluttered out of the way. Cluny fired off several bolts and balls, but they just splattered and bounced off, due to the size of the dragon. So he took another approach: he flew right at Vulpuz, landed on his back, and began hacking. He hacked and smashed and carved at Vulpuz until he was waist deep in meat. He then placed his palm right to a pulsing vein, and sent huge amounts of electricity running throughout his body.
Vulpuz screamed and whined in pain, and batted his leathery wings, knocking Cluny off. Cluny extended his wings and flapped rapidly to gain altitude. He bounced back several mammoth fireballs from Vulpuz on the FS, which left several burns along Vulpuz’s wing joint.
Cluny dived forward, scoring a long, jagged cut on Vulpuz’s lower lip. Suddenly, a mental probe of immense power pierced Cluny, immobilizing him. Vulpuz used everything against Cluny- his guilt, his anger, his self-loathing. He clutched his head, with no other sensation but pain. He was falling…
For one second- just one- Everything around Cluny disappeared, and was replaced with a sunset. He was sitting on a hill, watching a sunset. And on a rock sat Glae with her white gown, and Simu, with golden armor, leaning his back on the same rock.
They both turned to him and smiled, and said: It’s not your fault. If I had just- Whiptail, enough. We don’t blame you. We never did. No one does. You’re not who you once were. Please, just let go.
Cluny’s eyes snapped open. He snarled and alighted himself, flapping. He glanced over at Vulpuz, who seemed very surprised, though it was hard to tell, what with his different features. Cluny beckoned forth a huge ball of fire & lightning, ten feet in diameter, and lobbed it at Vulpuz. The impact propelled him a few thousand feet. He fired one after the other, until Vulpuz was slammed into the ground. Cluny held a paw to the sky, tightening his grip. And then he threw it down.
A Huge, huge HUGE thunderbolt struck Vulpuz. Cluny grabbed another, and threw it down, too.
And then one more time.
Cluny gathered all his energy, roaring. He charged his power until his fur glowed red and green, and a spherical force field surrounded him. Cluny held both palms outward toward Vulpuz, miles in the air.
A thin, narrow laser beam shot out toward Vulpuz.
Vulpuz’s underbelly exploded in a flash of brilliant white light, drilling right through him and down to the center of the world, leaving a huge hole with apparently no bottom.
A hole so big, Vulpuz fell down it, bloody and screaming.
Cluny flew down, and retracted his wings as he hit the ground. He panted as he kneeled over the edge, panting.
He rose unsteadily, memories flooding into him. So many had died because of him, and many didn’t deserve it. But what
Glae and Simu said was right: He couldn’t change it, so why keep wringing his paws over it.
Only one thing left to do.
Cluny reached into his purple jerkin, producing the green feather that Glae had given him all those seasons ago.
And he let it go, and watched it drift down the pit.
“Goodbye forever… Cluny the Scourge.”
And he turned around and walked away, never to dwell on the past again.
Glae’s feather kept tumbling through unknown dimensions and times, on a journey that none would ever truly understand.
And as it fell, it became harder and harder.
Then it hit the earth.
And that beach had Salamandastron to the left.
And in that mountain, a badger named Lord Brocktree saw all.
And he had an idea.