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Book Two: The Land of Ice and Snow
Blackness… nothingness…An empty abyss…And then memories. A smiling ratmaid, an enraged boar, a magnificent sword…
And then he remembered.
He was Cluny the Scourge, the greatest and most powerful Warlord the land had ever known. He defeated the Taggerung, slayed a pike single-pawed and pillaged and destroyed all that stood in his path of conquest and vengeance.
Cluny was in total darkness, completely surrounded by some strange mass. When he tried to move, he felt indescribable agony. And then he remembered: the bell! The mouse had tricked him, and then cut the ropes, and the great Joseph Bell had crushed him.
It seemed impossible, but Cluny had survived! And he was going to make them pay. Oh yes, he would do to all of them as he had done to the boar, Zorkaan. But first he had to escape.
Despite the pain and lack of air, Cluny pushed with the pitiful remainder of his strength. He pushed and pushed, thinking dire and sick new punishments for those Redwallers. He felt something snap in his index claw, but continued, driven on by rage, desperation, and lack panic.
His paw broke through to reveal a nighttime downpour. Cluny was underground. This place was his grave. He wedged his paw, left and right, to gradually create a larger gap.
Cluny rose when the hole was large enough for his snout. He allowed the rain to drop on his bruised tongue and took in his surroundings. He was in the southern fringe of Mossflower.
Cluny poked up his footpaws and dug out his torso. He crawled along by dragging one elbow (as the other had been shattered like glass). On and on, the Scourge crawled. He gritted his teeth and cried out each time he moved. Up ahead he saw a stream. When he reached it, Cluny could not drink, for half of his upper lip had been smashed into oblivion. He had no choice but to use his lower jaw as a shovel, scooping out water and throwing back his head so that gravity could take care of the rest.
Then he collapsed.
Cluny wandered the forest of darkness and death in his dream. Again he came upon the clearing with the bright red door. And beside it stood the mouse in armor. Strangely, Cluny was not afraid this time.
“Cluny the Scourge, I am Martin the Warrior. You have suffered and endured what none have experienced before. But your trials are far from over. You must travel north, and north, and north, to the Land of Ice and Snow.” Cluny crossed his arms and scowled indignantly. “Why should I do anything for you?”
“You will if you have any wish to see your sister again.” Before Cluny could inquire further, Martin shot forth his paw and commanded, “Awaken, Cluny the Scourge! Your destiny awaits you!”
Cluny came awake slowly. He was lying on hard wood. When he opened his eye, he saw a young fox grinding herbs in a stone bowl. He grimaced as he beheld the fox’s face- the right side was healthy, but the other was gray and hairless, no sign of life in it.
“Your knees and jaw were beyond repair,” said the fox as he noticed Cluny’s awakening. “The bone was irreparable dust. I had to excavate it and replace it with clay. Three claws on your right paw were smashed off, so I melted down your armor and forged artificial replacements for them. Your tail took the most time to mend; it had to be stitched and re-stitched over and over. But I think you’ll be pleased with how much I managed to save. After all, any other creature would have been instantly slain by that bell. You have my admiration.”
The fox bored into Cluny’s eyes impassively. “a season and a half.”
A season! Cluny couldn’t believe he had slept that long.
“Why do you help me?”
“The same reason you will go to the Land of Ice and Snow.”
Cluny walked north, the metallic claws on his footpaw clanking each time they came in contact with a rock. His mind still reeled with the fact he had slept for so long. He was even more bewildered by his dreams. Glae was dead. How could he ever see her again? It made no sense. But if there was any hope of reuniting with his sister, he would pursue it unto his dying day.
That night, Cluny wandered the strange forest again and found Martin in the clearing once again.
“Martin, I want answers. Why do you send me on this fool’s errand?”
“All in good time, Cluny. You must be patient. Now, listen. When you continue walking north, you will find a stream. Follow its current, and then the means to defend yourself will be revealed.”
Cluny found the stream, and followed its current. He discovered a massive waterfall, hundreds of gallons of water pounding the River Moss. He leaned against an elm tree as he waited for what Martin knew would happen, but he did not. Cluny saw a bright object fall down and drift toward him. It came as no surprise to him when the Glist drifted down to the banks below him. Cluny padded toward it, noting how throughout the seasons it remained free of rust and wear.
Cluny the Scourge belted on the weapon he had won from a duel with a Badger Lord and continued on his quest.
Cluny had arrived at the northern shore. He lay with his back to a rotten rowan tree on a low knoll. He observed a camp of sea otters that had made landfall to collect provisions. Their vessel was an ancient barge that had been used to transport huge amounts of cargo in bygone days. Seaweed and grime coated the bottom of the ship, and small gaps were visible in the rolled-up sails.
But it would serve the Scourge’s purpose.
In the dead of night, when all creatures slept, Cluny tip-pawed down to the beach and swam silently to the barge. As he climbed over the side, an otterguard jolted awake from the sound of claw on wood. He hefted a javelin and whipped his head from side to side. Unfortunately for him, he saw Cluny, dripping wet, standing right in front of him.
Cluny expertly threw the Glist, catching the guard deep in the chest. Behind him, the Glist’s spearpoint possessing a quivering heart on its end.
Cluny rested his chest against his arms, leaning on the rail. It was the morning after his theft. The otters were probably still asleep from their wine. Even if they weren’t, there was virtually no way to pursue him from this distance.
The only problem was provisions. He had only enough for a week. It would take all his sailing skills to make the trip alone in such a short time. And as he gradually drew north, the weather got colder and colder and the fog denser and denser. But he did not notice his loss of strength and weight he experienced due to his hunger.
No matter how much he tried, he could not snag a fish. The only ones he saw were in the jaws of seals. He concluded that they were down deep to avoid the cold.
The Scourge coughed bitterly as he ate the last of the stale oatcakes in the hold. His coughing intensified as he swallowed, and he stumbled on deck and clung feebly to the mast. Cluny coughed and shivered, cursing Martin and his own stupidity.
And then he noticed the Land of Ice and Snow.
The snow underneath Cluny’s paws crunched as he trekked forward, half-starved and freezing. The gale howled around him, frozen shards of ice propelled by the windstorm and burying themselves in Cluny’s hide. The Scourge shivered uncontrollably, totally defenseless against the forces of nature. Frozen mucus and froth plastered his snout. As he walked on and on, he lost his energy and will with each step. All he saw was the snow, the accursed, endless snow, never ending, never abating.
Cluny crumpled to the earth, digging feebly. He had to find something beside this monster of white. He felt something hard beneath the snow. Blue. This entire land was nothing more than a huge slate of ice!
Cluny’s will gave way, and he assumed a fetal position, welcoming death. He was barely aware of several dark forms descending on him.
Cluny awoke on a granite slate. A single lantern illuminated the wet, dark cave. When he attempted to rise, he found that he had been constrained. Suddenly, a leather dowel was uncomfortably stuffed in Cluny’s mouth.
Cluny groaned as a shard was extracted clumsily from his snout. He bit down on the dowel involuntarily. But as it continued, he kept silent so as not to appear weak. No poultices or herbs were added as the process continued.
Cluny felt everything.
He felt each shard of ice extracted from his frozen and starving flesh.
Cluny was unaware of the fact his surgery was over. He lay there, in a coat of sweat, waiting for the next sensation of agony. He was pleasantly surprised when his bonds were removed and a gourd of water was thrust toward his lolling tongue. The water was freezing and bits of frost covered the rim of the gourd, but he drunk greedily, water spilling down his chin. He could not see the creature that had given it to him, but it had its forelimb over Cluny’s shoulder and dragged him not so gently into a deeper part of the caverns. The creature’s flesh was insulated by half-fur, half-plumage. It had no claws that it could discern- in fact, it felt more like a flipper than anything else. As the lantern light fell on it, Cluny saw it was some sort of bird. Its beak was orange on top and black on bottom. Its fur/feathers were black all over his body and white on its belly. Instead of hopping as birds usually did, it waddled.
They stopped before an enormous cavern with a long crack that gave way to another chamber in the wall. One of the strange birds clanged a bell and chanted in a clicking, reedy voice, “Mashter of ishe and powah, Lord Ugarth, Emperah of da land of Ishe and Shnow!”
There was a deep rumbling and bits of debris clattered from the ceiling. Cluny’s breath caught as a humongous eye exposed itself in the crevice. The eye was the size of badgers, totally eclipsing the Scourge. The voce of Ugarth was deep and slow.
“Whooooooo haaaaaaaasssssssss ttttreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesssssssspaaaaaaaaaaasssssssssed oooooooooonnnnnn myyyyyyyy terrrrrriiiiitorrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyyyyyyy?”
The bird shoved Cluny forward, and another came forward with a dagger stuck between his flippers. He was forced to say his name.
“Cluuuuuuuuuunnnnnyyyyyyyyyyyyyy…Yoouuuuuu wwaaaaaaalllllllllkkkkkkkk myyyyyyyyyy eemmmmpppiiiiiiiiirrreeee wiiiiiiiiiiiiith aaaaaaaaa wwwwwwwwweeeeaaaapppppppoooooooon. Aaaaaaaaasssssssss pppppppppeeeeeeeeeeeeennnnnnnnnnnnaaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnncccceeeee, yyyyyyoooouuuuur bbbbbbbbblllllllllllaaaaaaaaaaadddddddddeeee wwiiiiiiiiiiiiiiilllllllllllll beeeeeeeeeeeeee yyyyyyyyyourrrrrrrrrrrrrrr ppppppppppppppeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeennnnnnnnnnnaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnncccccceeeeee.”
Cluny scowled as one of the birds tore the Glist from his belt and placed it before the crack. The huge eye of Ugarth widened with adoration. “Nnnnnnnnnnnnoooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww, ttttttttttttttttaaaaaaaaaaaaaaakkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkeeeeeeeeee ttttttttttthhhhhhhhhhhhiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiissssssssssss ssssssssssssssssssscccccccccccuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuummmmmmmmmmm ffffffffffffrrrrrrrrrrrooooooooooooomm mmmmmmmmmmmmyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy sssssssssssssssiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhttttttttttttttt, mmmmmmmmmmmmmmyyyyyyyyyyyyyy ppppppppppppeeeeeeeeeeennnnnnnnnnnnnnnngggggggggggggguuuuuuuuuuuuuuiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnnsssssssssssss!”
A penguin with an orange saber strapped to its side waddled forward and issued orders in a tongue Cluny could not understand. They dragged him to a side chamber and came upon an opening high on a cliff. The same penguin motioned to the land below, and Cluny was tossed down.
Cluny’s fall was cushioned by the layers upon layers of snow. Without it, he would have broken a bone, or worse. He did not rise for several minutes, still absorbing what he had witnessed. With an effort, he growled and pushed himself up. Ugarth, no matter whom or what he was, would curse the day he met Cluny the Scourge.
Cluny observed where he had fallen from: Ugarth’s fortress was an enormous glacier carved into the likeness of a mountain, with no visible entryway on the ground. Several towers protruded from the main body, which he had been only a few minutes ago.
Cluny felt less of a rat without a weapon. Even if it took him the rest of his days, he would slay Ugarth and retrieve the Glist.
And without further delay, Cluny breathed in his paws and walked north.
Martin again visited Cluny in his dreams again. “Martin, I have done as you requested. Now bring my sister, now!”
“You have done well, Cluny. But your quest is far from over. Now heed my words carefully.
“On the eve of next of day, Follow long-forgotten mate of fighting days.”
Cluny’s eyes snapped open as a stoat drew a dagger from its long cloak. He leaped into the air and brought his tail down on the would-be robber. The stoat launched at him, and they rolled around on the snowy night, scratching and biting. Cluny seized the dagger and held it to the chin of the stoat, lying on top of it. As they both sat shock-still, Cluny noticed there was something very familiar about him. A single brass earring hung from his left ear and intricate tattoos ran across his face and up from his leather-insulated arms and torso. A tingling ran down Cluny’s spine as recognition dawned on him.
“Whiptail?” asked Simu Cooper, bewildered. They both rose slowly, stunned, and stared at each other for at least an hour. Tears sprang unbidden to the face of the Scourge as he beheld his long-lost friend. Then without provocation, he began to laugh. He hugged Simu and rocked back and forth. “Where have you been, you old seadog!” he chuckled. Simu joined him in laughter.
“Well, lookit ye, Whiptail! Yer a twig! Where’s that big hulky rat that slayed the Badger Lord! What’re ye doin’ here?”
Cluny then proceeded to tell of the events that took place since their separation at Salamandastron, from his revenge at Sovlergash to the dream where Martin had appeared to him.
Simu sat still for several minutes. He drew forth a hawthorn and leaf pipe and lit it with flint. He took several puffs, watching the rings of smoke drift off into the sky, and then solemnly asked, “You ‘ave become powerful, Whiptail. More so than I ever did… Now fer my story.”
After he had left Salamandastron, Simu had gone south and found the ruins of a rat dwelling, with boats everywhere- big boats, small boats, galleys, and logboats. In several he had found maps of the sea, all differing except for a large white blot covering up the entire northwestern section. He had decided to investigate it and set sail in a single-mast merchant vessel and set sail to investigate. But when he arrived, he had been held at knifepoint in his sleep by a squad of penguins. They only let him go because the Hocain had been taken by Ugarth as penance.
“Ugarth!” Cluny cursed. “That scum took the Glist, too!”
Simu smiled sly. “Ye wanna git it back?” Cluny nodded. The stoat grabbed a heavy cloak from his haversack and flung it to the Scourge. “Well then, put that on and foller me. I’ll intraduce ye to th’ Mouseking.”
Cluny laughed aloud, half intentionally. “A Mouseking, you say? Well then, show me this so-called Mouseking!”
Cluny and Simu marched for three days. During that time, Simu showed Cluny how to melt cave ice for fresh drinking water, dig a gap in the ice, and light a fire to attract seafish. They did this only at night, when the sun had gone to sleep and the snow gale covered the smoke. Cluny relished the time he spent with Simu, after being separated from him for so long.
Simu held up a paw, signaling a halt. He drew a carving knife and tapped thrice on a perfectly forest-green stone embedded in the snow. For a moment, nothing happened, and then it toppled over and an otter faced them, standing in a narrow tunnel.
“Ah, Simu. Brought somebeast wit ye? Well, bring ‘im in- Loxas wants to hear yer report.”
The otter submerged underneath the tunnel and Simu followed him, and then by Cluny. The narrow, vertical tunnel side was lined with ladder steps.
Cluny stared open-mouthed as he exited the tunnel.
A cavern of stone and ice three times the size of Redwall had been carved out to in ancient times. Creatures of all origin and species bustled about- mice, hedgehogs, shrews, otters, moles, voles, and even the odd bat. But the thing that surprised him the most was that vermin were also here; Foxes, rats, stoats, ferrets, and weasels worked alongside gentlebeasts indiscriminately.
Simu clapped a paw on his friend’s shoulder. “Welcome, Whiptail, to th’ Frozen City!”
Huge doors creaked open as the fox/otterguard banged spears on shields and chanted, “Behold and bow before the Mouseking!”
Loxas the Mouseking had pure black fur and wielded an enormous broadsword twice his height. A long scar traced his eye to his whiskers. His emerald eyes radiated an air of command that none dared to match.
Simu made a twirling gesture with his paw and knelt before the Mouseking. Loxas had his eyes riveted on Cluny the Scourge, completely ignoring his guards. He slipped from his throne and gestured to his blade. “Do you see that weapon, rat? It was meant to be larger than its wielder, meant to be clumsy. All before me have devoted their lives to using it effectively.” Loxas flexed a massive and muscular forepaw. “It teaches discipline- something I believe you lack.”
Cluny scowled at the Mouseking and said, “That is what you think. But enough of this. Tell me of the situation in this land.” Loxas sighed and his eyes darted around the chamber, searching for how to best explain. He stopped abruptly and motioned to an oak door at the corner. “You wouldn’t understand if I told you- so I must show you.”
A foxguard unbuckled huge bolts on the door, and two otters had to help him because of the massive weight. The inside of the tunnel behind the door was full of cobwebs and the musky air hit Cluny like an oceanwave.
They strolled in, and Cluny noticed that even heavier doors were inside, dotting the tunnel on either side of him.
Loxas halted and banged his broadsword on the iron bars of one of the doors.
A squirrel leapt at the Mouseking, froth and foam spraying from his mouth. It made an unearthly shriek as the bars blocked it. The squirrel groped at Simu and snarled and screeched, making the fur on Cluny’s neck rise. He knew what this was through ancient stories and tales, but they were thousands of years back so much that all creatures scoffed at their validity.
The Disease of Nightmares.
Loxas frowned at the humbled Scourge and had to shout to be heard over the infected squirrel. “In addition to the penguins, Ugarth uses the rabid as commandoes and shock troops. That he uses these abominations for such atrocious acts is beyond all definitions of evil. If he is allowed to do this, a mistake will be made, and the Infected Age will begin all over again.”
“Only the penguins could tolerate this; all others, even vermin, were disgusted by Ugarth. All creatures knew of this place, this relic. Except Ugarth. We have hidden here for generations, using guerilla tactics and assassination to weaken his forces… but we could use your help.”
Cluny exited the tunnel at the head of the procession. When they exited, he asked Simu, “This is what you have been doing here?” Simu nodded. “So what is Ugarth?” Ugarth? Ugarth’s Ugarth, a massive polar bear. Nobeast knows how old he really is, but older than you or me, that’s for sure. Simu, show him his lodgings.”
Simu decided to give Cluny a tour of the Frozen City. He showed all of its entrance/escape tunnels, its larders, and various fruit and vegetable patches.
Simu stopped at a rock ledge at a corner with stools dotted on one side of it. Behind it, the otter who had brought them in was wiping the inside of a clay cup. He waved cheerily at them.
“Ho there, mates! Fancy a drink of strawberry cordial or honeyed wine?”
Simu clasped paws with the otter bartender. “Ah, Morlan, ye old waterdog! I’ll take a flagon of September ale, an’ some elderberry wine with scones fer me mate.”
Cluny wolfed down the scones and slopped the wine, barely making a dent in his perilously deflated stomach, ignorant of the look of disgust on Morlan’s face. He turned to the sound of shouting and chairs being thrown off their legs.
A rat and an ermine grappled over a wooden cask, kicking at each other and tugging on the beer in both their paws.
Cluny shot out and grabbed the ermine around the neck with his tail, and lifted the rat bodily into the air by his nose, squealing, tears beading down his eyes. Cluny pointed a claw to the ermine, who was a female with a nosering and skirt of penguin feathers. Cluny pointed a claw to her.
The ermine frowned and explained, “Thy name be Commander Quel the Huntress. The rat attempted to swipe my beverage from under thy nose, but was too slow to go unnoticed.”
“Don’ttrustershecan’tbetrustedshe’slyin’YOWCH!” Cluny tightened his grip on the rat’s nose.
Quel pried away Cluny’s tail and whacked the rat on the rump. She uncorked her cask and drunk deeply, wiping a paw across her dyed-blue lips.
An incredibly fat bumblebee whizzed out from the pouches on Qual’s skirt and landed on her shoulder.
“Come, Bizzib,” she breathed, gently stroking its fuzzy back. Bizzib spun around her head rapidly as she left.
On the third day of his stay, a foxguard came to Cluny and Simu’s quarters with summons from Loxas.
Cluny had acquired a razor-thin cutlass half the length of the Glist. It worked well enough. He kept his paw on its pommel the entire trip to Loxas’ throne. Simu had a simple makeshift lance.
Loxas had two stone tablets in his paws, one which he handed to Cluny. “If you want to stay in my City, you have to work. You’ll find the trail of a penguin supply caravan on that tablet. Both of you will slay the guards and burn whatever you can’t carry on your backs. Are my orders clear?”
Simu answered for them both: “Yessir!”
“Good. You can go.”
Simu was too busy to notice the look that passed as Cluny and Quel passed each other through the stone doors.
Cluny kneeled on a high snow bank, covered head to tail in camouflaged leather and white plant dyes plastered on his face. Simu was garbed the same, fitting ice shards to the end of several arrows.
The penguin caravan below was nothing more than two or three carts being pulled by whatever penguin had been found asleep last the previous morn. A strap was fixed at the front to strap around the unfortunate’s waist.
Cluny waited until the last guard had fallen asleep before he held up a fist. Simu whipped out a bow and took aim, assassinating the guards facing their way.
The other penguins drew their slings as the squawks of their comrades filled the air. Cluny was among them with a single bound. He decapitated two with a single slash, leapt over the cart, and stabbed the last in its shoulder. It screeched as the Scourge tore off its entire beak with little effort.
Simu rummaged through the meager supplies of the cart and produced a pear to the both of them. They ate in silence, stuffing their haversacks near to the brim with fruit.
After their task was done, they stepped back to finish the job. Simu produced his pipe, drew out a small sliver of bark and lit it by his lancepoint. After he had taken two puffs, he casually flicked the bark to the cart, sending the dry old thing up in flames. Without comment, they went to return to the Frozen City.
Cluny strolled across the beach of Sovlergash, awaiting whatever instructions Martin may have. He cast his gaze over the green waters before him and breathed in deeply.
He did not need to open his eyes to know Martin was padding towards him, without armor.
“Martin.” Cluny’s eye snapped open. “What now?”
The Warrior chuckled. “Why, whatever do you mean?”
“What must I do now? Slay Ugarth? Overthrow Loxas? Tell me.”
Martin clasped a pawful of sand, staring at it as it fell through from between his claws. “Tell me about your sister.”
The question surprised Cluny, bringing back a flood of memories.
“Well… she wasn’t the strongest of beasts. Not on the outside, anyway. But she had an aura of kindness and peace that affected all around her. But as I grew older, the slaves of Sovlergash avoided her, because of me.”
Cluny shook his head, a single tear rolling down his crooked whiskers. “I was a burden unto her dying day… which I am responsible for.”
“You didn’t kill her. Zorkaan did.”
“But he killed her because of me! I mocked him! I insulted him! He would have left her alone if I had submitted!”
“And what if you did? Glae and all others would have lost all respect for you. She would see you as just a weak-willed lackey of Zorkaan, without a scrap of pride or independence.”
“She would be ashamed of me,” Cluny breathed. “She would cease to see me as her brother- only vermin.”
He didn’t realize that the entire time they had spoken, they had not taken their eyes off the sea. When Cluny turned his head, Martin was in full regalia again.
“Now then, if you’ll excuse me, I have business to attend to.”
Cluny was unaware that at that time, Slagar the Cruel was approaching Redwall Abbey.
And then Cluny awoke. He rose from the bottom of the stone bunk-bed and went to an indention in the ice walls, from which was a sink. He pulled on a knob at the side, and splashed cold water on his face. He retrieved a broken mirror and stared at his face.
He did not recognize himself.
His single eye had not the same dangerous gleam it did in his youth. The clay plates in his jaw gave him a disproportionate visage. He banged his fist on the ice in front of him.
Redwall had taken everything from him. Its creatures were spoiled, ignorant, and weak! What gave them the right!? Why should they have peace when all he has ever known is pain and loss!
Simu shot bolt upright, heavy quilts shed as he held a dagger. He glanced around, and saw Cluny.
The sound of Cluny’s only friend brought him back to reality. He stared at the wide crack he had left in the stink.
Redwall may have taken much from him, but he had gained two things: humility and strength. The artificial bones in his shoulder had given him an advanced punch.
“I’m fine, Simu… go back to sleep.”
Simu looked uncertain for a moment, then tucked in and went to sleep.
Simu had gone away on a four-day reconnaissance. During that time, he had gone around, asking about Loxas. How had he risen to power? Did he have any family?
He ate with an elderly female squirrel in Morlan’s Tavern. Her table manners were atrocious! She stuffed creamed plum and chestnuts down her wrinkly gob. Cluny’s patience was evaporating at a rapid pace, but he did his best to maintain his temper, nibbling on a scone laced with honey. She wiped a paw across her sticky lips and enquired, “So, ye wants to ‘ear about the ol’ Mouseyking, do ye? Ah, ‘tis a tale of such grief on a mag’tude ye wouldn’t believe.”
“I’m used to pain,” Cluny growled.
The squirrel giggled through a toothless grin. “Heeheeheehee! Well, if’n that’s the case, let’s begin.”
“Loxas hailed from a place known as Southsward, with only the clothes on his back, the tail on his rump, and a lovely little mousemaid, Tulip. She was the gentlest of creatures, much like your own sister. Ah, stow it, Scourge- I knows more’n I let others be aware of. This was a time before Ugarth came to power, you understand. He lived here alone in this place with her, before the Great Migration. Well, one day, she went down to the lowest parts of this city’s catacombs. She came back screeching, with a bite mark never before seen on her footpaws. Methinks it goes without sayn’ that none have gone down there since. Before her father could ask her where it came from, she went into a deep sleep.”
“She was the source,” Cluny breathed.
“Aye, she was. When she came awake, she was infected. She gave Loxas his scar before running off into the world, screeching. Ugarth and his penguins found her and used her as a catalyst to create their rabid army. All creatures realized the threat and retreated into this relic. Loxas declared himself the Mouseking and has waged a war on Ugarth e’er since.”
Cluny reverently rose from the table and bowed his head to the elder. “You have been most helpful, old one- er, marm.”
“Think nothing of it, Whippytail. Heeheeheeheehee!”
Something was wrong. Simu had been gone over a week. Cluny had demanded an audience with Loxas several times, always told he was busy. He was fast losing patience. He was in his quarters, pondering the wisdom of forcibly entering the Mouseking’s throne room. Then a knock came at the door.
“Enter,” Cluny called.
A young mole entered, his tattered and oversized jerkin rolling across the floor. He tugged his snout politely. “Zurr Cluny, ee Mouseykinger be a-summumumin’ yurr.”
“Is he in his throne room now?”
“Burr aye, zurr. An’ between you’n oi, yon Mouseykinger be gurt sad.”
A dagger of anxiety rose in the Scourge. He thanked the mole and allowed himself to be escorted to the throne room.
Loxas did indeed look sad. But more than sorrow, Cluny detected anger.
“We have a problem,” said he. “I sent Simu on an important mission, and he has yet to return.”
“I thought he was on a simple reconnaissance mission.”
Loxas chuckled, “And you believed it? It was a simple ruse. He was really sent to Glacierdom; Ugarth’s lair. He was supposed to had disguised himself as an infected, and the penguins take him in. After that, he would have escaped and opened the way for my warriors to storm in.”
“If it was that simple, then why haven’t you tried this before?”
Loxas smiled grimly. “Because no one else was willing to plaster real blood on their muzzle.”
Cluny ran. He ran as he had never run in his life. Simu’s life may depend on it. On and on he ran, unaware of the howling ice around him at night, for he did not rest the entire three days.
He came upon Glacierdom by midday. He entered through a back entrance to the cellars. He crept past rows and rows of wine racks, some of the vintages even older than himself.
He stole through huge dirt and stone passages, paw on cutlass hilt. As he turned on a curve, a penguin squawked as they bumped into each other. Cluny grabbed the bird by its throat, silencing it. The penguin gargled, “Mershy… Mershy, pleesh!”
Cluny ran it through and whispered in its ear, “You ask for mercy when your entire life you have served a heartless beast who used these monstrosities for his own purposes. You have lived the life of a coward and a wicked scumbeaked, frogwalloping lackey. Now learn to die as a soldier!”
Cluny used his cutlass point to pick the lock on Simu’s cell after he had extracted its location from a penguin. Before slaying him, of course. Cluny unlocked the door, and went in.
Simu was chained against the walls by his forepaws, his back to the entrance. Cluny grimaced at the horrendous whipping scars. Simu’s head jerked at Cluny’s footsteps. “Ah, ye waddlin’ paw-lickin’ slimesuckers! Ye can beat me all ye want, but I’m not gorra give ye any- glmph!” Cluny put a paw across Simu’s muzzle.
“Simu, be silent, or I will smack your rump with an ice-cold paddle. Are we clear?”
Simu Cooper chuckled, “Well, o’ course we are, Mr. Badgerslayer, as long as ye don’t ‘it me.”
A squawk came from behind Cluny. Before he could turn around, a penguin ran off screeching, “Eshcape! Eshcape! Da Prishonah ish eshcaping!”
Cluny quickly unlocked Simu’s bonds, saying, “We need to get out of here. Loxas is waiting for us. Can you move?”
“Aye, matey,” Simu barked, gouging at the soft ice walls and prying loose the chains. He swung them experimentally and winked at Cluny.
They dashed to the halls, slaying any they came across. Ugarth’s enormous roars rebounded through the ancient glacier.
Ddddddddoooooooooooooo nnnnnnnnnnnnooooooooooooottttttttttttttt lllllllllllllllllllllleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeetttttttttttttttttttt tttttttttttttthhhhhhhhhhheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeemmmmmmmmmm eeeeeeeeeesssssssssssssssscccccccccccccaaaaaaaaapppppppppeeeeeeeeeee!”
The friends came upon a dead end. Cluny cursed loudly and pounded against the wall. A small crack appeared in the ice. He slashed with his cutlass and smashed with its grip, and Simu wrapped the chains around his paws and used them as gauntlets, holding off the penguin horde.
The wall gave way. Cluny and Simu bounded out and shouted in unison, “Now!”
Creatures in heavy camouflage gear rose from their belly-flat positions and released a volley of fire arrows into the gap after Cluny and Simu had ducked. Loxas came up to them in light chain mail armor with his gigantic broadsword gripped tightly in both paws.
The army surged forward, otters and foxes and squirrels and weasels and hedgehogs and rats forcing themselves into the crevice, slaying with shaft, stone and blade.
And ahead of them, Cluny, Simu and Loxas ran ahead of the rest.
They made their way down to the darkest chambers of Glacierdom. It was Simu who had discovered the armory and came back with a torch, and the Glist and the Hocain.
And they went on, intent on destroying Ugarth, the polar bear Emperor.
“Don’t touch that!” screamed Loxas as Cluny reached for a cell containing over fivescore of creatures. They had gone down for over an hour when they had reached an iron door carved into the wall of the passageway.
But the Mouseking’s own alarmed voice reached those in the cell. They leapt at the door, banging and shrieking like those gone mad, which was not far from the truth.
Wordlessly, the trio sped off, with the unearthly howls of the rabid and the crash of the door hard in their ears. They came upon a dead end with an old oaken which obviously had not been used in many seasons. There was another as they went through that one, in slightly better shape. They passed through at least three, each one better than the last. The last was a heavy steel affair, which they ran past and closed the door and closed a huge padlock, blocking the pursuing rabid horde.
Then they turned around.
And there was Ugarth.
His perfectly white coat reflected in the cavern’s torch lit pools of melted ice. His lower body was concealed in a deep hole due to a long-ago injury that left him as a gimp. But his upper torso was colossal! He was three times the size of Redwall! His huge blunt claws and curved fangs sent a shiver down Cluny’s spine.
Ugarth roared and slashed down at the trio. Cluny hauled on the others and back stepped. Ugarth’s claws sunk into the ice floor. Each warrior jumped forward and sunk their blades through the nail and flesh.
Ugarth bellowed and thrust his other claws at them. Cluny jumped up on his paw and dragged the Glist in his Ugarth’s arm as he ran up to the gargantuan shoulder. Ugarth snapped at Cluny, who stabbed at his exposed gums.
Ugarth’s other paw grabbed Cluny around the midriff and lifted him into the air. Simu and Loxas hacked at Ugarth’s belly, but the wounds were no more than scratches to one of his size.
Cluny felt the strength of Ugarth’s grip like a vise. Long claws grazed his back as Ugarth applied more pressure. He was certain he was going to die when an idea came to him.
“Hide!” he bellowed to Simu and Loxas.
The world seemed to slow down as Cluny tossed the Glist like a boomerang at the iron door which collapsed under the unbreakable steel. The rabid thundered in and threw themselves on Ugarth, tearing and biting, throwing bits of flesh aside as they sought organs and muscle. Ugarth screeched (A sound Cluny was not aware bears could make) in pain and horror of the realization of who was killing him. He swiped at the monsters, spraying them all over the pace but there was just too many. They climbed up to his muzzle and tore at his wet nose. Cluny saw a group pull out his eye and set upon like a russet apple. He even saw a hedgehog that had burrowed so deep into Ugarth that only his footpaws were visible.
Cluny felt no pity for the Emperor. He was sharing the fate of his enemies, experiencing their pain. It was all he deserved.
He pried himself from the weakening grip of Ugarth and jumped down, using the rabid’s heads as stepping stones. He retrieved the Glist and joined Loxas and Simu on a narrow spire that was so narrow, they clung at its peak, slashing down at the advancing infected. Cluny carved out a path and beckoned for them to follow. They bounded to him wordlessly and ran through the tunnel, with at least fourteen rabid hard on their tails.
The once great penguin horde of Ugarth lay sprayed out across the passageways with Loxas’ army throwing them out into the snow. Loxas came shrieking, “Run! The rabid are coming!”
All activity ceased as the creatures trundled out of the crevice and sprinted back to the Frozen City. Only Cluny, Simu and Loxas remained behind. “Check yourselves for bites,” Loxas bellowed. Cluny looked himself over and found no blood, at least not his. Then he came across his tail; he felt a small damp area that had mysteriously stopped bleeding. He glanced over the others and saw a look of horror flee from Loxas.
“Well, mates, I’m clean,” Simu chuckled. “How’s about yew?”
“Oh, we’re fine, Simu,” Cluny said, winking at Loxas. “Aren’t we, Sire?”
“Yes, yes, everything in order,” Loxas lied. “Say, what’s that?”
Simu turned around, and entered total darkness. Cluny released his viselike grip on the back of Simu’s neck and chucked him outside. He then gestured at the high support beams and immediately began hacking at them, as did Loxas.
The rabid horde was just about to come upon them when the support beam fractured, and the whole of Glacierdom fell upon all.
Thus ended the reign of Loxas the Mouseking and the vengeful rampage of Cluny the Scourge.
Cluny strided through the Dark Forest of his dreams, only he knew this was no dream; he was dead. He passed under the same dead trees, walked over the same gray grass, and found himself in the same wide clearing with the bright red door. He felt an immense power on the other side and instinctively grabbed the knob. A paw enveloped his own as he tried to open it.
“You can’t go in there,” said Martin.
“Because you don’t deserve to.”
And without another word, he led Cluny by the paw into the forest past the clearing.
Cluny was unaware of the passage of time as they kept up their trot until they came upon a high cliff that smelled of the sea, but the only thing below was an immense dark abyss.
“What now?” he enquired.
And Martin stepped back and gave Cluny a shove with his footpaw, sending him down.
He fell forever, it seemed, as if he would fall forever. A heavy fog rolled around him and before his senses could register it, he landed face-up in water.
For several minutes he simply floated under, unconcerned with breathing. The water seemed relaxing, almost… healing.
And then something amazing happened.
He opened his eyes.
Somehow, this strange water truly was healing him, even restoring his lost eye. His limbs became lighter, his joints softer. He wriggled in this water, and emerged.
He stared off across a distant sea, with the setting sun giving the seawater around him sparked. He turned and saw a tropical paradise, with a beach and jungle clearly visible, palm trees swaying with the gentle wind.
And then he saw Glae.
She looked even more beautiful than he ever remembered, with a long, clean white gown contrasting with the jungle behind her, a dark green feather stuffed behind her ear.
“Whiptail, Whiiiiiptaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiilllllllll!” she sang out joyously.
Whiptail stood shock still, and then laughed out loud with joy, tears mingling with the sea. He launched himself at the beach, joy like he never thought possible pumping through his veins. His heart hammered even in the seawater.
When he made land, brother and sister nearly collided with each other. Whiptail lifted Glae into the air by her hips and swung her around bodily, both of their laughs joined. He lowered her and hugged her fiercely, now understanding the why those at Redwall loved each other so. He silently swore that he would never harm a decent creature again.
When they separated, Glae was smiling so widely, Whiptail truly half-expected the oceans and trees to bow before her and name her their Queen. As she deserved, of course.
Martin approached from the dense jungles, his armor and sword forgotten as he landed a paw about Whiptail’s shoulder.
"I knew from the day you were born what you would become. And I knew how you would change. You've done well. You have done as I wanted- you have overridden your instincts. Creatures will remember your name forever for your selfless act and remember you not as Warlord, but as Hero.”
Cluny laughed aloud, “That was it?”
Martin winked. “More of less.”
The time Whiptail spent on the island was the happiest he had ever known. By day, they would explore the jungle and in the afternoon gaze at the sunset at midday.
It was on one such occasion that they sat atop a tall rock, content to simply be with each other’s company. He gazed down at their joined paws, happier than a crow surrounded by roasted beef.
Then something odd happened- his paw appeared to blur. It was almost as if his vision had unfocused and appeared to double all objects.
It happened again. Thrice. He leapt up and stared at his paw and it blurred and appeared to be in four pieces. Martin raced across the beach. He arrived out of breath and halted before Whiptail, Glae hanging worriedly on his arm.
“Something’s happening,” Martin gasped. “I’ve been checking in on your friend, and apparently when Glacierdom collapsed, you were half in and half out of the crevice you created. You didn’t receive the full force of it, unlike Loxas.Wh… What are you saying?” Whiptail stammered.
“You’re not dead.”
Whiptail stood shock still, then distractedly shook his head. “If… If that’s true, then where will I go?”
Whiptail’s paw dissipated in the wind like sand, and then up to his shoulders.
Just as his jaw began to evaporate, Glae took the feather from her ear and pressed it in Whiptail’s unphased paw.
“Remember me and return,” she whispered, and held his knuckles to her brow.
And then he was gone.
“Glae!” Cluny roared and shot up from his cot in the Frozen City Infirmary. Simu’s paw pushed him down easily, tears in the stoat’s eyes. “Easy messmate, ye took a beatin’ back there. How d’ye feel?”
Cluny inspected himself; his head was covered in bandages, and a sling suspended his left arm. His eye was gone again; he was living.
“How long have I slept?” Cluny asked.
“At least a week. Healers were amazed at yer recovery.”
A tiny leveret came by Simu’s side and presented him with a piece of parchment and scurried away. Simu stared at it intently with a frown. He then asked Cluny in a broad grin, “Can yew read?”
Cluny chuckled and placed a paw on Simu’s cheek. “Indeed I can, friend. Let me see.”
Simu flipped the parchment around. On it were the words: All creatures. Throne room noon. Crowning of the Erminequeen, Quel.
Cluny groaned in mock severity, “Oh dear, we better get out of here, quick!”
Simu hefted a haversack onto Cluny’s lap. “No need for that- provisions ready t’go. Queen figgered ye’d want t’get goin’ as soon as ye were able. Ready?”
Simu Cooper and Cluny the Scourge halted at the end of the Land of Ice and Snow, where the ship Cluny had stolen from the sea otters still at anchor. He looked to Simu, who was smiling broadly at his friend.
“Well? What is it, Simu?”
"I dunno. Ye jus’ seem... different. When we first met, ye were a cruel and savage killer, sorry to say. Now lookit yew- Savior and Hero of the Land of Ice and Snow. Ye’ve changed, Whiptail… all fer th’ better.”
Cluny hefted his haversack and pulled the anchor line taut toward him and started to crawl towards the ship on it. “I’ve come up with a name for this vessel. Can you guess it?”
Simu lifted his tattooed face up to the sky and roared out proudly, “Glaaaaaaaaaaaaaeeeeeeee!!”