I’m gonna begin at the beginning. Let’s put the credit where the credit belongs. I’d like to thank my brother for supporting my opinion that Martin should have told Gonff about Noonvale, my mom and dad for supplying me with a computer to write it on, and my grandma for giving us a reason for a road trip so I had so much time to write it.
Random: this was my first Redwall fanfiction idea.
I’m dedicating this to Lyth Streambattle. I don’t know if you meant to tell me what you did, Lyth, but I think that now I understand you better. I can only hope that one day you will read this and discover that though you have lost, and will lose again, you can also gain.
And as for the rest of you, no I’m not telling you what that was all about, so don’t bother asking.
As always, this is copywrited, the canon characters, events, places, and things belong to Brian Jacques, and I take full responsibility for the made-up ones.
Now, without further ado, this is my latest fanfiction. On my user page, I call it Ruined Life, but I sorta changed the name.
“Matthias, what are you doing in all these musty old records?”
Matthias leapt up, exclaiming, “Oh! Father Abbot! I was looking for records of my family, who they were, and so forth, and records of Martin the Warrior. I still never get tired of hearing about the Warrior Mouse’s exploits.”
Abbot Mordalfus, or Alf, as he preferred to be called, came over to the young, newly-appointed Abbey Warrior and picked up a scroll. “What say I help you? I would like to hear about that myself. C’mon, keep up!”
“Look, Abbot Alf! Look at this!” Matthias held up a scroll entitled, ‘’The Last Quest of Martin the Warrior’’.
The Abbot took the scroll and examined it closely, opening it and reading the first few words. “This is amazing. According to our official records, Martin never went on another quest after he went to the North Shores to discover the fate of his father. But this isn’t about that. Listen to this;
- ”’Tis said his father’s fate drove Martin from the warrior’s way,
- “Or the fate of his beloved, at least, that is what some say.
- “But I know the truth, and here will tell, what really changed his thought;
- “And why he hid his wondrous sword, left to be forgot.”
Matthias was awestruck. “Why wouldn’t they tell the truth in the records?”
“Perhaps it tells us in this tale,” commented Mordalfus. “We can only read it to find out.” He sat down and unrolled the scroll a little bit. “We know the tale of Martin the Warrior, before he arrived in Mossflower and freed us from the reign of Kotir…”
Duck, slash, jump, dodge, rerteat, charge, slash, jump, dodge... Martin continued the routine, his blade hissing like a snake every time he swung it. As he felt himself beginning to tire, he knew he had to finish the fight or face defeat. Now came the most difficult part. As he backed away, lowering his blade, his opponent seemed to think he was surrendering. But suddenly, he dashed forward, planting his sword in the dirt, and did a double flip over the rat’s head and landed behind him. He saw his opponent reel around as the warrior mouse cleanly disarmed him.
Martin came back to reality when he heard applauding behind him. He turned to see his best friend, Gonff the Mousethief, and three hares.
“I say, matey, that was fantastic!”
“Not a single mistake, wot?”
“What an idea!”
“Our Martin never makes mistakes!”
Martin smiled at his friends. “Harebell, Honeydew, and Willow. You’re just a few flatterers. Save it for Trubbs and Co. Why did you come out here anyway? I’m sure it wasn’t to stand there and compliment me for swinging a sword around at nothing for a while.”
Gonff laughed, “We came to warn you that dinner is starting and if you don’t hurry up before Trubbs and Co. and Beau get there, it will be all gone.”
Martin sheathed his sword and started back to the Abbey. “No hungry hare’s eatin’ my dinner! C’mon!”
The two mice and three hares walked back to their home, Redwall Abbey.
“Wot are we doin’ so far south, is wot I wanna know!”
“Yeah! That blasted stoat hired us to get prisoners from his enemies, not the south woods!”
“Because, ya maggots, it’s warm down this way! Would ya rather be freezin’ yer tail off in da north, tryin’ ta capture those mices, or take easy meat down ‘ere? I don’t think our friend stoaty could tell the difference if we dragged a couple south mice at ‘im instead o’ dose warriors. Now, any more whining?”
The band of foxes looked at their leader, saying nothing. Rotbreath nodded in a businesslike manner and shouted, “Good! Now, everyone up and move out! We’s getting ourselves some easy meat!”
The band packed up their motley belongings and began to move off. The leader’s mate strolled up to him. “So,” she commented off-handedly, “you think you’re doing a fine job of fooling our client by getting southern mice. Did it ever occur to you that he may have seen them close up once? We know nothing about his past, and he may even have a rivalry. In which case it would be extremely stupid to try to fool him.”
Her husband reeled on her. “You think you’s so smart, eh? I been doin’ this before you were past tryin’ ta imitate yer brother! Ha! Lookit ‘im now, dead meat! I know what I’s doin’. If they’re beat up an’ bloodied enough, ya can’t tell one mouse from anudder. By the time he knows it ain’t what ‘e wants, we’ll be long gone. Don’t fret yer ‘ead.”
Rotbreath had touched a special soft spot for his wife. Crosstpaw grabbed his collar and pulled him close, hissing, “I never tried to imitate the fool! Maybe he’s dead, but I’ll avenge him someday. Aye, I remember the face that killed him like I saw it yesterday. Someday I’ll see it again, and then it will drown in its own blood! But as for your plan, you actually think he’ll let us go until he knows he has the ones he wants? Idjit!” She stalked off, too frustrated to argue.
Rotbreath was about to call something rather nasty after her, when a younger fox called Banty ran up and whispered in his ear, “Chief, there’s a mouse an’ a few rabbets up ahead!”
The fox chief smiled. Finally, fruit was coming from his plan! “Take four archers and follow them. See where they’re going, and if you can do it without the others noticing, try to pick one off,” he instructed the soldier.
Banty ran back to the group of three he had been a part of. He hadn’t even seen the quarry, but the others had feared their chief’s temper, so they had elected an annoying young one to tell him. They were furious when they discovered that he would have the honor of following the creatures. The elders calmed down a bit when the younger fox asked them to go with him, but were still angry.
Crosstpaw followed at her own pace behind the fox band. They were headed farther south, and had turned their course a little east as well. She was still simmering in her anger when she though she heard something behind her. She ducked into the bushes, and just in time. No sooner had she stopped moving than a mouse came into view. He was shouting at the top of his lungs, “Gonff! That was not funny, Gonff, trying to get me lost!” Crosstpaw cast a weather eye over the magnificent sword at his side, and as she looked up again, the mouse turned so that she saw him from a completely different angle. With a low gasp, she began unwinding the sling from around her wrist as she felt around on the ground for a pebble.
Martin turned around in a circle in the middle of the clearing. Maybe Gonff’s plan to get him lost had worked. No matter, he could track. But something didn’t feel right… something besides the fact that he was lost in the woods. On instinct, he turned around and drew his sword, but too late. By the time he saw the female fox boldly standing up and whirling a sling, the stone had already hit him on the head.
Crosstpaw ran forward to the unconscious mouse, hoping she hadn’t hit him too hard. His head was bleeding profusely, but she soon analyzed that he was still breathing and his pulse was fairly regular. She ripped a strip off his habit and bandaged the wound so he wouldn’t die of blood loss, as she whistled like a chickadee. Soon after, two foxes appeared from the direction the entire band had gone.
“Has Rotbreath set up camp yet? Yes? Good. Tie this mouse up and take him back to camp.”
The foxes nodded and complied. Crosstpaw picked up Martin’s sword from the ground where it had fallen. “Interesting,” she murmured as she examined it. She placed it in her belt and ran off toward the camp.
Banty was not having fun with his four companions. It continually surprised him how the mouse and two hares didn’t hear them, but they didn’t. The truth of the matter was that they were making enough noise themselves, but the young fox didn’t know it. All he knew was that the other foxes were bullies, and had threatened him multiple times.
“Look guys, they’re headed for that big red building. Maybe we should…”
“Do what I say? Excellent idea, young un’! I couldn’t have thought of a better meself. Anyone to disobey dies!”
Gonff looked around. “Did you hear that, mateys? It sounded like a… threat.”
Harebell laughed. “Hahahahaha! Oh, Gonff, it’s just Martin, trying to scare us! Don’t pay him any mind.”
Gonff shook his head as he knocked on the wallgate. “Open up, it’s me, Gonff!” As the door was opened, the mousethief turned to the woods. “C’mon, Martin! Dinner’s waiting!” There was no answer. Willow shook her head.
“He’s still playing games. He’ll come in when he’s hungry enough.”
Gonff watched the forest, not quite convinced. Columbine, who had opened the gate, came up behind him and looked over his shoulder. “He’s been out for a few days before, Gonff,” she reassured him. “Sometimes he just needs to be alone.”
Gonff nodded silently and followed the three hares into the Abbey. Columbine paused a moment, looking back. She was about to follow her husband into the safety of the walls when a paw went over her mouth and stifled the airflow. A voice whispered in her ear,
“Now, pretty, we can do this the easy way, or the hard way. You can not struggle, not scream, not put up a problem, and we can just take you along nicely to our camp, or you can struggle, scream, be a problem, and we can knock you unconscious and give you a reason to scream. Which is it?”
Columbine held still and quiet, then muttered around the stifling paw, “I won’t stuggle.”
Banty, for it was he, understood it perfectly. He released his hold on her mouth, though he kept her arms pinned behind her back, and as the others came out of hiding he marched her in the direction of their camp.
Martin came back to reality slowly and reluctantly. He had a throbbing headache, and for some reason he couldn’t see. Through sense of touch, though, he determined that he was bound to a tree by the ankles, legs, waist, stomach, chest, and neck, with his arms pinned to his sides. A gag was in his mouth, but above that he could determine little. He forced his eyes open only to see a rough cloth pattern. So he was blindfolded too. Last of all, Martin felt around on his hip with his left paw. He determined that his sword was gone, but the sheath was still there.
A voice interrupted his thoughts as he finished analyzing his position. “Hey, the pris’ner’s awake! ‘E’s movin’!”
Another voice cut in, “Ya know, dat’n looks jus’ like one o’ da ones we’s s’posed ta get in da north. I think I’ll use ‘im.”
“Oh, no you don’t!” cried another voice, female this time. “He’s mine! I found him, and caught him myself! And I have plans for him.” The voice was coming closer, and before he knew it the blindfold had been ripped off. The light flooded into his eyes and he blinked, wondering why something in the way she’d said “plans” unnerved him. When the warrior’s eyes adjusted, he saw standing in front of him the female fox who had knocked him unconscious. She looked vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t place her. Her mate’s voice interrupted her thoughts.
“Fine, Crosstpaw, I won’t bargain ‘im, but I need ‘im ta get inside tha’ red place!”
“Really? What do I get out of it? I ain’t sharin’ for nothing, you know, Rotbreath.”
“Heh. Whaddaya want?”
“I want you to stop cheating at these deals! I want you to get the creature you promised to get, not some bloody decoy!”
‘’’(Author’s note: The “bloody” is meant as an adjective to describe the decoy as being covered in blood, not a swear word.)’’’
“I said, ‘Done.’ Idjit.”
Crosstpaw spat on her paw and extended it to her mate. “Done.”
Rotbreath did likewise, then turned to Martin. He ripped the gag off and hissed, “Here’s da plan, mousey…”
Martin glared balefully at him. “Save your breath, vermin. I would die before I helped any creature with evil intent in any way.”
Much to the warrior’s surprise, Rotbreath simply walked away, commenting off-handedly, “Oh. I guess we’s gonna have ta move on to Plan B, then. Banty, get dat mousemaid you finded.”
Banty grinned triumphantly as he pushed Columbine into Martin’s view. Martin paused in shock, wondering what the fox had in mind. He soon found out when the sadistic creature turned on the mousemaid.
“How’d ya like a demonstration of me torturin’ skill? I cin use yer useless little friend here. Ya know, I cin keep a creature alive for days after skinnin’ ‘im, an’ when ‘e starts ta die I chop his body ta pieces, keepin’ ‘im alive through the whole process, ‘till I…”
Columbine shut her ears to the list of disgusting, brutal, and nightmarish torments. When Rotbreath finished up with “An’ it’ll ‘appen to ‘im if ya don’t get me inside yer fancy fort,” she looked up to see Martin looking sadly at her. He shook his head a little, as if to say “No, don’t do it,” but then she looked at Rotbreath and saw that he meant every word he said. “Fine. I’ll do it, just don’t hurt him or anyone else.”
Rotbreath laughed. “Anyone else? You ain’t in da position ta make demands, liddle mousey. I won’t. I jus’ want food an’ any vallables ya may have in dere. But remember, I’s gonna ‘ave ‘im wi’ me all da time, an’ if I ‘ear ya double crossed me, ‘e’s dead as a doornail. Now, ‘ear’s da plan…”
“Gonff! It’s Columbine! Let me in!”
Gonff looked down from the wall to see his wife outside in the woodlands. “Columbine!” he hissed. “Where have you been?”
“Time for that later!” called the mousemaid. “Let me in!”
Gonff hurried down to the wallgate and opened it, allowing Columbine in. He soon assessed that she was tired and aching, but not seriously hurt. They headed to the dormitories so she could have a rest.
Columbine went along with the plan suggested by Rotbreath. But not all were sleeping in the dead of night. Gonflet was awake, swiping pies from the kitchen. He sounded the alarm, and in no time Gonff and Bella had assembled a rough few to defend the Abbey. When Rotbreath told them to surrender, they refused. A battle ensued, but the defenders were too few and the foxes won.
”Don’t ya wonder how I got in at all?” roared the fox. He grabbed Columbine and shoved him to the ground in front of Gonff, Bella, and Abbess Germaine. “She betrayed you! She let me in ta save ‘er own skin!”
”That’s not true…” began Columbine, but Rotbreath put his foot on the mousemaid’s head and forced it into the dirt.
”Now, let them die,” hissed the fox. He grabbed Columbine by the scruff of her neck and dragged her out of Great Hall onto the lawn. Others slammed the doors shut, while archers lit arrows on fire.
Realizing their purpose, Columbine struggled, and called out to Rotbreath, reminding him of his promise not to hurt anyone. The fox laughed and ordered the archers to fire. The foxes moved away, but Columbine could not bring herself to move, and she stared in wide-eyed horror as the Abbey building went up in flames with her friends inside. In the morning, as ashes fell and the last of the flames went out, she finally fell to her knees and a single tear found its way down her face and dripped silently into the dust.
Suddenly, she was surrounded by foxes again. “Still here, are ya?” snapped Rotbreath. “I’da thought you’d’ve been off long ‘go. No matter. Here’s yer liddle warrior.” He shoved Martin forward. “’E’s free. I’ve no use fer ‘im.”
Martin seemed not to see Columbine, or anyone else for that matter. He stumbled forward to the ruined Abbey building, a look of shock on his face. Rotbreath laughed. “Dey were all inside when it burned!” he called to him. “Dey’re all dead!”
The mouse fell to his knees, ignoring the heat of the ashes, and looked at the pain and death all around. Then he stood again, and looked over her shoulder at Columbine. Their eyes met, then Martin gave a strangled cry and ran to the dead body of Gonflet, a blade still clutched in his paws. With a final glance at what had once been his home, he flung himself down onto the blade. “No! Martin!” shouted Columbine, but too late.
She turned to Rotbreath, wanting to stab the fox through the heart, but she had no weapon. His enemy laughed, then signaled several other foxes. The maid was roughly turned around and forced to look upon all the destruction of what had once been her home. She heard behind her the ring of steel and Rotbreath’s voice.
”Know, traitor, that all this is your doing.”
Columbine came awake screaming. “Nnnnnooooo! Gonff! Martin! Bella! Abbess! Trimp! Gonflet! Nnnnnooooo!”
As the realization that it was only a dream sunk in, Columbine calmed down, trying to breath slower and deeper. She reached up and wiped the perspiration out of her eyes, just as the door burst open and Gonff ran in, followed by everybeast he had named (except Martin, of course) and then some.
“Columbine, are you alright?”
“What happened, Columbine?”
“Did you have a bad dream, Mummy?”
Columbine was still filled with the horror of the dream. “It was only a bad dream. Uhh, can I talk to Gonff in private for a while?”
Abbess Germaine nodded solemnly. “Yes, Columbine. Everybeast, out of the infirmary except Gonff, Martin, and Columbine, if that’s alright.”
“Well,” began Columbine awkwardly, “I-uhh-I-well, that’s one of the things I want to talk to Gonff about. Martin isn’t here.”
“Oh. Of course.”
When they were alone, Columbine looked at Gonff with a frightened look in her eyes for a long time. Finally, she began. “I don’t really know how to start, but… well, Martin’s being held hostage by a band of foxes who want me to betray Redwall.”
Here, Gonff interrupted. “Whoah. This is gonna take some explaining. Martin being held hostage? How did they capture him, how did they capture you, and…”
“All that’s irrelevant!” Columbine in her turn interrupted. “What matters is that they captured both of us, and threatened to do horrible things to Martin if I didn’t do what they said. They said they wouldn’t hurt anyone if they got in, but…”
Gonff was silent too. It was rather a lot to take in. Finally, he said, “But what?”
Columbine sighed. “But I just had a dream. I did what he asked, but everyone died. Even Martin.”
Gonff shook his head. “So, what do you plan to do?”
“He expects me to open the east wallgate to let him in at midnight tonight, after drugging everyone. If I don’t, he’ll kill Martin.”
“Wait, matey. I have an idea. I’m a prince of making plans, you know.”
Rotbreath waited, silently and carefully, for the stroke of midnight. As he waited impatiently, a thud sounded out in the night. The stroke of twelve was being beaten out on the hollow log. He pulled a tightly bound Martin up next to him and chuckled into his ear, “Yer liddle friend’ll be lettin’ us in shortly.”
Martin pulled away from the aptly-named fox and muttered something insulting to him around his gag. “Now, none of dat. We be goin’ in.”
At that moment, Columbine opened the door. Before the fox could enter, however, the mouse put his paw to her lips in a gesture of silence. “I think they suspect something,” she whispered. “They’ve been patrolling the grounds all day, so be careful. Also, there are a lot of young un’s sleeping in the orchard, so tread lightly. They wake up at the snap of a twig. And don’t go near the pond, there are some hedgehogs fishing on it. The kitchens are astutely to be avoided until 3:00, you’re doomed if you go near the belltower, stay away from the main gate, don’t go anywhere near the infirmary or dormitories, if you w…”
“Shut up ‘bout where I can’t go, mousey! Where can I go?”
Columbine paused. Banty tapped his leader on the shoulder. “Uh, Chief?”
“Shut up, can’t ya see I’s busy?”
The fox nodded and retreated, knowing that his chief’s temper was dangerous.
Columbine finally thought of her reply. “The cellars and the attics.” Rotbreath pushed past her with an exasperated sigh, intent on going wherever he wanted. Before he passed through the gate, however, he turned and issued last minute orders.
“Tie dat pris’ner to a tree. Two of ya, stay an’ guard ‘im. If ya hear me holler ‘double-crosser,’ kill ‘im.”
Rotbreath snuck in and headed toward the orchard. Martin bit into the gag nervously; there probably were dibbuns sleeping there. But the fox didn’t have to go far before he did step on a twig, and every dibbun in the place was charging in that direction. There were only two who would understand what was going on, and they were a few seasons out of Dibbunhood already. Indeed, Gonflet and Chugger recognized the situation as dangerous, but there was nothing they could do to stop the entire horde of infants. The fox stopped as Columbine wildly hollered, “Stop the Dibbuns! Someone stop the Dibbuns!”
Shortly after, he heard Gonff’s voice. “Dibbuns! Goody is giving out candied nuts in the kitchens!” Judging by the sounds, Martin decided that they had all stampeded in the direction of the kitchens. More shouts and screams ensued, and Martin decided that he had to get out of there and inside to help his friends. He assessed the way he was tied; not very securely, his footpaws were bound together and his forepaws were bound to an overhanging branch above his head. Of course the first thing to do was take out the guards, otherwise any escape attempt would be useless. Grabbing the ropes that bound his paws, he swung up and kicked the first guard in the back of the head. He slumped to the ground, unconscious. Quickly, he did the same for the other guard, and part one was finished. His first idea was to reach the guards’ weapons, but he soon gave that up. It was just too far. He paused to get his breath. ‘’”What would Gonff do?”’’ he thought. ‘’”Gonff would try to get up on the branch where he could work at the ropes on his forepaws,”’’ he decided. It was difficult, but somehow he managed to get onto the branch. The knots, however, were too tight. Frustrated, he bit at them, and was surprised to find himself with one paw free. The warrior mentally told himself to hurry up as a scream issued from the Abbey. With one paw free it wasn’t hard to free the other, and then he rolled off the branch onto the ground. As he removed the gag and bonds on his footpaws, he heard an anguished screech.
Martin grabbed a weapon from one of the unconscious guards, a cutlass, and ran through the gate into the Abbey. A horrifying scene met his eyes. There were otters, squirrels, mice, and the badger Bella of Brockhall fighting madly against the foxes, who were winning. He spotted Crosstpaw threatening Columbine, obviously indenting to kill her, and charged. The female fox had Martin’s sword, and as the warrior crashed into her he grabbed it. Columbine stood and ran, straight into Banty. “Hello, pretty,” he sneered before snatching her off the ground and running.
Crosstpaw wheeled on Martin, grabbing at the sword, but she was too late. The warrior dodged and slashed, scoring across her paw. Then, something unexpected happened. Crosstpaw suffered what could only be described as bloodwrath. She ignored the pain, as well as any further injuries Martin inflicted on her, and went straight for him. The fight instantaneously became one-sided, and the fox grabbed hold of the mouse, strangling him as she lifted him high in the air.
Through a mist, Martin saw Abbess Germaine headed somewhere as fast as her legs could carry her, which wasn’t really all that fast. Chugger was fighting with Rotbreath, and as Martin watched, the fox disarmed the squirrel and raised his blade for the killing blow. Abbess Germaine ran between the squirrel and his executioner and raised her arms, shouting something that Martin couldn’t hear. The fox moved forward, towards the two.
Martin’s attention was dragged away from his Abbess and the squirrel when a battle cry rose above all the others. “Eulaliiiiiaaaaaaaa!” The foxes looked at each other in horror and fear for a moment. Then one of them roared, “Reatreat! It’s the ghost monster! Run for your lives!” All the foxes did just that. Crosstpaw came out of her rage, suddenly seeming to see a huge monster charging at her. In fear, she flung Martin away from her and ran.
Martin had passed the peak of his flight, and was soon going to land, he was sure, when he felt a searing pain rip through his left shoulder, and he fell limply to the ground. He had struck the Abbey wall, and fallen to the ground. ”Just like Rose,” was his last thought before darkness took him.
The next day, Trimp the hogmaid and Gonff walked across what had once been the lawn. Since that time, major renovations had been made, and now it was a carnage heap. There was blood everywhere, and it was starting to stink. In a small pile by the main gate, waiting to be thrown out into the ditch, was a pile of fox bodies, but the Redwall casualties had not yet been assessed. No one had seen Columbine, Abbess, Germaine, or Chugger, since the night before, and they hadn’t seen Martin for even longer.
Gonff looked sadly down at the body of a mouse. “His name was Bartall,” he murmured.
“Yes. It’s so sad how some creatures revel in pain and death,” returned Trimp.
Gonff sighed. “You’re right. I hope those foxes don’t have any of our friends, but they probably have Martin at least. I hope he’s alright.”
Trimp didn’t reply at once. She seemed frozen to the spot, her eyes fixed on a prone form lying by the wall in a pool of blood with a sword on the ground nearby. Gonff saw it and gasped in horror, then ran to it.
It was indeed Martin, lying where he had fallen the night before. The mousethief knelt by his friend’s head and lifted it out of the puddle. Then, against all hope, Martin moved! He blinked and murmured something. Opening his eyes all the way, he shrank away from the bright light that the sun was shedding into the Abbey grounds.
“Ugh,” he muttered. “Gonff, they took Columbine. Abbess Germaine and Chugger too, I think. You have to follow them!”
“Matey, are you alright?” Gonff asked.
“I’m fine. You have to go, Gonff!”
The mousethief nodded. Getting up, he called, “Skipper, Lady Amber! We found Martin! He’s alive, but hurt. He says the foxes have Abbess Germaine, Chugger, and Columbine. I’m going to follow them!” Turning back to Martin, Gonff winked cheerily. “Don’t worry, matey. I’ll have them back in a jiffy. I’m a prince of rescuers, you know. You’d better’ve healed when I get back!”
Martin smiled as his friend gathered up some food supplies and set off. “So,” he asked Trimp, “What was the ghost monster that scared them all off?”
Trimp giggled. “It was Gonff’s idea. The legends say that a ghost monster lives in Salamandastron, and all vermin know it well. Well, we know what really lives there; Badgers! So Bella put on a sheet and started running around screaming ‘eulalias’ like the world was at an end, and they all ran. It was almost funny to watch.
Martin laughed a little. “Typical Gonff. Always coming up with great ideas.”
Trimp smiled, but then grew serious again. “You must’ve taken quite a hit. Look at all this blood!”
“It isn’t my blood,” groaned Martin. “It was here when I fell. It’s mostly my left arm; I can hardly move it. I think it took most of the force when I hit the wall.”
“Hit the wall? Goodness me, what happened?”
“I’m not sure. The most I can make out is that one of the foxes got bloodwrath and threw me. I’ve never heard of anything like it before.”
At that moment, a few mice arrived to help Martin to the infirmary. There, a young brother of the order, Brother Francis, analyzed the injury and reported that, miraculously, Martin’s arm was not broken.
“It’s dislocated at the shoulder and sprained at the elbow,” he said. “It will hurt a lot and be very stiff, but it will heal well, though slowly.”
A few hours later, Gonff returned alone. As he talked to Martin, Lady Amber, and Skipper the warrior began to wonder more about these foxes. They were obviously more than mercenaries.
“I was following the trail,” the mousethief said, “when it vanished. It was as if they got that far and then flew away. At the end of the trail I found this.” He held out a roll of bark paper. Martin unrolled it, but it took less than a glance to tell him everything about it. He dropped it on the ground and put his face in his paws, shaking his head slowly.
“Fates, tell me this isn’t happening!”
Gonff picked up the map and looked at it. Redwall Abbey was marked in red ink, and there was a bold black line leading northeast to another fortress marked in black ink. “Marshank? What in the name of mice is that supposed to mean?”
“Death, cruelty, slavery, basically evil,” commented Martin.
“That explanation doesn’t explain.”
“Marshank,” – Martin spat the word as if it had a foul taste – “is a bad place. You don’t want to go there.”
“It seems to me that we don’t want Abbess Germaine, Columbine, and Chugger to go there,” Gonff pointed out. Martin nodded.
“I’m going too,” another voice shouted into his ear. Martin winced. He turned to Gonflet before replying,
“No. You aren’t.”
“Let him go!” argued Gonff. “He’s the same age you and I were during the war, matey. And it is his mother and best friend that are at jeopardy.”
“Fine, let him go,” muttered Martin. “He’ll really wanna go next time when the blood, gore, killing, and pain get to him.” He turned back to the young one’s father. “Do you have any idea if our friends are still alive?”
“Well, matey, I found mouse and squirrel tracks every now and again in the dirt. That’s as good of assurance as we’re likely to get, so we’ll just have to hope.”
Martin nodded. “Thanks, Gonff. I need to get a new habit, then we’ll be off.”
Goody Stickle was doing laundry. She selected a clean habit as she analyzed the damage done to Martin’s robe. “The entire hem’s torn off, there’s a rip down the side, all the way from your knee, it’s covered in blood, mud, and something else, torn in other miscellaneous places, one sleeve is entirely gone, and your hood is in shreds. It’s not even recognizable as a habit anymore! How did you do all that?”
“It just happens when violent things like that happen,” explained Martin.
Gonff examined the mess on the warrior’s habit that Goody had been unable to identify. “Is this what I think it is?” he asked.
“I don’t know, what do you think it is?”
The mousethief sniffed at it, then stood up with a look of disgust on his face. “That’s disgusting! How did that get on your habit?”
Martin examined it. “I don’t know. That is disgusting.” Any further conversation was cut off as he grabbed the fresh habit Goody held out to him, nodded his thanks, and ran off to the Abbey building, holding the clean garment as far away from the old one as possible.
Lady Amber walked up beside Gonff. “What was all that about Marshank being a bad place?” she asked.
“I have no idea,” replied Gonff. “I wonder why he knows.”
Later that day, Bella watched as the eleven adventurers trekked off through the forest. She had wanted to go with them, but Martin had pointed out that if they were all gone and Redwall was attacked, it would be defenseless. She had seen the sense in that, of course, so she had agreed to stay.
As the old badger watched Martin walk off with his friends, she noted that his usual enthusiasm did not grace his steps. It was more than the pain of his injury; that would be painful but such things did not usually trouble the warrior. It was obvious that he felt an old pang from something else as well. Maybe it had something to do with “Marshank.” Bella watched them until they faded away into the trees. When she could no longer see her friend, she wondered if she had been right about her assessment. Sighing, the old badger walked back into her home. It couldn’t be right. She was getting more than a little blind.
A few weeks later…
Some said that David the Sting had squirrel blood, but he knew that he was a mouse through and through. Okay, he had been raised by squirrels, but that didn’t make him one. The only reason anyone thought that was that he could climb as well as or better than any squirrel. Force of practice, mostly, he thought, but it was an undeniable fact that he preferred the treetops over the ground and spent most of his time in them. He was like a squirrel in other ways though; his weaponry consisted of a bow and arrows, a weapon with which he was deadly accurate, a tiny knife for miscellaneous purposes, and a short javelin, pointed at both ends, for close range combat. He also sometimes carried a blowpipe and blow darts, but he had recently been surprised by a band of foxes and been forced to flee, leaving the weapon on a rock by the fire. That had been several hours ago, and he was now in the process of following the foxes to retrieve his possession.
He leapt with great agility from tree to tree, noting with a practiced eye all the tell-tale signs on the ground that a large group of beasts had passed that way. Most creatures would have been unable to detect them, but David was a skilled tracker. He had learned from the best, a fox seer. The creature had been the seer in a group of Juska vermin, who had killed his family of squirrels and taken him prisoner. They had tried to make him one of them, and finally he had accepted their way of life, but he didn’t throw himself all the way in, and he was rejected by all, except the seer. She had taken a shine to him, and taught him how to track. Before his training was over, the mouse had been able to track an otter in a river. But when he actually caught an otter in a river, the clan had tried to get him to torture it. He had refused, and run off with the fox, who had removed the tattoos from both their faces. However, before she was finished, a change seemed to come over her and she had attacked him. He had barely escaped with his life, and to this day had never understood what had happened. He was left with a blue lightning bolt on his left cheek, the last bit that had not been removed, along with a nasty scar on his right cheek that was similarly shaped. He gritted his teeth as the memories came back. David had been to gentle a name for the vermin; they had called him Zann Taggerung. The last he had heard of them, they had made a memorial of him. A great warrior had been found in the clan and named Brin Zann Taggerung, and was now their clan warrior. All he could say was that he wondered how long the tradition would last.
As he recalled all those memories, he came suddenly and without warning into the open. The foxes had set up camp right below him. He immediately ducked back behind a branch and peered out from behind it.
“So my blowpipe isn’t the only thing they stole,” he thought as he spied the three prisoners, two mice and a squirrel, tied up at the base of a tree. Of course, the first thought that came to mind was how he could rescue them, and a plan soon presented itself.
“Really, Abbess Germaine, I wasn’t trying to kill him, only get him off of Martin,” Columbine explained. It was the three hundredth time she had said that, she was sure.
“And it was a good cause and well done, my dear. But violence is never the answer.”
“Sometimes you have to stop creatures in measures they understand,” the mousemaid replied.
Abbess Germaine never answered, because she was frightened out of her wits by a paw that was placed over her mouth from behind. Columbine opened her mouth to scream, but suddenly a mouse behind Germaine shook his head.
“No! Don’t draw attention to yourself! I’m a friend. Just do as I say and we’ll have you out of here.”
“Martin?” whispered Columbine.
“My name’s David,” he explained, confused. But he swiftly decided that could be sorted out later and began cutting at their bonds with his knife. “Dangit, I need to sharpen this thing more often. When you’re free, wait ‘till you see me start a diversion on the other side of the clearing. Then make a run for it.” As he finished speaking, the last bond was cut and the mouse retreated as quickly as possible.
The three remained perfectly still until the diversion started. David came bounding out of the forest on the ground and bumped into the first fox he came to. The fox fell down, and the mouse rudely strolled across his tail. As the fox squealed loudly, he attracted the wanted attention of every member of the band. They all stood and gawped at him for a moment, then the leader screamed at the top of his voice,
“That’s one o’ da mice Lord Clogg wants! Get ‘im!”
David shot into the forest and up a tree as fast as he could. These foxes were working for Clogg? He had walked into a lot more than he’d expected. He watched as almost every fox in the clearing dashed after him. At least the diversion was working. He dashed back and forth between his tree and the next, avoiding every arrow they shot at him, while calling them names and keeping their attention quite well.
Columbine, Abbess Germaine, and Chugger were doing quite well with their escape for all of twenty seconds. They had swiftly but quietly moved away, as Chugger picked up a coil of rope that some careless fox had left on the ground. He wound it around his waist, thinking that it would be useful. They continued on for a moment, but then Columbine stepped on a twig, which broke with a loud snap. All activity on the other side of the clearing ceased, then half of the foxes came at the three escapees as fast as they possibly could while the other half continued to attack David. They were soon surrounded.
As she looked at the enemies closing in around them, a rage rose in the mousemaid that she did not know she possessed. It wasn’t an angry rage, but more of a determined one. Instead of wanting to kill, she found herself wanting to succeed. So she did the most successful thing she could. She grabbed Chugger and flung him above the foxes’ heads, shouting, “Run, Chugger! Get out of here!” The squirrel, though surprised, managed to catch hold of a low branch and pull himself into the tree. As he turned back, his eyes were caught by the events on the other side of the clearing. He gasped in horror.
David was doing quite well, until the last thing he expected happened. Among the voices screaming different things, he heard one rise up above them all;
“Rotbreath! You idiot, you said…”
“No!” thought David. “It can’t be!” In his astonishment, he stopped, precariously balanced on a branch. Before he remembered to start moving again, he felt an arrow pierce his footpaw. It misbalanced him and he suddenly found himself falling down, down, down, to where his enemies were waiting.
David’s fall was cut short as something whizzed past him and grabbed hold of him. Chugger had not been idle; as soon as he saw David stop he had made a loop in the end of his rope and threw it high into the tree the mouse was in. It had looped over an old dead branch and Chugger had launched himself off. By pure luck, he had managed to catch the mouse in midair as he fell.
David pulled himself up and grabbed the rope. It swung past the tree, narrowly missing it, and the two let go of it. Chugger landed on his footpaws, ready for anything, but as David tried to do the same he fell with a cry of pain. The squirrel tried to lift him, but it was very difficult.
“Get going!” ground out the injured mouse. “I can hold them off!”
Chugger was not about to do that. “No! You’re injured!”
“Just go! I’ll be fine!”
Something in the tone he used told the squirrel to obey him. He got up, slowly backed away, and then all out ran. As he looked back, he saw no sign of David. Some foxes were following him, and some were standing around looking bewildered.
While he was busy looking for David, the squirrel ran slap-bang into Lady Amber. Both sat down and rubbed at the part that had collided hardest for a second. Then Chugger leapt up. “There’s a lot of foxes following me! Quick!”
The squirrels bounded up into the trees and headed in a southwesterly direction, Lady Amber leading. “Chugger! What happened?” she gasped.
“Time later!” gasped the younger squirrel. They ran on in silence for a while, until all sounds of pursuit had faded away. Just in time, too, because they soon emerged into the camp set up by Martin and his companions. Chugger and Lady Amber dropped from the trees and lay on the ground, panting. Trimp came running up to the young squirrel.
“Chugger, are you alright? What happened? How did you get away from those terrible foxes? Did they hurt you? Are you alright?”
The squirrel answered the questions as best he could between breaths. “I’m fine. A mouse named David helped me out. Columbine threw me. No, I’m alright. Yes, I’m fine.”
This, of course, made no sense to the hogmaid, or anyone else for that matter. Martin intervened.
“Trimp, let him get his breath. Then please tell us what happened from the beginning, Chugger.”
When the young squirrel had caught his breath, he explained everything that had happened. There was silence for a while. Martin commented,
“At least we know they’re not far away.”
The others nodded, but they all knew it would be suicide to attempt a rescue now, when the enemy was all stirred up.
Shortly after, Gonflet and Folgrim returned to the camp from another direction. They had been doing the same thing Lady Amber had; scouting. Gonff’s young offspring immediately recognized his friend and plied him with all the same questions Trimp had and then some. Folgrim did likewise, though he was quieter about it. When Chugger described David to him, he looked slightly surprised, but said nothing.
The twelve friends did not go much farther that day, because before they had gotten far they found evidence that the foxes had not moved. The next day the foxes left, though, and their pursuers followed suit. As Gonff passed through the clearing the foxes had been camped in, he scanned the ground. Finally, he found what he was looking for. Stooping, he picked up a ribbon with a small wooden pendant on it. The pendant was carved into the shape of a columbine blossom, and painted blue.
Martin looked over Gonff’s shoulder. “This belonged to Columbine,” explained the mousethief. He dropped the pendant into his pocket and closed it securely.
The twelve woodlanders continued on for several hours. That evening, they came out onto a plain. It stretched for as far as they could see in every direction except behind them (south) and a little to their right. There, they could see hills of a sort in the distance. When the map was consulted, the line led straight north from there, and so did the tracks, which were increasingly hard to find. However, neither map nor tracks were needed, as the farsighted Lady Amber soon identified a moving blot to the north as their quarry.
Without a word, the twelve broke into a run, hoping that the foxes would not notice them and that if they did that they would not “dispose of” a “certain prisoner” to increase their speed. For a while, they went on quite well, but running for a long time is not easy, and some of the group were not made for it; namely Gonff and Dinny; and finally they began to fall behind. None of the party noticed this until several hours later, when they agreed to stop for a break. The mouse and mole were by this time very far behind, and extremely weary. Martin and Skipper ran back to help them.
“I’m sorry, Gonff! And you too, Dinny. I forgot how hard it is for you to run so fast for so long.”
“Oh, it’s alright, matey. Maybe we’ll catch those foxes when they’ve run all the way around the world and run into our backs.”
“Hurr, doan’t ee worry, zurr Marthen. We’m be fine. You’m better catch them foxers an’ save ee Columbiney an’ H’abbess.”
Martin shook his head at the silliness of Gonff and broad dialect of Dinny as the four creatures approached the main group. They rested for some time, but the foxes did not appear to have rested. So up they had to get again, and up they did get again. But it was not long until the sun set; it set sooner there than at the Abbey because of the mountains to their left. They ran on for a while, but soon it became so dark that they unanimously elected to stop.
The next morning, Folgrim was the first creature to rise. He sat watching the sun rise in the east and thought about what Chugger had told him the day before. Memories piled in, but before he could reminiscence properly, he heard the others awakening behind him. Ah, well. It would be another long day.