[[1]] link to Vengeance

This takes place after the events of High Rhulain, when Old Quelt's library is still in place.


"I still think Southsward is closer!"

"No, the North Shores!"


"North Shores!"

The argument of the ancient hare and otter was interrupted as the door of the gatehouse suddenly flew open, not from a gust of wind but from a gust of Abbeybabes.  The Dibbun mole and squirrel that had been playing outside in the snow when a blizzard began to form.  Now they rushed inside the gatehouse as if they had been shot from a bow like arrows, spattering the whole of the small building with snow droplets.

"Do ye mind not getting water over everything mateys?" the old otter asked irritatibly.

"Sorry Rip, we only was trying to get out of the snow!" protested the squirrel.

"An' we want to 'ear ee story, zurr and miz, 'till wes be getting back to 'ee Abbey," added the molebabe.

"Not until we finish our argument, you liddle scallywags, eh wot Rip?" the hare replied with a wink, swinging the young mole into her lap.

"Certainly," the otter Rip answered with a little bow of his head, in turn lifting up the tiny squirrelmaid, causing her to squeak with glee.  "I can defend my argument now, Southsward, matey, that's wot's closer to Redwall."  He reached into a gigantic box of scrolls and books, rustled around for so long that the hare came close to giving up the argument.  Coming out with an ancient scroll, yellowed with age and sending up a cloud of dust, Rip unrolled it.

"See here?  On this map, Southsward is two pawlengths away, but the North Shores are three." he pointed out.

The old haremaid only rolled her eyes.  "But what of old records, wot?  I recall it took Martin and company only a fortnight to get to North Shores while it took the Bellmaker and crew half a bally season to get to Southsward, proving the No -"

She was interrupted by the inquisitive molebabe.  "Zurr Rip, where be that map a-comin' from?"

The otter sighed.  "Ah, Boomble, that was many long seasons ago."

The energetic squirrelmaid commenced bouncing up and down.  "Tell us, tell us!"

Rip raised an eyebrow in the direction of the hare, she nodded and said, "Go ahead.  I'll correct you if'n you need it, wot?"

The tale began with the traditional words of so many other old tales . . . "Once upon a time, though not so many seasons back, there was a tribe, and there was an owl . . ."

Book 1: Carrion Pine

Chapter 1

There was a time when the black crows of the pine forests were thriving, cawing, mating, and most of all, pecking apart the parts of weary travelers with the misfortune to find themselves in those woods.  After many seasons of such persecution, the animals living in the area, good and evil alike, came to construct a name for this nefarious tribe of the birds who are black as a black hole.  The name was Carrion Pine.

Some such travelers was a group of owls, coming through the forest, looking for a place to settle.  They knew nothing of Carrion Pine.  Needless to say, their passing did not go well.

These owls were coming through the forest for an innocent reason.  They were barn owls, but the woods these birds lived in had been taken over by a gang of ferrets who had wanted to kill and eat any birds in those old woods.  The unfortunate creatures had been traveling for almost a season, searching for a new home.  In the group of owls were families, lone owls, young ones, old ones, warriors, maids . . . almost two score owls traipsing through the forest.  To the crows of Carrion Pine, these owls seemed like the perfect meal to satisfy their hunger for meat - these crows were so evil that they had grown almost mutant, and craved meat.  Settled animals nearby had learned this fact the hard way, and stayed out of the pine woods, but the owls knew nothing.

The leader of the crows, Cajarah, was an expert strategist.  She had to be; after all, she was the leader of a tribe that would kill at the slightest urge, the most miniscule annoyance.  The carrion were not only evil, but insane, which made them even more dangerous.  The only member of the tribe not insane was the Cajarah, and she could control this insanity to her advantage.  Now she watched the owls make their way into her forest from her headquarters, high in the tallest pine in the forest, and her ugly face contracted into what could almost be called a smile as she ordered her troops (if the deranged birds under her command could even be called troops) into silence.

"Chukar chukar, quiets!!  All of yous, quiets!!  The preys must not hear us, kuchar kuchar.  Silence!  Your Cajarah commands it!  Chukar kuchar jah jah jah . . ."

To the group of owls, the pines seemed like a perfect new home.  The trees seemed uninhabited, tall, green trees, full of shelter and food.  There was even a river running through the forest!  The owls flew through the trees on silent wings, even the smallest chick gazed with awe at what the birds were know sure would be their new home.  These owls had no leader, but the strongest warrior of the group was the only owl not positive of the safety of the woods.  He thought that the place was quiet . . . too quiet . . .

The warrior turned out to be correct, unfortunately.  A young chick, staring at the river with seemingly unquenshible thirst plain on his feathery face, accidentally ran into a tree.  The small owl dropped to the ground with a yelp of pain, and with that sound, danger struck.  The carrion of Carrion Pine were upon the owls.

"Wingcry . . . help me . . . please . . ."

"Where in the name of claws did these things come from?  AWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLS!!!!!!"

"My chick . . . my chick . . . please, not my chick . . ."

"Blackfeather!  Blackfeather . . . where are you Blackfeather?  Please be alive, please be alive . . . NOOO . . ."

The owls were ripped to shreds like the filling of pillows in a pillow fight of careless Dibbuns.  The shrieking and cawing could be heard for many leagues around the forest as the owls desperately fought to their last to rid the pine of the fierce carrion.  Slowly, though, weight of numbers overcame the brave fighters, all but one, a huge owl, fighting almost as fiercely as a badger with the bloodrath.  The owl who had suspected all along that something was wrong, the warrior Midnight.  He was fighting to protect his daughter, a young owlmaid called Songflower.  The mate of this unfortunate creature had already perished from the claws of a particularly fierce crow, and Midnight refused to loose his daughter to the same fate.

Songflower high in a pine tree, disguising herself in its branches.  She was a small owl, light brown and golden with specks that were almost shaped like flowers.  Her huge golden eyes stared unbelievingly at the battle, watching her father give his utmost to protect her. 

Midnight was fighting five crows at a time.  He was the very last owl standing in the massacre, and so Cajarah came to finish him off.  She flew down while the huge black warrior was distracted, clawing desperately at the carrion surrounding him, and dive-bombed his head. 

Midnight went down in a flurry of feathers, but he called to his daughter.  He still had enough sense left to do that. 

"Songflower!" her father cried, with his final effort.  "Fly!  Fly away, fast as you can!  Don't let them get you!  Find safety . . . you can't let them get you . . . Songflower . . ."

The sight of the horrible battle had hardened the young owlmaid.  She would obey her father, and she would fly away to safety.  But first, she had a job to do.  Those evil crows weren't getting away with massacring her entire family without paying for it somehow . . . and Songflower had an idea.

The idea was pure genius and awesomeness, if she did say so herself, and she did.  The owlmaid's father, mother, brothers, sisters, friends, and tribe-mates had all been killed by the evil carrion, and she wasn't letting the crows get away with that.  Songflower silently began to peck at the branch above her on the tree on which she sat.  Her beak was not the best of the owls because she was one of the youngest in the group, but she could use her beak as well as the best of them.  The young orphan quietly pecked and pecked for almost ten minutes as the crows below her made perfectly sure that all of the owls were dead (as previously mentioned, they didn't exactly have the best of brains).

At last, the branch gave way.  Songflower had chosen well - the branch she had been pecking at was full of huge pine needles and was heavy and thick with pine sap.  Of course, that didn't exactly make it easy to peck, but the choice was worth it.

Songflower flew upward as silently as she could, so that even in the silence of a final exam room it would be almost futile to hear her.  As she flew, the branch crashed down onto the forest floor.

The branch fell like a heavy stone, and indeed it was almost as heavy.  So heavy, in fact, that it achieved the owlmaid's aims beyond her wildest imagination: half the crows in the undergrowth of the pine forest perished from the fallen branch - they were all congregated into one area, watching their leader as she began a victory speech.  The screams of the carrion echoed in Songflower's ears as she flew upward as swiftly as possibly possible, for silence no longer mattered, she couldn't be heard over the screams of the crows, screaming louder than fireworks.

And yet, for all of Songflower's careful efforts, not all of the crows failed to notice her departure.

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