Book 1: From The Sand Land
A bright sun shone from a sky of pale blue, sending shafts of golden light down into the forests of Mossflower woods. There was a chill in the air, heightened by the lack of foliage on the stately oak, elm and beech. Occasionally dotted between the bare trees stood pines, almost smug in their heavy green leaves. The floor of Mossflower wood was dappled from the light, dark shadow regularly lit up by the golden glow. As the sun moved slowly towards its zenith the birds came alive, each one adding its voice to the dawn chorus.
Standing upon Redwall's ramparts was the Abbot of the Abbey, Father Shamrock. The small otter had his paws tucked into his green habit sleeves to keep them from the chilly air. Beside him stood a burly hedgehog, both of them were shivering slightly in the cold but neither would shirk from their regular duty of checking that their beloved abbey was secure.
"Spring is coming in fast," Gele Cellarhog said as he turned to look at the Abbot. Shamrock, though he was not facing his friend nodded slowly. With a soft sigh Gele turned his back on the Abbot to look instead at his beloved home. Though the top of the belltower was nearly obscured by the rising mist he knew exactly what it looked like. The cold winter sunlight, unhindered by thick cloud, was revealing the many hues of the thick stone walls. Striped bands and swirls were marked out in all different shades of red.
"Friend?" Father Shamrock murmured, tugging lightly on Gele's sleve. Immediately alert the hedgehog span around, gripping his staff in one hand.
Noting this Shamrock allowed himself a small smile and waved his paw gently. "No, h'at ease warrior." Then he turned back to surveying the great woods of Mossflower. The sunlight shimmered on each dew-dropped blade of grass, making it hard for them to see the lower boughs of the trees.
"What is it Father?" Gele asked, narrowing his eyes against the glare as he tried to see what Shamrock had spotted.
The otter pointed. "There's somebeast coming, quick, lets h'open the gate!" Quickly the pair turned away from the wall and hurried, side by side, down the steps towards the ground.
Reaching the gate Gele pushed his hefty shoulder beneath the large wooden bar and, straightening up, he moved it noisily from its hinges. Shamrock slapped his paw to his forehead. "Now 'oever is out there will know that we're coming!" He said in a low hiss.
Gele shrugged and tightened his grip on his staff. "If it's a foebeast they'll find I'm no mousemaid!"
"And I'm no foebeast!" A voice reached them through the thick wood of the main gate. The Abbot's eyes lit up and he hurried pulled the door open, his face wreathed in smiles. "I know those tones, 'tis 'arken!"
Standing watching them, all his weight rested on one leg was an squirrel. The creature dipped his head and hurried to greet them. For a while all three stood on the main path, shaking paws and patting backs as they greeted each other.
"'arken, you finally made h'it!" Shamrock said, embracing the squirrel as tightly as he could. Gently, with a small grimace, Harken removed the Abbot's grip on him and took a step back, looking at his friend.
"You get wider every year," he teased, slinging the pack off his back and holding it lightly in one paw. A single scroll poked out of the bulging pack, betraying that their were, in fact, many pieces of paper inside the bag.
Shamrock leapt up and down, looking quite unlike the Abbot that he was. "You've found us another story, I gather?"
Harken nodded and lead the way inside, slamming the gate shut behind them. "I promised you I would!" He said with a small smile, his bushy red tail waving back and forth with excitement.
Gele had remained silent through all of this though now he poked the otter somewhat forcefully in the chest. "And you promised us you'd be back for midwinter and it is almost spring!"
The squirrel chuckled and headed off up the path at a slow jog. "We'd best not waste a moment then, had we though I thought you'd want the whole story, Gele!"
The hedgehog kept pace with him though the rotund Abbot was struggling along behind them, repling in his strange way, "O' course we want the 'ole story!"
When the three creatures were inside the Abbey, enjoying the warmth of the great building after being outside in the chilly air. "Well I 'ope you'll be starting tonight then?"
Harken, who was rarely ever still apart from when he was recording or reading one of his beloved stories, was already heading towards Cavern Hole where the sounds of breakfasting was thick in the air. "No, I'll start now!" As soon as he stepped into the homely room it fell silent. Creatures scurried about, finding seats and staring at him with great expectancy. The squirrel, though a powerful beast, was simple in his love for writings. Many a times he had gone wandering to find a new tale to read to his friends on warm evenings out in the orchard or cuddled up close to the fire on a winter's night. Finding his place at the head of the table he grabbed himself some food then propped open the scroll.
"Listen up, all of you." He said, fixing a noisy Dibbun with a stare until the little creature fell silent. "For I have a story for you..."
16:31, February 22, 2013 (UTC)~
The Bloodhull was travelling through a storm. The previously calm waters had whipped up into a wild frenzy. Huge mountainous waves stretched their white flecked tops up towards the boiling grey and black sky. Each wild gust of wind thrummed through the rigging and tore at the sails of the ship as the Bloodhull groaned her complaints to the uncaring storm. The bow of the great craft rose and fell, sometimes almost plunging vertically down into a gaping trough only to be flung back up into the sky as the wave stretched for the clouds once again. The deck was practically empty, awash with foul smelling seawater that had lingered at the bottom of the ocean for days too countless to remember. Only one creature was brave enough, or foolish enough, to chance being out on a day like this. The captain, Ragg.
He stood, gripping the rain-softened wood with his claws as he surveyed the sea before him. Not prone to feeling of sickness he laughed aloud as the ship rose and plunged, bucked and bronked towards the land that had been spotted earlier on that day. A cloak of pale green fluttered in the wind and a golden crown shimmered upon his brow. Apart from this he wore nothing except a short piece of rag around his waste, held by a sealskin belt. The sounds of his joy mixed with the wind as the ship raced on, southward towards Mossflower.
Beneath the deck though, it was a different matter. There was no laughing or joviality among the slaves. Each a ragged, broken creature they were forced to push the huge oars to move the Bloodhull across the oceans. Spray from the wild sea would occasionally find its way through the gaps in the planking to crash relentlessly upon the wretched creature's bowed heads.
Many of the slaves were creatures never seen before upon the lands of Mossflower, where the Bloodhull was heading. They were meerkats. They were strange looking creatures, somewhat stoat-like yet thinner and built with powerful sinew in their arms and chests. Long black claws curved from their paws and black patches around their eyes helped them to look into the bright sunlight. Their previously sandy-coloured fur was stained dark by the sea and the dirt which sloshed back and forth as the ship rose and fell.
"Move yer idle layabouts!" There was a growl from the back of the slave deck as Slavemaster Minker prowled down the alley between the wooden benches that the oarslaves were chained to. The mink paused, his eyes narrowed and his pink nose glistening against his dark face. Two fangs revealed themselves in a half-smile as he raised the whip and brought it down with stinging force. "Row, I said, row!"
The young meerkat bent his back against the force, uttering low squeaks of distress. There was an angry snarl from the bench in front. "Don't touch him." Spiriz spat, her eyes blazing as she looked at Minker.
With a small laugh the Slavemaster straightened up. "Ah yes, your son, is he?"
Spiriz didn't answer but she bared her teeth in a snarl. Long whiplashes were clear upon her back, her sandy fur regularly ripped off by the leather whip that Minker of his assistant, Clishy wheeled. Eventually she parted her jaws and spat out a single word. "Scum!"
With a roar Minker took a step forwards, only to slip sideways as the ship bucked. Laughter broke out among the slaves and the mink leapt to his paws in a fine old temper. He flailed wildly with his whip, catching many slaves across their backs though his main force was concentrated on the meerkat who sat chained one of the two front benches. On the other front bench sat another meerkat, Devi.
It was well known among the slaves that Devi did what work she had to and no more. She was silent most of the time, her eyes hooded. She cared for nobeast and nobeast cared for her.
When Minker had finished with his mad whipping rampage he was breathing heavily and his eyes were blazing. With a growl he turned and hurried off towards the back of the ship, mice and other woodland creatures whom they had captured where much more easier to break.
Gal stretched as far as his chains would allow him, until a single claw gently touched the one marks on his mother's back. Spiriz winced and her son hurriedly backed away.
"We'll get out of here, one day," she murmured, her eyes down on the floor. "Then Ragg and that Minker will pay."