This chapter is only partially complete. This is part one, "Truddle's" tale.
- But, before you start reading, you best read through the manual (http://redwall.wikia.com/wiki/User_blog:Tadgh_the_Cane/Announcement_for_%27%27A_Beginning%27s_End%27%27) first, and perhaps through book I, "Nox".
Truddle extinguished his lantern, upon the sight of the sun gloriously rising above the damp treetops, red and yellow flashing everywhere. The sky behind it had turned from it’s original grey state to an interesting salmon-red. The further away the sky, it’s colour became more and more bleached: When it touched the horizon, it was completely white. Red rays of intensive light emanated from the low hanging sun in the cold air, which in the process was pleasingly warmed. The atmosphere was now in a crass contrast to last night; the night was so dark, that one could hardly see where he was walking, but now the sun was intensive enough, that no beast could possibly walk eastward, without being completely blinded. Yet, only from this point on, nature’s beauty could be observed in broad daylight. The trees were variously coloured in the shades of green, yellow, orange, red, and even purple, and the ground was buried under moss, heaps of fallen leaves, and hay flowers which seemed to shoot from the ground aimlessly, reflecting the sun’s warmth and comfort. The cool ground was practically steaming, and huge clouds of fog swept over the few clearings in the vast painted woodlands of Mossflower. With the daylight, the first life came back into the forest. Some late birds, who stayed during this cool fall, began twittering into all directions, and treetops rustled, as they hopped from one tree branch onto another.
“Oy! Was that a crow?”
Nathan tried to calm him down,
“No, crows are bigger. Would you please relax? You have been like that since we heard these strange sounds at the edge of the swamp. We have made it past them unharmed, haven’t we? Neither did I see anyone following us, nor do I think they would catch up to us anymore.”
“Well, if yoo say so, then oi’ll trust you.!”
He rubbed his paws, closed his eyes, and tilted his face, stiff from the cold, towards the shining sun.
“Say,” he asked a little bit more relaxed, “Yoo know wher’ going to, roight?”
Nathan looked a little bit unsure,
“Well, er… yes , I think so. Unless you can prove me wrong.”
The shrew halted, opened his eyes, and turned around. He looked at the path behind them.
“Well, er, Noithun, cudd it be, tha’ we’re walking north?”
Nathan shook his head unconvincingly,
“This must be the way to Salamandastron, we have been following it for over three days, and it always went westward. How do you know, that we are going north now?”
“Becus the sun is to our roight.” Truddle said and looked down the pathway “And ‘tis way goes on straigh’ now for a veery long dis’ance.”
Nathan gulped, now realizing that they must have used a wrong turning three days ago, and now walk into the wrong direction.
“And the otter is waiting for us… on the other path.” He stared blankly at the cart, “We will have to travel back now, three days back, and three days west on the right path. We will lose six days, and that otter will await us around noon today. I doubt he will wait for us six days.”
Truddle’s face lit up a small bit,
“Well, if we travel west’ard now, we should still hi’ the coastline. Then, we cudd just follow it south to Salamandastron, aye?”
“Well, I have heard stories of vicious reptiles living down at the coast. But it still is worth a try.”
Both took their supplies and the wagon, and approached the forest on the right side of the path. With some strength, they hauled their cart over a small ditch on the roadside, and quickly vanished behind the trees of Mossflower.
From the other side of the path, two glittering eyes watched them as they disappeared.
After several hours of walking and pulling the cart across the unpaved terrain, the pair came across a clear stream. It ran directly through the wood through an impression in the ground. It was quite fast, and several feet wide. It seemed to be a very deep impression, as well. Truddle, in a moment of sheer happiness, made his way over the leaf-covered ground towards the water, and exhaustedly took a drink. After noticing, how warm the water was, he took a few steps further in. As a shrew, he had a natural affection for forest streams, even in fall. Nathan was taking of his sandals, and attempted to cool his footpaws. He, however, quickly flinched from the icy stream.
“Harr, don’ tell me, that the wa’er is tou cold for ye. We shrews anjoy it.”
Nathan jealously answered,
“And you shrews talk too much, do you know that?”
“Aye Naythin, we’re debatin’. Dat mean’s we’re spendin’ our toim wisely.”
“Oh, leave me alone. Struggling will get us…” Nathan stopped talking all of a sudden.
“Wot is it? Changed yoor moind?”
Nathan silently shook his head, and thinkingly murmured,
“Say, is it possible, that this river is connected to the one, over which Pike Bridge runs? After all, is equally deep and wide.”
Truddle stood up in the water, and had to agree,
“Aye, you’re roight. Bu’ that maiks it even easier for us to reech the bridge in toim, eh? We’ll just fullow dat streem”
Nathan nervously looked at the river, and went to it’s edge.
“Then get out of the Truddle, quick! Pike Bridge is called Pike Bridge for a reason!”
The shrew, however, merely handwaved his warning, and stated,
“If’n therr were poikes in ‘ese water, I’d be long dead already. P’raps it indeed is another river.”
Nathan grew more nervous.
“But what if not? Get out! Now!”
“Stop froightenin’ me!” the shrew exclaimed, “Oi’ll notice a poik when one’s around”
Nathan clenched his paw to a fist, and stuck it into his mouth, to contain himself. After a long pause, he suspired,
“Right, then stay where you are, don’t move, and keep silent.”
Truddle was about to curiously approach the debilitated mouse, when…
“Blood and Vinegar! Do not move I said!”
Truddle froze instantly. But before he could ask him, whether there was a pike behind him in the water, he noticed forest bushes and undergrowth moving, just a few paces behind Nathan. Truddle attempted to warn him as well,
“Best when yoo don’t move, matey.”
Then Truddle slowly looked around, if he could catch a glimpse of the pike. To his horror, a sizeable fin cut through the reed on the other side of the river. The pike was big enough to swallow him at once, but slender enough to reach the very borders of the sand easily. Trud was only several feet away from the bank, but it would take him some essential seconds more to reach it. The pike was on the perfectly other side of the stream, and the only thing that could possibly hinder him from slaying, was the current stream that ran through the middle part of the river. The pike had not yet noticed him, but once Truddle moved, he would. Truddle slowly turned back towards the bank. If Nathan could help him out, he might as well dodge the pike. If he were lucky enough. Silently, he tilted up one of the footpaws, so he could jump first, start his wading through the remaining distance. This should give him an adequate head start. He gathered his whole remaining power, and counted to 1.
“Threy,…. ttw… two,…. oo…one. One!” and he jumped.
It did not carry him far, but he jumped over water, which would have slowed him down. This blow rocked all around him, and it went splashing everywhere. The pike must have noticed him by now. Once his footpaws touched the riverbed again, he began wading for his life, panic took a tight grip on him. He was going slow, too slow, water swept into his eyes and filled his mouth, he had to retch horribly. Being momentarily blind, and choking on the water, he waded on and on, determined to reach the bank only a few feet away. The pike had noticed him all right, and was making his way across to Truddle. Even the current seemed not to deter him. Like a silver flash, the pike came out of the water in it's whole entity, and seemed swallowed by it again only a wink later. it came closer and closer. Truddle felt, how the his feet went uphill, and soon the water was only up to his knees. This gave him new strength, and he chased across the shallow basin, and thrust himself onto the turf-like, but safe soil. The pike still was chasing him, but upon noticing the shore, he jumped out of the water, attempting to catch the prey above it. Truddle saw, how the pike shot out of the stream in his full size, and rose several metres into the air, and plummeted down into the water again, resulting in a great white explosion, sweeping Truddle further away from the waterside. Coughing and choking, he stood up, freezing because of his muddy clothes.
“Well and thanks for yer ‘elp… cough” He added sarcastically.
But Nathan was nowhere to be seen. He had gone hiding from the strange movements from the bushes. Or perhaps, that was just what Trud hoped he had.
He staggered to the cart, and took out his blanket. Then he looked around. Nathan was still not present. But then he spotted something shiny lying in the light-green grass, a few steps away from the cart. He packed away the blanket, and curiously inspected it. It was the sword of Martin.
Nathan must have taken from inside the cart. What happened?
“Naithen! Naythin? Where are ye? Wot happen’d?”
There was no answer. Everything was completely silent. The birds had stopped twittering and jumping around. Even the crickets held their breath. Truddle nervously picked up the sword. There was no blood on it, neither there was on the ground. No sign of struggle whatsoever. The shrew kneeled on the ground, and inspected the paw tracks. Apart from his own, some bigger mouse tracks could be seen. Truddle began to talk, and to point out Nathan’s possible route to himself, just to calm himself down,
“Soo, he seymed to ‘ave sprinted tae the cart, and snatched de sord o’ Martin. Then, then he wokked over ‘ere, slowly and cautiously. He went soideways, tae keep an eye on thus russling bushes. But thenn, ‘ee dropped the sord. Whoy did he drop de sord?”
He kept searching. Only a few steps away from where he found the sword, the pawtracks continued.
“He walked away from the sord, jus’ loik that, ou’ into de forest. But ‘ee wasn’t runnin’ or anything. He wos going, noice ‘n’ slow. So wot’s going on ‘ere? Naithun! That’s nut funny!”
He gripped his sword tighter, but then quickly returned to the cart. He could not stand it to remain here any longer, the silence pressed on him like a heavy boulder. He could literally feel the predators sneaking up from behind, posed to kill, and worse. The pike had definitely made his day. He decided to follow the paw tracks, taking the wagon along with him. On his way, he passed the bushes, who were moving earlier. Now, that they were so still, he was even more repelled from finding the truth.
From some distance, a sound resembling thunder reached him.
“Now et looks loik rain. This can’t be good.”
Whatever that sound was, whether thunder or not, it was destined to form change this day’s course abruptly.