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Here follows the next part of my fanfic Senn of Redwall, enjoy. In it will be revealed the mystery at the River Moss, as well as many thread-tying.
Book Two: Waters and Dreams
It was morning when the Guosim under Log-a-log with Juhenchin Bentonhings Kaminglain Baggscut and Mauthie Browncloak reached the block at the River Moss. All present were struck dumb with awe and overwhelming fright. In front of them, only one thing reared above the River Moss: woods. Seemingly Mossflower itself was uprooted, a vast hill of assorted trunks and foliage, mounding up the sky and back on each bank, spanning the whole river. It was, however, the thing which perched on top that lent movement back to their legs.
“Back Guosim! To t’trees!” Log-a-log’s voice was in panic, a trait seldom seen in his character. Shrews made a mad shuffle off, heading for the sheltering bows of Mossflower behind them. Most made it, Mauthie and Log-a-log included, but two shrews had been unfortunate to trip over a protruding root. Juhenchin, who had, for all practical purposes, dragged the young Deffo behind him to get back to the trees, spoke to Log-a-log amidst the struggle.
“We’ve gotta get them out!” Log-a-log took hold of a long alder branch close to paw, and through his rapier to the hare. “Foller me, get ‘round to the other side of that bird!”
The gigantic bird, known as a flatland buzzard, was flapping down to where the two shrews lay sprawled directly below him. As the bird landed, Log-a-log had bounded up and went into action. Slamming the branch down, he catapulted into the buzzard’s face, Juhenchin leaping into its legs. The force of the blows caused the bird to nearly stagger, and its sight was lost. Log-a-log yelled out amidst the confusion. “Get back, ya scruffy lot!”
The twos shrews got up and ran to the trees. Juhenchin swept out the rapier, but the buzzard acted first. Ridding itself of Log-a-log by flinging him off his head into the river, the buzzard’s talon gripped onto the rapier. ‘’Cring!’’
Juhenchin fell back, and soon leaped out with his lanky legs back to the trees, where several shrews were waiting with Mauthie for the two rescuers’ return. Deffo, who had witnessed the whole scene, was drawing his rapier. “We ‘ave t’get to Log-a-log!”
The hare steadied him by the shoulders. “Can’t allow that, me laddiebuck. That thing’ll kill ya as swift as lightning on a stormy evenin’.”
Other Guosim shrews were milling their teeth, their rapiers drawn in similar fashion. The buzzard had soared up from the place of attack, circling the perimeter as Log-a-log appeared. The Guosim chieftain had swam back to shore, and was promptly getting himself scarce from its side. Juhenchin and Deffo met him back at the trees.
“Did’ya see that thin’, Ju? It’d ‘ave slain us all if we ‘aden’t retreated!”
The hare stroked his whiskers. “No real casualties suffered, though, ol’ Log-a-thing. Looks t’be an ol’ buzzard, giant o’ one o’ his kind even. Murderous scum, prey on those passing through their stolen realm, reckon he’s a bit ticked o’ us comin’ by so early, wot!”
“That’s Skourge Jarrod.” Log-a-log said, his voice low and penetrating. Juhenchin had never heard the name before. “Swat’sa scourge jar?”
Deffo answered. “Skourge Jarrod, e’s made a name for ‘imself off to the northwest, I’ve ‘eard he’s slain more’n even some hordes just by ‘imself. Wonder what cause ‘im to take up abode in Mossflower.”
Log-a-log brushed his whiskers of water. “Likely pickin’s ‘ave gone down, so ‘e flew down to take up a new career, nice timing too. How we’re sup’osed to move that lot even without ‘im complicatin’ the whole situation?”
All twelve beasts present sat about, running the problem through their minds. The amount of debris stacked up thunderstruck most, and the size and ferocity in their newly made enemy was daunting. Silence reigned over the community, disturbed by the sounds of nature and an occasional shuffle or minor sigh. Deffo was beginning to get the state of things. “May ‘ave been one o’ those great windstorms, when they rap ‘round each other and swirl. My grandsire described seein’ one once, said it was the most terrifyin’ sight ‘e ever saw.”
Juhenchin waved his ears. “Good show, young Deffo. Likely he’s right, which explains well enough how so much of Mossflower ended up damming the River Moss. What we need to do is move all that, while Dunjer an’ his lot take care o’ the riverwall.”
Log-a-log responded to the hare. “Actually, Juhenchin, I believe we need to do somethin’ ‘bout that buzzard first. We should warn Dunjer as well, Skourge Jarrod might be takin’ a trip ‘is way.”
The suggestion spurred on action, and all gear was gathered back up and the company set off, bound back east to find their companions.
Dunjer sat with Jasse Twootack and Buyyad Spearcalm, exhausted with the rest of the Guosim shrews there after working most of the night. The thirteen had collected but a tiny portion of the necessary supplies, but at least the clouds overhead had shown no rainfall. As morning light spread on, Dunjer remarked to Jasse. “Think Skipper of Otters would be back from the Western Sea, yet? Could use ‘is ‘elp.”
Jasse looked about the shrews. “No use botherin’ with these supplies, we should go an’ join Log-a-log and Juhenchin at the river block. Reckon we should depart?”
Dunjer breathed deeply. “Ah, prob’ly don’t ‘ave much o’ a choice, it’d be pointless to stay ‘ere.”
Buyyad was dozing, most of the others sat about drinking or resting. “We’ll leave after a short rest more, that’s my orders.” Dunjer slumped back, resting his head on a shale rock.
Seven other weary figures marched disorderly about Mossflower Woods that morning, Badgunt pathetically trying to drive them on with promises of grandeur. “Lissen once more mates, we’re goin’ to get rich to da south, dat’s where all da pickin’s are. ‘Ave ya not all ‘eard o’ Redwall Abbey?”
Slimtooth spat bad-mannerly into the dirt. “Go an’ git yerself killed if ya want, Badgunt, I’ve ‘eard o’ Redwall, an’ I ain’t gittin’ meself slain at its walls.”
Badgunt spun on the stoat. “Ya do like I tell ya to do, stoat. An’ I’m boss ‘round ‘ere, ya call me Chief fer now on.”
Glummaye and Moggslouse sniggered, and Badgunt turned his attention on them. “Wat ya two laughin’ ‘bout? Git yerselves up front, den I can see ya.”
The two rats obeyed. Dripear, by far the shortest and stoutest of strength amongst the whole gang, trekked along with Sharpear, now over his strange fit, though he had presently lost the ability to speak. The two former searats marched at the back, with Slimtooth and Bluntclaw. Dripear restarted the conversation. “’Ey, Chief, why are we goin’ to Redwall, I’ve ‘eard o’ dat place, full ‘o magic swords ‘n rich tapestries.”
Bluntclaw was confused. “If dis place’s full o’ riches, why ain’t we jist raidin’ it ‘n takin’ our share?”
Dripear answered. “Huh, many ‘ave tried, dat place’s bad luck to all. We shouldn’t try ‘n fight dose beasts inside.”
Badgunt had never heard of any tapestries or swords, his intentions were to steal food from the Abbey. At such mentions, however, he changed his motives. “Lissen, we’re gonna git in dere, den we can take a few ‘ostage, an’ bargain fer our shares. Bluntclaw’s a smart beast, ‘e knew dat.”
Slimtooth was not assuaged. “I still say dat place’ll be da end o’ us.”
Badgunt ignored the statement, and looked up to see the two conspiring rats staring back at him. They swiftly resumed their pace, and the vermin band headed further south.
As the afternoon meal ended at Redwall Abbey, creatures dispersed for their chores. Sister Fevel sent off the dibbuns Zade and Druather to the infirmary, where Abbot Caliuago and Traggo Spearcalm awaited them. After a bit of force and tactic, the mole and squirrel babes were seated at two stools, facing the Abbot in the sickbay. The retired cellarhog stood behind them.
The wiry and dark-furred squirrelbabe was shocked at the punishment assigned to him. Abbot’s Report was a serious matter, and what he expected would happen, happened. Caliuago looked sternly from one to the other and began his narration.
“Dibbuns, Druather, Zade, why have you misbehaved so much?”
Before the Abbot could get further, Zade interrupted. “Cause we’s not wanna get sended to bed.”
Caliuago nodded. “Yes, but we elders send you to bed for your own good, like Skipper said. Now…”
Zade interrupted the Abbot once more. “Are we gonna fix up the infirmary, Farder?”
Caliuago polished his spectacles. “Don’t you think you deserve too?”
The squirrelbabe said nothing, Abbot Caliuago continued. “Now then, your offenses have brought me to thus assign you these chores and duties: you must eat, bathe and sleep when you are directed. You will assist Friar Burrade in his kitchens for this evening, for tomorrow you will clean up the mess in this infirmary under the direction of Sister Maihal and Melandine. After that, I will have them give you your next chores. You will apologize to both, and Sister Fevel. I would advise you to remember the disruption you have caused, your actions this morning hurt all Redwallers, not just by cancelling lunch. Many have now more to do to fix the troubles you caused, and several more so. Do you understand what you did was wrong?”
Druather nodded his snout. “Yes, Farder Habbot, we’s unnerstand.”
Zade bobbed his head. “Yes, we’ll go down to the kitchens now, Habbot.”
Abbot Caliuago smiled. “Good, Traggo will escort you both there, do as the friar tells you.”
Zade speedily jumped down from the stool, and Druather followed suit. Traggo walked out with them both, and all three disappeared down the steps. Caliuago had never liked the job of assigning punishment out to any, especially young ones. He stood slowly and walked out from the room, murmuring as he did. “I suppose they at least through out her horrid seaweed nettle soup.”
That evening down on the lawns, the mole Kaci and Skipper let in four creatures, the returning Kraylin and two other otters, with a small owl in tow. Ouvon Oakclaw surveyed the Abbey, making conversation to the two gate openers. “Ha, I was in this Abbey a few seasons ago, then maybe five, no, six times before then.”
Kraylin had been little impressed with the owl at first, but he soon showed his prowess in flying soon enough. The journey back to Redwall was soon completed, and now Skipper made his crew ready to depart. “Well, now that all o’ my crew is back, I’ll be taking them out; sorry about missing the Abbey meals.”
“Shame, I’d ‘ave liked to sample some more Redwall vittles afore we left, but o’ well.” Kraylin stamped her rudder and smiled to Skipper. “Best be goin’ afore all light’s gone, need t’be marchin’ through the night an’ all.”
“Look forward t’seeing ya out soon, Ouvon. In the meantime, Kaci ‘ere shall take ya to supper in Cavern Hole.” Without any further ado, the four otters left through the main gate and started down the path north, where the rest of the ottercrew awaited their arrival. Kaci boarded up the gate with the small owl’s help, and began across the Abbey lawns.
“Hmm, Redwall vittles should taste rather fair, my good mole.”
Kaci shook his head. “Oi surrpintly ‘opes they’m do, oi’m starvin’.”
A splendid display of food was put on by Friar Burrade and his kitchen staff. As the Friar went by the Abbot’s chair with a trolley, Caliuago remarked to him. “Are your two new assistants performing alright?”
Burrade nodded behind the Abbot. “Just fine, young Druather was very helpful with shredding cheese, while Zade I put to cleaning pans and such the like. They’re resting right now on a stationary trolley in the kitchens.”
The Abbey friar moved off, continuing on his rounds, making sure all dishes were in abundance and nothing was needed urgently. Brother Hivan, who had taken the seat alongside Ouvon Oakclaw, stood up amongst the assembly and raised his beaker high. “A cheer for Friar Burrade, may he reign long in the kitchens!”
A cheer went up, and all manner of drinking vessels were raised to the toast. Friar Burrade bowed politely and held up both hands. “I just suppose you lot want dessert?”
Hearty laughs went out, and a chorus of “Yes!” went to the ceiling. Soon, trays of delicious sweet treats were set out on the tables, and the meal continued on. Ouvon gobbled up a portion of saturated of bread spread with honey and remarked to Brother Hivan. “Gum, I greatly muphf love Redwall fare, guhble, best anywhere!”
The score of Guosim at the Abbey ate mingled with the Redwallers. Looking around, Abbot Caliuago first noticed that Pinkal was not in attendance. Rising from his chair, he quietly left the table, checking to make sure none had noticed his swift departure. He had a notion where the hedgehog might be, and left Cavern Hole into Great Hall, and exited out onto the lawns. The late evening was crisp and cool, faint breezes blowing by. The sun was set, and light was fading, turning the sandstone Abbey to a faint pink in hue. The Abbot made his way over to the wallsteps nearest to him.
After traversing over the steps, he stood about a dozen short paces from where the young hedgehog stood looking up to the north. Pinkal shifted his gaze slightly backwards, and then continued staring out. His quills bristled in the cool evening, and the Abbot positioned himself beside him. Caliuago looked out at the thick green foliage of Mossflower for a minute, then addressed the hedgehog without averting his eyes.
“You know, it seems a certain young beast is missing out on the merriment tonight, and for some reason he stands out alone staring off in the distance. Beautiful evening, though.”
Pinkal sighed imperceptivity. “Oh, I dearly wish my friends could be ‘ere to enjoy life at Redwall and all its pleasures, the Guosim out there too, they’re stuck away from their friends and companions. A tide is breakin’, and we’re split asunder. Why do they ‘ave to be gone in such times?”
Abbot Caliuago turned his gaze also over the ramparts. “Because times come when those able must, for the good of all they call friend and companion, take up both arms and themselves to where they are needed. They’ll be back soon enough, the lot of them calling from the path for lunch and tea because they’re starving, just wait and see.”
Pinkal smiled over at the old mouse. “Well, I suppose then we best get to supper then, afore they come and eat us out of Abbey and home.”
Caliuago laughed, and the two beasts descended from the ramparts, both returning to enjoy the evening with friends, amidst good food and inside the Abbey which meant one solid thing to all within its walls: security.
A time was coming, when such a thing would be challenged like never before.
The morning after the buzzard attack was spent by the Guosim under Log-a-log about the River Moss. The tyrannical buzzard seen flying once in awhile over the area gave warning to the continuing presence of Skourge Jarrod. Shrewbread was passed around to all, with a cup of shrewbeer. Juhenchin began randomly popping out ideas, which aggravated a number of Guosim. Log-a-log finished drinking his shrewbeer. “Juhenchin is welcome to render any idea he wishes, though I do request more silence!”
The aging hare remained where he was. “A chap can’t bally well help it if he has the ability to think up so many creative n’ potionshally effective ideas, ya lot o’ bounders just can’t respect that!”
Log-a-log leaned over to Mauthie. “I didn’t mean to insult him, reckon e’s fine about it?”
Mauthie bit into the shrewbread. “Oh, Juhenchin’s fine, he’s just sporting out fixes to the issue.”
Log-a-log called the Guosim to him. “Lissen, Guosim! Somethin’ our friend Juhenchin said has sparked an idea. That buzzard atop that ridge, it appears to me that he won’t operate well over such an incline. If’n we rush an’ reach its first logs before him, we could use both our slings and rapiers to retaliate when he attacks. We would leave on the morrow, are you with me Guosim?”
There was no doubt. All agreed to the plan, thinking it foolproof. Deffo cheered near the loudest, glad to be at something instead of lying around. Log-a-log nodded decisively. “We leave at first light, get yore weapons ready, we’re going to a fight!”
Bubbles popped up in random fashion from the earth, denoting the presence of sinking ground. Carefully avoiding such a thing for the umpteenth, three scouts under the small stoat Plaggard skirted the mixture and made their way about the woodlands. The night had been spent by a score of the Horde of the Wolfteeth prowling about, locating and marking the spots of interest, to avoid the horde from the difficulties of crossing the ground north of the night camp.
Blueney, meeting up with the four with a few scouts behind him, hailed the stoat. “Any sign more o’ sinkin’ ground?”
Plaggard pointed to his right dramatically. “Aye, right there. Best think we git back to Blackrobe, we’re marked all the spots we need to, an’ I’m tired o’ crashin’ ‘round woodlands all night.”
Blueney was in agreement, still sour and shocked by his assignment the previous night. Of the score, all were last reported alive, and making back for camp. The rat shoved a ferret from his path, who had halted to avoid contact with a patch of wet sand. Blueney continued on, holding conversation with the stoat. “I’d go fer a soft spread an’ a pint o’ grog right now, mate. Shame we’re be marchin’ as soon as we git back, ‘magine ol’ Blackrobe’s got the ‘ole ‘orde up an’ ready by now.”
Plaggard’s voice was drained and miserable. ‘Ya, wish ol’ Askcor would do ‘er in, e’d be a better leader.”
All in attendance were silent at the statement, and Blueney was looking around. “Don’t be talkin’ that way! Blackrobe’s called the Wolfteeth fer a reason, try an’ cross ‘er an’ ya die as soon as ya would in those patches o’ quicksand, ‘cept much more painful an’ slow.”
The stoat snorted in disgust. “Wotever, I just ‘ope she falls into one o’ those ‘oles anyway! Heehee!”
Blueney saw the camp in sight, and gazed down at his feet. He suddenly remembered that he was employed as a spy, and decided to drop the fractious conversation as it was. A few nods were in evidence at the stoat’s pronunciation, but obviously nothing else would come. Blackrobe was indeed not one to rival with, but her cruelty would soon require the calling of a warrior to contend with.
An hour after dawn saw the Horde of the Wolfteeth milling about camp, preparing meager rations for breakfast, and collapsing up tents and stowing belongings away. Blackrobe watched from her tent entrance, which had been cleared of furniture and stakes and promptly folded up. She pawed her trademark knife, gazing down from the outcrop her tent had been set on. Slow, clumsy and overall discourteous and improper seemed the rule of the camp that morning. Murderers and backstabbers all, thought Blackrobe, the perfect horde for conquest. And also treachery and treason.
Sharptail would be reckoned with, then she would conquer the woodlands about her, and set out to bring all under her dominance; including the young otter who had defied her authority and escaped from her grip of iron. None could hide from the Wolfteeth for long, she thought.
March was soon on, the thirty-six score horde traversing up the narrowing path, woodlands right up to its boundaries. Oaks, birches, beeches, some ashes and firs with a number of pines grew around, thick foliage and winding bows creating a glorious arrangement of natural forestry, the very picture of green glory. Grass grew up, stones and rocks, mixed in with flowers and small streamlets, covered the hilly floor of Mossflower.
Blackrobe set the pace at the front of her horde, Bladge taking his place beside her, leading the first three newly arranged columns. The warlord was acutely aware of Sharptail’s presence leading the next division back, and had purposefully had all known members of his gang, besides Ragchin, sent to one under the support of Blueney; jointly led by him and a newly appointed horde captain, Dagkerl.
Making a long mental note to check up on any activity in the conspiracy, the wildcat continued pawing her knife. Deadly and unique, the perfect combination for any weapon in regards to operating with her savage teeth and claws. Blackrobe smiled, savoring the morning air. Today was a new day…a new day for conquest!
Bird song woke up Senn from his sleep, nestled beside a fissure between several leafy plants. They were both comfortable and beautiful, and the fissure was dark and deep. Ivy was up, seated at the far end of the fissure. Last night, the two travelers had encountered the fissure, running near fifty yards long and as deep as the present morning sunlight would allow to filter through the thick foliage. Senn sat up straight and climbed to his feet, gazing as he had been all night into the awesome gap.
He grabbed his javelins, and slinging them lengthways across his back as he always had done, walked up to the squirrel warrior, who was sitting at the fire at the end of the earth void. “Crunchy skillet, made with dried fruit, roots and a portion of spices and carrots, along with some lettucecake, courtesy of Demsell.”
Ivy shrugged. “Suppose it’ll taste as fine as expectable, looks fine enough. An’ there’s a flagon of bilberry cordial.”
Senn found his appetite awakened, and dug in with his companion to the delicious food provided by Krado Stard and Demsell. With the fissure radiating awe and majestic power, the travelers spoke. “Demsell said we’d be reaching the heart of Mossflower in its eastern reaches soon enough, an’ Blackrobe’s ahead of us.”
Senn left off eating, running his fingers down a javelin tip. “I carry no real weapon, besides my javelins, but one day soon enough I’ll get myself somethin’ I can use fer the rest o’ my life.”
The words were muttered, but other creatures besides Ivy Rowancrown heard them. “Very well, laddie, I suppose ya wouldn’t mind havin’ us about as ya find one, wot wot?”
Senn spun up and around at the intruding voice. Ivy whirled out her sling, skillfully tossing up a pebble to land in it. Four hares, dressed in military uniform and carrying packs of rations, stood with weapons slack watching the two beasts from the same side of the fissure. The stoutest came forward another couple paces, only now a short stone toss away from the otter and squirrel.
“Colonel Cournweal at y’service, Corporal Miengius Cornwhallis Fhrunkslerry is the tall hare beside me, renowned fighter, runner and boxer. Araya Membuis is the lovely hare here, deadly with a fencing rapier as no ever was. Young DeMioor Kirussie is the young ‘n handsome galloper of the troop, commonly known as Stid.”
Senn relaxed his paws away from the javelins; hares were friendly creatures. “Senn Longbattler is my name, this is Ivy Rowancrown o’ the Southlands. Why are ya ‘ere?”
Cournweal scratched his head. “Could ask ya the same bally question, my good otter. DeMioor Kirussie, mind getting some vittles set out? There’s a good chap!”
Ivy returned her sling to her belt. “One can’t be too careful in these parts. Pr’haps you’d tell us who ye are an’ why yore hear?”
The hare Colonel removed his cape, which both ears fit neatly through two holes. “Perfectly, marm. Such banter is best done over vittles though, wot?”
Six creatures later sat about the fire, relating tales and stories. Informed on the hares’ mission and the mysterious mountain stronghold of warriors they had come from, Senn told the full tale of his adventures from the day he had been captured by Blackrobe Wolfteeth on the Vast South Plains. Speculation was given on the present situation regarding the vast horde, and a few minor conclusions were drawn.
Colonel Cournweal questioned the otter. “A horde of brutal murderers, led by a tyrannical type warlord, one who’ve ya been trailing to meet with justice, is heading the same path ye are?”
“I was never intendin’ to hunt them yet per say, we simply decided to go to the legendary Abbey of Redwall,” Senn informed those gathered, “I just seem to ‘ave ended up on their trail.”
The hare eyed the young otter. “Yet they are on the same path as you.” The otter shifted uncertainly. These hares had seemed fine and friendly, but the Southlands were never an area of real peace.
Corporal Fhrunkslerry turned his gaze to the open space, the light breeze blowing through his moustache. “Well, one thing is certain: the entire horde of the wildcat Blackrobe Wolfteeth is on a course right to the very gates of Redwall Abbey.”
The intensity of the statement hit all with a thunderbolt. Shock reigned, until Senn broke it. “Then we move! I’m not waitin’ for an evil monster to get to an’ attack a peaceful Abbey if I don’t ‘ave too, as o’ now, I’ve a new motive for goin’ t’Redwall.”
Cournweal and Miengius soon packed up food and gear, and the now joint force of Salamandastron hares and Southland travelers set out north.
Caliuago awoke from sleep with a new dawn over Redwall Abbey. He was soon heading down the dormitory stairs into Great Hall when he remembered his dream. The words of Martin the Warrior echoed through his mind, and he repeated them aloud in the open space of the stairs. “Where I have hung my sword a warrior must come. Brave of heart, stout of courage, and driven on justice. Look for this one, my sword shall he yield.”
Sister Truthley passed by as he spoke the words. “Huh, well there’s a pattern of strange verse, where’d you hear it, Abbot?”
Caliuago spoke solemnly. “Martin spoke to me, a few nights ago. I’ve just recalled those words, strange I would have forgotten them so long.”
“If Martin spoke to you, Abbot, perhaps we should hold a council?”
“Agreed, Truthley. There’s much to be discussed, get together the elders.”
Foremole Thigg and Brother Hivan had gone after breakfast with the rest of the elders to Cavern Hole. A meeting was in swing, presided over by Abbot Caliuago. Sister Fevel and Brother Hoffen attended with Truthley, all waiting for the Abbot to begin.
“Elders and friends, you have all been informed about the appearance of Martin the Warrior in our Abbey. We must figure out what his words mean and how to act on them. Foremole?”
Foremole Thigg held aloft a velvety digging claw. “Oi’d say Marthen ‘as goiven uz a warnin’, we best be actin’ on it.”
Traggo Spearcalm also attended, and seconded the mole leader. “Foremole Thigg is right, we ought’n t’be preparing fer any danger, sounds t’me if’n a warrior is to come, we ‘ave a threat.”
Hoffen spoke next. “If Martin says this warrior is a force for justice and full of courage, I reckon Martin’s made a good choice. Whatever happens beyond that we help this beast is out of our hands, but I suggest we do something to defend Redwall.”
The meeting was proceeding quickly, and Sister Maihal had not had her say. “But what is this threat?”
Foremole answered her. “Oi believe Brudder ‘Offen just answurred t’at, Mai’al.”
Caliuago tapped his paws on the table they all sat around. “Yes, we have no idea about this threatening force. Hoffen has spoken well, and I will be continuing the ban of any creature going out of the Abbey. The Guosim will patrol still to the north; we must not forget about Log-a-log and our new Thallsmergan friends. Our hopes are always out to them and their enterprise, though we at Redwall are as yet unsure of the condition. Second, whatever force is coming to attack Redwall, well, I guess we need just be ready to deal with them.”
A chorus “Ayes” came, and hearty cheers were heard about the table as all Redwallers there agreed to the plan. The meeting broke up, and all went about other business. It was as Caliuago was strolling in the grounds at the southeast corner of the wall that Pinkal came running up shouting.
“Abbot, there’s a crew o’ vermin out on the path, and they’re askin’ fer ye!”
Badgunt stood outside from the Abbey gate, his back not far from the ditch which ran alongside the path. Glummaye, Moggslouse and Bluntclaw were with him, idling while they monitored the ramparts. A hedgehog and two shrews were visible patrolling, Badgunt sneered. Over the past day, he had moved his gang south still, and by breakfast had camped in the ditch. The rest of the crew was foraging and scouting around for a camp in Mossflower Woods, while he waited with his fellow weasel beside him and the two untrustworthy rats he had told to remain in front of him.
Under watch by now two more shrews on the ramparts, Badgunt called up. “Git yer chief down dere, we want to talk to ‘im.”
The hedgehog disappeared, and for a while the four gangmembers continued eying the imposing wall and structure. Rising far up from the ground, the Abbey building was a magnificent build, to say nothing of the high and thick walls. After a few minutes, more heads were showing on the ramparts. A dozen or so shrews stood now in plain view, obviously awaiting the arrival of whatever chief ruled the place. Badgunt noticed the rapiers and twirling slings among them, but also saw that various other creatures were thronging the walltops as well.
Moles, mice, hedgehogs, squirrels and otters carried or wielded anything that came to paw; rakes, hoes, kitchen knives, staves, pieces of wood and pots and pans. “Nothin’ more dan country bumpkins.” Badgunt said to the remaining members of his gang. Presently, an older mouse with spectacles, dressed much like the other woodlanders in robe and cord, appeared above the main gate. Before he could identify himself, Badgunt began making his demands.
“Surrender yer Abbey, mouse! I ‘ave more beasts den dis at my disposal, an’ we’re ‘ere fer yer valuables and tapestries!”
Before he could get further, Foremole Thigg silenced him in his deep earth-tunneling voice from alongside the Abbot. “Quit yer catirwaulin’, weasel. Yer git no valu’bles ‘ere, we keep no such the loike at Redwall.”
Badgunt waved his scimitar in front of him for emphasize. “Yer not da one I was addressin’, mole. Keep yer tongue still an’ let me an’ yer chief do business.”
Caliuago placed his paws into his habit sleeves. “There is no reason to insult anybeast, my son. I am not a chief, I am Father Abbot of Redwall Abbey. Say your piece and begone from our Abbey while you carry a weapon and act as mean as so.”
Badgunt controlled his rising temper. “Don’t talk all passive to me, mousey. Yer Abbey’s t’be mine from now on.”
Brother Hoffen, armed with a garden rake, called out from the northwest corner of the ramparts. “Talk to the Abbot so uncivilly again, weasel, and I’ll come down and break this rake over your head, maybe that’ll help you understand the situation better.”
Badgunt growled aloud and slung his scimitar in a long circling arc. “Dah! Ya just signed yer death warrant, ruffy mouse! Dis place is unner siege from now on.”
Badgunt signaled to the three crewbeasts and started south down the ditch, but soon was running along its base as well manner of rubbage and projectiles shoot from the Abbey ramparts.
Slimtooth, Dripear and Sharpear had selected a small clearing overlooking a patch of wetlands to the southeast as a campsite. From there they awaited the return of their chief and fellow gangmembers. Still uncertain regarding attacking Redwall, the three sat about nervously and nibbling small roots they had scavenged. About midmorning, a crashing sound from the north denoted the coming of four beasts.
Badgunt stumbled into the campsite with Bluntclaw beside him, the two rats following behind. Scanning around, the weasel chief spoke to Sharpear. “Ya der, git me some victuals.”
The tall and wiry rat obeyed without complaint, though the art of speaking was still lost to the creature. Bluntclaw attempted to seat himself by an oak tree, but only succeeded in tripping his footpaw from in front of him and cracking his skull back against the tree. Snarling in pain, the weasel pulled himself up and growled at the snickering crew. Badgunt slashed his scimitar down into a yew thicket.
“Crah! Dose stupid bumpkins made us look like idjits! Why weren’t ya slingin’ anythin’ at ‘em, eh, Glummaye? Huh, some crew ya lot are. Lissen, I looked dat Abbey place over, an’ I dink I found a way in. Dis is da plan…”
As dawn rose over the River Moss, Log-a-log was honing his rapier blade. The air was damp and muggy, no pleasure was found in the atmosphere. A near feeling of desperatarity hung over him, knowing by morning he would be leading the few Guosim under him into battle. His plan was sure; the strike would hopefully be swift and effective. With any luck, the block and wall could be solved and soon he would reunite the Guosim back under a single chieftain.
The nine Guosim shrews and Juhenchin and Mauthie Browncloak lay about a clearing on the edge of the Mossflower fringe facing the river. Log-a-log gazed about him; while he rested in a spot between vines and trunks, overlooking the river. The block was barely visible to the northwest, a curve in the trunks and foliage ending his view well before reaching sight of the site of battle.
His rapier blade shone and showed perfect sharpness and balance; he remembered its origin. His lost forever in the River, he had taken to the former blade of Mincid. He shook his head, bowing as he contemplated both words and actions of the last few days; life had become complicated.
Juhenchin Bentonhings Kaminglain Baggscut prepared a quick breakfast that morning, on the order of Log-a-log to be light and quickly-prepared and eaten. The Guosim chieftain had waken them all not long after dawn. With a breakfast of chestnuts and shrewbread with fresh water, the dozen moved off westward through woodlands. Turning to avoid the swamplands, they marched out in loose fashion onto the river side. The water was riding higher than ever before, certainly arguable to be already flooding Mossflower.
Log-a-log hurried on his pace, forcing the Guosim and Thallsmergan settlers to lope off fast after his lead. Sixty paces from the block he halted; Juhenchin was the first to reach him. Carrying a long branch striped of bark resembling a crude mace, the hare went over the plan once more. “Dash up roaring and beat Skourge Thingy at his own game. We brush into combat an’ do our blinkin’ best to defeat him. Ready, Deffo me lad?”
The young adult shrew licked his rapier blade. “Say the word an’ I’m there, Log-a-log. Right aside my friend Ju.”
The rest of the Guosim and Mauthie came up. Log-a-log gazed up at the enormous block, still taking in the colossal array. He drew his rapier and pronounced orders. “Get yoreselves in tight formation, slings ‘n rapiers in equal evidence. Juhenchin, Mauthie, take positions in the back, no arguin’. Up an’ at ‘em, Guosim! Chaaaaarrrggge!”
The dozen beasts thundered up and away, storming across earth, sending up a dust cloud to reach the heights of the Mossflower trees to the south. Leaping onto the first of the logs of the block, first of all beasts to do so, Log-a-log led the ambitious charge upward, thundering still all of them. “Logaloglogaloglogaloglogaloglogalog!”
Skourge Jarrod appeared. At first, it seemed like the buzzard was only a blur, but then he was certainly real. The bird dove up from where he was in flight, coming down from the dam’s peak, right into a dense pack of trunks and foliage.
Craassshh! Crack! Snap! Trunks, branches, leaves, twigs and flying acorns smashed upon the assailants. Blown airborne by the buzzard’s impact, the projectiles slammed down upon them. Juhenchin saved himself from impact by an immense oak trunk by dodging off to his left, nearly off the whole dam. Blinded totally by the debris, Log-a-log could see barely anything. The ground was shaking, and he caught sight of two Guosim shrews, crashed dead by the mighty impact. His rapier blade was crunched by a flying branch, and then the buzzard was really on them. Log-a-log flung his rapier hilt upwards as the bird came, and heard it screech. Veering off from attack, the Guosim chieftain never felt the talons of the mighty bird. Once more the ground shook, than a long ululating call was heard.
As the debris cleared and sight was regained, Log-a-log managed to see Dunjer, at the head of his quarter of the Guosim, pounding up the side of the river in the distance. He stood himself back up. The buzzard had begun flight back up the dam, and soon disappeared over the top of it, angry at the fouling of his almost victory.
Log-a-log’s vision was blurred, and all he saw then was a mix. Guosim shrews, laying about him, slain by the bird’s sudden and destructive attack. Mauthie was unconscious near the base of the storm-made construct, battered by flung wooden projectiles. As his gaze turned downwards and all he saw was tree beneath him, his arm was grasped by Dunjer.
The young shrew’s touch brought him back fully then. Log-a-log stood straight up, the aftermath of the charge a scene of destroyed debris. Juhenchin was beyond the dam, kneeling on the ground. He clutched the body of Deffo, weeping and speaking at the same time. “Deffo! Come on, wake up matey! No! Nooo!”
Log-a-log bullied the young shrew off him. “Get everybeast together, despite our losses we have no choice but to charge. The dead can be buried later, leave the wounded. After that bird while we can! There’s nothing for it!”
Dunjer rallied all to him, pulling the hare from the slain shrew as well. A minute later, the whole of the able survivors was pounding once more up the slope of the dam, now a scene no longer of just awe and trouble, but also of death.
At noon, the Horde of the Wolfteeth broke for camp. Supplies were getting painfully low again, but Blackrobe was loath to send out a foraging party. Determined still to go further northward, she decided to gain supplies when they could next raid. In such a fix, Sharptail sat with his conspiracy around bundles of tents, which would be later unpacked that night. Dagkerl, a former hordebeast under Hutra, staggered by as the five conferred.
Sharptail watched the further arrogant movements and attitude demonstrated by the rat Blueney as he wandered about camp like nobeast’s business. Chewing a handful of strange nuts he had been issued, the fox captain explained his mutinous plan to his fellow conspirators. “This is how it’s goin’ to work,” Sharptail said quietly and slyly. “I need Slithtooth an’ you, Ragchin, to lay low an’ wait fer the signal. Bogard and Shima, ye’ll be wid me t’night, we’re goin’ to pay a visit to that bossy wildcat.”
Shima still favored leaving the horde, but held her tongue. Bogard, thoroughly fed up with schemes, simply snorted. “Wotever, but if Blackrobe’s onto us, why ain’t she just killed us all yet?”
Sharptail answered slowly and carefully. “Somethin’s up ‘er sleeve, nitbrain. Just git yer weapon ready t’night, same goes fer yer mate. Slithtooth an’ Ragchin, go ‘round to the further side o’ the camp an’ stay there come dark, shouldn’t be too ‘ard t’do. After we three finish ‘er off, ye two’ll come into the picture gettin’ Bladge an’ Askcor away fer a day, startin’ that night. Trust me, mates, it’ll work if’n we all stay to the plan. Ya’ll all be cap’ns soon!”
The desperate and untimely scheme was resignedly agreed on, and soon the march was up. Sharptail resumed his position ten paces in front of three narrow divisions, still made small by the woodland path. His face was grim, knowing all he had to save his skin from Blackrobe was a pathetic scheme, of which he still had to work out the finer points of.
The next time the horde stopped was late evening, having covered ground northward in fast progress. Tents were heaved off of tired backs and set up running along the path, as well as into a large clearing on the west side. Blackrobe swept by several ferrets fitting a pole into position on the side of her quarters. Passing two guards, she bowed to enter the tent. Inside, the few pieces of furniture she always had, with rugs and finery picked up from the horde of Hutra, were arranged in the fashion she always had them.
To the back of the space was the table, equipped with her chair. Shunning the solid device, she went to stand by her bed. Roughly she tore with her claws a patch from the double fabric, creating what she considered a window. Spreading an orange cloak with red trim about her shoulders and draping to near the floor, she then sat down at the rough chair.
Clawmarks decorated the solid wood, a fearsome reputation to her sheer might and strength. The tent flaps bustled aside, and without knocking entered her wildcat brother. Glaring at the intruder, Blackrobe poured herself a mug of cherry cider, kept especially for herself. “Might I ask what you’re doing intruding in my personal quarters?”
Askcor sat himself in a smaller folding chair at the table, near toppling it with his size and weight. “I’m sick of your horde, sister.”
Blackrobe snorted roughly and drank a long draught. She had always hated that name, and addressed the wildcat scorching. “Huh, you should consider getting yourself out of it then, dumbhead.”
Askcor took the insult in course, and took the flagon from the table. He poured the sweet mixture into his mouth, and spoke once again. “Oh, you’d like that, eh. Well, I ain’t leaving, this horde’s always been the one I was in.”
Blackrobe leaned back, digging her claws into the wood. “Why are you here?” She asked in a more reasonable tone.
Askcor shrugged. “Oh, just figured I’d speak to my sister after so long. Oh, I guess I’ll go with warlord from now on, seeing as you hate that title.”
The smaller wildcat rose and exited, thinking heavily, as he had been since the goshawk attack, on his future. The outside air greeted his features, and he walked off south. Annoyed at the petty conversation getting nowhere, the wildcat shoved the rat Blueney from his path. “Get out of my way, you fool!”
The gruff-voiced and sloppy wildcat moved away. He continued to move away, even after he had passed his tent. Continually heading south, he left down the tread path and disappeared from the Horde of the Wolfteeth forever, bound back for his homeland and away from his troublesome younger sister.
Sharptail was waving his sabre absently, leaning against the back of the closest tent to Blackrobe’s. Night had arrived hours before, and midnight had recently gone by. The moon was waning and slightly overcast sky provided more absence of light. Bogard and Shima soon arrived, both brandishing daggers. Sharptail grunted softly, and the three crept off towards the warlord’s tent.
Sharptail led the procession to the tent, ducking double the whole way. The two ferrets placed their backs to the tent’s back wall, not far from where Blackrobe would be resting in her bed. Signaling to attempt to lift the fabric, Sharptail put down his sabre and whispered. “This is it then, I guess. Come on, lift it up!”
Bogard stabbed his dagger down into the earth, but unfortunately his wife did the same. Jumping slightly up as the dagger near nicked his footpaw, the ferret let out a low scream. Sharptail batted him atop the head and kicked at the ferret’s footpaws. Bogard went back down and sorely continued lifting. Only Shima managed with success, and got the tent fabric up large enough for any of them to get inside. “Looks like I miscalculated the size an’ such o’ ‘er tent. Oh well, it won’t matter fer long.”
Sharptail went under with his scimitar in paw. He held the double fabric up from inside the near pitch-dark chamber, and let in Bogard. He collapsed the tent back halfway into place, whispering for Shima to remain outside. Standing up, the fox hit his head on a hanging board of wood. The cedar board waved back and forth, and Sharptail cursed under his breath for the ill luck. Bogard had straightened up with a glance to the ceiling, and took a cautious step towards the cushioned plank of wood in one side of the pavilion.
His dagger was poisoned, purposefully with enough to kill a score of creatures. Creeping silently forward, the ferret neared the bed. Sharptail followed, his heart beating now the moment he had waited for had arrived. What he did not intend to happen, happened next. As Bogard lifted his dagger high and plunged it low into the bedding, a muffled scream issued forth.
Sharptail smiled grimly, and flung the covers back. The poison was strong enough to kill a beast instantly, but his smile faded at the figure. Ragchin, tied up in ropes to the bed and gagged, lay still and stiff in the bed. Bogard recoiled in horror, near dropping the dagger into his own footpaw. Sharptail was shocked for a moment, than he spun around, going into a mad defensive stance. The tent flaps blew open and one of the guards stepped in. “What in mangled acorns up a tree is goin’…”
Sharptail slammed down his scimitar, taking the ratguard’s head off to the ground. Knowing the plot was lost, the fox turned and fled. Bogard was hard on his heels as he scrambled madly out of the tent. Shima was fleeing away south, but chaos reigned in camp. Bladge was shouting. “Intruders! Kill those who trespass in the warlord’s quarters!”
Sharptail was caught in a tight fix. Glancing around, he saw the ferret assassins together, quickly being encircled by hordebeasts wakened from their sleep. Blackrobe had emerged from her tent, apparently having witnessed the whole thing. Their eyes met for a second, but Sharptail was near frozen in terror and dashed northwards, hoping to find his one other cohort in hiding. As he jumped a small ridge which he had detailed them to stay behind, he found himself talking to empty space.
He left the hideout and left west, but only ducked behind a tent as a group of hordebeasts asked the origin of the confusion. His breath was ragged, and as he listened he heard the screams of Bogard and his mate. They soon died off, and the fox felt a cold paw grip his heart. Soon, he realized, he would be in such a position if he didn’t escape.
Sunlight fell on the backs of Fangback and Plaggard as they conversed. Crusty bread and some vegetables had made a meager and unfulfilling breakfast, and the two hordebeasts sat behind several bushes on the outskirts of the camp. Plaggard shivered and spoke distantly to Fangback. “Pretty ‘orrible all that, mate, seein’ a ‘orde cap’n skinned like that, screamin’ the ‘ole time.”
Fangback rested against the trunk of a scrawny bush. The horrid spectacle of the mutinous conspirator’s death that morning had left an impact on all the horde. The weasel’s features tightened. “That knife’s taken more’n a few lives afore, but that was one o’ the worst ways one coulda went, that’s fer sure.”
A stoat called Mangenose agreed from nearby. “An’ there was Bladge shoutin’ to kill Bogard an’ ‘is mate. An’ then there’s Askcor ‘avin’ gone last night, reckon e’s gone to git away from the troubles we ‘ave.”
Fangback scrathed his ear. “It all started back in the Southlands, Sharptail was just an idjit to never stop ‘is plottin’ then an’ there.”
Fiercetail came over to the two hordebeasts, and whacked Plaggard on the arm with his cutlass. “Git yerselves up an’ movin’ idjits, march’s on!”
Fangback avoided another hit. “We’re goin, ‘old up! Owch!”
The three hordebeast stumbled back into the disassembling camp of Blackrobe Wolfteeth, and joined the marching ranks, plowing wearily onward into the heart of Mossflower Woods, destined for conquest and plunder.
The reunified Guosim and company stormed up the last of the river dam slope. Near exhaustion at the mighty climb and the earlier fight, all still plowed forward to reach their enemy. Fearlessness shone in their eyes, generated by their eagerness to end the monster’s reign. As the frontrunners closed in on his position perched upon a fir rearing above the rest of the jumble, Skourge Jarrod took a leap into the air.
Among the second wave to reach the summit, Log-a-log flung up a rapier. Skourge Jarrod had no chance, the blade pierced his feathered throat with mad strength, and the buzzard crashed downward, ever downward. His bulk collided with a great splash in the heightened waters, never to be seen again by a living creature. Skourge Jarrod, former terror of the north, died without a single sound or utterance.
Guosim and their allies crowded around the edge of the wooden dam, peering down far below at the spot of the collision. Bubbles and all signs of any impact faded as quick as they appeared, and the victor’s thoughts turned to a state of sad and silent calm, pierced by the memories of their lost friends. “We can’t do anythin’ up ‘ere, Guosim, down to the bottim is where we’re needed.”
Slowly all gathered heeded the shrew cheiftain’s words and began a less mad descent down the dam. Jasse reached the ground first, and went to the side of her squirrel friend. Mauthie remained unconscious, a bruise coming in strong on her forehead. Stumbling over trunks and bows, Buyyad Spearcalm crashed down onto his feet last of all. Dunjer began catching up with Log-a-log.
“There’s simply nothin’ t’be down with our few numbers, me ‘n Jasse decided t’come an’ see if’n we could render any ‘elp t’ya.”
Log-a-log nodded his head. “Aye, an’ ‘elp us ya did, mate. That buzzard woulda ‘ad us all if’n ya ‘and’t shown up when ya did, a shore fix we were in.”
The young shrew was shocked at the extent of the devastation of the buzzard but looked at the brighter side. “That evil burd did one good, he smashed out a tougher lookin’ piece o’ the dam, makes dessimblin’ it easier.”
Though he hadn’t seen the dam until he had stormed out of the trees to aide in the former assailants, Dunjer quickly summed up the situation and what was the most obvious way to deal with it. Log-a-log thumped down his fist. “Nothin’ that bird did in spitin’ evil can make up for wot he’s already done. A just deserved end for such a beast as he was.”
As story sharing commenced, digging arrangements did as well. Five graves were dug under the shady bows of a beech near the waterside. The slain of the failed assault were lain in amidst a short ceremony. Log-a-log delivered a speech after all was completed.
“These here gave their precious lives for what we must go on with. Here they lie so as t’watch us as we finish what we all started. That dam must be removed, an’ that we will, in honour to these fallen comrades o’ ours. Guosim salute!”
The remaining Guosim who set out from Redwall, along with Buyyad and the Thallsmergan settlers, raised weapons and paws. They soon dispersed, and the work which would no doubt take much too long was gone about.
Skipper of Otters arrived at the dam that evening. He had gained the river wall only an hour before and then moved to travel by water. All of his crew were champion swimmers, and the time spent compared to land going was staggering. As the otter chieftain surfaced alongside the dam, eighteen figures greeted him with relief.
“Buyyad, Jasse, Log-a-log, what’s been about? I followed yore trails by water from the bruised wall, looks like ya left in a mighty hurry.”
Log-a-log and Jasse took turns explaining the incident, from the arrival at the river wall to the attacks on the dam and buzzard. Kraylin shook her head sadly. “The Guosim who gave their lives shall never be forgotten at Redwall, perilous every one!”
Skipper held later council with Jasse and Log-a-log, surveying the monstrous dam. “Blow me, mates, looks like that thing’s about immobile, but I reckons my crew could do a few thin’s ‘bout breakin’ it up below the waterline. That’ll topple the rest off into the River Moss, an’ yore trouble’s fixed.”
Log-a-log clasped the otter’s paw. “Harhar, good thinkin’ Skipper! Without yore crew we’d all be sunk lost in tryin’ to fix this or the river wall. Jasse, is Ju any better?”
The squirrel rubbed her forehead. “That hare’ll be light as rain by the morrow, at least to eat somethin’ more, nothin’s ever affected ‘is appetite for long at all like this.”
Skipper tightened his features. “Me an’ my crew can’t do much in this light, mates. We’ll ‘ave to pack up for tonight an’ wait for light. Oh, an’ be expectin’ an owl to fly in on the morrow as well, Ouvon should be here by then. That bird could eat almost as much as a hare if he wanted to, hopefully it won’t slow ‘im down.”
Log-a-log shrugged at the mention of the owl and took it in course. “Very well, Skip, we all get to work by morning. I’ll have the cooks make somethin’ for yore crew afore night, bound t’be starving the lot o’ ya.”
The wallguards around the Redwall ramparts were increased to all Guosim in the Abbey and willing Redwallers with free time to spend. Friar Burrade and kitchen assistants served out lunch, consisting of hearty pasties and soft warm round loaves with butter and served with blackberry cordial and mint tea to the defenders and Redwallers in Cavern Hole. Pinkal was appointed as Chief Wallguard in Charge of Defensive Affairs (a title championed by Brother Hivan, known as a jocular scholar and recorder), and commanded over all the defenders.
Sister Myrtilus was still a spry mouse in her older seasons, and joined the defenders for the day, armed with a spare rolling pin from the kitchens and a bucket formerly used for water transportation. She surveyed the woodland fringe to the south with Brother Hivan, who advised her on the proper way of patrol.
“Pace up and down this wall, and the corner guards can relieve you if you get tired, while the other three walls are done in similar fashion. Try to keep your head down as often as possible, and a rest is fine for your neck I must say. Just remember to keep your eyes open, the whole point and biggest duty of a wall guard at all. Young Pinkal, energetic young fellow, will regulate everything if I’m not mistaken, thought he looks as if he’s fine just being a common guard for the moment over on the west wall, don’t you think Sister?”
Myrtilus peered at the woodlands to the south. “As you say, Brother.”
Pinkal had armed himself with a windowpole, capped at the top with a sharpened rock shard. Caliuago, with Hoffen in company, hailed him from the grounds. “Everything in ship shape, Pinkal?”
Immensely proud at the enormity of his assignment, the hedgehog answered. “Aye, Abbot, ship shape bein’ reported!”
“Good, Traggo says he needs Kaci back though for help down in the cellars, reckon he’s spareable?”
Pinkal clacked his makeshift spear on the ramparts. “Fine as ya like, sir.”
The Abbot nodded and strolled back towards the Abbey with Hoffen. “I hope this whole threat blows over, I don’t like the thought of dealing with a crew of vermin outside the Abbey, Hoffen. Do you reckon this is what Martin was warning us about?”
Hoffen assumed a thoughtful expression. “Martin said a warrior would come in times of trouble, but just a crew of vermin doesn’t seem to fit. Oh, Abbot, with all these bombarding threats to Redwall, I can’t tell what’s what anymore.”
Caliuago put a paw on the beekeeper’s shoulder. “That weasel only had three with him and said a crew more was nearby. Seems to me we should figure out the true numbers, I’ll talk to Pinkal and the Guosim about it, us Redwallers have no knowledge in war. I fear it will always be so; the weak will look to those who are warriors to defend them in such times, evil ones always tend to appear at unfortunate times. I pray now only for peace and the one who Martin made mention to, perhaps he shall bring it to us.”
Night was falling over Redwall Abbey as Badgunt pushed his crew along. The vermin gang was approaching from the southeast towards the wall. Slimtooth spotted a few shrews along the walls in perceptive, in rare intervals and appearance in the dark night. “’Ey, boss, dere’s sh’woes on dose walls!”
Badgunt clapped the stoat roughly across the mouth. “Shurrup! Dose sh’woes ain’t deaf, idjit!”
Bluntclaw pointed to the wicker gate with a daggerpoint. “Dat our dessination, boss?”
Badgunt nodded decisively. “Dat be our place o’ entrance, dat Abbey’s gunna pay t’night fer dose inzults earlier!”
Dripear licked his sickle blade. “’Ow we gittin’ in den?”
Badgunt motioned for all to follow and began a fast trot in a crouched position towards the wall. Glummaye and Slimtooth covered at the back with their sling and bow ready for action. Flattening himself flat on the wall, Badgunt signaled to Sharpear.
The rat hadn’t as yet regained the art of speaking, and crouched over along the wall silently, cutlass drawn. Badgunt pointed to the ramparts. “Ain’t no chance as o’ yet gittin’ up dere, use yer chipped zhards an’ git dat lock open.”
Sharpear examined the lock in question and shook his head. Bluntclaw answered for him with a look at the area. “Dere’s a bolt in place, no lock, boss.”
Badgunt grimaced. Already his plan was falling apart. Never one to look either upset or like a fool, he came up with a remedy, “Well, slam yer zhards in an’ git da bolt off.”
Sharpear began working, and after a few minutes gave a slight smile. The bolt creaked, and he withdrew his metallic shards from the narrow space between door and wall. Red sandstone parted for a short interval, where a slight portion of the holding bolt showed. Having shifted it around, a clank came from the other side of the gate.
Badgunt peered at the metal bar, putting his eye to the crack. “It’ll open if’n we pushed it?”
Dripear tapped his sickle against the wicker gate. “Looks like it.”
Badgunt nodded the stout rat to push it open gently. Dripear put his back to the door and it opened inward. The Abbey lawns lay dark ahead of them, insecst scurrying from grass blade to grass blade, while night darkened sandstone dominated the background. Suddenly the whole plan went wrong.
It can be often hard to tell, especially at night, how an object manages to move and by what source. In this incident, it shone true.
Dripear yelped in pain as he jumped back outside from the gate threshold. Before anybeast asked what had occurred, the attacker slammed the iron pan he held into the face of Badgunt. The weasels tumbled, and heard through buffeted ears the slamming of the gate and a rumbling noise. Stones, rocks, garbage, and missiles of different sorts began falling down on the unfortunate gang, urging the attackers back to the woodlands.
Badgunt stumbled along behind them, screaming at the backs of the retreating gang. “Git back ‘ere ya cowards! We ‘ad ‘em, but no, ya useless lot go runnin’ off cause o’ a few liddle stones! Yowch!”
The weasel was sent on his way with a sharp sting to his tail, cursing at the pathetic accomplishments of the night. Tools had been creatively lost, as well as any sense of dignity.
Upon the walltop, Pinkal laughed with Brother Hivan alongside him, seated at the base of the ramparts below the battlements, both having just unlocked the wall gate. “Heehee! Did ya see that weasel? Got ‘is tail a bit rocked, didn’t he?”
Brother Hivan wiped a tear of merriment from his eye. “Hahhahaa! And the look of that rat, when haha! That cooking pan crashed him in the snout!”
Friar Burrade shook his head sadly at the antics of the two jocular creatures. “Huh, an’ near bruised up one o’ my best frying pans ‘e did. Head as a rock, reckon it comes from having to drink all that grog those types do.”
After spending the whole day on hard march, Plaggard and Fangback, who had held conversation that morning, flung themselves down at the front of a tent. The sun was setting, but all such beauties were ignored by the exhausted horde. Dumbclaw felt a new birth of confidence and living attitude in him with his personal spies gone. After surveying over the last of food being dished out among the horde, consisting of stale bread and chopped raisins, the weasel settled in by Crushsnout and another stoat called Mangenose.
The latter was a newcomer, joining the horde even after Hutra’s horde had been taken over. Flames leapt up from a small fire, of which multiple logs where set up around. More hordebeasts occupied positions, trying to outdo another in finding ways to eat the last of the rations.
“Just put the raisins wid the bread’s edge, then turn ‘round an’ eat!”
“Add a bit o’ water, water always made things better!”
“Don’t talk to me ‘bout water, dis water tastes all foul!”
“Go an’ complain sumplace else, ya oaf!”
Crushsnout swallowed the last of the food and whipped his mouth with an arm. Dumbclaw, yawning uproariously, shoved Mangenose further aside. “Git yerself off o’ me, let a captain ‘ave ‘is room.”
The hordebeasts got on with assembling camp and preparing, on the morrow, for yet another march, tirelessly northwards. The direction of ambition and conquest.
Blackrobe sat in her tent, attended by no guards on her orders, when Blueney entered. The wildcat smiled imperceptiveably, glad the rat had decided to make an appearance. Putting down a mug of water elaborately on a saucer, she sniffed. “Ah, my good spy, make your report.”
Blueney gulped, but found confidence in seeing the easy-going mood in the warlord. “Nothin’ much t’report, yer majesty. Everythin’s good!”
Blackrobe stood and made her way around the pavilion. “Tell me, if you were in my position and I in yours, what would you do right now?”
Blueney showed an expression of confusion on his face. “Yer majesty?”
Blackrobe turned and smiled, a smile devisious and threatening. “Yes, if a nit-witted, fool-headed idiot like you were reporting to yourself, would you not throw them out?”
The warlord’s tone was gentle and easy, but the next move was not. Blueney found himself jerked around and staring into the cruel face of the wildcat. “I tire of your useless babbling and empty information, huh, give you a captaincy as you wish as well? Get out and never come back to report, rat!”
Blueney was dropped, and crawled first nervously then hurriedly from the tent. Feeling lucky to be given his life, the rat hurried away, knowing his previous request would never be filled, and gloomy at the prospect of returning to normal horde life.
Blackrobe back in her tent had much different thoughts. Prospects of conquest and hunting down a vanished captive were wearing thin on her and her horde. I not soon acted on, her leadership would begin to crumble. Who knows, maybe the next few days would bring up something useful?
Speed was of crucial essence, and with it the troop under Colonel Cournweal DeTrumpidorn Widespasher and the two Southland travelers sped northward through woodlands, always deep and thick of foliage. Light was still in common abundance under this part of Mossflower Woods, and the six covered remarkable ground on their first afternoon of mutual travel.
Ivy, Araya Membuis and Corporal Miengius Fhrunkslerry made a satisfying and quick meal of blackberries and chestnuts wrapped in rolls of soft bread, toasted over a fire whipped up in record time by the corporal. Spring water and cowslip cordial accompanied the food. Senn was in a hurry to get moving again, but both grown veterans advised him to rig up a proper plan of action first.
“Can’t go blingin’ away into a horde of wild bad-beasts without planning, young otter. Under orders from Lord Lightstripe I’ve got to make sure we all deal with this threat in good course, can’t go lettin’ the blighters away at Redwall, wot!”
Corporal Fhrunkslerry took a draught from the cordial. “H’important to plan according to a bit o’ tact. If’n you rig up a plan o’ action we’ll be on their trail an’ ahead to reach the Abbey at all speed. Going off running straight into trouble won’t get us anywhere with helpin’ those in the path o’ that murdering bunch, take my word for it!”
Senn shrugged. “So be it then. I’d say it’d be best if’n we packed up and headed up due north, get through the woodlands off from the path, that’d get us to the Abbey with perhaps a bit o’ spare time. We’ll camp at night for need, an’ eat our main meal at dawn, that’ll give us more o’ the day to travel. Agreed?”
Colonel Cournweal winked at the otter. “Perfect plan, my’laddo! Young Kirussie, stick by this un here an’ we’ll make an h’officer outta ya yet.”
Ivy trotted along with the young otter near the rear of the travelling troop with Stidden. The hares could put up a fast pace when they desired, and Senn soon found himself straining to keep up. Stidden made comment as they rounded a clump of hearty oaks. “Never been on such an assignment afore as this, dashin’ off wild after a huge horde o’ bloomin’ blighters filled with depressin’ depravity. Redwall though! Ha, my pater ‘n mater ‘ave told me a few tales an’ stories about the Abbey, say it’s the best dream one could go to; not to mention the scoff up for takin’!”
Ivy smiled at the forthright and irpressible young hare. ‘Aye, mate, just the same as I’ve heard say about it. D’ya know proper where tis at?”
The young hare bobbed his head lightly. “Aye, not more’n a good patrol north’ard from here, might even drop in for a meal the day after tomorrow.”
Senn, despite the growing sense of unease in him, smiled at the prospect. “Can’t wait for that, Stid. I take it the Colonel’s been to Redwall afore?”
“So far as I know. D’ya know Senn, I think he’s the only one o’ us all who has, Araya’s not too older than me an’ the corporal’s been about quite a bit, but never to the Abbey.”
“Never got the chance,” said Miengius, dropping back a pace to answer. “I’ve patrolled mainly near Salamandastron, duty was not one to bring me out too far. Gettin’ on in seasons though now, young Cournweal couldn’t yet beat me in a round o’ boxin’ though.”
Cournweal kept his previous pace a dozen ahead of the rearguard. “You’re the best boxer seen out in the Border Patrol in many a season. H’actually, even a squirrel I once knew, met ‘round up in the Highlands, name o’ Jasse Twootack, named for her abilities in the noble art doncha know, would be hard put to put up face against ya.”
Miengius regained pace. “If ever I met her, I’m sure I’ll offer up a round, wot?”
The six travelers continued their pace up through the afternoon, several breaks taken due to the heat. At eveningtide, a meal of chopped roots mixed with various amounts of fruit and vegetables was made over two pieces of hardtack.
Stid bit into the concoction and swallowed deep. “Bit rough, but makes a prime ol’ sammie on the move, wot!”
Cournweal cocked an eyebrow. “Enjoyin’ yoreself so soon, young Kirussie? You’re on full cleanup duty this evenin’.”
The young hare took the news with another bite. “Rather, sah! Look forward to the privilege, sah!”
Araya waved a ladle used in serving the concoction at the hare. “Don’t get too stuffed with food then, I’ll be needin’ some water for the job an’ yore flagon’ll get stuck on yore belt with downin’ so much food.”
Senn looked questioningly to the colonel. “Are ya sure, Cournweal mate? The sun’s still up, shan’t we best gettin’ more travel in afore dark?”
The colonel shook his head. “Nah, this is the best I’ve seen for a campin’ spot an’ we’re not likely to find another. Since we’ll not be headin’ far in the dark, we may as well stay here. Dawn’ll come earlier than ya think though, don’t worry over losin’ ground.”
The otter nodded to the superior knowledge and experience of the veteran, glad for the company and newfound advice gained by meeting the hares. That and friendship, the defining force needed in all undertakings.
Dawn broke early and clear in Mossflower, tendrils of light shining through thickets and foliage. The River Moss lay at its bank, the massive height of wood rearing above the woodlands. Beyond it, little water lay in filthy liquid puddles. Skipper of Otters was not kind to the idea of waiting longer, he roused his crew and had them prepare a quick but hearty meal. Onions, leeks and celery served in steaming portions amongst the otter crew made up the meal.
Jasse and Log-a-log sent Buyyad, Dunjer and Juhenchin around with six other Guosim shrews to the other side of the river, crossing the muddy avenue created by the monstrosity. Tension filled everybeast’s mind, the gravity of the situation in such a stage was intense and radiating, all fervently hoping to end the ill device which had dragged them off from their loved ones and Redwall. Juhenchin didn’t show his usual carefree attitude as he lifted up the large cellarhog up from the dried river wall.
Jasse signaled to them from the opposite side with a wave, and Dunjer nodded. Turning to those in his company, he motioned for them to stand easy. Skipper disappeared below the surface with hardly a splash or ripple, most of his crew following suit. Log-a-log idled away the time by twirling a sling, equipped with stone. Rapiers showed little abundance amongst the Guosim, most were armed only with sling. After what seemed an age, Skipper resurfaced on the same bank he had left.
“What’s it look like?” asked the shrew chieftain.
Skipper rubbed his face over with both paws. “Same as up here, mate, only wetter. With time on our side, I think my crew can force t’natural flow back.” Further talk was cut short when a bird, a small owl, landed beside both beasts. “Ahumph, tidings from Redwall, Skip.”
The otter chieftain introduced the owl to Log-a-log and Jasse. “This ‘ere is Ouvon Oakclaw, faster a flyer I’ve never clapped eyes on. What’s the news back at t’Abbey?”
“Ah, not very good really. Y’see, the arrival of a band of vermin has complicated things a bit.”
Concern spread over Skipper’s face. “What, vermin band, what’re ya talkin’ about, there’s a vermin gang at Redwall?”
Ouvon blinked. “I believe I just made comment of that fact, but yes, an unknown number stumbled up in the ditch the other day, set off h’immediately after to inform you all, and Abbot Caliuago’s wish is for you to stay here. Believe his words were something like greater duty here.”
Log-a-log turned to the otter chieftain. “I don’t like it, Skip. If’n the Abbey’s in trouble, we need t’make shore that gang’ll do it no ‘arm.”
Skipper questioned the owl. “How many vermin, bird? I need t’know.”
Ouvon scratched his stalky leg. “Not sure, at least more’n four, ya see it was four who called on the Abbey afore I flew off.”
Log-a-log shook his head. “I’d rather not leave a band of unknown numbers around the Abbey, skip, but I suppose I’ve still got a score o’ Guosim there.”
Skipper showed unease. “Maybe so, but I’d still like t’see this band myself, but if’n the Abbot wants us here, then I’d agree with him. It’ll take us all to move that block, it’ll be floodin’ this part o’ Mossflower out if we don’t, an’ probably the Abbey. Aye, we’ll need t’stay here t’defend Redwall, Log-a-log.”
The shrew chieftain shrugged to the owl. “If ya can, fly back an’ report to the Abbot this message; we’re trying to knock out a large block o’er the river, huge an’ created by a whirlstorm. We’ve slain a buzzard which occupied it, and lost five brave fighters in the process, their memories will ever live on. ‘Ave ya gotten that?”
“Yes, sir shrew, I’ve got that message.”
“Good!” Skipper said. “Now get flyin’ back to t’Abbey at all speed, mate, tis important the Abbot hears this at once!”
The owl looked displeased, but flew up shortly and sped off south. Skipper turned back to the river. “I’ll get moving back on that thing, we’ll be needed soon enough back at Redwall.”
As the otter chieftain plunged back into the water, Log-a-log turned to Jasse. “Reckon we should unpile that thing’s height?”
The boxer squirrel nodded. “Aye, tis a fair idea. Skipper brought along a selection o’ tools, no doubt we can find ourselves a lovely bit o’ use out o’ them.”
By early afternoon progress was happening. Skipper reported that he could near shove the block off within potential enough time to save any flooding damage. With new hope, all set to work with a rapid fever of passionate determination.
After breakfast was finished on the day after the failed vermin attack, Zade and Triggun were present in the cellars. Kaci was taking a liking to the cellars, assisting old Traggo. Zade’s dark brown fur bumped into a lower shelving unit as the old cellarhog passed by with a kilderkins of blackberry cordial. “An’ may I ask what you two are doin’ ‘bout?”
Triggun answered. “We’s be takin’ to bein’ warriors fer Redwall, Traggo.”
Zade seconded his otter cohort. “Aye, two o’ us’ll be gurt warriors, go out an’ defeat all bad vurmints!”
Kaci took the kilderkins from the hedgehog. “Hurr hurr, boi oi, oi’m a-froightened just by tho loik o’ ya boith.”
Both dibbuns had rubbed their fur with black dust, giving them both a disguising look. Traggo blew his snout with a handkerchief. “Well, why don’t you two warriors go an’ report to Friar Burrade, even warriors need t’eat.”
Triggun saluted with a stick, the same he had acquired during his time spent outside the Abbey. “Aye, Traggo, that we shall. Come on, Zade.”
The shorted and stouter squirrelbabe trotted off after the young otter. Kaci shook his head. “They’m both b’real terroirs alroight, t’ose vurmints better loik out!”
In the kitchens, Friar Burrade was mashing up a mixture for lunch. The two dibbuns came in from the open door, and he waved a ladle severely at them. “Might I ask what you two are doin’ in here, I won’t have bad treatment in my kitchens.”
Zade carried a small wooden plate strapped to his arm, colored shades of red, orange and yellow. “Traggo said we’d be t’report ‘ere fer duties, we’m defenders fer Redwall!”
The Friar nodded, turning back to his work. “Ah, I see. Well, I need somebeast to move some crates for me, but I’m thinking you’ll need some help. Why don’t ya both go an’ fetch Foremole an’ ‘is crew, they’d be able to manage.”
The two young creatures sped back out the door, shouting. “Reedddwalllll!”
Eveningtide arrived without any sign of vermin, nor ear or tail. Pinkal sent off half the guards to dinner in Cavern Hole. Kitchen assistants under Brother Hoffen delivered food to the rest. The young hedgehog felt himself taking more and more to guard commanding, also thinking the vermin band, now proved to be small in number, had simply left off and vanished. Still keeping up a defensive attitude, he and Brother Hivan kept up the wall guards until they were proved gone.
As dark began falling, Redwallers finished off their days and went up to dormitories, while wall guards shifted duty, sleeping with blankets and pillows on the ramparts. The twin bells of Redwall, Matthias and Methuselah, tolled out dully at midnight, and then went silent, leaving all within the walls in a state of peace and quiet.