Dedicated to The Sable Quean because I wondered who Armuk Rinn really was. WARNING: This may contain some very violent scenes, but nothing, like, gory. Just if you're squeamish, don't read it.
Somewhere deep in the forests of the far North, a black-furred beast stalked the ancient roads. Never had they been used by peaceful creatures for many a long season. Now, this black-furred beast, a tall one clad in a hooded black cloak, brown tunic, and battleaxe watched for a sign. Suddenly, he heard a snarl. The rat must have returned. The creature raced through the woods until he found a one-eyed searat armed with a cutlass carrying a bag.
"You have it?" asked the black-robed beast.
"Aye, Lord." replied the rat, as he opened the bag. Inside were many supplies to last long, and tied up inside the bag was a struggling stoatbabe.
"Feisty, isn't he?" asked the mysterious creature.
"Aye, Lord." replied the rat. With that, the black-robed beast removed his hood, exposing a weasel-like face criss-crossed with scars. Tha rat spoke again. “He shall serve you well, my Lord Grazuk Rinn.”
And so the Ravagers were born.
Seven seasons later.... A great horde had amassed upon the hills of the Northlands. A new era was coming to the vermin world. As Grazuk Rinn, a scarred sable with a battleaxe and black cloak, climbed to a platform before his Ravager horde, a great cheer burst from the vermin. Pole weapons were raised in salute, and Rinn stood in front of his captains, Wilff the searat and Rinn's own son, Armuk.
"My warriors, ever since Wilff and I found a stoatbabe, we knew you Ravagers would come! The days of gathering are over, and a new age has begun! The age of the Conquerors is now!" With this more cheers came.
"I give unto my son Armuk the title of Commander, for it shall be he who leads you, the great Ravager Horde, under my command! And now we prepare to travel south! Ever since an old friend of my grandsire, Windflin Wildbrush, left this bitter cold land for the sunny grasses of the south, we vermin knew this place is not for us! 'Tis time we go south, like all the other great vermin did! Now is the time for war! Now is the time for batle! Now,"
Here he paused and looked about his surroundings, then continued: "Now, is the time for conquering!" More shouts of joy came from the four hundred vermin watching their Lord. Indeed, the Age of Conquerors was upon them!
One Ravager, a weasel called Nart, watched as his comrades gathered their equipment. "I bet Lord Rinn t'inks he's de greatest warlord ever!" His friend, the fox Marmo, replied.
"Yarr, dat's because 'e is, yew big oaf!"
"Well, I've 'eard o' better conquerors than 'im! Take Cluny the Scourge. 'E was a true tyrant, so me old grandmother said. An' Damug Warfang, too. Don' ferget de others all of us vermin know about! Ungatt Trunn, Ferahgo the Assassin, an' dat ferret, wotsername, Princess Kurda, dat's it!
Marmo retaliated, "Well, our Rinn is de best o' all o' dem! Remember, all o' dose vermin died when dey attacked dat Redwall Abbey place! I 'opes Lord Rinn don't go dere! Dey say it's cursed!"
"Good thing Father aint goin' there!" said a mysterious voice. Marmo turned around to see Zenrukh, brother of Armuk Rinn, standing behind him leaning on a broadsword. "Yew see, many have perished before the gates of Redwall, so no doubt we are not taking any place there, not yet at least! Armuk's the one who wants that Abbey as his own. Now tell me, do you want to be slain recklessly before the gates o' that acursed place, or do you want to be a great warrior?"
Marmo knew the correct answer. Zenrukh was pretty fast with such a huge sword. "A great warrior, but not as great as yew."
"Good, now gerrout o' my sight!" With that, Marmo and Nart fled. Zenrukh casually put his sword in his belt and paced through the packing Ravagers. His brother came to him.
"Brother, I have some urgent news. We need to go south immediately. Why doesn't our father listen?"
"Well," answered Zenrukh, "'E's probably doin' the best he can. Don't be hard on 'im, Armuk."
"I'm not. I just want us to leave these Hellgates-forsaken Northlands now! If not we'll all freeze to death! Don't ye understand?"
"I understand. Why don't you go see our father and ask him when we're leavin', gorrit?"
Armuk left shaking his head in disgust. Zenrukh smiled, knowing that the time would come for his brother to fall. Yes, the time was soon!
Lady Evenstar of Salamandastron was happy. The fortress mountain that was home to more than a thousand greedy Long Patrollers had not been attacked in over ten seasons. There had not been a single searat vessel anywhere, nor any vermin horde near the Mossflower region since the Battle of the Doomwytes. She looked at her surroundings: The great mountain looming over the ocean, which resembled fire because of the sunset. Seagulls were abundant, and the beaches were glowing like gold. A black sail rose near the horizon-wait, black sail? Lady Evenstar bellowed to the Long Patrol, "Ship nearing the mountain! Prepare to defend!"
With that, a thousand hares stumbled from the mess hall, gathered their weapons, and went to their battle stations. Evenstar picked up a hefty one-handed arming sword and a longbow from her armoury and ran to join the garrison commander, Brigadier Mallof Nammery.
"Splendid day to ward of searats or the sort, eh, wot?"
"Aye," replied Evenstar, "but I just hope that ship is really a friend. Maybe it's the sea otters, coming to visit. They used to do that during the times of my predecessors."
"We can just hope bally well hope yore right, marm." said Nammery.
The vessel Hellsail was the only Ravager vessel in all of Grazuk Rinn's horde, and was commanded by his eldest son Armuk. Armuk was garbed in a chainmail shirt and a black cloak like his father's, and in an eelskin belt he had carried both a battleaxe (He had gained many habits of his father) amd a scimitar. His aide Mirvor, an eldery male rat with a young daughter called Dirva, was standing behind him.
"Mirvor, tell the crew to run out the oars. Our plan was to scout this area, and so we will. First, we better see wot that mountain in the distance is. I hope it's abandoned."
Mirvor replied, "Commander, there is one problem. Your father probably told yew 'bout Windflin Wildbrush, aye? Well, he said he wanted ter leave the Northlands to take the mountain Salamandastron. I knew the ole feller, an' he told me wot the mountain looked like, for he had seen it afore. Unless my glims are gettin' too weak, I'd say that mountain looks just like wot ole Windflin said it looked like! I wouldn't go there unless yew had a fleet o' ships like Windy did."
Armuk snorted and drew his battleaxe, stroking the blade lovingly. "Listen, fool. I know 'bout Salamandastron an' I know it's got mad rabbets an' a crazed stripe'ound livin' there, but wot's the point o' us leavin' this spot an' returning to my father empty-pawed? No, we must tell these rabbets an' stripedogs to leave, and now!"
Mirvor backed away from the sable.
"Bless yer 'eart, Commander, we do all we can fer yew." With that he left to dispatch orders. Armuk sighed. If he took Salamandastron, he would convince his father to live there and he would be the new Conqueror, leader of the Ravagers. And maybe during that time he would give Zenrukh what he deserved. Yes, a scimitar in the neck for him. Armuk retired to his cabin, and after some minutes, he was about to fall asleep when he felt that he was not alone. Armuk opened one eye, then sat up on his desk chair. He faked being half-asleep by groping around his cloak, and then felt a whoosh of air. In the nick of time, Armuk threw down his chair, spun around, and drew his battleaxe. He caught the blow of a hooded weasel-like creature with a long sword. Armuk had seen that sword before, but he had somehow forgotten where. The creature swept his sword around the sable's side, but Armuk parried and hacked at his enemy's hooded neck. The strangebeast blocked and jumped over Armuk's head, doing a front flip and landing perfectly behind the enemy. Armuk charged, but the creature stepped away from the battleaxe like lightning and cast away his cloak. Armuk gasped as his brother Zenrukh stood in front of him, wearing a close black tunic and leggings, and a plain scale-metal belt. He raised his broadsword, ready to attack, and then lowered it. He stared at Armuk for a long time, then laughed.
"Harrharr, lookit yer face, Ruk! Ahahaha, yew actually t'ought I was going to kill yew? Harrharr! I was just going to practice fighting wid yew, 'cause I knew yew were going to know I was there, right?"
Armuk sighed. This was a "game" he had his brother played commonly. He switched to a common vermin accent. "Yarr, yer right dere, Zen! Yarrharr! Arrgh, so wot 'appened? Ole farder tole yew ter stay 'ere in case I was killered by any enemies! Yew snook into me vessel, Zen! Arrharrharr!"
Zenrukh switched to his normal speech. "Actually, my brother, it was verry easy. I threw on my normal black cloak yew see on the ground, an' everyone thought I was another vermin! Wot do you think of that?"
Armuk was about to respond when a cry came from outside. "Rabbets attackin' us wid arrers!" This was followed by a screech, then Mirvor ran into the cabin. He jumped back because Zenrukh was there, but told Armuk, "Sorry ter bother yew, Commander, but we're bein' attacked!" A fox ran into the cabin as well. This was the Hellsail's bo'sun, Varkrun.
"By the teeth of 'Ellgates, Milord, them rabbets are firin' great big rocks at us wid huge spoons!"
Armuk laughed. "Spoons? Since when did anybeast figger out how to throw rocks with spoons? Give them rabbets all the firepower we can muster." Varkrun obeyed as the two brothers exited the cabin. A hare arrows was fired at Zenrukh, but it was deflected by the sable's swordblade. Armuk tucked his battleaxe in his belt and seized a searat's bow, and called to his crew. "Lissen, yew horrid wretches! Yew can kill rabbets just like any other beast! Look!" He fired the bow, killing a hare on the beach shore that had been reloading a crossbow.
"Yew can kill 'em! We're not fightin' demons! We're fightin' flesh, not fire! Just shoot at 'em!" Then the vermin fired a large barrage, hitting many hares.
Lady Evenstar was having a hard time with the catapult. Salamandastron's first siege engine since the time of Ferahgo the Assassin was malfunctioning, and the rope holding the spoon-shaped rock thrower had snapped. Frustrated, Evenstar ripped the thrower off and, with her eyes misted over, flung it at the Hellsail. The wooden beam fell short of its target, causing laughter among the Ravagers. Evenstar seized her hatchet, shouldered her longbow quiver, and ran into the mountain, down many winding stairs and rooms, and exited the main gate. She charged across the beach, and fired an arrow. This shot pierced the Hellsail's mainmast, but the vessel was already sailing away.
Meanwhile, Armuk Rinn was trying to give orders, but was always beaten by Zenrukh.
"Keep it up, Ravagers!"
"Get those sails off now!"
"Lower the longboat! We're going to take the beaches!"
Armuk looked at Zenrukh. "Lower the longboat? I didn't have that in mind! I was going to have the vermin lower the oars so we could leave that mountain.
Zenrukh spat on the ground and drew his broadsword. "Well, this is wot I had in mind! Let's get at 'em!" And with that he continued ordering the vermin to get in all three of the Hellsail's longboats. About a score of vermin fit in each one, so sixty vermin landed on the beaches. However, 200 Long Patrol hares under Brigadier Nammery, armed with a sabre.
"Let's go, chaps!" With Lady Evenstar in their midst in full Bloodwrath, the Long Patrol charged. Armuk Rinn had boarded a longboat and found himself facing a hare taller than him, swinging a sabre. Armuk hacked at Nammery's narrow chest with his axe, but Nammery parried easily. He thrusted, but Armuk leapt back. The sable slung his battleaxe over his back and drew his scimitar. He leapt forward and sliced downwards, but Nammery blocked with his sabre and kicked Armuk in the stomach. Armuk searched frantically for a way to defeat his opponent, and sought the wrong choice. He grabbed a searat's dropped javelin and threw it. Nammery grabed the handle and threw it back. Armuk was hit deep in the footpaw, but he broke the spearhaft off with his sword and limped away. Nammery grabbed another hare's longbow and fired, but by the time Armuk had ran away, the arrow had fallen short. The sable ran as fast as he could back to the boats. He had never fought an opponent so fierce in his life. Armuk hopped onto a longboat, but another had reached it before him. A hare with a dirk stabbed at him, and Armuk fell off the boat into the water in shock. The hare tucked his dirk into his belt, picked up a crossbow he had concealed under a dead ferret's corpse, and saluted to the wet sable.
"Merry thanks fer that, ole boy, wot wot!"
Armuk groaned and rose from the water, but fell, weighed down by his battleaxe. He switched weapons to the heavier axe and leapt into the longboat. He sliced the hare's crossbow in two and knocked him overboard. Before the hare knew what hit him, an oar taken by Armuk sent him underwater. He would never get out alive again.
Meanwhile, Zenrukh was fighting in a hard struggle as well. He stabbed the heart of a hare who had attacked him with a claymore, and then dashed to a cart, which was being pushed by several hares and had a large crossbow (ballista) on the top, which was being fired by a hare in plate armour. Zenrukh slaughtered most of the hares pushing the cart, then slammed all his weight onto one side. It barely moved. The hare manning the ballista turned Zenrukh's way and drew a rapier. He jumped down, but Zenrukh was ready. He let the hare fall on his face, then kicked him onto his back. The hare rolled away as the sable stabbed downwards, and the hare slashed at his enemy. Zenrukh parried and climbed up the cart, then shook it madly. It creaked and groaned. Zenrukh shook the cart and pushed again, and the cart started to topple. Zenrukh jumped down and slashed at the hare's head, removing an ear before the cart fell on him. The sable ran across the beaches, passing many dead vermin, and only just dodged Lady Evenstar's hatchet. Zenrukh cursed and sheathed his blade before jumping into the water. All three longboats had left, and Zenrukh was left on the coast facing fifteen score hares. And these hares were from the Long Patrol, and experienced. And one other thing: They were led by a female badger. A very mad, Bloodwrath-taken female badger.
Back in the Northlands, Grazuk Rinn was leading his horde south. Most vermin they met were either killed or forced to join their side. Mostly the latter. By now about twenty-score Ravagers were, well, ravaging the land. However, Grazuk was worried that his sons had not returned yet. It had been several weeks since they left in the Ravager's only vessel, Hellsail, to scout the land south. Grazuk was interrupted by his young guard, the stoat Gillk, who had been the first Ravager and felt it to be a privilege.
"Lord Rinn, the scouts say that about five score rats are camped in the south. Should we attack 'em?"
Grazuk shook his head. "No, Gillk, we'll just have three score of our archers attack these rats. Kill those we can an' ask the other to join us. And Gillk, you know what happens if they refuse to join us, right?"
Gillk nodded. "Right away, Lord."
The rat barbarian Morzan was a vicious leader. His army of rats patrolled the Borderlands with the hope of plundering any that they came upon, and no wonder they were called the Marauders. However, Morzan was not expecting three score vermin archers under the command of a hammer-wielding fox to appear out of the forest.
"Oo arr yew, yer wretched beasties! T'row down yar weaperns an' gimme all yer clothes, food, an' udder stuff. Now or my rats'll gerrat yew, an' dey hate ter be waitin'!"
The fox in command, a Ravager called Narkost, replied. "Yew there, the rat wid the batteraxe, get over 'ere! Now you do it or my Ravager archers will fire at you, an' they hardly miss!"
Morzan hesitated, then threw his axe to the sky, caught it as it fell, and screamed, "Charrrrrge!" and his Marauder rats charged with swords drawn and spears brandished.
Narkost knew his strategy. Morzan had no idea what he was up against: three score of trained and elite Ravager longbowbeasts. Their range was greater than any other, even most crossbows. And Morzan had done the worst: He had sent his entire force streaming at the enemy without reserves. Narkost cursed; he expected Morzan to leave some behind. Still, this would be an easy job. "Archers, load, aim an' fire!"
With that three score longbowbeasts fired, causing death among many of the Marauder rats. After several shots, Narkost drew his mallet and yelled, "Close-combat weapons at the ready!" The Ravagers sheathed their bows and drew swords, daggers, and in some cases, war hammers. They charged into the remaining three-score Marauders, weapons flashing. The Marauders almost outnumbered the Ravagers, but Narkost and his beasts were better trained. Another two score Marauder rats were killed before Morzan slashed failingly at Narkost. The remaining vermin backed away as the two leaders began to duel. Morzan hacked at Narkost's snout, but the fox drew back, ran forward, and pummeled down onto Morzan's left paw, breaking the wrist. Morzan screeched and swung his axe violently, but Narkost dodged. He kicked Morzan down to the ground, knocked his other paw with his mallet, and was about to kill him when a tall hooded creature yelled, "Stop!"
"My lord," murmured Narkost as he knelt, as did the other Ravagers. Grazuk Rinn pulled back his hood and ordered two large and burly ferrets to make a makeshift table and rock seats for him and Morzan.
Morzan growled. "'Ave ye gone mad, vermin?"
Grazuk merely smiled. "Not if you call me vermin and yet we all are, but we need to talk about something very important. Gillk, can ye get us some food and drink, please?" The young stoat nodded and went off to the Ravager camp.
Morzan peered at Grazuk. Grazuk only smiled. "Yes, erm, I shall remove my weapons." He withdrew his battleaxe and gave it to one of the ferrets. "And you?" Morzan stared at Grazuk for a few minutes, then removed his battle axe and handed it to another rat.
"Oh, I see, you are skilled in the battleaxe, too! It is a wonderful weapon, we must talk about it. You see, I chose the battleaxe because it is a very effective tool. Not as long as a sword, of course, and not as multi-usable as a dagger, but the battleaxe can do some amazing damage. Of course you would know. I take it you chose the battleaxe for the same reason?"
"Yes," Morzan replied, "But what o' mah Marauders?"
Grazuk looked confused. "Excuse me? What do your Marauders have to do without topic of the battleaxe, except for that I see many great rat warriors in your horde with that weapon. I honour them."
"I do so too, but what I said was dat yew one de battle, in away I guess, Don't dat mean my Marauders have to be executemed or wotever it's called dat means dey're 'eads are cut off?"
"Oh, no. I wouldn't dream of executing a fellow vermin who was helpless before me. And that brings us to the topic of sparing lives. Have you ever done it before? Seriously, kiling a helpless beast is not my style of fighting. I'd rather get it over with before they were disarmed and lying at my footpaws. I take it you have the same policy?"
Morzan stared once again, and said. "Yes, I guess."
Grazuk replied, "Wonderful! We have so much in common, you and I, Morzan. Oh look, here Gilkk has come with refreshments!" And it was true. Gillk had arrived with two young rats, each with a plate of roasted grayling and pastry. Gillk carried two goblets and a jug of damson wine.
After Gilkk and his two friends dropped off the food, they were sent back to the Ravager camp as Grazuk and Morzan continued to talk. "You see, the best part of grayling is the very flesh itself. Of course in my lifetime I have come across some vermin who put the eyes inside their wine goblets like olives, which I have seen growing in the southern gardens of Southsward. Very great things to eat, these grayling. And the damson wine, reminds me of that jug I poured on a rat warlord when I was a youngster! And guess what he did? He started slurping at himself like it was the last taste of wine he would ever have! Too bad I slew him when I was older."
Morzan ate little and drank little, and remained thinking about the topic of his horde's custody. "But yer see, wot 'bout mah Marauders? Don' we come ter yer side, Grazuk?"
Grazuk looked concerned, then said. "Oh, we can manage to have them serve in the Ravager horde. I bet they will become great elites! And that brings us to the fact that elite warriors are great. You know, the longbowbeasts you fought earlier today were elites..."
This went on for hours and hours, with the Ravagers and Marauders resting or eating while the two leaders talked and joked over dinner. Shortly after sunset, Morzan continued groggily with his earlier topic, which had been lost for most of the afternoon.
"But woto' m' 'arauders, Grazuk? Yer stallin' time! Wot's goin' on! 'Arauders, seize 'im!"
However, Grazuk had already gotten up, battleaxe in paw. Morzan's son Grullba, had picked up Morzan's battleaxe and waved it in front of Grazuk as the two ferret bodyguards grabbed Morzan.
"Lettim go, yew bullies!"
However, one rat with a sharp spear charged Grullba. He jabbed once, breaking a hole in the battleaxe, then several other times, breaking more holes. Grullba looked at his father's axe, grippit tight, and fled with half a score of his father's old Marauders. The last thing he saw before he dissappeared into the bushes was Grazuk Rinn slicing his axe through Morzan's torso, shredding him in half. Grullba blinked away tears and vowed to get his revenge on the sables and all Ravagers, one way or another.
He had no idea what would really happen.
Zenrukh awoke in insane pain. He had fought off hundreds of hares, but before he fell into the sea unconscious, he had sustained five arrow wounds and numerous cuts with blade weapons. Now he had awoke, and was amazed and confused at what he saw. He was lying by a fire, wrapped in an old cloak, with a female sable sitting down across from him.
"Harr, it took ye some time to wake up, friend!"
Zenrukh was puzzled. The only thing he could say was, "Well, I never pictured Hellgates to look like this! We're at the beach!"
"Shush, we're not in Hellgates, at least not yet we ain't. Listen, I'm Zafiya Knifepaw, a wanderer of the norther coasts. I was walking around these shores when I saw yore frame lying on the sand. Don't get up; ye don't want to see the injuries on you. Five arrow shards, five, I had to pluck out of your bleeding torso, an' who knows how many cuts to sew? Oh, never told ye, my father's was a vermin healer. So wot's yore name?"
Zenrukh was now sure he could trust this sablemaid. He knew it. "Zenrukh, son of Grazuk Rinn, warlord of the Northlands. So have you found my sword? I must have dropped it fighting in the battle with the hares that wounded me."
After Zafiya handed over the broadsword, Zenrukh plunged it in the ground and stood up, leaning on the handle. "I'll manage. I sense there's a storm coming, so we better find shelter!"
Zafiya knew Zenrukh would manage. And many seasons later, Zenrukh and Zafiya became mates and formed a group of bandits that would roam the northern forests for seasons. Zenrukh and Zafiya's son, Zwilt, was a feisty warrior and not one to run away. He, like his father, had a habit of appearing behind otherbeasts when they hardly knew it. Zwilt gave himself a title that would go down in history: The Shade.