I give full credit for this idea to Hollyfire53, and her Ultimate War fan fic. Thanks for coming up with it, Holly! Go to User_blog:Thornclaw_Braveheart/Redwall:_Users_War_Characters for info on the characters that were created by Users on this Wiki for more information.
Prologue: The Rangers
Deep in the forests of Mossflower, a hooded stoat walked down an old path. He was very tall, shrouded in a multi-colored cloak, and held a longbow in his left paw. An incredibly long item, almost as tall as the already tall stoat, hung from his back, concealed from vision by the cloak. The stoat pulled an arrow from a quiver also on his back, and sat down on a large boulder in the middle of the path. He pulled his hood down, nocked an arrow to his bowstring, and sat there, waiting.
Meanwhile, the rat chieftain Darkeye was walking down that very same path, with twoscore rat bandits following him. Darkeye was truly a vermin leader, from the eelskin belt holding a scimitar about his waist, to the bloodstained chainmail about his frame, to the horned skullcap on his head. He strained to check his surroundings, and saw a lone, hunched figure sitting on a boulder a few metres away. He nodded to his band of rats and ran forward. He drew his scimitar and yelled in his thick vermin accent at the cloaked figure.
"Halt dere, yew beast! Warra yew doin' in our path?"
The figure, who happened to be the mystery stoat, answered without lifting his head.
"Oh, I'm just an ordinary traveller. Sorry fer blockin' yore path, I didn't know you were here. Fine, I'll step aside fer you, sir." And still, without looking at the rats, he stood up and walked away from the path, his back turned towards Darkeye. Suddenly, the rat chieftain grabbed the stoat by the back of his cloak, and put the scimitar about his neck. He threw back the hood and murmured,
"Lissen, throw down yer bow an' belongings, an' we'll be on our way, gorrit? Now get to it!"
The stoat smiled at Darkeye, and replied, "Alrighty, I'll give you something." Then, he did the remarkable. He backflipped, kicking Darkeye in the gut and sending him sprawling. The stoat landed perfectly on his footpaws and drew back his longbow, somehow already having an arrow on it.
"Let's have some fun, eh, mates?"
With that, a score of hooded stoats jumped from the trees, each one landing perfectly on their footpaws. Each drew a broadsword, and stood behind their longbow-wielding leader. Darkeye, now fully recovered, picked up his fallen scimitar and shouted, "Cummon, me buckoes, we outnumber 'em! Let's take dose stoaters down!"
40 rats drew spears and swords, and charged. Five were taken down by the stoat leader before they even reached their opponents, and then as soon as the clash started, the longbow-wielder withdrew his weapon and unsheathed the massive pole on his back: A Zweihander, the largest type of sword ever. He twirled the blade, almost as tall as he was, in one paw with ease and jumped into the fight, slicing one rat in half immediately. Another tried to behead him with a battleaxe, but found the axehead stuck in his brain. A third rat snuck behind the stoat, and tried to smash his skull with a sling, but the stoat twirled around and decapitated the rat before he could even reach for a pebble. Darkeye saw the damage being done by the stoats, especially their leader, and groaned in frustration. He racked his mind trying to find out what type of warrior this could be. However, that is hard to do while dueling with an experienced broadsword-wielding stoat. Then, the rat remembered tales told by his parents during his younger days as a bandit soldier. This stoat leader with the huge sword was the Greatsword, the Ranger Lord Thornclaw Braveheart. Darkeye cursed himself for picking on one of the greatest heroes ever, and ran as fast as he could from the broadsword-carrying stoat. However, before he could even reach the safety of a thick ironwood tree, a saex knife pinned him to that very plant. Thornclaw Braveheart smiled with satisfaction, walked to the dying Darkeye, and plucked out the saex he had thrown. Another rat, the only one that had survived the massacre, ran to Darkeye, picked up his dropped scimitar, and fled. One stoat raised a longbow, but Thornclaw stared at him.
"No, mate. He's a coward, so let 'im go. You know, that group could have been part of a horde, an' that means a deadly warlord. We better reach Redwall Abbey an' warn them. We were headin' there anyways, our food supply is low, remember that."
The stoat with the longbow, Thornclaw's deputy Crowley, nodded. "Aye, Thorn. Nobody knows, this warlord could be a difficult one, whoever this feller is."
Thorn sheathed his Zweihander and picked up his fallen arrows, distributing those that did not belong to him. "Aye, but I've killed three warlords in my life. It's high time we fought another."
And so, the Saga of the Redwall Wars was born.
Chapter One: Prison Breakout
For the thousandth time that day, Hollyfire Thornblade looked sadly at the ruins of Kitalpha, the Abandoned City. In the far East, vermin had ravaged Hollyfire's land, and a wildcat had made life there miserable. However, despite Hollyfire having avenged the fall of the land, Kitalpha would never return. Holly was a squirrel, garbed in a simple faded sky-blue tunic. She carried a sword slightly resembling the legendary Sword of Martin the Warrior, and had a bow as well. Holly walked among the ruins, many still smoldering after seasons of ravaging. Then, in the distance, Holly saw a landmark that she had not seen in the ruins of Kitalpha at all: a stone fortress. Then, a half-score patrol of vermin marched towards the fort. Holly hid behind a fallen tree before she could be seen. Each vermin had chainmail armour and a red surcoat with a flaming eye drawn on it. Each also had a halberd painted red. One carried a flamberge sword that was also colored red, and the others were trying to carry off a struggling prisoner, with a sack over it's head. However, Holly could see that the prisoner was a squirrel, like herself. Another vermin was carrying a sack as well, probably with the prisoner's weapons in it. Hollyfire slumped down behind the tree, thinking of a way to help the captured squirrel. Then, she figured out what to do.
At the fortress of Gileda, a patrol of vermin from the Bloodlust Horde marched into the courtyard, carrying a prisoner. The Bloodlust Horde was legendary, existing for as long as vermin had existed, and were spread all about the world. Most of the famed villain warlords, such as Ferahgo the Assassin, Cluny the Scourge, Damug Warfang, and Gulo the Savage were actually exiles of the Bloodlust Horde. Now, at Gileda, the prisoner was a feisty squirrel, shorter than most, with dark-brown fur and a green tunic. The patrol leader, a ferret called Serdox, surrendered the squirrel to the jailkeeper, a murderous wolverine called Zentor. Zentor lifted the sack off of the squirrel's head, and immediately she bit the wolverine on the paw. Zentor only laughed.
"Yarrharr, thou art a feisty one, eh? Well, we shall place thee in yonder cell 'till it is time to bring thee to be questioned by the Inqusitor, methinks. Good work with this one, Serdox!"
The squirrel was manacled and had a steel muzzle placed on her head. She was dragged, still scrambling, to a cell. The guard, a red-surcoated fox, shook his halberd in the squirrel's face.
"Vell, you mischiefval sverrel, don' get ideaz o' ezcapin'! Zis place iz heazully guarded, an' an unarmed sverrel like youse vill 'ave no chance o' killin' a zingle beazt, zo dere! Now no ideas o' ezcapin', like I said, gorrit?"
The squirrel nodded glumly.
Meanwhile, Hollyfire had snuck into the the fortress by killing a sentry and putting on his armour. Being a rat, the chainmail and surcoat only just fit her. Holly concealed her sword and saluted to the gate guard with her bow, and the guard opened the porticullis of Gileda for her. Holly walked in, and in the midst of hundreds of vermin, ran behind a wall, preparing to rescue the squirrel. She cast aside her surcoat and chainmail, and put on a black cloak she had hidden in her arrow quiver. Holly unsheathed her sword and prepared to fight any vermin guards. She walked through corridors that were completely unguarded. Sheesh, Holly thought, they ought to guard this old castle better!
Unknown to Holly, the squirrel, whose name was Pinedance Coneslinger, was already planning to break out. She had hidden a few pointed rocks in her tunic and hefted one. She only had three rocks, and two would be needed to break out. Pinedance lifted one rock while the fox guard was turning his back, and threw. It flew true, hitting the vermin on the neck and knocking him unconscious. Pine grabbed her second rock and banged on the prison bars as hard as she could, causing painful shockwaves throughout her paws. Still, she banged hard, cracking one bar before the rock smashed. She was about to pick up another when five vermin, three rats and two stoats, ran in. Each had a red-colored halberd and shield. One of the stoats took the prison keys from the unconscious fox and unlocked Pine's prison, then stepped in and raised his halberd, preparing to kill the annoying prisoner. Pine dodges the strike and smashed her rock on the stoat's neck, crushing his windpipe. She picked up the fallen halberd and killed a rat with it. The second thrusted at her, scraping Pine's left footpaw, but she hacked sideways with the halberd axeblade, decapitating him. She pounced on the third rat, cutting his neck with the hookblade of the halberd. The final member of the party, the stoat, ran out of the prison, but Pine threw her halberd like a javelin. It would have missed, but miraculously caught the stoat in the lower back. He fell, mortally wounded. However, the noise had caught the attention of other vermin, and already a score had rushed in. Pine grabbed a fallen halberd and ran deeper into the prison. She quickly disarmed a sleeping guard, shook him awake, and pinned him to the wall.
"Where are my weapons?"
The guard snarled at Pine, then replied, "I ain't tellin' yew, brushmouse!"
Pinedance picked up the guard (who was a ferret)'s dagger and nicked him slightly on the throat. "Oh yes, you will."
The ferret whimpered, then pointed to the right-paw corridor. "I t'ink dat's where dey keep all de weapons."
Pinedance smiled at the ferret, then ran him through with his own dagger. Pinbe sped down the directed corridor and found a rack of weapons. A fox guard was walking nearby, but Pine grabbed a broadsword from the weapons rack and threw it at the fox, killing him. Pine grabbed her weapons: A sling with a sack of pointed stones and a thick hack dagger. She ran down the corridor, with vermin approaching with every step. Pine found herself soon at a dead end, with vermin rushing towards her and jail cells to her sides. No way out. Pine brandished her halberd, and waited for the vermin to arrive. The first to reach her was a rat with a bardiche axe, but before he could make a killing strike, a black-feathered arrow pierced him between the eyes. Pine looked up, and saw a black-cloaked squirrel standing on a ramp right above the prison cell. She fired another arrow, taking down a halberd-wielding weasel, then yelled to Pine, "I suggest you leave! There's a rope hanging from a floor above the weapons rack, now go an' rush the vermin while I hold 'em off! I'll join you once you're safe!"
Pine waved her thanks and ran, charging madly with halberd swinging. Five vermin were dead before she made it to the weapons rack area. Indeed, a rope was hanging down. Pine dropped her halberd and climbed up the rope. Being a squirrel agility was very easy. However, once Pine reached the second floor, above the weapons cell, a stoat with a red-colored flamberge was following. Pine drew her dagger and cut the rope. The stoat fell to the ground, but not enough to even knock him unconscious. Pine ran to a pillar-surmounted room, with a ramp leading to the prison. There, Hollyfire Thornblade, the mystery rescuer, was fighting several vermin with her sword. Holly saw that Pine was safe, and was about to run to her when a fox stabbed her with a halberd in the upper arm. Pine rushed in, grabbed the halberd, and swung it up at the fox, cracking his jaw with the stave part. The fox fell back as many other vermin ran up the ramp. Holly and Pine sped up another flight of stairs, reached the battlements of Gileda, and before Pine could realize what was going on, Holly hd grabbed her and jumped off the wall. Pine screamed, thinking the end was near, and cursed herself for trusting a suicidal squirrel, but then they both landed on a tall pine tree. Pinedance laughed.
"Well, that was easy, wasn't it!"
Hollyfire wasn't sure. "Whatever you do, don't look down."
Pine looked down.
Chapter Two: The Wild
It was a cold night in the Northlands as an otter walked along an old road, hunting. The otter had a black-furred paw and carried a double-sided javelin, easily marking him as a hero of the Vulpuzian War, Nightpaw Streamsplitter. He had met up with a ferret, the musician Alois Bell, and together they travelled south to Mossflower. However, in the dead of night, a band of foxes had attacked the duo, wounded Alois, and dragged him off, presumably killing him. Now, a week later to the day, Nightpaw, or Nighty as he liked to be called, was tracking the foxes. Yes, the warrior Nightpaw Streamsplitter was hunting, and very few could evade him when he was doing such. Two hours after sunset, Nighty saw tracks. They weren't fox pawprints, though. They looked quite like them, but were much larger and the claws sharper. Nighty inspected these tracks closely, and then looked about his surroundings. Just an eerie oak forest, with trees everywhere. However, Nighty saw something he hadn't noticed before: even larger pawprints next to those of the fox-like tracks, these with sharp claws, even larger than a badger. Nighty groaned: these were the tracks of a wolverine. Still, he was looking for foxes, and knew that other warriors could deal with the wolverine and it's companion. He walked down the path once more, and for the moment forgot about the tracks. That was a grave mistake. However, after half an hour, Nighty saw fox tracks. Yes, the foxes that killed Alois were nearby!
Some time later, Nightpaw found himself behind a rock, spying on three foxes with spears sitting by a fire. Each one had a surcoat painted red and red chainmail as well. It was a very suspicious outfit that Nighty hadn't seen them wearing before, probably the insignia of some new horde. Nighty was about to pounce on them when he heard a strange but familiar voice behind him.
"Hohoho, you thought I was dead, right?"
Nighty turned around and saw a ferret behind him, holding a violin and leaning on a longsword. But how? Alois had been killed?
"I know wot yore thinkin', mate! How did I live? Well, those foxes were once a score large, but I drove them to sleep wid my violin! Yup, I screched it hard as I could, an' they just screamed an' yelped, but then they fell asleep. Wot 'appened next? I killed 'em, wot else?"
Nightpaw was still confused on how his friend, normally gentle, could do this. Shrugging the thought away, he pointed at the foxes. "Better attack 'em, now or never, friend!" With that, Nighty jumped from the rock he was hiding behind, drew his double-sided javelin, and threw it at the nearest of the three foxes. It hit him in the throat, but the next fox picked up his spear and charged. Nighty drew a dagger, dodged the fox's thrust, and jumped up, slicing him on the back of the neck. He then threw the blade at the last fox, who dodged and threw his spear. Nighty rolled away and unsheathed another dagger. he ran right up to the now unarmed fox and thrusted with all his might. The fox gasped, clutched the dagger that pierced his heart, and crumpled.
"That's how you deal wid vermin, Alois, righty?"
However, Alois was not listening. He was trying to undo a sack that had been hidden behind a tree. Someone was in the sack, and that someone was trying to get out.
"Gettof, vermin! Don't make me use my dirk on you!"
Nightpaw picked up a dagger and sliced the sack open. Inside was a squirrel wearing a light-blue dress and a pouch for slingstones on a belt. One of her paws was white. She took one look at Nightpaw and Alois and said, "'Ey, you weren't with the foxes when they caught me! Otter, wot are you doing with a ferret?"
Nighty laughed and withdrew his dagger. "I'm Nightpaw Streamsplitter, and Alois Bell here is my friend. Don't worry, we are friends. Who are you?"
The squirrel sat up, saw her dirk in one of the fox's belt, and walked toward it. "They call me Snowpaw Keeneblade the Wild, mates. I'm a wanderer, but somehow those foxes gave me the slip an' caught me unarmed! Never expected somethin' like that to happen. I once beat a few weasels that tried the same thing on me."
Snowpaw looked at Nighty and Alois and saw they weren't interested. "Sorry, mates. Been on my own for a long time, so I take to talkin' to myself."
Nightpaw nodded. "Don'y worry, I used to do that too."
Alois played a single off-tune note on his violin and called, "So where do we set camp?"
Snowpaw laughed. "Righty here, my friend. Oh, and I forgot to mention, I'm on the trail of one Sworbe Riowa, a fox commander in the Bloodlust Horde. Heard o' him?"
Alois shook his head. Nightpaw, however, replied: "I've heard o' that darn Bloodlust Horde, but not of Sworbe Riowa. I just hope he isn't as dangerous as his name sounds."
Chapter Three: Gilan
Hollyfire and Pinedance were saved by the most unlikely person: a stoat. This stoat jumped in the middle of the score of tree rats about to swarm up the pine tree, and in a blur, drew a broadsword and sliced most of his foe to pieces. He dodged one rat's axe and cut it's stomach, then backflipped, his sword slicing another's neck. The stoat then stabbed a rat that was trying to decapitate him in the heart, and then kicked another down to the dirt. The remainder fled in shock. The stoat wiped grime from his blade and sheathed it.
"Alright, squirrels! You can come down now!"
Holly and Pine were not sure if they could trust one of the vermin species, but he was the only one that seemed to be a friend, so they slowly climbed down the tree. Pine then drew her hack dagger and shouted, "Alright, if you want to fight me, do it right now!"
The stoat stood up. In fact, he was very tall, garbed in a camoflagued cloak and wearing a black jerkin and tunic. His broadsword hung from his side, a bow and quiver protruded from the back of his cloak, and several knives hung from crossed belts about his chest. "Listen, my teacher once taught me that there's a difference between a species and an allegiance. You just gotta prove it to the world. It's yore decision, an' none other. Now, I'm Gilan the Ranger, one of the senior warriors in the all-stoat group led by that famed warrior 'imself, Thornclaw Braveheart.
Both Holly and Pine had heard of the great warrior before. He had slain three vermin leaders in the past and was one of the greatest heroes of the Vulpuzian War, charging headfirst into hordes of Bloodlust vermin and controlling Bloodwrath. He had even almost killed the leader of the Bloodlust Horde in a duel atop the southern Mount Floret. "So wot're you doing here? I thought Thornclaw took more to Mossflower nowadays!"
Gilan chuckled. "Oh, no, Mossflower is Thorn's best huntin' grounds, but he will go anywhere there's vermin. Anyways, he sent me to go lookin' fer a couple heroes, great warriors. The Bloodlust Horde has been spotted, an' that fortress behind you is one of their outposts! Oh, and that reminds me, we should get out of eyeshot!" With that, Gilan, Holly, and Pine ran into the nearby bushes, safe from any vermin sentries. "So where was I?" asked Gilan.
"The Bloodlust Horde has returned?" asked Holly.
"Oh, yes, that's right! Well, that great Horde has returned, an' Thorn is askin' me to go look for two o' his old friends, a stoat like meself and a raccoon. They're both Northlanders, but now they are taking to the east. Wallace Longblade an' Raimish are their names. Bad thing is, they used to be great friends, never went into battle without the other, but last I heard they had an argument over a stolen ship, so now they hate each other's guts! Well, I'll need some help gettin' the two back together. Care to help?"
Holly and Pine both smiled. They needed adventure! "Yes, say the word an' we're with you!"
With that, the trio walked off into the plains, and to the Southwest Lands where Raimish the Raccoon held his lair.
Chapter Four: The Siege of Redwall
Trapped. Thornclaw Braveheart and his Rangers were trapped in the woodlands by an army of Bloodlust vermin. One new member, the youngling Horace, had gone too far off the road, and had nearly been killed by ambushing foxes. After putting the assassins to the death, Thorn and his warriors ran, hearing the yells of an entire army approaching. Thornclaw cursed himself. Why did he not see these vermin before? However, it wasn't long before Redwall Abbey came in sight. A verth for the night, and a former home of Thornclaw himself! Thorn told his second-in-command Crowley to continue running with the rest of the Rangers, on to the gates of Redwall, while he took care of the vermin.
"Wot about you, Thorn?"
"Don't worry," Thornclaw replied, "I've been in tougher traps than these." With that, Crowley sped off and Thorn drew his Zweihander from his back. He stared at the blade, remembering the day he first fought with it to cut the warlord Dirz the Maul in half. He then remembered the duels against Yamagg Alik and Kardag Svilatz wielding this sword. Yes, those were the days. Thorn continued to smile at his Zweihander when an arrow bounced off the tip, bringing him back into the real world. Thorn held his sword in a warrior's salute and stood there, waiting for the first rat to swing his halberd. Thorn ducked underneath the polearm and sliced it in half, then cut the vermin's neck. Thorn cut another weasel in half, then kicked a fox who was trying to back stab him. He then jumped forward, landing on a now-decapitated weasel. Five rats charged at him with spears, but Thorn simply backflipped away from the thrusts and ripped all five to shreds. Thornclaw drew a rondel dagger in his left paw and sliced another fox while battling a ferret at the same time. He stabbed the ferret in the midriff, then swung downwards, cleaving several other vermin heads in the process. Thorn knew he couldn't hold them all off, and took to running, slicing his way with his huge sword until nobeast got near him. Thorn punched the last vermin in front of him, a big wolverine, with his steel gauntlet and decapitated the beast. He ran back to the gates of Redwall satisfied to see that the other Rangers were entering. Thorn sheathed his Zweihander and took a saex knife from his belt, slicing a rat who had caught up with him. Thorn jumped up onto a huge boulder and stabbed another ferret, then jumped down, landing on a fox and cutting his throat. Thorn ran to the gates, yelling, "It's me, Thorn Braveheart!" The gates opened and he ran in, drawing his longbow and shooting a weasel right behind him in the process. The gatekeeper, an otter called Aethel, slammed the doors while about a hundred vermin scraped at it from the outside.
"By the fur, wot happened to yew stoats? Where did this army come from?"
Thornclaw Braveheart sheathed his longbow and touched the hilt of his sword. "The Bloodlust Horde is back. Tell Abbot Melfrute that I call a Council of War!"
Chapter Five: A Vengeance Awaited
It was raining by the time Nightpaw Streamsplitter, Alois Bell, and Snowpaw Keeneblade reached a sheltering tree in the woods. Their clothes were drenched, Alois' violin was out of tune, and worst of all, they had lost the scent of a large group of Bloodlust vermin. It really wasn't a good day.
"Well, friends," said Snow, "Look on the bright side. At least there's a berth here! I just hope that Sworbe Riowa was held back by the rain as well."
Nightpaw entered a hollow near the tree. "Say, wot's yore quarrel wid this Riowa anyways?"
Snowpaw clenched her dirk and grinned, remembering the tale. "I've always been alone. I never knew my parents and I've hated vermin all my life. However, several seasons ago in the late period of the Vulpuzian Wars, I was being escorted by the Rangers of Thornclaw Braveheart to meet King Delir of the Northland squirrels. My friend, a squirrel called Wotan Sigemund, had joined us and was a represenative of King Delir to Redwall Abbey, which I'm assured you know about."
Nightpaw nodded. "We do. Please continue."
"Anyway, we were nearing the fortress of King Delir when out of nowhere scores of Bloodlust vermin leaped from the pine trees. Thornclaw and his Rangers killed many, of course, but one, fox with a flail, attacked Wotan. He curled his flail chain around my friend's sabre and swung it out of his grip. Then, that fox picked up the fallen sabre and sliced the blade into Wotan's chest. I drew my throwing knife and threw it at his shoulder, hitting true, but the fox plucked out the knife, tossed it aside, and ordered his vermin to retreat, telling me, 'If anyone wants ter know wot 'appened ter yer friendy, tellem de Bloodlust commander Sworbe Riowa killed 'im wid 'is own sword.!' With that, that vermin tucked the sabre into his belt and climbed into the trees. Three Rangers and Wotan died that day, but before death claimed him, Wotan Sigemund told me to avenge his death by coming to terms with Thornclaw Braveheart. To tell the truth, both of us havn't been friends at all, but Thornclaw pitied me for Wotan's death and brought him back to his home in the fortress of King Delir. In memory of my friend, Delir brought his squirrel army to help in the final battle against Vulpuz and the Bloodlust Horde. Of course, you weren't there, Nightpaw, because I would have met you by then! Anyway, it was the arrival of Thornclaw, the Rangers, and King Delir and myself with the Highland squirrels that turned the tide of the battle. After the war, we all went our seperate ways, me to look for Sworbe Riowa and punish him. Ten seasons have I been looking for that fox, and ten seasons I havn't found him, but I swear upon my dirk that I will find him before the eleventh seasons is over!"
Nightpaw nodded in memory of Wotan. In fact, Alois was already in tears. Then, the ferret shrugged away his sadness, picked up his sword, and looked straight at Snowpaw. "We swear upon our blades that we will help you avenge Wotan Sigemund, and after we have helped you slay Sworbe Riowa, we will help you reconcile with Thornclaw Braveheart. I, Alois Bell, and my friend Nightpaw Streamsplitter promise this."
Chapter Six: The Stronghold of Morangard
Hordes of them had arrived. A thousand Bloodlust vermin were besieging the castle of Morangard, and had been for the past five days, without luck. Moranguard was a thick stronghold, with a hundred highland squirrels and hares guarding it, and commanded by two great warriors: Joseph the Weasel Warrior and the stoat Wallace Longblade, who held the nickname "Northland Thornclaw". Joseph was a tall creature, skinny and full of chivalry, as well as an accent. He always wore a yellow tunic and black beret, and carried a rapier at his side, a cutlass on his back, and always held several javelins for long-range fighting. Wallace, however, was also tall, wore a white tunic over a long chain mail shirt, and had a thick brogue. He always had dozens of weapons, but now he wore only his prized possession, his family claymore, two hook-swords on his sides, and a bolas in his paw.
"My my, mah wee laddie Joseph, we got oursaelves intae quate a fix 'ere. This calls fer a braw strategy an' some quick thankan'."
"I know," replied Joseph. "And voht ve need iz to git dose Bloodvusters out o' ze vay. Vemember our pwans, Zir Vallace? Ve kill dese Bloodvusters, an' bring ze army southvards to ze Red'all Abbey, an' fast!"
Joseph and Wallace had both served in the First Vulpuzian War, several seasons back, but now the Bloodlust Horde had returned. The duo were the first to see them, and had sent messengers to several great heroes and commanders of the goodbeasts: Lady Aster of Salamandastron, Thornclaw Braveheart, Nightpaw Streamsplitter, Log-a-log Minnowspere, Midnight Seaflow, Snowpaw Keenblade, and Raimish the Raccoon (who held a grudge on his one-time friend, Wallace). However, none had arrived yet, so there was no doubt the Highlanders of Morangard would have to face the Horde on their own. Wallace was about to answer Joseph when a catapult boulder smashed into one of the guard towers on the fortress. A squirrel called to the two commanders.
"They're attackin' agin!" He would have said more, but an arrow met his throat. Wallace drew his claymore, nearly decapitating Joseph in the process, and roared at the Highlanders to fire arrows. They did, and scores of Bloodlust vermin died. However, it seemed that for every vermin slain, ten more took it's place, and many battering rams crawled towards Morangard's gate, immune to arrows. Wallace looked at Joseph and said,
"We'll have tae go down dere an' fight wid dose beasties hand-tae-hand. Ya wid me?"
Joseph nodded, and he drew his rapier and cutlass. Both sped down a flight of stairs, passed numerous Highland archers, and ran to a back gate. Wallace, who had taken a detour to gather his other weapons (a katana that hung on his back, several throwing implements, a long blade on his arm, two other daggers, and a quarterstave), locked the small door as they exited, then ran around Morangard until they were spotted by the Bloodlust Horde. Wallace drew both hook-swords and murmured to Joseph, "You goan' take oot de rams, while I stay 'ere an' carve these laddies tae paeces. Go!" Joseph brandished his two swords and charged around the small group of vermin that were attacking Wallace. The stoat ripped two rat's throats out with one sword slash, then dug into the heart of a fox. He rolled away from a weasel's swinging halberd and kicked it onto the point of another vermin's pole weapon, then bounded forward, slashing three ferrets and another rat. Then, a wolverine hacked at him with an axe, and Wallace sheathed one hook-sword and drew his katana. He slashed upwards, and the wolverine backed away. He stood still for a while, then his left arm fell to the ground, severed at the shoulder. Then, Wallace stepped forward and stabbed with his katana, tearing into the midriff of the wolverine and killing him. Most of the other vermin backed away, but a fox charged at him with a sword, but Wallace sidestepped and decapitated the reckless animal. The stoat laughed aloud as he hacked and slashed and stabbed through the vermin, rejoycing at the death of his enemies.
Meanwhile, Joseph had been caught by a fox with a battleaxe, but the axehead burrowed in the ground, and Joseph withdrew his raper from his enemy's gut. He then sheathed his swords, unpacked his javelins, and took two in both paws, creeping towards one battering ram that was near the gate. He walked around it until he saw the vermin controlling the siege weapon, and threw a javelin that tore through a rat's throat and went right out, hitting a weasel in the back. Joseph bowed his head and whispered, "I apologize, dear beasts," and charged, flinging his second javelin, which killed a fox, then he drew his rapier and stabbed a ferret in the neck. Two other vermin remained: A weasel and a rat. The weasel walked forward and drew his flamberge sword, which marked him as a Bloodlust Captain. He pointed the weapon at Joseph and said, "How about a duel, my little counterpart?" Joseph twirled his rapier and replied one of his favorite mottos:
"Ah'll make sure yew have a nice fast death." However, the weasel had already charged, and slashed his sword at Joseph's neck. Joseph ducked under the blade and then slashed horizontally with his weapon, but the blocked it with ease. "When Razorl Argor wins, yew lose." said the weasel, and he stabbed forward. Joseph blocked and drew his cutlass, hacking a piece of wood off the battering ram. He sheathed his rapier and grabbed the wood with his free paw, throwing it at Razorl. The weasel vermin was hit on the forehead, and he fell to the ground stunned. Joseph raised his cutlass, preparing to kill the fallen Razorl, but he could not kill in cold blood, and backed away. Then, Razorl sat up, put a paw behind his back, and drew a small crossbow. He brandished it, pointing at Joseph's heart within a flash, and fired. Joseph did not see it coming, but the bolt missed his chest and hit his thigh. Joseph groaned in frustration and gripped the bolt, drawing it out. He tossed the bloody piece of wood aside and drew his rapier again, just in time to see Razorl jump on him, sending both weasels to the ground. Razorl, being on top, got up first and raised his sword to decapitate Joseph, but before he could do that, a thin blade pierced his heart. Razorl Argor's blood poured everywhere, and he fell back on Joseph. Wallace Longblade ran into the wreck of the battering ram, retrived his dagger, and rolled Razorl off of Joseph. Joseph groaned, and Wallace grinned.
"Thank gaedness yer alive, laddie! Where're yew 'urt, Jaeseph? Yer bleedin' everywhare! We need tae get ya to the healer, naow!"
Joseph coughed and sat up, pushing Wallace's frantic paws off of his "wound". "Gerroff me, yew rogue! Zat's al Razorl's bludd. See, he was bleedin' everyvere on me when yore dagger hit 'im! My only wound is on mah thigh, an' zat's not gonna kill me!"
Wallace smiled and helped his friend up. "Sorry. Can yew walk?"
Joseph picked up his rapier and cutlass and leaned on the former. "I t'ink. Oh, and before ve go kill more vermin, I need yew to make von promise. DON'T ZAVE MAH BALLY VIFE AGIN! ZAT'S ZE FIFTH TIME ZIS VEEK, YEW MORON!" Wallace burst out laughing, but the laughing stopped as five vermin ran into the wreckage. Their leader, a rat, pointed his flamberge at the duo and yelled, "Oy, gerrout o' dere an' drop dose veapons. Commander Riowa want a word wid yew both, who are now our prisoners!"
Wallace smiled and told the rat, "Bossy laddie, are ye? Well, Let's see you order us around!" With that, the stoat and the weasel charged, with the rat losing his head to Longblade's claymore. The rest of the vermin dropped their weapons and ran away. Wallace smiled and walked out of the ram wreckage at last, then pointed at the Bloodlust horde, which had retreated. "Ah t'ink Morangard is safe at laest! Soon, let's 'ave a word wid this Commander Riowa."
Chapter Seven: The King and the Lord
Somewhere in the Great Western Sea, the Bloodlust Hordeship floated like a ghost. It was a masterpiece, large enough to carry five Blue Hordes and contained marvelous weapons, like a triple trebuchet on the bow, hundreds of repeating crossbow stations, and an immense cabin for it's commander, the great Lord Vulpuz. Actually, Vulpuz was a name taken by each leader of the Bloodlust Horde for time immemorial, as a way to frighten enemies into believing the Lord of Hellgates was truly upon them. However, if Vulpuz really existed, the current Bloodlust Lord would be just that. His real name was Lucifer Infernax, and he ruled the largest vermin horde in the world.
Anyway, in the throne room of the Bloodlust Hordeship, a tall wolf wearing a black hooded robe with scarlet markings on it was sitting on a golden chair with wolf-heads on the arms. On either side of the throne was a long jagged broadsword, colored red by the blood that always stained the metal. In front of the throne was a pine marten with dark brown fur, wearing a black tunic, a black cape, and a silver crown upon his head. On either side of him was a rat bearing a trident, and one was also holding a halberd, and a ferret in a black dress carrying a bow stood behind them all. The wolf raised his head to speak. His voice was like a jagged knife scraping a stone.
"It is no concern of mine about your kingdom's timber. If you wanted wood for more ships, you should have gone to Mossflower and cut down some logs there, and start a port on the eastern shores."
The pine marten replied. "My Lord, the rabbets of the Fire Mountain are fierce, and the stoat with the huge sword patrols all of the land. We are being cut off by the woodlanders, who have no idea what they are doing to our cause. I ask that you spare some wood for us."
"Listen, Shiraz Vikram. I need all my wood supplies for the invasion from the Northlands. None can be spared, now that Salamandastron is building their own ships. However, because you are weak, I shall give you five galleons for your command. You may choose your own captains, but be wise. Betrayal is not possible while I hold the Hordeship.
Shiraz nodded. "Yes, my Lord. Still, the fortress of Morangard is very strong. It guards the only path into the Borderlands that is not surrounded by the Deathly Cliffs. There is tell that a great stoat with a large sword is there."
"WHAT?" yelled the wolf, standing up. "The Greatsword is at Morangard? Thornclaw Braveheart? And only a minute ago you said that he was patroling Mossflower. That stoat and his pitiful Rangers shall die for what they did to me!" With that, the wolf, taken by Gorewrath, the villain form of Bloodwrath, pulled back his hood, revealing that half of his face was scars. Only his eye was living.
"When Braveheart pushed me into the Flames of Floret, I gained a face only worthy of one beast, who has been long dead. But are you sure it was him?" The wolf walked towards Shiraz and grabbed the front of his tunic, pulling him towards the grizly face of his master. "What were his weapons?"
Shiraz gulped, then answered. "Well, when Commander Riowa and I were watching our forces retreat, I saw a stoat with a big claymore and another sword, shorter and with a small hilt, come out of the ram alongside a weasel with a rapier. Surely that was Thornclaw Braveheart?"
The wolf sighed, then released Shiraz and walked back to his throne, collapsing upon it and gripping the hilt of his right-paw sword. "That is not the Greatsword. That is Wallace Longblade, the Greatsword of the North. Thankfully, he does not have that villainous sword like Braveheart does. Anyways, yes, Morangard is strong, but it will soon fall. The Highlanders will weaken, and we will vanquish Wallace Longblade! Now, I have designed a new strategy. After Morangard falls, I will personally come to my army in the North and lead the charge south. The Bloodlust Hordeship will sail down the River Moss and destroy Redwall Abbey, then sail back and deploy troops at Salamandastron. Meanwhile, you will travel from Southsward and bring corsairs north to meet me at Redwall, where my troops will stop. We will then join up and vanquish all the woodlanders, Highlanders, and waterbeasts that dare to oppose us! A triumph at last! This I command, and now I order you, King Shiraz Zinfandel Vikram of Sampetra, to prepare your forces as soon as you leave this vessel."
Shiraz nodded and said, "Your orders are my command, Lord Vulpuz. I shall return to Sampetra." The pine marten bowed and spun around, taking his halberd from his rat guard as his Corsair Commander, Darksoul the ferret, followed. Then, Lucifer Infernax, Lord Vulpuz, grinned. Revenge would be his, and all of the eastern continent would be his! Luckily, once he killed the heroes, he would no longer have need of King Shiraz Vikram. Then, a hulking wolverine stomped out from a secret room behind Vulpuz's throne.
"Thy strategies are superb, mine Lord. The King Vikram shalt follow his orders."
Vulpuz smiled. "Yes, Clubfist. Ever since we left Mossflower and I began preparing this order of battle, you have been my eyes and ears. Now, I need you to watch over "King" Shiraz Vikram. I want to make sure he follows orders."
Clubfist bowed. "Thy wish is my command, Lord Vulpuz. Dost you not think he knows?"
"Of the other plan? Of course not. I'll tell him when I'm ready. Now, go and tell our friend the King that he has a new bodyguard."
Clubfist bowed again and asked, "But what of thy own safety, mine Lord?"
Vulpuz smiled, and his smile always meant something villainous. "The Bistones will take care of that." With that, Clubfist bowed a third time and stomped slowly out of the throne room.
Chapter Eight: The Raccoon Warrior
In a cave in the Southwest Lands, the last raccoon in the eastern coasts was preparing for war. Raimish was a muscular and broad beast, with a brogue like his ex-comrade Wallace Longblade, and also carried multiple weapons. He stepped out of his cave, with a huge spear in his right paw, a small wooden shield with a steel hump on his left, and both a large battleaxe and a claymore on his back. A pickaxe hung on his side and four dirks were strapped to his legs. He sighed, shouldered his pack of provisions, and looked at his home. He had lived here for three seasons, after the split from Wallace. Raimish had always been on the move, so he never had time to consider a permanent home. He had hoped this cave would be just that, but a few days earlier, a squirrel had come to his cave, telling him that another squirrel had been told be another squirrel who had been told by a Northland squirrel that Wallace Longblade and Joseph the Weasel Warrior were trapped in the fortress of Morangard, and were battling off Bloodlust vermin. Hearing that a Second Vulpuzian War was on it's way, Raimish had reuctantly agreed to go help and reconcile with Wallace. Three seasons before, they captured a searat trieme and had argued over who would take command of the ship. Raimish drew his claymore on Wallace, and before they knew it, the two former friends were stuck in a fierce duel. After both grew exhausted, with nary a scratch, they went their separate ways. Wallace took the trieme with him. Raimish had fled south in a rage of Bloodwrath, and found a cave where he smashed boulders with his axe until the berserk anger left him. He had stayed in the south for the past three seasons, and now war was imminent, so the warrior had to go. Raimish waved his spear in a farewell to his old home, and started the long trek north.
Starving. Scorching. Hopeless. That was the state of Hollyfire, Pinedance, and Gilan, after a week of travelling south. Their provisions were gone, and all they had were the clothes on their backs and the weapons in their paws. They had lost much food to their hunger and to bandits, but somehow all three had survived. At the present time, they were hiking desperately, knowing that the cave of Raimish the raccoon was nearby. However, after a foodless afternoon, Pine gasped and fell to the ground, mumbling, "Can't take it...need some water...no food...please...'elp..."
Holly fell to the ground and tried to help Pine up, but her strength was weak, too. Then, suddenly, the trio heard a cackle as a rat with a barbed spear walked towards them. "Yer weak fools, aren'tcha? It not good to hide t'inks from Darko de bandit, right? Well, gimme yer weaperns, beasties!" Darko peered at Gilan's broadsword and smiled.
"Hoho, I always wanted a sword like dat. Givvit 'ere or I stick ya wid dis spear!" The rat waved his spear at the stoat. Though weakened, Gilan smiled.
"Oh, I'll give it to ya," and with that, Gilan drew his sword and ran Darko through. Gilan let go of the handle and pushed the blade right down to the hilt as Darko grabbed at the sword. He tried to pull it out, but fell onto his stomach, dead from the mortal wound. Gilan trotted forward, pulled his sword out, and sheathed it. He groaned as his stomach gurgled, and was about to go help Pine when a huge form stood behind him. Gilan quickly redrew his sword and hacked behind him, but the creature behind raised a sort of shield to block it. Gilan spun around and stabbed forward, but the creature blocked with a heavy spear. Gilan was about to return a blow when he recognized Ramish.
"Well, good ole Rai, where are yew goin' wid all yore gear? We were headin' to yore cave to tell yew dat we're-"
"-trayin' tae get me tae raconcile wid Wallace, Ah thought sae." finished Ramish.
Holly sat up and faced the raccoon. "I've heard about you, Ramish. We knew it was time for you to put differences away. Listen, we need you to help us find Wallace. We don't know where he is, and we hope that you would. Besides, it would be good for you to make friends again."
Raimish sighed. He wasn't as young as he used to be, and the younger generation always had great ideas. It was a pity he had gotten older after the First Vulpuzian War. "Listen, lassie, Ah haed nae idea whare Wallace was until a sqarrel like yoreself came to mah cave an' told me dat he haed been taeld...well, thaet Wallace Longblade was in need o' haelp o'er in the fortress of Morangard. Ah'm goin' dere now."
"Wait, Ramish. Morangard is in the Northlands, leagues away! It'll take pehaps a whole season to get there! Besides, there's vermin everywhere! That darned barbarian Marzz Flareblade is abroad there. Remember how hard it was to defeat him last time? He was in league with Lord Vulpuz!"
Ramish nodded, but then thought of a better way to travel. "Waell, we can hop abard a corsair shaep, then!"
Gilan slapped his forhead. Raimish wasn't as young as he used to be, the stoat thought. He obviously was running out of good ideas. "That's even worse! Look, we have a sick squirrel here, an' another whose not far off from illness 'erself! Now you suggest we go hide on a corsair vessel?"
The Raccoon Warrior grinned. "Naet just ahny corsair shaep, Gilan. The King Shiraz Vikram landed 'ere yesterday on a galleon. Nae doubt 'e is plannin' tae invade, seeing as 'e halped Vulpuz in the war. We caen hide on 'is oversaezed shaep an' snaek off on the naext stop, then travel tae Morangard!"
Hollyfire smiled at Raimish. "No doubt a good idea. Now, we better prepare. This Shiraz Vikram will not be a happy beast when we get aboard."
By the next day, Pinedance had recovered, as did Holly and Gilan's stomachs. In fact, Pine was acting more hare than squirrel that day. Raimish and Gilan worked out a strategy, and at night, they were gathering their equipment for an operation that could cost them their lives.
Chapter Nine: The Gathering of the Federation
"Welcolme, my comrades, to the Thirteenth Gathering of the Federation of Corsairs. We begin this meeting by discussing our strategy in Southsward, which we are currently at.."
Those were the words of King Shiraz Vikram that started the Gathering inside his personal galleon, Warwater. As Chairbeast of the Federation, Shiraz received orders from Lord Vulpuz and in turn gave each specific one to each of the Federation Members, and also the King sent reports personally to Vulpuz. No vermin group had ever been this organized. There were ten Federation Members in all, apart from King Shiraz: Armin Blanco the ermine, Darksoul, her mate Doom, Galven Oroma the fox, Mitor Armight the weasel, Spaak Glire the ferret, Duon Bitan the rat, Rorn Ennzar the wolverine, Skalarana the rat, and Calund Watrox the ferret.
"Vell, voht haff you to say, King Zhiraz?" asked Rorn.
"I was given orders yesterday to in turn tell you." replied the King. "We plan to deploy soldiers in Southsward, but here's something I can't let any of you tell a single member of Lord Vulpuz's accursed Bloodlust Horde: I suspect he has another plan. Most of you were members of the Federation during the Vulpuzian War; you might guess what his plan is now. I believe he will personally take command here instead of in the North. We can't have him take authority away from us, like he owns our fleets! Now, when he arrived, we honor him like an Emperor, which I have no doubt he will make himself one day. We let him give some orders, and make him feel confident in our loyalty, and then we strike!"
Shiraz grabbed a dagger from one of his guards and plunged it into the wooden table of his meeting room to dramatise the speech. Then, Darksoul stood up.
"Yer Majesty, Vulpuz had ordered that wolverine, Axefist or summat like dat, ter watch ya. I know you had him watchin' a sleepin' decoy, but that won't fool 'im agin! An' that ain't tryin' to kill 'im or anythin'! He's a monster, dat beast!"
Doom, Darksoul's abusive mate, slapped Darksoul upside the face. "Females ain't serposed ter talk ter Kings, idjit!"
King Shiraz smiled and returned the dagger to his guard. He spoke to the guard, but the Federation Members knew he was talking to them. "Subterfuge. We use poison. While many of us are stabbing Vulpuz's bottom, permitting his bottom is still there after the fight with Thornclaw Braveheart, I'll invite Clubfist, and that's his name, Darksoul, to have a glass of damson wine. He loves that stuff, and I'll smear his goblet with poison. I learned from previous warlords, and yes, a ferret killed his master that same way. If Clubfist asks me to drink the wine, I'll do just that. He'll be happy then and drink his fill...his last fill."
Applause came from the ten Federation Members, but then, Armin Blanco, a ermine normally of few words, stood up.
"Senor, what of ze Bistones?"
Shiraz continued his orchestration of Vulpuz's defeat. "Those fat guards will be forced to surrender. We'll tell them and all the Bloodlust Horde that Vulpuz was a traitor and that while recovering from his incident with Braveheart, he said that if he died, I would become the Bloodlust Lord. Then, the Bistones will have to serve as bodyguards to me. Now, I am a King, and will then be known as the King of Bloodlust. I could use someone to rule as King of Sampetra...or should I say, Queen." Shiraz stared at Darksoul, then looked away.
"I could also have someone to become the commander of the Bloodlust Horde in my name, and that will be Armin Blanco."
The other Members applauded, except for Spaak Glire, an old rival of Blanco. He stood up. "Blanco cannot command! 'E rarely speaks, an' 'ow can one command widout givin' orders?"
Duon stood up. "Blanco's a strategist. We've all seen 'im fight an' cermmand in the Vulpuzian War. 'E's a fine corsair indeed."
King Shiraz nodded. "I'll take note of your protest, Spaak, but Blanco, I trust in you. Do not fail me."
Blanco nodded. He truly was an ermine of few words.
"There's another plan." Shiraz continued. "After Vulpuz dies, I want Galven and Spaak to travel north and tell the Bloodlust Horde that Vulpuz was murdered by woodlander spies, and that he named me Bloodlust Lord before he died. Don't tell anyone about our plans, my friends. This meeting of the Federation of Corsairs ends." Shiraz stood up and walked to different corsairs at different times. They would give him reports, which he would give directly to Lord Vulpuz. Afterwards, Shiraz named Armin Blanco Assistant Chairbeast, a title he had not given anyone since he had taken office in the middle of the Vulpuzian War. Then, he sneaked into a small door in the back of his cabin and slid in, concealing the door with a wine barrel and removing the decoy that consisted of a bag of damsons and his halberd. After being convinced that Clubfist did not know about the meeting, Shiraz fell asleep, happy for his plans.
That same night, two other events occured. The first one was Gilan, Hollyfire Thornblade, Pinedance Coneslinger, and Raimish's infiltration of Warwater, which was ironically right at the coast of Southsward. It only took a day for the group to reach the ship from the inland desert, and they killed a guard of a boat that was beached on the shore. They cloaked themselves for a disguise and paddled silently up to the hull. They let the boat drift, then opened a porthole in the hull and hid themselves each in a cargo box on the lowest level of the ship. There they waited.
Also, two wolves were meeting on the Bloodlust Hordeship. One wore a black hooded robe with red symbols on it, and the other had a similar black cloak, but not as large. This wolf was much younger and had red symbols much like his elder's tattooed on his face like the Juska tribe, which was all but wiped out. This wolf also carried a peculiar sword that hung on his back from a belt.
"It's time." said the elder wolf.
"Yes, my master." replied the younger.
"I have trained you well."
"Yes, my master."
"You know that I have many enemies among the goodbeasts."
"Yes, my master."
"Thornclaw Braveheart, Wallace Longblade, Raimish, Snowpaw the Wild, and Nightpaw Streamsplitter, to name a few. You know of them."
"I do, my master."
"But now, my enemies are the Corsair Federation. I will call a meeting of my commanders in a few days, and I want you there. We shall reveal you to King Shiraz Vikram, and Armin Blanco, among others."
"I shall reveal myself to them, my master."
"And later, I will send you on a galleon to Southsward to meet King Vikram."
"I shall do as you say, my master."
The elder wolf had peen pacing around the younger, then stopped in front of him. "After the South is won, what will you do to Vikram, Zrid the Maul?"
The younger wolf solemnly bowed his head shortly. "I will kill him."
Chapter Ten: Scabbard without Sword
Abbot Melfrute was frustrated. He was an old, rheumatic squirrel and though he had plenty of seasons left, he was prepared to resign as Abbot. The Council of War two days earlier hadn't gone the way a peacemaking Abbeyleader would want it to go. Thornclaw Braveheart, an old friend of Melfrute, had agreed to take charge of the defense forces and was already overseeing the construction of multiple catapults. Melfrute himself had seen the Bloodlust Horde, and had been alive when they had last attacked Redwall, during the First Vulpuzian War, and knew they were a threat, but he wished for no further lives to be lost. Many good Brothers and Sisters had died in the War, and until Dibbuns could grow out of their childhood, Redwall couldn't afford to lose anyone. However, Thorn had insisted on having those Redwallers that wished to defend their home join the defense army. Melfrute was forced to accept, not because of Thorn's Zweihander, but because the idea had at first seemed so useful. After thinking about it for two days, it was horror. The frustrated old squirrel heaved himself onto his cot and lay there, staring at the gloomy ceiling before merciful sleep overtook him.
That night, the Abbot's dreams were unlike any others. He saw a squirrel lying semi-conscious, with another squirrel and a stoat leaning over her. He saw a raccoon with many weapons stand behind the stoat, and the stoat drew his sword. The sword deflected on the raccoon's shield as the stoat turned around to see the raccoon brandishing a spear. Both apparently recognized each other, so they withdrew weapons. Then, Melfrute's attention grew only on the squirrel standing over the semi-conscious one. She seemed special, somehow. Melfrute, in sleep, tried to reach his paw out, but then a vast shimmering light appeared between the two squirrels. Then, another scene played before Melfrute's eyes. A squirrel was fighting a fox, armed with a sabre, while another squirrel lay slumped, possibly dead, nearby. The squirrel thrusted at the fox, who drew a flail and wrapped it around his opponent's sword, then tugged, snapping the blade clean off. The squirrel clutched her sword handle, shocked at the loss of her weapon, then the fox grabbed the squirrel's throat and lifted her into the air. Melfrute once again extended his paw, trying to help the doomed squirrel, but a light shone between them like before. This time, a mouse in bright armour and bearing a sword that Melfrute had seen so many times in the Great Hall stood before him and uttered words that Melfrute remembered alone of his dream:
"In times like these the peaceful may be,"
"But not all shall take the path of thee,"
"Look for the Champion who took an oath,"
"To fight with the Coneslinger, raccoon, and stoat"
"And remember my final words:"
"The warrior will have a scabbard but no sword"
Melfrute woke up, breathing heavily. He took his spectacles from a table beside his bed and looked around. It was morning, thankfully, and he heard Friar Torgle working in the Kitchen. Melfrute, who had been Friar before becoming Abbot, had insisted on keeping his old room next to the Kitchen, so it was easy to smell the aroma of fresh food. Melfrute shook away the odd memories of his dream and threw on a habit. He padded outside his room and walked into the Great Hall. Suddenly, his eye caught the ancient Tapestry of Martin the Warrior. It was a great symbol of Redwall's freedom, and only two times had been stolen. Both times it was returned with barely a single thread missing.
Melfrute looked above the mighty picture of Martin, wearing his armour and leaning on his great sword. The very sword hung on hooks on the wall, and whenever Redwall was in need, a Champion stood up and took the great weapon. However, with many heroes to defend the Abbey, nobeast had taken the sword during the First Vulpuzian War. Many had believed Martin had abandoned his Abbey, but many, including Melfrute, told the Abbey that Martin had seen no need for a Champion then, but one would come when it was time. Then, Melfrute did something he had never done before. He walked to the ladder next to the Tapesty and climbed up, then withdrew Martin's sword from it's wall pegs and climbed down with it. He brandished the sword in both paws and looked at the blade. He swore he could see the face of the mouse warrior in it. Melfrute pointed the sword forward and closed his eyes. He silenty asked for a Champion, then lifted the sword in a warrior's salute. He almosr dropped the blade when he heard a familiar voice.
"It's a strange thing to see an Abbot wid a sword," said Thornclaw. The stoat had changed from his old (and considerably smelly) cloak and tunic to a short green tunic, though he kept the metal-plated jerkin and gauntlet. His Zweihander never left his back, and only three knives were lying patiently in his belt. His longbow pointed over the left side of his back.
"Aye," replied Melfrute. "You scared me, Thorn."
"Are yew sure o' that?" asked Thorn.
Melfrute hung his head, but then remembered what Thorn had told him before. "Well, everyone can be scared of something,"
"I admit that I've been scared afore," said Thorn.
"But courage is what is needed in these times,"
"I unnerstand, Melfrute. Courage is like a sword; yew have to make sure it's bent on the right purpose. Courage to kill madly is like a sword that is either in the paws of murderers an' bullies, or so sharp that it will ruin you. But remember, you need courage. Cowardice is like a scabbard widout the sword."
Melfrute suddenly stood erect. This was something familiar! Then, Melfrute looked at the Tapestry and remembered.
"Thorn! The scabbard without the sword! Martin told me!"
Thorn slapped his forehead, "Wait, Melfrute, tell me slowly. Yer soundin' like a youngbeasts wid all this yammerin'!"
Melfrute stopped and restarted slowly. He told Thornclaw about his dream, but all he could remember were the words that Martin's spirit had told him.
"Scabbard widout sword, eh?" said Thorn. "Naught wot I can remember, but it's somethin' big, let me tell yew. Prophecies, that's wot we're at again. I was the subject of a prophecy, and now this Champion with a scabbard widout a sword is. I hope this prophecy Champion is revealed soon. We're going to need one soon."
Yormax Medraut was the commander of the Bloodlust division sieging Redwall. Medraut was a powerful officer, in his red chainmail and helmet, and his bushy wolverine tail itself had a layer of thick cloth to protect it. A steel spike replaced Medraut's left footpaw, which had been lost during the First Vulpuzian War. A flamberge was at Medraut's side and a shield with spikes on the edges was slung on his back. He pointed at the Abbey, and out of the forest, hundreds of vermin marched, each with a halberd and thick red armour. Medraut laughed. He had lost his footpaw in an encounter with Thornclaw Braveheart, and now that stoat would pay!
Chapter Eleven: The Good Vermin Army
In the Eastern deserts, the Bloodlust Horde emcampment in Gileda was overruning the lost kingdom of Kitalpha. A group of "good vermin" under the ferret Makura and his brother Corbus Quick-blade were defending their own little camp from the invaders. At this time, Makura had gone insane and was charging head-first into the vermin ranks, always one to lead from the front. Corbus was sitting in his tent staring at his map of the Mossflower area. He was a slightly small ferret, with brown fur and an eyepatch over his left eye, which he lost in the last Vulpuzian War. He wore a steel cuirass over his chest, and a buckler was, well, buckled to his belt next to a scimitar. A dagger was thrust through the belt on the left side. Corbus stared at his map, looking for a place that the Bloodlust Horde might possibly attack from next. There had been rumors of a siege in Morangard, where Wallace Longblade and Joseph the Weasel commanded a Northland army. Then, there was the weak Southsward. Vulpuz would surely never go near Mount Floret, where Thornclaw Braveheart and Snowpaw Keeneblade had maimed him. Corbus winced. He was one of only three who knew that Snowpaw had aided Thorn duel Vulpuz. Neither had really liked each other, and besides, Snowpaw was busy looking for Sworbe Riowa, the fox that murdered, as Makura liked to tease, her "mate", which was an overstatement. Corbus shrugged away the old memories and continued to stare at the map.
In the forest, Redwall was very vulnerable. Apparently, the Bloodlust forces had already reached the walls, but Thornclaw was commanding the garrisson, so things would definitely work out. Corbus was about to look at Salamandastron when a messenger, a rat known as Yves, walked into the tent.
"S'rry fer botherin' yew, Cap'n, but I gorra message from 'Akura. 'E's a likkle wounded, jus' a likkle arrer inna thigh, but 'e says 'e can't fight fer some time, so 'e wants yew ter leade de army fer now."
Corbus cursed his brother and folded his map. He nodded to Yves and walked outside the tent...to see a horrific battle occuring. His tent was on a hill well-protected by sharp stakes and an old rock formation, but below the hill was a huge battle. Since both sides were vermin, it was hard to tell who was on which side, but the Bloodlust were easily recognizable in blood-red armour. Corbus told his advisor Geslin to stay behind and take command, then he drew his sabre and started to walk down the hill. On the way, he saw Makura limping next to the army's healer, Jadefang. Makura had a white tunic on, and though it gave no protection, it was better than walking around without clothes. He carried a broadsword on his back and a saber at his side. Two daggers were in his belt and a longbow was also on his back. Some said he got the way he set his weaponry from Thornclaw, who carried his sword and bow on his back and had daggers in his side belt. Jadefang wore a dark blue cloak and a red tunic. A black belt held a small pouch of herbs, two daggers hung on the belt, and a club-like bone was in her paw.
"Makura, are you alright, mate?"
Makura waved a bloody arrow. "Oh, right as rain. brother! Go out there an' kill some vermin fer me!"
"He's bleeding tons, but nothing I can't fix." reported Jadefang.
Corbus grinned and yelled at his "good vermin" army to regroup and charge. Corbus hit the Bloodlust ranks like lightning, thrusting into a rat's stomach, then decapitating a fox. Two weasels were impaled in the same stab, and Corbus unhooked his buckler and punched it into another rat's gut. A stoat flailed about with his halberd, but Corbus took the vermin in the heart. The ferret was about to go for a wolverine when an armoured creature resembling a wolf padded his way into the battle. All the Bloodlust vermin backed away, and Corbus gave the order for his army to retreat. The wolf wore heavy plate armour and two longswords hung at his side. He raised his right paw and shouted to Corbus.
"I am commander of this force. I am an army leader. I am Moon Blayde, the Moon's Dark Side."
Corbus returned the taunt, "I bet you hide in all that armour ter hide ole scars from little Dibbuns who scratched you, eh?"
Moon Blayde drew his swords and snarled. "Foul wretch! Insolent ferret! You shall perish before Half Moon and Wolf's Howl!" With that, Moon charged. Both swords met Corbus' buckler, but soon the weight of both blades slipped downwards. Corbus back away, letting Moon's swords drop to the ground. The wolf lifted his weapons and stabbed with both, impaling the right-paw sword, Half Moon, in Corbus' shield. Corbus tried to tug away, but the sword remained firm. He parried Moon's attack with his other sword and dropped the buckler. Moon twirled both swords and swung in a scissor montion, hoping to decapitate his enemy. Corbus laughed and slashed to parry, then hacked again, denting Moon's armour but not piercing. Moon backed away, shocked at the sudden attack, but then fell to Corbus' multiple slashing. Moon blocked most attacks, then kicked the ferret in the stomach. Corbus gripped his gut and fell. Moon lifted Half Moon and spun it on one finger.
"Perish, ignorant fool."
With that, Moon lifted Half Moon and stabbed downwards at Corbus' back. Just then, an arrow pierced his right shoulder and the wolf dropped his sword, screaming in agony. Makura, still limping, but wielding his longbow, ran down the hill of his camp and yelled,
With that, the 200 "good vermin" charged, weapons brandished. Moon Blayde plucked Half Moon from where he had dropped it and kicked Corbus.
"We'll meet again, wretch. But next time there will be no tricks!" Moon spat the last words like it was a curse.
Corbus stood up, groaning, and was suddenly grabbed by Makura.
"Corbus, are you alright?"
Corbus coughed up some blood, then leaned on his saber. "Yeah, that wolf just kicked me too hard."
"Jade will do something to help. Look at the mess you're makin' on yore cuirass!"
Makura's brother looked down. It was true; his cuirass was bloodstained from his coughing.
"Sure. But first, let me see that coward run away. Nice shot, Makura!"
Makura laughed. "It was nothing."
Then, Corbus and Makura retreated up the hill to Jadefang. Corbus glanced at Moon Blayde, who, behind his helmet, snarled. Jadefang ran towards Corbus with a bag of herbs.
"Great, Corbus, first yer eye, now yer stomach. When will you learn to be more careful in duels?"
Corbus twitched at the mention of his eye. He had lost his eye in a brief duel with Lucifer Infernax, Lord Vulpuz. "Well, at least I'm in one piece!"
Jadefang motioned for Corbus to follow her to her medical tent. "What was that thing that fought you?"
"A wolf, I think. A well-trained one, too."
Jade found a bowl of herbs for stomach injuries and put it on a table for Corbus. "Well, I hope you don't have to face him again."
"I wish that were true," answered Corbus, "I wish that were true."
Chapter Twelve: Into the North
In the northern part of Mossflower Forest, Nightpaw Streamsplitter, Alois Bell, and Snowpaw Keeneblade were travelling north. They had lost signs of Bloodlust vermin and had agreed to go north and help in the Siege of Morangard, which they had heard of from a squirrel messenger. They were nearing the end of the dark pine forests and nearing the old birthplace of Martin the Warrior when Nightpaw heard a snapping noise. Then, the rest of the trio heard multiple footsteps and the clanking of armour. Night motioned for his friends to lie down, then unslung his javelin and crouched down. He crept towards the outskirts of the forest, and saw that a huge gorge was surrounding the small grove of trees. Near the end of the gorge was a large castle-looking building, which was probably Morangard. Then, Night swerved his head right and saw five Bloodlust vermin, three ferrets and two rats, patrolling the gorge. They were probably trying to prevent any reinforcements from arriving. Night beckoned for Snowpaw and Alois to follow him. Then, one of the ferrets, obviously an officer by his cloak and flamberge, stopped and pointed at the bushes. Night turned around and saw that Snowpaw had unsheathed her dirk, causing a scraping sound between the metal blade and the metel scabbard. The ferret officer drew his sword and pointed directly at where Night was lying down. He had been spotted. One rat ran towards Night.
"Ey, stoppit right dere!"
Night grinned. This was what he was waiting for. He drew his double javelin and stabbed at the rat, who crumpled as Night withdrew his weapon. He flung it at one of the ferrets, who was charging. The javelin took the beast in the heart as Snowpaw and Alois charged. The ferret officer fell as Snowpaw threw her throwing knife at him. The last rat was the strongest of the group, and he picked up his commander's flamberge and hacked at Night, who sidestepped and drew a dagger, plunging it into the rat's throat. The remaining ferrets dropped their weapons and fled towards the fortress. Nighty smiled at his two companions and picked up his javelin. Snow retrieved her dirk and Alois started gathering the Bloodlust armour.
"Tell me again why we're disguising as vermin," asked Snowy.
Night replied, "Morangard is probably bein' attacked from all sides. We need to get through the enemy lines to reach Wallace and Joseph. During the next attack, we will find a way into the fortress. Snow, you said you've been here before. Can you tell me where this secret entrance is?"
"Well, lemme see, on the north wall there's the main gate. Few know, but this was once the great stronghold of Northland squirrels, and where old Wotan was born. We need to find a small door, only small enough for a squirrel to slide through. It's right above the main gate, and inside the tiny room is a lever that opens a larger door disguised as bricks. There you and Alois will enter."
"Yes," said Alois, "an' there we find Wallace an' Joe an' help 'em fight the Bloodlust, right?"
Night shook his head. "First, we need for them to gain yer trust, Alois. Wallace may be a stoat, but ferrets aren't his style. He's an old friend of mine, an' I know Wallace does not trust ferrets. When the Alliance of Warriors gave Corbus Quick-blade, a ferret, command over the Redwall garrison, he left the Alliance and attacked the Bloodlust with Raimish. That's how his staff broke, but the duo found plenty of plunder. What I know is that Wallace hid the plunder in Morangard, an' that's one reason why the Bloodlust are attackin'; 'cause they have probably been promised gold by their commander."
"And that commander sounds like Sworbe Riowa." stated Snowpaw. "I still have unfinished business with him."
"But still," said Night, "I doubt Wallace will want you as an ally, Alois. He's like Midnight Seaflow; they both hate certain animals, but Midnight's worse. Anyways, we need to get these disguised on before the vermin figure out their patrol is dead."
With that, Night grabbed the officer's cloak and flamberge and threw them over his hulking frame. Snow took her dirk and sheared some of the fur off of her tail to disguise her unique squirel fur, then grabbed a halberd and a rat's helmet. The heavy helm covered her ears and muffled her voice, making it hard to tell if she were male or female. Alois tucked his violin underneath another ferret's cloak and leaned on a halberd. His helmet balanced at a jaunty angle on his head, and his sword was easily seen at his belt. With the Bloodlust clothing and weaponry complete, Night smeared mud and leaves on his face and tucked his rudder into his belt underneath his cloak. Alois did not even need to disguise himself like a vermin, as he was already a ferret. The trio shuffled towards the fortress. After what seemed like hours, Night saw a campfire. They had reached the Bloodlust army. He winked at his friends and ran, yelling,
"'Ey, we seen de Streamsplitter, an' de Wild! Dey attacked us an' killed bunches!"
A fox in red spiked armour and a black cloak walked towards the "vermin". His left paw leaned on a sabre, and his right held the shaft of a flail. Snowpaw glared at him from beneath her helm. This was her arch-enemy, Commander Sworbe Riowa.
"Well, warra yew gotta say fah yerself? Liars! Cowerds! Ya ran away from de Streamsplitter an' de Wild!"
Snow gathered her emotions, as memories of Wotan were coming back, and growled in her best vermin accent, "Cermmander, wasn't just Streamsplitter an' de Wild! Dey 'ad lots o' treemice an' riverdogs wid dem. We ran back 'ere as soon as we could! Dey killed two o' our mates! "Twas 'orror, Cermander, true 'orror!" Snow released the hold on Wotan's memories and broke down sobbing, but tried to keep a masculine voice. Riowa kicked her and faced Nightpaw.
"Tell de rat ter stop cryin' or I smash 'is face wid mah flail!" He hefted his weapon and twirled it expertly. "Or, I can gut 'im wid mah sword! I took 'et from a fool o' a squirrel!"
Snow stopped crying and groped for her dirk. She knew she had put it in her belt, but now it was gone! She gasped in shock, but then stood up and looked Riowa in the eye.
"Serry, Cermmander. 'Twas jes' 'orrible ter see our mates dyin' sir!"
Nightpaw put a paw on Snow's shoulder and nodded. "Aye, mate. Dey ripped de guts outta our friends, Cermmander!"
Riowa grunted and walked away, laughing at these ridiculous vermin. He ordered a guard to escort the three to a tent, then yelled at his troops,
"All warrior, prapare ter take de fertress!"
Alois looked back as the Bloodlust division marched on Morangard, then drew his sword.
Chapter Thirteen: A Hero's Capture
Joseph the Weasel groaned as the Bloodlust army marched on Morangard. Wallace had little time left before he could leave the fort to look for help in the south. Joseph grabbed a javelin and flung it at an advancing weasel, but he was too far out of range. He scannes the long row of Bloodlust and gasped as he saw what was behind the rows of halberdiers. The normal Bloodlust infantry were the brunt of Vulpuz's force, but guarded by rows of bardiche-carrying crack troops were a half-score of trebuchets. Morangard would crumble like a sand castle if the trebuchets got in range, which they were bound to do. Joseph grabbed the remaining bundle of javelins and galloped down the rampart stairs towards the courtyard, where he found Wallace, 5 hares, and 5 squirrels checking their weaponry.
"Vallace, ve got to go now! Zose Bloodvust 'ave gotten traubuzes!"
Wallace sheathed his claymore and motioned at his deputy, Baller von Vincerable, to continue checking the supplies. He ran towards Joseph and replied,
"Weel, Ah'm sure we're gonna dae if we stae 'ere. Joseph, get dae odder troops tae line up at tae walls whale Ah see if'n tae ould saecret door still opens."
Within a few minutes, all the warriors of Morangard save the archers were lined up in the courtyard, with weapons and provisions ready. Wallace's elite half-score group of hares and squirrels were standing behind him as Joseph briefed the troops.
"Dose Bloodvust 'ave traubuzes bein' prepared outzide our gates. Our vorces vill stand no chanze agin de rottin varmin, zo ve vill try an' see if'n de exeunt door iz zill vorkin'. If it ain't, ven ve'll give dose Bloodvust blood'n'vinegar!"
The warriors of Morangard lifted their weapons and cried out at the prospect. Suddenly, there a booming noise was heard as the entire room shook. Joseph and Wallace fell to the ground as a squirrel guard sped down the steps from the wall.
"Commanders, er, the nor'west guard tower 'as been derstroyed."
Wallace cursed and shouted at his elite group to follow him. Joseph ran to the wall as another crash confirmed his fears: The trebuchets had been set up, and the Bloodlust were in their element. The halberdiers had brought ladders that they were no doubt going to place on the walls to scale the fortress. Joseph drew his cutlass and ordered for the archers to fire. A long wave of arrows, javelins, and slingstones fell on the Bloodlust, and many screams came from the vermin ranks, but it was not enough. Morangard would definitely fall, but not without a fight. The first ladder hit the walls, and not long afterwards, a ferret's head appeared in front of Joseph, who swung his sword. The headless ferret body fell down to the plains below as other vermin gulped. Several other laddes fell onto the wall, and swarms of Bloodlust crawled up the rungs. Joseph stabbed the next rat to show itself as a hare came from the courtyard, armed with a window pole. He placed the hook of the pole on a ladder and pushed with all his might. Soon, the ladder creaked, and the weight of the hare pushed it off of the wall, toppling to the ground and cracking, putting an end to multiple vermin. However, there were multiple ladders, and almost as soon as the first one fell, another clattered on the ramparts in it's place. Joseph slashed down at another rat, then yelled at the rest of his fighters to continue defending as he ran down the stairs for the second time that day and hurried across the courtyard, sheathing his cutlass. On the other side of the keep, where most of the rooms in Morangard were contained, a small door that one could only just sneak through was jammed. Wallace and his group were trying to pry open the door, but had failed. They couldn't break the door, as it was made of solid metal. Joseph stared once at the door and realized the truth. They couldn't get out of Morangard, and the main door was about to be destroyed by ravaging Bloodlust vermin. Wallace turned to Joseph and spoke four words.
"We're goin' tae die."
As soon as Alois pulled out his sword, Nightpaw pushed his paw down and stared at Commander Riowa, who had turned to see what the commotion was. The otter smiled at him and spoke in a disguised vermin accent.
"'E don't know de diff'rence betwixt real an' not-real, Cermmander. Sorry dere." Then, as the vermin who had seen Alois' act sighed in relief, Night kicked the closest guard, a rat, and stabbed him with his halberd. Alois lifted his sword again and hacked it into a fox as two rats met their deaths at Snowpaw's stolen halberd. Riowa roared in anger and lifted his flail, swinging at Nightpaw's head. Night rolled aside and threw his halberd like a javelin, but the fox rolled aside. Alois stabbed a ferret, then jumped onto Riowa, tumbling down with him. He was about to make the killing blow when a rat with a club hit him on the base of his head. The ferret dropped his sword and fell down as Riowa pushed him aside and groped around for his dropped flail. Night and Snow took this distraction to run away. However, the squirrel couldn't leave her new friend to the vermin. As soon as they were out of sight of the trench marking the Bloodlust camp's borders, she drew her dirk and walked towards the camp.
"I'm goin' to get Alois back an' hopefully kill Riowa. Stay back if'n ye think it's right."
Nightpaw would have none of it. "Lissen, Snow, yore a powerful warrior, but both o' us won't survive long agin' a thousand Bloodlust. We should go look for the secret door wot's at Morangard's wall."
Snowpaw reluctantly withdrew her weapon and walked solemnly behind Nightpaw, hoping that Alois hadn't given up. They had only just gotten to fully trust each other when out came the ferret's sword and led them into this trap. Hopefully, thinks would work out better.
Chapter Fourteen: The Sea Bogles
There were two searats on King Shiraz Vikram's galleon Warwater, and both were very dull. Fireface was a lanky specimen, armed with a repeating crossbow and curved dagger, while his comrade Virlo was short, missing an eye, and carried a cutlass and boarding pike. Both were not only semi-dumb, but deeply against Bloodlust suppressment on the corsairs. At this time, both rats were on guard duty in the lower deck, but really all they were doing was chatting.
"Blech!" spat Virlo, spitting out a fish bone, "We haven't gotten a single full piece o' fish in who knows 'ow long! When'll 'Is Lordship Vikram let us to shore ter find some fishies?"
Fireface turned to Virlo, "Ole Thunnerbolt knows we can't lose any time. 'E wants ter be back near de Hordeship soon, now that we dropped off dose ten-score warriors! Besides, if'n we get any more food, dat durned Sea Bogle'll take the food."
Virlo dropped his pike in shock of hearing the fabled ghost's name. "Fire, don't ever say dat wretched shade's name! 'E could get, er, taunified or summat like dat into comin' ter steal wot's left o' our food!" Over the past few weeks, there had been multiple reports of a ghost stealing food from corsairs. Some had said it looked like a squirrel, some a stoat, which led to the punishment of a few mischevious stoat corsairs. Others said it was different, looking like a small wolverine with a ringed tail and carrying a battleaxe. This led to the belief of the "Sea Bogle", a spirit that stole from vermin to punish them for their murderous deeds.
Fireface gripped his crossbow and laughed. "Harrharr, no worries, Virlo! If'n dat Bogle was a fighter, 'e could've killed us all a while back! But no, 'E don't kill dat often, and mebbe 'e's a coward who stabs 'is enemies in de back! Harr, oi, yew Sea Coward, cummere an' fight wid one o' de best o' King Vikram's warriers!" Silence filled the deck until a ferret tramped down the stairs from the upper deck and glared at the two rats.
"Ahoy, yew tew, stop dat yellin' or 'Is Lordship'll 'ave yer guts fer garters!" Fireface kept his mouth shut as the ferret put a paw on his cutlass and ascended the ladder again. Virlo leaned towards Fireface.
"Mebbe dat Bogle is a coward!" He whispered. Both rats smiled as they had the same crazy idea.
Down in the deepest deck of Warwater, Hollyfire, Pinedance, Gilan, and Raimish had established a secret camp for the long journey north. They had disguised themselves and had taken turns stealing food, and after a few sightings that were exaggerated in reports to King Shiraz, they had been feared as the Sea Bogle. However, the pine marten tyrant was no fool, and it would not be long before the four would be caught. Therefore, they had been raiding Warwater very few times, hoping that the corsairs would forget about the Sea Bogle and cancel searches.
"But we're almost to the Northlands!" said Pine, "We should leave soon!"
Raimish replied, "Nay, lassie. Like Ah saed, wei'll be caeght if'n we aescaep now! Don't ye ken, Vikram'll be laekin' fer us, an' baesides, we're out in sea! Wael'll drown if'n we try tae aescaep!"
"Wait, Rai," interrupted Gilan, "What if we created a diversion? We'll be nearin' the coast adjacent to Morangard soon, an' that's where Wallace was last seen. Then, two o' us, the fastest and least-armed like Holly an' Pine, could get ole Thunderbottom's gang towards whichever deck is facing the sea, then Raimish'n'meself will get a boat down. Then, yew two will get back 'ere an' get in the boat wid us. Holly, don't forget to keep that bow ready. Those corsairs won't keep you alive, an' Vikram will want you dead. Sound like a good idea, Raimish"
Raimish, who was more of a berserker than a strategist, was amazed by his friend's plan. "Aye, we'll show thaem corsairs whaet goodbeasties can do! When will we carry oot this plaen, Gilan?"
Gilan paused, fingering his broadsword hilt, then before he could answer, Hollyfire, who had been out looking for food, came with a sack and a scroll of paper. "The day after tomorrow, on the full moon," she said. Holly tossed the sack to Raimish, who caught it and opened to reveal many bread loaves. "Whare in the name o' Martin did ye get all this food from?"
Holly smiled and responded, "The searat cooks are so worried that the Sea Bogle will steal their food that they have abandoned the kitchen for cold food! I had enough time to heat those loaves!"
Pine drew her hack knife and sliced up a loaf. "Say, what's the paper for?"
Holly opened it and read,
To the King Shiraz Zinfandel Vikram of Sampetra,
I have noticed that your vessel, Warwater, is approaching the Northlands. I hope the sloop that came with this scroll can be of service to your cause, Shiraz. Also, I noticed that you did not deploy troops in the South like I had ordered, but I can clearly see that you were worried of many casualties. No matter, I have a contingent of Bloodlust under Commander Ancalagon Karkaroth travelling down there. They shall be joined by Commander Yormax Medraut after Redwall Abbey has fallen, and hopefully, the Desert Blades shall perish. Still, I am very dissappointed that you failed to follow my orders. If you fail me again, I'll have my new friend become King of Sampetra. You do not need to know what I mean when I say that there will be a new Sampetran monarch if you fail me. I shall give you a final chance to follow orders, for am I not the mighty Lord Vulpuz of all the Bloodlust Hordes? Once you reach the coast adjacent to the Fortress of Morangard, wait in the middle of the ocean. I do not care where; I will find you, for I will travel in my Hordeship to your vessel. Do not think that you can escape; I will find you, once again. Just wait for my Hordeship to come. I will then give you instructions, as well as a new monitor to replace Clubfist, who will return to me. I dearly hope you haven't messed with him at all, because if you have, death awaits.
Follow the orders,
Everyone gulped, and suddenly, a broad, seafaring accent broke the silence.
"Yeah, I wonder who that new friend o' Vulpuz's is."
Four heads turned in shock as a tall otter in a green tunic and blue cloak walked over. She was an unusual specimen, with black arms, legs, and paws, and claw marks on each cheek. She also had three white spots above each eye, and a large broadsword hung on her back.
The otter turned to Gilan. "Socializin' with goodbeasts, are yew? Well, come an' fight!" The otter drew her sword and jumped at Gilan, who rolled aside without drawing his sword and drew his cloak around his frame. The otter turned around, snarled at Gilan, and ran again, swinging her sword, but the blade was blocked by Raimish's shield. The raccoon had been sneaking behind the otter during the brief fight, and the otter screamed at Raimish,
"YEW IDIOT! YER HELPING A COWARD!" The otter slashed madly again, but Raimish blocked all the attacks on his shield and spear, thrusting at the otter, who deflected the shaft and swung once more at the raccoon's legs. Raimish stepped backwards as Gilan crept behind and swung his sword pommel at the otter's head. Holly and Pine, who had backed up so as not to get caught in the fight, both winced at the crunching sound made when the otter toppled over. She would have been impaled on her own broadsword had not Raimish pushed it away at the last minute. Suddenly, the otter turned onto her back and yelled again at the four, "WHAT ARE YOU DOIN' WITH THAT VERMIN?"
"Cealm down, lassie!" replied Raimish. "Yer jes' wid friends now!"
"Thank Martin!" said the otter. "Me name's Midnight Seaflow, an' I....." she could not continue, for Midnight had passed out.
Chapter Fifteen: Yormax's Fate
Yormax Medraut snarled at a ferret next to him who was caught by a longbow arrow. He really wished he had brought siege troops, but Lord Vulpuz had told him, "mobility is the necessity right now", and the wolverine knew that ignoring a command was like asking for an execution. Still, he had enough troops to overpower the Redwall defenders and those blasted Rangers. Suddenly, a fox jumped on Yormax and pinned him down as an arrow shot above them, and then yelled,
"Cermmander, watch it!"
The wolverine snarled at the fox and with one slice of his claws, ripped out his throat. Yormax stared at his army in disgust; they had brought no scaling ladders either, so they had to just try and knock over the walls, which was practically impossible. There had to be some way to stop the Abbey and get rid of that traitor to his species, Thornclaw Braveheart...Braveheart! Yes, Yormax would challenge him to a duel, then after killing the stoat, his army would swarm into the open gates. If the fight wouldn't go his way, Yormax would simply use a code word, and his army would charge and win either way. You couldn't beat a wolverine at strategy! Or so Yormax Medraut thought.
It was really a simple matter for Thornclaw and his Rangers to fire their arrows at the Bloodlust Horde. No siege weapons threatened the walls of Redwall, but it wouldn't be long before the outnumbering vermin broke through. Still, the mere sight of Thornclaw and his immense sword was enough to cause any ordinary Bloodlust soldier to faint, and this was one reason why the Redwallers were still holding the Abbey.
At this time, Thornclaw was attacked by a fox with a flamberge. One slash of the Zweihander, and the beast plummeted to the ground clutching half of his sword...and missing his head. Two more cuts killed a couple rats, and Thorn's blade took a ferret through the neck. Suddenly, a hand grabbed the back of his cloak and pulled him out of range of the vermin as a rank of Redwallers came to fill in his place. The creature that had pulled Thorn away, his deputy Crowley, whispered to him,
"Thorn, I just saw that wolverine wot's footpaw you took off in the last war, Yorx, I think. He's the commander!"
"I knew that already."
"What I meant was, he just left the fight an' went into some tent in the woods. Maybe he'll challenge yew to a duel or summat."
Thornclaw rubbed his Zweihander pommel in excitement. "Weeeel, he didn't do that well in the last war. Let's see how he'll do today."
Crowley put a paw on Thorn's shoulder. "Are you sure you should do this?
Thorn laughed, "Ha, he's not a warlord like the three I killed, and the one I nearly killed. Let's get rid of this wolverine." Thorn stood up and sheathed his sword, drawing his longbow. He asked Crowley for a paper and charcoal, and wrote his message to Yormax. Then, he aimed at the tent his deputy had pointed out, pulled the string back, and fired.
Commander Medraut saw the arrow before it hit his bodyguard, a burly rat with a bardiche. He plucked the arrow out and tossed it away, ripping the message attatched off of the shaft. He stared at the note with a boring look.
Medraut, call off the troops and come to the gate. Accept my challenge to a duel of single combat. Maybe I'll take off your other footpaw...
Medraut roared in anger, threw the scroll at another bodyguard, and charged through the ranks of his Bloodlust, paw gripped on his flamberge still in his scabbard; it was a personal rule of Medraut never to draw his sword until he absolutely needed it. He let go of the hilt and threw his paws into the air, screaming, "ENOUGH, WARRIORS! RETREAT!"
The Bloodlust horde, slightly confused, started backing off mindlessly as the Rangers up on Redwall picked them off with their bows. Medraut stomped towards the gate, raised his head, and called to the defenders.
"Braveheart, Medraut knows thou art there."
Thorn's head appeared from the ramparts. "Hey, Yormax. I'm here alright. Have you accepted my challenge?"
Medraut growled. Only superiors called him by his first name, and Thornclaw was NOT a superior. "Thou shalt call me Medraut, infidel!"
"Yew don't command me, Yormax. 'Ave you accepted or not?"
"Yes, I hath accepted thy challenge to single combat."
Thorn smiled, though Medraut couldn't see it. "Then let's get this party startin', matey!"
The stoat's head dissappeared as Medraut heard stomping noises near the wall. He backed away to give more room for the duel, and a younger stoat's voice shouted, "Let the Bloodlust go!" Obviously a Ranger officer ordering the attacks to stop. Soon, the doors of the Abbey opened, and a single figure stood in the gateway. Thornclaw Braveheart was clad in his typical metal-plated jerkin and tunic, his Zweihander hanging from his crossbelt. Since this was a formal duel, he had left his longbow back on the ramparts, but his many knives and daggers were easily visible. Thorn flexed his gauntet-covered right paw and lifted it up, the universal sign of greetings, then walked forward. Yormax, as usual, kept a paw on his swordhilt, but didn't draw it yet. The stoat moved his paw to his back and gripped the handle of the fabled Zweihander, and unsheathed it with a single paw. Just looking at the blade made many of the vermin gulp.
Thornclaw himself was having a good time. He continued walking forward until his sword was in range of Medraut, then gripped it in two hands on the right side of his body, a typical warrior's stance that gave him the versatility to slash in any direction. Yormax continued to keep his sword grip, but prowled around Thorn. The two warriors stared at each other dangerously, waiting for the other to make the move. Finally, Thornclaw swung horizontally. The blade was nearly as tall as the wolverine, but he still backed away. Thorn swung a second time, and now, Yormax realized he couldn't dodge. In the miliseconds between the slash and impact, Yormax whipped out his flamberge and held it closely in front of his chest, trying to stop the deadly Zweihander. Thorn grinned at the wolverine and clashed again, forcing Yormax to take a defensive stance. Then, as the Zweihander blade fell once more on Yormax's flamberge, the Bloodlust Commander swung out, his blade vibrating on Thorn's and sending a shock wave through both fighter's paws. Thorn yelled out a distracting grunt and twirled his sword in one paw, then thrust upward at Yormax's throat, but the wolverine quickly spun away. The stoat managed another slashing attack to his right to keep his enemy away, then swung his left paw at Yormax's head. The wolverine quickly slashed his free claw at Braveheart's swinging punch, but just in time, Thorn moved his sword blade in front of the claw, forcing Yormax to scrape the steel blade. He growled in pain and backed off, staring at the missing two claws that had been bluntly snapped off of his fingers. Thorn walked slowly forward, swinging his Zweihander around his head double-pawed, then brought it down in an immense hammer of death, but Yormax pushed himself away, falling to the ground. Thorn ripped his sword free from the dirt and hacked a second time, but this time, Yormax was still recovering from the first strike. He reached for his flamberge but realized that he had dropped it while rolling away from the Zweihander, so he suddenly leaped at Thorn, knocking him over and forcing him to drop the immense sword. Yormax tried to reach for the Zweihander, but felt a sharp pain in his thigh and looked to see Thornclaw's stiletto imbedded in his leg. Yormax growled and ripped the dagger out of his flesh, licking the bloodied blade and throwing it at his opponent. Thorn quickly rolled away and scooped up the Zweihander, but before he could recover, Yormax leaped at the stoat, seeking to destroy his greatest enemy, then lifted the struggling creature off of the ground. With a single toss, Yormax Medraut flung Thornclaw into the air, hoping that with the weight of his Zweihander, the stoat would fall down and never get up. Yormax stared at the rising figure of Thornclaw Braveheart, but then as he tried to back away, he tripped on the stiletto that had once been in his thigh. Yormax fell to the ground on his back, but failed to get up because of the clumsiness of his peg leg. He could only watch as a glint of metal started appearing closer to him. The wolverine never even saw Thorn's sword imbed in his gut. The stoat followed his Zweihander a second later, in fact, still holding the hilt of the great blade. Yormax gave a final twitch, before mumbling a curse on Redwall, then Medraut's head fell to the ground, the great Bloodlust Commander dead at last. Thornclaw wrenched out the Zweihander, with his enemy's heart still impaled on it, then shook the disgusting organ away and lifted his sword in the air.
"Yormax Medraut, the Commander of Bloodlust, has fallen to fate! You who followed him, you may have the choice of either continuing to fight, or surrendering, for your leader is dead!" That was the address that the Greatsword gave to his victim's underlings. The Bloodlust vermin stood mindlessly shocked at their leader's death, until one, a fierce-looking fox, walked forward.
"'Ey, 'ow do yew know Cermmander Me'raut is dead, stoat traitor?"
Thornclaw shuddered at the insult. Most stoats were, in fact, vermin, and they had the habit of calling him a blood traitor to the pride of his species. But it was no mater anymore. Thorn swung his Zweihander down on Yormax's head, cleaving it off in a single slice. He hefted the Zweihander over his shoulder and kicked the head, causing it to roll down to the fox's feet. The fox stared at Yormax's head in shock, then dropped his weapon, a small spear. The other Bloodlust began to drop their weapons as well, and before Thornclaw could give them any order, the one hundred surviving vermin fled into the woods. Thorn yelled a victory cry, then sheathed his Zweihander and walked back to the gates, a victor once again.
Back at Redwall, Brother Vlad was preparing for a great event. The next day would be the Night of Heroism, since it was the anniversary of the earlier siege of Redwall by Lord Vulpuz himself. Thornclaw had saved the Abbey once again, and was now nearly as famous at Martin the Warrior. Brother Vlad was a very arrogant mouse who had been placed on probation multiple times for his theory that only mice should live in Redwall; in the Recorder's Journals from the Peace of Mossflower, which occured between the Age of Ferahgo and the Late Rose War, there was absolutely no mentions of non-mice living in Redwall. Vlad had twisted this to his own purposes, claiming that only mice were pure and only they could rule the world. His plans would be ready by the Night of Heroism, and he would become Abbot Vlad. It was good to be in charge. Yes it was!
In the north, Spaak Glire was standing on his ship in the stormy north. His partner in this mission, Galven Oroma, was unaware of the visitor they were about to meet. Suddenly, the rain blew fiercely, blinding the ferret temporarily. Somehow, two hooded creatures appeared like magic after the rain began to calm. Spaak bowed lightly to the taller of the two.
"Lord Zrid, I am at your service."
The tallest of the hooded creatures, Lord Zrid the Maul, responded in his sharp voice. "Your arrival here was most late, and my master, Lord Vulpuz, is already angered. Now tell me, where are the warriors from Morangard heading?"
"M'sorry, Lord Zrid, M'sorry. They goin' ter somewhere like, er, er, Salamandastron mebbe."
Zrid growled fiercely and held up a long-handled sword. It was an interesting blade, as long as any broadsword, but thin as a rapier and without a swordhilt. The handle was twice as long as any one-pawed sword handle, and a menacing weapon. "You didn't do your homework," the creature growled. "Did you?"
"O'course I did, what makes you think something like that?" Zrid pulled back his hood to reveal a tattooed wolf face, scar-less unlike his master Vulpuz's face. He began laughing insanely, and soon the ferret started to laugh along with him. Suddenly, the wolf howled and swung his sword an inch away from Spaak's snout.
"What's so funny?"
Spaak started whimpering, then mumbling while trying to think of what to say. He would never answer, for as he looked at the ground in shame, he saw a long spear blade impale through his chest. Spaak Glire mumbled a final curse at his misfortune, then toppled to the grown, completely dead. The second hooded creature had hidden behind him and had run the ferret through with his spear, which happened to be a Yari, an exotic weapon from an island in the tropics of the southern sea.
"Good work," congratulated Lord Zrid. "Good work indeed, Armin. Next stop, the Bloodlust Hordeship. Now we know that something's going on in the Corsair Federation. We're going to Shiraz's ship in a few days, and I'll find out what's going on."
Armin nodded, then plucked his yari out of his old arch-enemy's back and followed Lord Zrid to a boat that had been secretly tied to the side of the ship, but Zrid stopped him. There was still some work to do. By the time they finally jumped back into their boat and headed back to the Hordeship, nobody on the late Captain Glire's vessel would be alive to wake up again. Not a single soul.
Chapter Sixteen: Visions of the Future
You may be wondering, What the heck happened to Salamandastron? Well, the mountain had been preparing for a second Vulpuzian War for seasons, yet they hadn't told anyone for fear of traitors. The same night that Spaak Glire's crew was massacred, the hares of the Long Patrol were about to launch several ships against the Corsair Federation; King Shiraz's flagship had been spotted a few days earlier. On a watch tower facing the ocean, three hares were staring down at the sea.
"The bally vermin," said Galloper Isel, "Too bad they rarely attack the jolly old mountain no more, wot!"
"Well, back in the First War, there was a great siege," replied a senior officer, Major Alrisk "Plumscoff" F. Sedrik, "an' those blinkin' Blooderlustings got halfway into the place. Lemme tell you, Isel, it's never a good thing to want an attack. Nobody here on Salamandastron wants to kill, but the nature of a perilous hare always takes charge in the end."
The third hare, Lieutenant Turphin Bellscut, was a quiet type of hare that preferred to just listen to the talkative majority of the Patrol, well, talk! However, Turphin's wise counsel made him an important advisor to Lord Bluestripe II. The current Bluestripe was the descendant of the original Bluestripe the Wild, who lived long before Redwall was built, back when an ancient wildcat ruled. However, both the badger and the wildcat were long dead. Several seasons before, in the period between the two Vulpuzian Wars, the young Bluestripe had stumbled upon Salamandastron and was taken in as the adopted son of aging Lady Aster, one of the main leaders during the First War. Bluestripe II was raised specifically to take command of the mountain after Aster's death, and he had already proved himself as a formidible leader. During the in-between period, which was now aptly called the Time of Peace, Salamandastron had never been involved in a single conflict, but now, they were ready to unleash the fabled Long Patrol once again in a new plot: Operation Seeker.
Isel laughed at Major Sedrik's theory, "Come on, bally chap, don't act all like you're a Redwall Brother! We're the bally guys who are there to fight for the ones that can't, just like the perilous beasts we are, wot! When Operation Seeker is put into action, Major, you can bet I'll be the first one standin' on the jolly Defender when it leaves the dock!
"You'll do no such thing, Galloper! Lord Bluestripe and I already chose who would be going on the ship and who wouldn't, and both of us don't want you killed at a young age! Don't worry, chap, you'll be jolly well defendin' Salamandastron for us veterans, wot!"
Isel, still shocked at being restricted from Operation Seeker, just nodded his head and suddenly got more interested in his loaf of bread. However, Lieutenant Bellscut was still looking towards the sea. The sea amazed him, and though he had been on a ship many times, Turphin still couldn't seem to understand exactly how large the ocean was. He would be going on the new prototype "Battle ship", Defender, during Operation Seeker, a dangerous mission involving about two-thirds of the Long Patrol boarding the three battle ships, Defender, Warmaster, and Stonepaw. At least a third of the force being brought onto the battle ships would have sailing experience, another two-thirds (including most of the sailors) were archers, and there was no doubt Lord Bluestripe II would command the fleet.
Speaking of Bluestripe, the badger Lord was sitting inside a secret chamber/forge that few outside Salamandastron knew about. He was a tall badger with a blue stripe in the middle of his forehead, and strange tattoos on his arms and chest, much like his ancient ancestor. His weapons, the same ones that the first Bluestripe wielded, were hung on racks behind him: A greatsword, war hammer, and ball-and-chain weapon, the latter which Bluestripe I had forged out of the very manacles he wore as a prisoner to a wildcat tyrant. The current Bluestripe, however, was deep in thought. Dark news had come from east, north, and south, and it seemed like only Salamandastron was safe. This wasn't right! However, Bluestripe had been seeing visions in his sleep, many about a squirrel and a burning holly tree. Then there was a vision of a great meeting of warriors outside a cave. They seemed about to fight each other, when one, a stoat with an immense sword, called to them to ally. Then, the visions changed. A fox with a crossbow was shooting a squirrel in the stomach, then a different squirrel wielding the Sword of Martin the Warrior battling an ermine with two knives. The warriors from the gathering scene battling unknown creatures inside a cave, and then atop a cliff, a squirrel with a spear charging a wolf who was clutching an unconcious squirrel in his grasp. Strangely, he couldn't make out what everyone was saying, but this night, as he slowly closed his eyes, he heard the voices at last.
"You'll go to Hellgates with your friend, squirrel!"
"Tell Thornclaw that I'm sorry..."
"We are all warriors, all fighting the same enemy! I remember fighting alongside many of you in the First War!"
"How ya doing, miss?"
"I ain't no miss, cabbage-brain! Go and fight!"
"They have a rabid wolverine!"
"Let Pinedance go, vermin!"
"Haha, I'm more than vermin, squirrel."
"You shall die now, senora!"
"My friend is dying and all you care about is your stupid battleaxe!"
However, now the visions changed. The stoat with the huge sword returned, but his blade was glowing bright green, and a creature with a strange weapon that emited red light was pointing that weapon at him. The stoat backflipped into a strange vehicle behind him, that without need of a beast to push or pull, it floated in the air and quickly sped like a bird outside of the room into the sky. Many other visions were seen by Lord Bluestripe II, but he wouldn't remember any of them...for they were visions of the future, both times not far away, and times thousands of years ahead. He saw the outcome of Operation Seeker, and he saw his own fate. He saw who would live and who would die in this Second Vulpuzian War, and he saw each and every hero and villain's fate afterwards.
Miles away, in the Bloodlust camp, Sworbe Riowa was angry. Two well-known warriors had escaped his grasp, including the one whose friend he had killed! No matter anymore; their friend was his prisoner now. It was time to interrogate that ferret, and now before he escaped too. Therefore, Sworbe prepared for the interrogation of the ferret. He turned to a rat guarding a tent and nodded. The rat opened the tent door and the Commander swept in. Inside, Alois Bell had been tied to a chair, and one of his guards had relieved him of his sword and violin. Sworbe walked over to him and paced quietly.
"Well, ferrat. Yer wid the Nightpaw an' the Wild 'Un, huh? An' serpose yer came from the fertress my solders are burnin'. Could ya say dat?"
"Maybe so, maybe not. Want to find out?"
Sworbe was a stubborn fox, but he knew that if he punished the ferret he would be in no position to admit anything. "Yes I do, ferrat! Are ya one ter tell me?"
"Oh, I would tell you anything, but my friends are not for you to question me about. Didn't your mother tell you not to meddle in other people's business?" replied Alois.
"Idjit!" yelled Sworbe. "Leave my mother outta this!"
"Oh," said Alois, "sorry if I insulted yore mother. Every vermin I meet seems to be affected when I mention their mother. Is it some sort o' weakness?"
"Stoppit an' tell me wot I want heard!"
"And what would that be, foxy?" asked Alois, grinning in his attempts to tick off the fox."
"That's it! Guards, take this ferrat ter the hut!"
The two guards, one a ferret and the other a weasel, nodded and lifted up Alois from his chair and dragged him outside to a nearby hut, Sworbe's own personal torture chamber. However, Alois tapped the ferret's muscular arm and asked, "Afore ye bring me to that hut, would you, kind sir, allow me to relieve myself?"
The ferret stared at Alois, puzzled, and then said, "Whadda ya mean, relieve yerself?"
Alois grinned. "Relieve myself, you know! Of THIS!" With that, Alois swung both clenched paws out, hitting both guards on the face and knocking them out cold. However, Alois grabbed both and slung them over his arms like they were still grabbing hold of him, and dragged them to a nearby bush and stuffed the unconcious pair nearby. He stripped them of their armour and took his sword and violin back, and buckled the blood-red chainmail shirt and sallet helmet of the ferret, then took the halberd of the guard and looked for anyone like an average Bloodlust soldier. Now, however, it was time to plan an escape from the war camp, and a lone ferret wouldn't be able to do it alone. Alois only hoped his friends were coming soon as he sat down and planned his exit.