BOOK 1, THE MOUSEMAID
The orphaned mousebabe looked around her. There was nothing but death and destruction. Her parents lay dead, and her village deserted and burned. A trail of blood flowed behind her from her horrific wounds, and her eyes were as red as her blood. She cried out over sea and sand,
“YOU WILL NOT DEFEAT ME, MIZORI SLECT! I AM ONLY FIVE SEASONS, BUT SOMEDAY, I WILL GROW AND RETURN; RETURN TO AVENGE MY FAMILY!” The little mousemaid grabbed the dirk off her dead father’s body and stuck it in her belt.
“That will be my oath of vengeance. I shall carry this dirk with me everywhere, to remind me that I took it from my father’s dead body. I won’t rest until Mizori Slect is dead! I swear this on the memory of my father and mother!”
Pallet and Racot, two Long Patrol Hares, galloped along the seashore.
“I say, old chap, what do you make of that?” Pallet said as he pointed to what looked like a black mass in the sand.
“Hmm, got me completely baffled there, wot wot!” said Racot. The two bounded over to the black mass, and saw that it was a burnt-out hut. Burnt, but still standing. The only sign of life was a pile of smoking wood. The two hares inspected the tiny encampment, noting pots, a clothesline with washing, and multiple wood shavings scattered on the sand. Suddenly, a wooden javelin came out of the hut and just missed Pallet’s head!
“I say,” she exclaimed, “I think it’s time to make an exit, wot wot.”
“Move a muscle and I throw on target!” A harsh voice demanded from the hut. “What sort of creatures are you?”
“What sort of creature are you?” Racot inquired.
“Ha, Coward! Are you too afraid to say your own name? I am Niama Raivo, daughter of brave warriors. My name means Vengeance and Wrath, for I was born by the dark of the moon!”
“Well, chap, you must be a jolly brave soul! Come out of hiding and meet some Long Patrol hares.”Pallet offered. That “Jolly Brave Soul” came rushing out of the hut, and it was not a pretty sight to see. Out came a mousemaid, clothed in a dress of sailcloth, with dark red scars covering her face. She was twirling a fearsome, battle-worn dirk and shouting “RAIVO AND WRATH!” at the top of her voice. The hares jumped back in surprise, but Pallet used her net (Which she always carried with a trident) to trap the crazed mousemaid. She struggled, kicked, and squirmed, but the thick net fibers constrained her.
“Be still, young ‘un, yore with friends, eh wot?” Pallet exclaimed.
“I have no friends in this world. I can trust no one.” The struggling mousemaid grunted.
“Excuse the intrusion on your little, er, camp marm, but we are Long Patrol hares. We are friends to the likes of you.” Racot said with a chuckle.
“Well, you aren’t searats or foxes, but show me proof that you are Long Patrol hares. You may be spies for Mizori Slect. And release me now!” Niama demanded. After the two hares showed Niama Raivo their official badges, Racot inquired of the mousemaid,
“So, young ‘un, you must be quite a bold one to charge out like that, so expertly wielding such a dangerous weapon. But, one question, why did you doubt our being Long Patrol hares? And who is this flippin’ Muzori Selch or whatever his bally name is?” Niama’s eyes narrowed as she spoke.
“For one thing, her name is Mizori Slect. The reason I doubted your being Long Patrol hares is because I am always alert for Mizori’s spies. She captures innocent creatures and forces them to spy for her or die! She murdered my family, and I vowed to avenge their deaths someday. This “dangerous weapon” is the dirk I took off my father’s body 7 seasons ago, when they were murdered by the fox Mizori Slect and her ratcrew. Oh, and I am sorry about calling one of you a coward. I am just trying to protect myself in case Mizori travels this way again with her murderous horde. What are your names?”
“My name is Racot Felodica Puritu Himtiffer, officer in the Long Patrol of Salamandastron, wot wot. My partner here is Pallet I-don’t-absoballylutely-know-the-rest-of-her-name. She and I are officers in the Long Patrol, wot wot!” Racot responded, saying his own name in proper, superior tones. Niama nodded and, turning her head to Pallet, said
“Can you two take me to this Salamandastron place? My mother told me it was a place of Warriors, before she was mercilessly slain!” The two hares looked at each other and back at the mousemaid.
“Lord Russano can accommodate you for a small bit, marm, but we think you should be among your own bally kind, wot wot.” Pallet said.
“Where are there more of my kind?” Niama whispered. Her eyes started to shine with a childlike innocence that was unusual to see in the eyes of such a warriormouse. The two hares smiled at her and took her hands.
“There is a place so flippin’ far away from this place that you think that you’re bally in another world, wot wot! It’s an Abbey called Redwall. Jolly best vittles around, wot!” Rascot described.
“Good food? I haven’t had a decent meal in seven seasons!” Niama exclaimed, still with that shine in her deep blue eyes. She and the two hares walked into the distance, with Racot going on and on about Redwall’s marvelous food.
Niama saw Salamandastron looming in the distance. She turned to Pallet and said, barely above a whisper, “So this is Salamandastron, mountain of fire?”
“Yes young ‘un, this is the bally real thing, true blue, no other that’s flippin’ like it!”Pallet replied with a smile.
“I love it! But…uh… I know this may sound foolish, but how do I address this Lord? I haven’t spoken to another creature for ever so long!”
Racot answered with a chuckle, “You c’n call the bally badger Lord Russano, an’ just call us hares by the names they flippin’ tell you, eh wot?” As the threesome made their way to the mountain, an aging hare who looked like a high-ranking officer came to the door and said,
“Wot do we have here, a little mousemaid?” The hare said with a chuckle.
“Yes, sir. I am Niama Raivo of the Western Coasts. I have been living alone these past seven seasons until your hares found me. Before she was killed, my mother told me of this place. I have longed to see it, and I am now happy that I have. Would this Lord Russano be willing to lodge me for about a week?” Niama inquired.
“Most certainly m’gel. I am the proud Pater of lit’le Racot here, Anderus Felodica Puritu Himtiffer!” Anderus announced.
“Pleased to meet you.” Niama replied with a curtsy. The three hares ushered Niama inside the mountain, where she could smell nutbread being baked and hear the chatter coming from the bachelor’s quarters. Racot turned to Pallet and Anderus and said,
“Well, running along the sand from here to the river an’ back does make one rather tired, wot wot! I think I’ll catch a bit of flippin’ shuteye, until the scoff comes out, eh wot!”
“Very well, my son. You deserve it. You should rest too, Pallet.” Anderus nodded.
“Now that Racot mentioned it, I could use a bit of slumber. But if you need bally anything, Niama, you come and tell me, wot wot!” Pallet offered. Only Niama Raivo and Anderus remained, roaming the halls of Salamandastron.
“I say, young ‘un, how would you like to meet the great Lord Russano himself?” Anderus asked.
“Lord Russano? My father told me that he was one of the greatest warriors ever!” Niama said with a broad smile on her face.
“Your father was right, young ‘un!” Anderus laughed. “Speaking of fathers, where are your parents?” At that moment, Niama’s smile was wiped off her face like a chalkboard.
“My parents were murdered seven seasons ago, when I was naught but a babe. They were murdered by Mizori Slect, the evil fox who commands a rat horde, the evil fox whom I vow to slay!” Niama said, hatred burning in her eyes. Anderus looked at the mousemaid and smiled.
“Niama Raivo. When I met you, I knew that you were born to be a warrior. I can translate the ancient languages, and I know that your name means ‘Vengeance and Wrath’. You will be a great mouse someday. Come, I will take you to Lord Russano’s chamber.” Niama and Anderus wandered down passages and up steep stairs, until they got to a large door. Anderus knocked and yelled,
“Lord Russano the Wise! It’s your old chap Sergeant Anderus Felodica Puritu Himtiffer!” The door swung out wide, and thereby revealed an enormous badger.
“Ah, Anderus, it is nice to see you again! But who is this? What is a young mousemaid doing in this area? And alone?” Russano inquired.
Niama once again curtsied and replied, “Lord Russano the Wise, I am Niama Raivo, and I have lived on the Western Coast all my life. My parents were murdered by the villainous fox Mizori Slect and her horde of rats. I vow to slay Slect one day.” As Niama was led into Lord Russano’s chamber and as Anderus departed, Russano said,
“A warriormouse, eh? Well, I can tell that you will slay that fox, because I saw it in your eyes. You probably are constantly afflicted by the Bloodwrath, and all you live for is to slay the fox that murdered your loved ones.” Niama’s eyes went wide as she said,
“Lord Russano, you are wise indeed!” The badger lord gave forth a deep, hearty chuckle and took a sip of cold mint tea. He stood and said,
“Little one, I believe in your cause. But you must not let it rule your life. Try to control your angry outbursts, and try to have trust in other goodbeasts. Don’t let your loss and hurt blind you, Niama Raivo—Vengeance and Wrath. If you ever return to this coast to avenge your family, just shout the battle cry of the badgers.”
“Eulalia!” Niama replied. “My father told me about that battle cry!” Niama’s head lowered and she sighed at the memory of her father and pulled out her dirk, which she had kept in her belt ever since she had left her camp. “My father carried this dirk everywhere. It was given to my grandsire by the famous Tamello De Fformelo Tussock. Now I carry it everywhere.”
“If you will give that dirk to me, Niama, I will fix the scratches and the broken blood channel for you. A bow and arrow will be fashioned for you. Also, I will have my harenurses fix your scars and make them less visible, weave you a proper dress, and make you a pair of shoes.” Lord Russano offered.
“Thank you, Lord Russano. I will always remember you, Pallet, Racot, and old Anderus as my first friends in this world.” Niama smiled. That childlike innocence in her eyes returned as she realized it. She was not alone!
As Niama lay in her first bed; washed, dressed, and well fed; she pondered the day’s events. “My,” She thought, “I have new friends, new clothes, and a whole new life! What a lucky mousemaid I am today! But I don’t have a new home yet. I must get to that Abbey place Racot told me about.” Then she turned on her side, closed her eyes, and fell asleep.
~ ~ ~ ~
Far away from Salamandastron, at that “Abbey place”, Abbess Mhera was getting ready for bed when her brother Deyna walked in. Mhera turned to him and said,
“Ah, Deyna, my brother. What brings you here at such a late hour?”
“Mhera, I have some concerns about my son, Rorc. He is twelve seasons old and getting quite rebellious. As a Dibbun, he was mischievous, and now he disobeys his elders and constantly goes outside of the gates for unknown reasons. Broggle says that Rorc is a bad influence on his daughter, Rosabel. It worries me and my wife, Pearl.” Deyna confessed.
“Well, brother, if you were a son whose father was, and still is, a great warrior, you would want some attention paid to yourself instead of your father. He is misbehaving and leaving so that he can get attention from the Abbeyfolk. Pay no heed when he misbehaves. But, if he disobeys you, Pearl, me, Friar Broggle, or any other elder, he will answer to me or Sister Alkanet.” Mhera instructed.
“Thank you, Abbess. I will do as you say.” Deyna saluted.
“You better had, baby brother!” Mhera teased. “Oh, what am I saying? Both of us are growing old, but at least we are happy. Oh, if only our mother could see us now!” Deyna only nodded, with a lump forming in his throat. His mother, Filorn, had passed away the previous winter. Deyna still regretted that he did not get to spend his first fifteen seasons with his mother.
“Good night, Mother Abbess.” Deyna managed to spit out.
“Good night, Deyna the Warrior.” Mhera replied, seeing the tears forming in her brother’s eyes. Deyna then left and stood in front of the Tapestry of Martin the Warrior.
“Oh, Martin,” Deyna said. “Please help my Rorc grow up to be a noble warrior. He has it in him, I know it.” With a nod, the Redwall Warrior walked upstairs to his quarters and got ready for bed.
~ ~ ~ ~
The following morning, sunlight was streaming through Niama Raivo’s bedroom window. She sat up, stretched, and yawned, half expecting to be back at her campsite on the shore. As she looked out at the sea and sand, she said to herself,
“I do miss my little home, but this is a chance to start anew. That is, after I have killed Mizori Slect!” She took Lord Russano’s advice and tried to control her anger as she recollected the terror of that day when her entire family was slain, and her, left for dead. She donned her new dress, which was green and had a proper leather belt for her dirk. When she looked at the door to her little room, she saw two identical dresses, one red and one blue.
“Oh, my!” She exclaimed, “Those seamstresses really outdid themselves. They went A and B the C of D, as Racot told me. I’m starting to sound like a hare!” She descended the staircase from the sleeping quarters and found a score of young leverets playing together. They stared up at the mousemaid, entranced by her scarred face. She laughed and walked on.
“I think I’ll hop down and get myself some breakfast. Maybe the cook will need help.” Niama said to herself as she opened the door to the kitchens. An old harewife turned at the sound of the door opening and said in her cracked, aging voice,
“You must be the mousemaid Niama Raivo. My granddaughter Pallet told me about you! Are you hungry? Oh, where are my bally manners, I’m Irita, the old cook around here.”
“I am quite hungry, Irita, but I was wondering if you needed any help.” Niama inquired. The cook gave forth a small, wheedling laugh and replied,
“I should have known! You have been living by yourself for so long that you are used to doing everything yourself. Sit down here, Niama, you need do nothing but relax. My sister, the infirmary keeper, plans to work on those scars of yours today.” Niama giggled as she thought of the leverets that had stared at her scarred face that morning.
“I saw some young leverets at the base of the staircase. They were all staring at my face, either of admiration or fear.”
“The young leverets are happy to see any newcomer in this mountain. They gossip and whisper everytime something changes in this place. My dear, how long will you be staying here? You make good company for an aging harewife like me.”
“I leave tomorrow. In my dreams last night, a strange mouse dressed in armor told me that I must leave here and go to the place known as Redwall Abbey. Racot kept going on and on about their fabulous food. Oops!” For Niama had realized that that was not a good thing to say to a cook. Irita only laughed and said,
“That glutton Racot, he visited Redwall Abbey when the otter Rorc was born, twelve seasons ago. There was a huge feast, and Racot notoriously won the eating contest against Boorab the Fool, at only five seasons! He has never forgotten the Redwall food. I will pack you some provisions for your journey. Would you kindly ring the breakfast bell for me? My old arms are not strong enough.”
“Of course, Marm, and thank you!” Niama shouted as she ran over to the brass bell that called Salamandastron to meals. She rang it thrice, than heard numerous footpaws descending the staircase.
“You may go now, young one, my helpers will soon be arriving.” Niama gave a quick curtsy and hurried out the kitchen door.
Breakfast was a delicious affair. Fresh fruit and pastries, along with some strawberry cordial to wash it down. Niama sighed as she took her last swig before going up to the forge to check on the progress of her dirk, bow, and quiverfull of arrows.
~ ~ ~ ~
The Matthias and Methuselah bells tolled out at the start of a new day at the Abbey of Redwall. Everybeast came out of their dormitories to enjoy breakfast, which was hot oatmeal scones with honey and cold mint tea to drink. Rorc Nightblade the otter and his friend Rosabel the squirrel slid down the stair railing and raced each other to their places at the table. Rorc was panting as he smiled and said,
“Beat you, Rosabel!”
“In your dreams, Rorc!” Rosabel panted.
“No denying it, I beat you!”
“You did not, streamdog!”
“I did too, treewalloper!” Suddenly, Rosabel put her finger on her lips and pointed to the other Abbeybeasts at the table. Everyone was staring at them. Abbess Mhera nodded at them and said,
“Now that you two have finished your business, I would like to say grace.” Rorc and Rosabel exchanged winks as they bowed their heads and folded their paws. When the Abbess finished, everyone tucked into the lovely food. Boorab practically had a pyramid of scones on his plate, eating each one with great gusto.
“My…complements…to…Friar Broggle!” Boorab stuttered while still stuffing scones into his already loaded mouth. Crumbs were all over his clothes and napkin. Nimbalo the Slayer, who was sitting next to him, slapped Boorab on the back, who almost upchucked the scones he was gobbling, and said,
“You may be as old as the hills, Boorab, but you haven’t lost a smidge of your appetite.”
“I need a smidge of honey on these lovely scones.” Boorab replied, still stuffing scones. Everyone laughed at the gluttonous hare, including Rorc and Rosabel. As everyone was enjoying breakfast, the two young ones slipped out quietly to the Abbey gardens. Deyna saw the two young ones leave, but taking his sister’s advice, let them go, knowing that going after them would only give them the attention they wanted.
Rorc and Rosabel gave a sigh of relief when they exited the small north wallgate and huddled under some trees. The two took a piece of parchment out from underneath a small rock. Rosabel looked at it and said,
“Well, we got the map from Brother Hoben’s office. Now what do we do?”
“Now we must plan our escape, Rosabel. We will travel far and wide, fighting for the good of other creatures. Oh, how they will miss us!”
~ ~ ~ ~
Boom, boom, boom! Came the sound as Niama Raivo knocked on the forge door at Salamandastron.
“Who goes there?” Lord Russano asked from inside.
“Niama Raivo, Lord Russano. May I come in?”
“Yes, young one! Do come in!” Niama had never seen the forge of a badger lord, so she was astonished. Weapons hung all over the walls, some looking ancient, while others looking hot off the anvil. Lord Russano broke her trance when he pointed to her dirk.
“Here is your dirk, Niama. I set a sapphire in as a pommel stone to match your eyes. And next to it, are a quiver and a score of arrows.” She walked over to the place where the dirk and bow and arrow were hanging and picked them up. Other than the new pommel stone, the dirk felt just the same as before. The bow and quiver fit Niama perfectly. She tested the bowstring, which rippled the air with a twang! She turned to the badger lord and said,
“Thank you, Lord Russano. I have weapons and Irita the cook is packing my provision sacks. I will leave tomorrow, for Redwall Abbey!
The sun was setting over the plains by Redwall Abbey. Abbess Mhera and Fwirl the squirrel looked out at the golden display. Fwirl turned to Mhera and said,
“Mother Abbess, Martin the Warrior spoke to me last night.”
“Did he now, Fwirl? What did our protector say?” Mhera responded with bright eyes.
“He told me some sort of riddle. I cannot figure it out at all! But, here it is.
When my people feast and celebrate
At the naming of the season
Vengeance and Wrath will come
To take two Redwallers away
To where Slect, the murderous one
Who has taken many lives,
Lives and rules in her domain
Of slavery, death, and cruelty”
Abbess Mhera had a look of terror in her eyes. She stared at Fwirl, who rushed to her Abbess’ side and asked,
“Are you alright, Mother Abbess?” Abbess Mhera gasped out,
“Something is coming to take two Redwallers away, during the Nameday feast, to be enslaved in an evil kingdom!”
~ ~ ~ ~
Niama Raivo was sitting on the slope of Salamandastron, looking out at the pink, purple, and orange sunset. Her toes wiggled inside her new shoes as she listened to the crash of the waves. She hoped that this would not be the last time that she heard it. Her weapons were ready, her clothes were made, and her unsightly scars had been concealed. Even Racot had remarked today that he barely recognized her from the scarred, sailcloth-dressed mousemaid she had been only two days ago. Her journey to Redwall would begin the next day.
That morning, Niama awoke refreshed and donned her blue dress and new shoes. She used a brush that Pallet made for her to brush her head fur. Her bedroom door opened up with a creak as she walked downstairs. Again, she saw the leverets playing at the base of the staircase. One of the hares asked her,
“Miss Niama, where are your scars?” Niama chuckled and replied,
“Chrysanthemum the healer disguised them, young one. What is your name?”
“My name is Rosybreeze. Most people just call be Bree.” The young leveret stated.
“Well, Bree, when you grow up to be a big fighter and you get scars, you can have Chrysanthemum disguise your scars.” One of the male leverets called out,
“I wan’ people t’ see my bally scars, eh wot!” As Niama walked on to the kitchen, all the leverets exploded with laughter and began chatting about the battles that they would be facing. Niama opened the kitchen door, where Irita was stirring some porridge.
“Ah, Niama Raivo,” She said, “Are you leaving today?”
“Yes, Irita. Do you have my foodpacks? I leave immediately after breakfast.” Niama inquired.
“They are in the corner, over there. There is enough food for you, Pallet, and Racot for four days.” Irita indicated.
“Thank you, Irita. You have been a good friend, and I will never forget your food.” All Irita could manage was a smile and nod. Tears started welling up in her eyes as Niama left for breakfast.
~ ~ ~ ~
Meanwhile, at Redwall Abbey, Friar Broggle was planning his menu for the Nameday Feast, when Abbess Mhera ran in, her face frightened as she hastily asked the Friar,
“Where is my brother, Deyna? I cannot find him anywhere! I need him, urgently!”
“There, there, Mother Abbess,” The sincere cook said “Don’t be frightened. Your brother is sitting in Great Hall. He seems to be very concerned about little Rorc.” Friar Broggle shook his head as Mhera wordlessly dashed past him. The Abbess went into Great Hall and found Deyna looking at the Tapestry of Martin the Warrior.
“Brother! I need to talk to you. Broggle’s wife Fwirl just had a dream of Martin the Warrior, and he gave Fwirl a riddle. If I am right, the riddle means that someone will take two Redwallers away to be enslaved in an evil kingdom! During the Nameday Feast! What can we do?” Deyna put his arm around the frightened Abbess and replied,
“Do not fear, Mhera. Skipper and his otters will soon be returning from the Hullabaloo, so they can be wall guards on the night of the feast.”
“Can I be a wall guard, too?” A voice came from the other end of Great Hall. It was Rorc, who had been listening the entire time.
“You’re far too inexperienced, and you’ll just be a hindrance.” Deyna replied.
“Obey your elders, Rorc Nightblade!” Abbess Mhera scolded. Then in softer tones, she asked him, “You will get to have fun and eat at the Nameday Feast with all your friends. Why would you want to be up on the Walltop, missing out on all the fun?”
“Because I want to be independent! Every adult in this abbey is always telling me, ‘Come here, stop that, don’t do that, no sir!’ I want to do something different for once!” Rorc yelled in an outburst of fury. Deyna erupted,
“Rorc Nightblade, you are staying here at this Abbey throughout the entire Nameday Feast! You may not even exit the abbey building! Next time you outburst like that, you will not be attending the Nameday Feast! Do you hear me?” All Rorc could do was nod, for tears were streaming in his eyes. As he walked away, his head hung in shame, Abbess Mhera turned to Deyna and scolded,
“Deyna! No Redwall creature talks to anyone like that! I thought you would know better!” When she saw the hurt look on Deyna’s face, she continued “I know you were not raised here, but you have seen how I handle the young ones. You almost frightened Rorc out of his skin! Yes, he is on Abbess’ Report, but there was no need to yell at your son. Pearl and I will talk with him.”
Mhera sighed as she walked up the stairs to Deyna and Pearl’s room. She knocked on the door, and Pearl answered the door.
“Ah, Good Morning Abbess. What brings you here?”
“Your son is on Abbess-and-Mother’s Report.” Pearl sighed and said,
“I knew it would come to this. Maybe we can help Rorc understand why he is so rebellious.” The two otters opened the door to Rorc’s room, where they saw Rorc on his bed, crying like a babe. Pearl walked over to Rorc and said,
“My son. I was able to hear what happened between you and your father.” But Pearl had to stop because Rorc cried even harder. He blubbered through cataracts of tears (and a stuffed-up nose),
“I…I…I just wanna be like by dad! He is a great…w-w-w-warrior! And now he treats be like the bud and dirt ‘e walks on! I thought that…that…that dad would appreciade the fact dat I wanded to ‘elp. But ‘e just goez and yells at be! Et’s dot fair, bub! Et’s dot fair!”
“Listen, nephew of mine.” Comforted the Abbess, “I have an idea. When the wall guards are posted on the night of the Nameday Feast, you can bring food to them, sharpen and polish weapons, and just help the guards in any way you can. You can also relieve the guards every hour. How does that sound?”
“Dat souds great, Abbess Beera. Thake you!” Rorc replied with a smile.
“Very well, then.” The Abbess said, “I must see to the menu of the feast!”
~ ~ ~ ~
Niama Raivo, Pallet, and Racot were standing at the entrance to Salamandastron. The entire Long Patrol was standing in front of them, with Russano at their lead. The badger lord addressed Niama;
“Niama Raivo. Vengeance and Wrath. You have already become a different mousemaid. You have learned the value of trust and friendship. Go with this advice: Do not let the hurt that Mizori Slect put on you turn you into a reckless destroyer. Use your warrior skills for good and right.”
“That is what a strange mouse in armor told me in my dream!” Niama interrupted. Lord Russano the Wise chuckled and said,
“Tell the folk at Redwall about your dream. They will tell you what it means. Fair seasons and successful victory to you, Niama Raivo.” Niama raised her newly restored dirk and yelled out over the sands,
“RAIVO AND WRAAAAAAAAAAAAATH!”
The sun was setting on the first day of autumn as Niama Raivo, Pallet, and Racot sighted Redwall Abbey. Niama’s sea-blue eyes got their childlike sparkle back as she saw the sun tingeing the sandstone a rosy red. She said in a dreamlike voice,
“I know, young ‘un” Pallet replied, “But the food is even better! And if Lord Russano was right, the Nameday Feast is tonight, eh wot!”
“What’s a Nameday?” Niama asked. Racot responded with joyful enthusiasm,
“Why, these Redwall chaps name the bally seasons! Like when I last visited this flippin’ huge place, it was named the Spring of the Early Snowdrop! And when they name the season, they have a whoppin’ great feast to go along with it, wot wot!
“Oh, I hope I make some friends here. I have never been around my own kind since my parents died.” Niama confessed.
“Well, Niama, you won’t be making any new friends if you don’t come inside!” Pallet said with a smile, “Let’s hop to it, wot wot!” As the threesome approached the abbey in the fading twilight, Skipper’s voice called out,
“Who goes there? What is your business here?” Niama sighed, unsheathed her dirk, and said the words that she had been practicing the entire journey to Redwall,
“I am Niama Raivo of the Western Coasts. My name means “Vengeance and Wrath”, but I come to live with creatures of my own kind. Accompanying me are two Long Patrol hares, Pallet and Racot Felodica Puritu Himtiffer.” Skipper’s eyes popped open. Vengeance and Wrath! Here was the one who was going to enslave two Redwallers! A little mousemaid who could be no older than thirteen seasons. Skipper knew what to do. As he opened the gates, he replied,
“You may enter, Niama Raivo of the Western Coasts. But you will first talk with Abbess Mhera. We are taking a few security precautions tonight.” As Niama, Pallet, and Racot walked through the gates, Pallet called out,
“Don’t worry, old waterdog! This Niama Raivo will be good to have on your side, wot wot!” As Niama walked in, she saw something she had never dreamed she would see in all her twelve seasons. A huge bonfire had been lit, with tables arranged in a circle around it. Large and elaborate centerpieces were being placed on the table by Boorab, the new cook’s assistant. But it all vanished in a flash as she was led to the office of Abbess Mhera.
Niama Raivo was seated in a comfortable chair in the Abbess’ Office. The Abbess sat down and asked the mousemaid,
“Niama Raivo. Skipper tells me that your name means “Vengeance and Wrath.”
“Yes it does, Mother Abbess.” Niama replied.
“Then explain the meaning of this poem, Vengeance and Wrath.” Mhera stated. Written on a parchment was the poem.
When my people feast and celebrate
At the naming of the season
Vengeance and Wrath will come
To take two Redwallers away
To where Slect, the murderous one
Who has taken many lives,
Lives and rules in her domain
Of slavery, death, and cruelty Niama looked at the Abbess and said,
“I know the meaning of this poem. I am Vengeance and Wrath. Slect is short for Mizori Slect, who rules an evil empire far to the north. She murdered my family, so now I vow to slay her. From how this sounds, I am going to take two Redwallers to Slect’s kingdom to help me defeat her. In fact, I am, for a strange mouse clothed in armor and wielding a beautiful sword told me that I must come to Redwall and take two of your order to help me defeat Mizori Slect. He said it must be so.” Abbess Mhera looked at Niama Raivo and saw the warrior in her eyes. She replied,
“That mouse was Martin the Warrior. He founded Redwall Abbey many long seasons ago. He was a warrior most of his life, like yourself. His sword hangs in Great Hall. If Martin commands you to take two Redwallers away to this evil kingdom, then do so. But try to make sure that they are not harmed or slain.” All Niama could do was shrug.
“I can’t control the future, Mother Abbess, and once I murder Mizori Slect, I can stop living in my past. If any creature gets slain, they will be avenged with I kill Mizori Slect. This I swear on the memory of my family.”
“Very well, Niama Raivo. Come, our Nameday Feast is about to start. You may take any Redwaller you see fit to the kingdom of Mizori Slect. But do not mention it until tomorrow morn, when the feast is over.”
“I won’t speak a word. Racot tells me that Redwall food is the most amazing concoction in the world!”
“Well, between Boorab, Pallet, Racot, and Nimbalo the Slayer, I’m thinking that Friar Broggle will have to make the most of the best. They will be plunging down more food than the rest of us put together.” As Niama and Mhera made their way out to the circle of tables, she saw an amazing sight. Fish, pasties, soups, salads, vegetable dishes, cakes, tarts, turnovers, pies, cordials, tea, and fizzes. She was astonished!
“Here, Niama, you can sit at the place of honor, next to our Abbey Warrior, Deyna of Redwall.” Niama gasped as she looked at Deyna, every inch the Redwall Warrior.
“I am Deyna, warrior of Redwall.” He said, “You must be Niama Raivo. I have heard that you are a warriormouse yourself.” Niama nodded and replied,
“My father was a warrior, and I watched him when I was younger. After my parents were slain I taught myself to wield my father’s dirk. I also carved wooden javelins, and the hares of Salamandastron taught me how to use a bow and arrow. I am amazed to be sitting next to Deyna the Taggerung. Many of the old ones of the Long Patrol remember those days, when your face was tattooed and you wielded a vermin blade.” Deyna laughed and put a paw on Niama’s shoulder.
“Well, Niama, those days are long gone. The vermin blade hangs in my chamber, never to be used again. My tattoos and the mark on my hand have been removed, and I do not bear the title Taggerung any longer. I wish those days of my past had not existed, but I cannot change the past. Nor can you, warriormouse. But I know that you will avenge the death of your family, and that you must take two Redwallers with you. Here, come sit next to Rosabel and Rorc, my son.”
Niama walked over to the place where Rorc and Rosabel were sitting and sat in the chair. Rosabel smiled at Niama and said,
“You must be that mousemaid from the riddle everyone’s been freaking over. I’m Rosabel, daughter of Broggle and Fwirl. My dad’s the head cook of Redwall Abbey.” Niama was actually quite tounge-tied over having to talk with someone her own age, but Rorc saved her from further embarrassment.
“And I’m Rorc Nightblade, son of Deyna the Warrior and Pearl. My dad’s the Warrior of Redwall.”
“Both your fathers are quite amazing. My father is…dead.” Niama stated with a sigh.
“Don’t worry, Abbess Mhera will be like the mother you never had. Deyna can perfect your fighting skills, and Boorab will be the one that can lighten your heart any day of the week. Nimbalo, too!” Rosabel offered.
“Thank you, both. You are the first creatures my age that I have spoken to in a long time. I can tell that you will be good friends.” Niama replied.
“Friends, through and through.” Rorc put in as he spat on his paw. After Niama and Rosabel did the same, the three shook paws in an unbreakable vow of friendship.
The feast was a joyous occasion. Niama, Nimbalo, Racot, and Boorab all entered an eating contest. Racot won, with Boorab, Niama, and Nimbalo following close behind. Then Nimbalo took out his haredee gurdee and played an old folk tune:
“Walkin’ along the marsh one day,
I saw a dark green bullfrog
He said, ‘Sir, could you help me please? I’ve hit my head on this log!
And now I’m confused and don’t know what to do
Or how to get out of this bog!
I said, ‘Little frog, you are stuck there until the end of the day
For a hedgepig is restin’ under the cool shade
The stupid frog said, ‘Wot’s that to do with my gettin’ outta these bogs?”
I pricked my finger on the spikes and said,
Listen now friend, frogs is frogs, and hedgehogs is hedgehogs!”''
Niama Raivo thoroughly enjoyed everything about the meal as she sat back, stomach full, face to the fire and friends at her side. Under the moonlight, a once-lonely mousemaid fell asleep, surrounded by love and peace.
Niama Raivo lay in her bed, where Deyna had placed her after falling asleep at the Nameday Feast. She saw, through her mind’s eye, a large palace made of white and gray marble. A red fox was standing on the balcony, staring at Niama through dark brown eyes. Niama recognized her at once. She was Mizori Slect, the one who had caused so much grief in her life! The mousemaid wanted to run towards Slect and attack her, but Martin the Warrior barred her way with his beautiful sword.
“Niama Raivo,” He said, “Vengeance and Wrath. Today is the day that you will pick your two companions to travel to the kingdom of Mizori Slect. Your journey will be hard and long, taking at least four seasons. Here are my instructions for who you should choose.”
A rebellious one born of the river and waves
The bushtail who wields kitchen knives and staves
Shall travel with you, for over four seasons
To Mizori Slect’s kingdom, for many good reasons
Then Martin the Warrior, Mizori Slect, the palace of marble, and everything else in her dream vanished, leaving Niama Raivo to the dark, peaceful world of sleep.
Through the stained glass windows, light filtered into the room of Niama Raivo, on the first floor of Redwall Abbey. She looked around, expecting to be in her little camp on the beach or her room near the top of Salamandastron. After donning her red dress in celebration of the abbey, she walked out to Great Hall and stared at the tapestry of Martin the Warrior. His face was so kindly, yet brave. He looked like he would be a loyal friend through and through. Niama thought of the two friends that she had made at the feast, Rorc and Rosabel. She was sad that she would have to leave them, and even sadder that she may never see them again.
As she made her way down to Cavern Hole, she sighted Rorc and Rosabel sliding down the banister. They waved and hopped over to Niama
“Mornin’, Niama!” Rosabel said with a cheery smile, “Enjoyed your first Redwall Feast?”
“I certainly did.” Replied Niama
“My dad had to carry you to your bed because you had fallen asleep during the feast.” Rorc put in with a giggle. Niama blushed and changed the subject.
“Martin the Warrior spoke to me last night. He said that I must choose two Redwallers to come with me on my journey to the kingdom of Mizori Slect, murderer of my family. It will be a long and hard journey, lasting four seasons, or more!”
“Well, whether we go with you or not, we are friends through and through, matey.” Rorc said as he and Rosabel linked arms with Niama. The three walked down into Cavern Hole, where they saw hotcakes and oatmeal scones being served for breakfast. Niama, Rosabel, and Rorc rushed to three places at the table. When breakfast began to wind down, Niama looked at Abbess Mhera, who in turn nodded. The Abbess stood and announced,
“Good Redwallers, please listen to what your Abbess has to say. You have all heard the story of Niama Raivo. Her parents were murdered my Mizori Slect, and now this mousemaid has sworn to avenge the death of her family. She will travel to Slect’s kingdom with two other Redwallers. Today she will choose whichever two she deems worthy.” Niama stepped out of her seat and addressed the Abbeyfolk.
“Martin the Warrior spoke to me in a dream last night. He gave me a poem to guide me on who I should pick. Here is the poem.”
A rebellious one born of the river and waves
The bushtail who wields kitchen knives and staves
Shall travel with you, for over four seasons
To Mizori Slect’s kingdom, for many good reasons
The Redwallers looked and murmured. A look of terror passed between Pearl and Deyna. Deyna nodded and stood.
“Niama, I am a river otter, and my wife here is one of the sea. My son Rorc is a rebel, always pushing boundaries and going outside of the Abbey. You must take my son, a rebel who is half river, half sea otter.” Rorc’s eyes grew large as he said,
“You mean…I’m going away from the Abbey…with your permission?”
“Yes, my son.” Deyna replied, “I realize now that I was a little too harsh on you. You are a fighter born, and I am gladder than anyone here that Martin chose you for this dangerous mission.”
“Now for the next line, and the next Redwaller. ‘A bushtail who wields kitchen knives and staves’ I wonder who that could be?” Niama inquired. Friar Broggle chimed in while rolling a cart of food,
“That would be my daughter, Rosabel!”
“How did you know, father?” Rosabel said with a gasp.
“You’re a squirrel, or bushtail. You ‘elp me in the kitchen and ‘elp with the plantin’ in the spring. You wield kitchen knives and garden staves!” Rosabel laughed aloud as she and Rorc ran up to Niama and embraced her. Deyna rose and said,
“Wait! I must retrieve some weaponry from my room. Come with me, Pearl.” They ran out of Cavern Hole and came back, Deyna carrying the Dagger of Sawney Rath in his paws. Its amber pommel stone and sharp blade shone in the light of the candle sconces. Deyna carried the shoulder strap and scabbard around his neck. Rorc stood proud as Deyna buckled the shoulder strap around him and sheathed the beautiful, deadly thing. Pearl gave Rosabel a sling and stone pouch, and handed both light, double-pointed otter javelins. Niama looked at her friends, armed and dangerous. Friar Broggle broke the awed silence by offering,
“I will make sure you have lots of food, but I will not be able to pack you enough for four seasons, so you will have to live off the land.”
“That’s all right, Father.” Rosabel responded. “From my knowledge of plants, I can find suitable items to cook.” As he three friends walked out of Cavern Hole, Rorc said,
“Come on, Niama, we’ll show you our secret hideout.”
Rorc, Rosabel, and Niama exited the Northeast Wallgate of Redwall Abbey. Rosabel led them into a section of the woods that was overgrown and entangled with ferns and foliage. A roughly stamped trail, blazed by Rorc and Rosabel, led to a natural curtain of willow branches. Rorc parted the branches to reveal a small clearing, surrounded by old willows, Spanish moss, and ferns. There was a pond to the south, and stone benches that surrounded the pond were cushioned with moss. Niama thought that it was the most beautiful secret hideout she had ever seen. Rorc pulled a parchment out from underneath one of the benches. It was an old map, that showed all known lands to the North, South, East, and West. The two islands, Terramort and Sampetra, Southsward and the former Kingdom of Malkariss, the great Eastern Sea and Marlfox island, all the way to the Northern Mountains and the Caves of Luke the Warrior were pictured on this massive map. Rorc broke the awed silence by stating,
“Now, do you have the slightest idea where Mizori Slect’s kingdom could be? Niama shook her head and replied,
“Not a clue. But Martin will probably tell me where it is in some dream. Where on this map do you two plan on going?” Rosabel smiled as she drew with her paw.
“We start going West, to Salamandastron. Then we sail South and take a look at Southsward.”
“After that, we tramp Northeast to the Great Eastern Lake and visit the Guosssom. Following, we strike clear North, where the real fun begins.” Rorc butted in as a mischievous smile crossed his face.
“Only after we have visited Noonvale and the Grave of Laterose!” Rosabel demanded. She continued, facing Niama, “Finally, we strike North, where we intend to roam around fighting evil for the good of other creatures. When we become old, we will end our lives in a fabulous Death-or-Glory charge against overwhelming odds.” Niama looked in admiration at the two, who had wild and huge ideas for their lives. Niama immediately asked them,
“Could you make that ‘We’ a Three?”
“You c’n bet Friar Broggle’s shrimp an’ ‘otroot soup on it, matey!” Rorc said, putting his right fist to his chest. Then all three tramped back to Redwall, arm in arm.
Niama lay in the dormitory, peacefully sleeping on her little bed in the corner. That brave mouse with the armor and sword, Martin the Warrior, began walking toward her. He stopped and intoned in his deep, calming voice:
“Look to the North to find the one
Who you are searching for
Make sure you watch for enemies
And two hedgehogs so poor
Make sure the Painted Ones burn by your fire
Don’t let revenge drive your youthful desire
For you never know what to expect
On your journey to the kingdom of Mizori Slect”
Martin turned and walked away, and Niama found her voice crying in her head,
“Don’t leave me, Martin! What do I do? I…I…I” She stammered as her mind drifted back into the halls of sleep.
Rosabel and Rorc slid down the stair railings the next morning, only to see no one at the base of the stairs.
“Hmph, Niama Lazypants must be sleeping in this morning.” Rosabel sighed, none too happy. Suddenly, out of the shadow of the stairs, Niama jumped out, yelling,
“BOO! Gotcha! Hahahahahaha!” Rorc whirled around, only to see Niama throwing herself at Rorc and Rosabel, knocking both of them down. The latter two picked themselves up and walked down to Cavern Hole, where they took their places at the table. Rorc had barely picked up his fork when Abbess Mhera stood up.
“Good Redwallers all! I received a vision of Martin the Warrior last night. He told me that our newest resident, Niama Raivo, must leave for the kingdom of Mizori Slect today.” Whispers and comments drifted around the room as Niama stood in her place.
“Martin has commanded me to travel due North with Rorc and Rosabel. The trip will be four seasons, or maybe more. We have weapons, and you have started work on our packs, Friar Broggle?” The squirrel replied,
“I have already finished them. And I have something special for you, Rorc.” Friar Broggle came back from the kitchens, carrying a massive bowl of watershrimp and hotroot soup. “Drink this up, Rorc Nightblade, it may be your last for a long time.” Rorc went at it with gusto that could be compared even to Boorab or Nimbalo. They looked at each other, and soon, mouse, hare, and otter were attacking their food. Niama and Rosabel giggled and Rosabel said,
“Maybe Friar Broggle will need some extra food!”
A few hours later, Rorc, Niama, and Rosabel stood outside the entrance to Redwall Abbey. The sun beat down on their backs as the Abbey receded behind them. Rosabel broke their solemn silence by asking,
“Why don’t we stir up a battle cry?” Rorc and Niama nodded silently, and all three raised their voices to the sky,
“RAIVO AND WRAAAAAAAAAAAATH!”
BOOK TWO, THE JOURNEY
Niama, Rorc, and Rosabel wandered through Mossflower for a fortnight before they reached the River Moss. So far, they had not run into that much trouble, but they knew they would soon be out of familiar territory. Rosabel led the way, hand on hilt. Her keen ears picked up a faint cry.
“Logalogalogalog…” It went as it faded into the distance. Rosabel’s eyes popped open,
“It’s the Guosim shrews! LOGALOGALOGALOGALOOOOOOOOOOOOG!” Niama covered her ears at the din.
“What is with that racket? And what is a Goo-oh-sim?” She pronounced.
“The Guerilla Union of Shrews in Mossflower. As for the call, their chieftain is a Log-a-Log. They patrol the waters of Mossflower, and should be here soon, if they heard Rosabel’s call.” Rorc answered. Just then, the shrews responded with a loud, “Logalogalogalog!”
“They’re nearby!” Rosabel squealed with delight.
“Me fair maiden Rosabel, is that ye I hear?” A gruff bass voice asked.
“Grandpa Log-a-Log! How long has it been since I last saw you?”
“Too long, me beauty. You have become your mother’s daughter, no doubt. Your mother and father faring well?”
“Of course! My father is the best cook the Abbey’s ever had.”
Niama overviewed the shrews’ dress. Kilts and belts with long rapiers stuck in them, and a colored headband. She thought it was rather odd, but Rorc and Rosabel had seen it before and hardly noticed. Log-a-log was talking to Rorc and Rosabel, and he turned and asked,
“Who is this little mousemaid? A companion?”
“Yes, sir. I am Niama Raivo of the Western Coasts.” Niama interrupted. “And your name is Log-a-log?” The shrew responded,
“Why yes it is! I am the head of all these shrews, willing to fight on command! I am not really Rosabel’s grandsire, but I have been like one ever since she was only a little ‘un.” Niama asked of the shrew,
“We’re not in need of fighters now, but do you think you and your shrews could help us cross the river?” All the shrews stood in awe.
“You three crossin’ the River Moss, into unknown territory? What on earth are you three plannin’ t’do across the river?” Log-a-log inquired. Rorc then spoke up,
“We’re traveling North, to the Kingdom of Mizori Slect, a fox who holds innocent beasts prisoner, and murdered Niama’s parents. If your Guosim could offer us your fighters then, it would be very helpful.”
“We will help you, son of Deyna, but you are traveling by land, and it would be very hard to haul these longboats along land. We do not have the provisions or space to carry you with us. We will have to meet at the Kingdom of Mizori Slect.” Log-a-log said mournfully. While Niama and Rosabel related the former’s life story to Log-a-log, Rorc and a shrew mapmaker worked on a river map to Mizori Slect’s kingdom.
The sun was setting and a fire was alight when Rorc and the mapmaker rose from their seats and shook paws. Rorc delivered the good news to Niama and Rosabel,
“The shrews will help us. They have found a water route, so they will meet us at the Kingdom of Mizori Slect.” Niama said nothing; her devious smile said it all.
That night, Niama Raivo had a dream. She was back in the palace of marble, staring at a red fox, who had both knife and scimitar at her side. Now appearing at the fox’s side was a pure white weasel, the only color on its body being piercing topaz-colored eyes and a black snout. When it bared its teeth, Niama saw that its fangs had been dipped in deadly poison. It seemed to be totally immune to its deadly effects. That scene vanished, and another began.
Niama saw herself at five seasons, in her little home on the Western Coast. Her parent’s bodies were covered in blood, and it mingled and mixed with the tears Niama was shedding. The mousemaid began to cry in her sleep, thinking of her troubled past and her dangerous future.
The sun was at its zenith as it shone down on three creatures, who only two seasons ago had been nothing more than Abbeydwellers. Now, all three had been trained in the ways of a warrior by the Guosim. Rosabel was an expert at the use of the sling and javelin, and Rorc did not feel well if the Dagger of Sawney Rath was not in his paws. Niama was already quite acquainted with her dirk, but now could shoot arrows with deadly accuracy. All three were resting in a wooded glade, where they were roasting apples and fish that they had gathered and fished for. Suddenly, a tree rat, covered with strange markings made of dye, shouted at Rorc, Rosabel, and Niama,
“You getta bott’ms outta here! Dis land o’ Painteed Ones! You eetin’ Painteed Ones appuls and fishees!”
Rosabel rolled her brown eyes and replied,
“Oh, shut your idiotic mouth, rat. We can kill you whenever we please, but we won’t if you leave us alone.” The tree rat laughed,
“Hee hee hee! Kill me if you likee, treemouse, but can ya’ kill fourscore o’ Painteed Ones?” As he asked this, fourscore of the strange, marked tree rats came out from tree branches. Niama’s blue eyes grew wide as she saw them emerged. The Painted Ones had sneers so big that you could see their yellow teeth. Rorc went to action straightaway.
“Niama!” He said, “Hand me those arrows. Trust me!” Rorc coated them with some leftover fish grease, and then handed them back to Niama. “I’ll carry a torch,” he continued, “And if any start to cause trouble, dip the arrow in fire and shoot!” Niama nodded and made a slinging symbol toward Rosabel, just in case. Rorc took a half-burned log out of the cooking fire and held it high.
The three began to recede out of the forest, so the Painted Ones took out darts and fired them at Rorc, Rosabel, and Niama. rosabel used a wooden shield she had carved the prior season to block the small darts. The Painted Ones used their knowledge of the trees to literally surround the three young fighters. Rorc broke the silence by whispering,
“I think we have to resort to my plan. These Painted Ones will not give up!” Rosabel nodded and Niama strung her bow.
Rorc singed the grass below the trees in which the Painted Ones were standing. They rushed higher into the branches, squeaking and squealing with fright. Niama dipped one arrow in and shot for the first Painted One that had come into their camp. He yelped as he was shot and burned at the same time. The others started getting closer and closer to Niama, Rorc and Rosabel. Rosabel had her sling ready, and Niama was drawing an arrow to dip in the fire, but Rorc shook his head no. He handed both mouse and squirrel a torch of their own. The awful silence was broken when Rorc yelled,
“Redwaaaaaaaaaaaaall!” He tossed his torch up into the trees, and Niama and Rosabel did the same. Within five minutes, the whole glade was ablaze, but the fire thankfully stopped at the stream. The travelers could hear the screams of the Painted Ones as they were roasted, just like the dinner they had so rudely interrupted.
“Let’s travel by night, and get as far away as we can from this place. North to Slect!” Niama whispered as they crawled off through the night.
As sunrise approached, Niama, Rorc, and Rosabel found themselves far away from the Grove of the Painted Ones. Niama took out the large map from her haversack and said,
“Do either of you have the foggiest idea where we are?” Rorc looked at the map, and pointed to Redwall Abbey.
“We have been marching for two seasons now, due North. We have passed the River Moss and are now at the foothills of the Northern Mountains. If my studies were right, the most strategical place for Mizori Slect’s kingdom would be in the lee of the foothills, where there is still good farming land, but also lots of protection. We should be there in a few days.”
Suddenly, the three heard a rustle in the bushes. Niama, armed with dirk, bow, and arrows, sneaked toward the bush and threatened,
“Be still, or you will never move again.” A small, quaint voice pleaded,
“Please don’t hurt us! We were running for our lives, O Eerie One. Spare us, we’ll do anything!” Niama’s eyes grew wide in shock. Rosabel came to the rescue.
“We are not vermin, we swear. Come out, we will not hurt you.” Rosabel’s soft, pleasing voice seemed to work its magic as the two creatures clambered out. They were two elderly hedgehogs, weary, starved-looking, and unarmed. The female breathed a sigh of relief and said,
“Thank the fates you are not those we thought you to be. I am Goodwife Brimm, and this is my husband Gerrido. We are runaway slaves from the Kingdom of Mizori Slect, and running for our lives!” Niama almost jumped out of her skin, her voice squeaking,
“You mean Slect’s kingdom is close by?” Goodwife Brimm’s eyes looked at the excited Niama like she was insane.
“Yes, it is. So I suggest you and your friends turn back! It is a place of utter evil. Slect and her minion, Kurado the Eerie, rule with iron paws.” Rorc stepped in and said,
“We respect your opinion, I’m sure, but Mizori Slect’s kingdom is the place we were aiming to go toward.” All Brimm and Gerrido could do was stare with open mouths. Gerrido was the first to speak.
“You three young ‘uns, going to such a place! You must be mad!” Niama calmly spoke,
“We are not crazy, sir. My parents were slain by Mizori Slect seven seasons ago. I have sworn vengeance ever since. I am Niama Raivo, the squirrel is Rosabel, and the otter is Rorc. The Guerilla Union of Shrews in Mossflower will meet with us by sea. Is there a river or broadstream nearby?”
“A river, running South, lies to the West of here”, Brimm replied.
“Do come with us,” Said Rosabel warmly, “You can stay with the mothers and small children.”
“Not me!” Exclaimed Gerrido. “I’m going to fight! Slect murdered my son and enslaved me and my wife for twenty seasons! I need my vengeance as well! Oooh, ow, me leg!” Gerrido sat down in pain, rubbing his leg. Rorc deftly put an arm around Gerrido and supported him Westward.
“You stay with the Guosim, sir. You’re wounded. Rosabel and the Guosim wives will tend to you. You and Brimm will be very happy. You can even come live in Redwall Abbey!” Goodwife Brimm apparently heard Rorc, and ran to catch up as fast as her old legs could carry her.
“Redwall Abbey? I have heard of such a place. A place of peace and plenty for all good creatures! Oh, how I have desired to live in such a beautiful place! What is it like?” Goodwife Brimm inquired of Niama and Rosabel.
The two maidens’ voices drifted west, telling the hopeful old hedgehogs about the place they once called home.
The shrews warmly welcomed Goodwife Brimm and Gerrido. While Gerrido’s leg was being treated, Brimm socialized with the older Guosim wives. Rorc, Niama, and Rosabel joined them that night for a grand Guosim dinner. They feasted on Shrewbread, hearty soup, and drank Shrewbeer. Gerrido exclaimed,
“My goodness! This shrewbeer puts the life back in me old spines!” Goodwife Brimm told the Guosim her and Gerrido’s story. The kind shrews agreed to lodge the old hedgehogs, and carry them to Redwall along the rivers. The other four claimed that it was the height of cooking on the North side of the River Moss. Once everyone finished their dinner, the able Rorc lit a large, blazing fire for them all. The Guosim sang songs and told stories for Goodwife Brimm and Gerrido.
Log-a-log, Niama, Rosabel, and Rorc drew away from the merry circle around the fire. They were going to plan the events of the following day.
They were going to plan their attack on the kingdom of Mizori Slect.
BOOK 3: ATTACK!
The Guosim wives helped outfit the shrew warriors and the three travelers with weapons and food. Niama, Rorc, and Rosabel looked awkward in tattered clothes and dirt-smeared faces, got up to look like slaves of Mizori Slect. They took no weapons except daggers, which they carefully hid. They stole out quietly back to the hated kingdom.
Niama Raivo’s eyes gleamed with the light of battle. She gripped the hilt of her dagger and thought of her parents’ bodies lying on the shore, and herself at five seasons, weeping over their bodies and promising that she would kill the villain that had caused her so much pain. Niama knew that every tear she had shed for her parents would be paid for in drops of Mizori Slect’s blood.
~ ~ ~ ~
Rorc, Rosabel, and Niama crept into the outskirts of the kingdom. It was shabby and worn. And no one was there.
“The slaves must be up at the castle.” Rosabel whispered in the eerie silence.
“Where they are tortured by that evil fox!” Replied Niama, her teeth clenched.
“Niama, don’t lose your head. We have to blend in with the other slaves and prisoners.” Rorc whispered. As they drew closer to the sounds of life, they saw a horrible sight.
It was a tall castle, with narrow, needle-like spires reaching up to the sky. There were not many windows and the whole thing was surrounded by a black moat. Rorc could see the fins of pike in the moat. The entire structure was constructed of an unfamiliar white and gray marble with a black roof. Four massive foxes guarded the drawbridge and the portcullis. This castle was every inch the image of pure, whole, indestructible evil.
Brave as she had become, Rosabel quivered.
Strong as he was, Rorc felt weak.
And childlike and innocent as she could be, Niama Raivo gripped her dagger, and the light in her eyes turned into a spark of fury.
Then, a fox came onto the balcony. You have never seen nor heard of a vixen more evil, nor more beautiful. She was a lithe, sleek red fox wearing a purple cape that billowed in the wind. A silver circlet had been placed on her head, and a sheathed scimitar lay at her side.
There on the marble balcony, stood Mizori Slect.
At the sight of this creature, Niama’s small spark burned into a blazing, fiery rage. She would have charged there and then, if Rorc and Rosabel had not known her emotions so well. They held Niama tight, whipped her around the back of a house, and held her there.
“Niama Raivo!” Rosabel whispered frantically, “Do not go into a crazed Bloodwrath. If you do, they will lock you up in a dungeon or asylum, and Rorc and I will not rescue you!” This last part was false, of course, but Rosabel had to say it in order to calm Niama down. Niama took a deep breath and calmed herself.
“I really am sorry. Rushing into wrath like that is my weakness. I’m ready now.” She said softly. The other two nodded and they continued on their way.
~ ~ ~ ~
About an hour later, the companions were discovered and working in the castle gardens in chains.
“This isn’t fair! We shouldn’t be treated like this!” Rorc exclaimed to Niama. A rat guard came over to the pair and said in a nasal, none-too-pleasant voice,
“No talking! The—“That was as far as he got, for Rorc punched him in the jaw. His strength, combined with the weight of the chain, knocked out the rat. Rorc quickly whipped out his dagger and disposed of the creature. Rosabel and Niama dragged its carcass into a clump of nearby bushes.
The other slaves were astonished. They stared, open-mouthed, at what had just happened. Rosabel quickly signaled the slaves to come to the orchard. They gathered around the three armed strangers. Niama addressed them all,
“Friends, we are warriors from far away; we come to kill Mizori Slect and set you all free!” The slaves stared with wide eyes and open mouths. A male otter stood up and exclaimed,
“You must be mad! There has been no slave rebellion here since I was a young ‘un! And most of us are too old, too young, or too weak to fight!” Niama nodded and continued,
“We aren’t crazy. And we have an entire regiment of shrews waiting just outside the city border. Besides, once Mizori Slect is dead, the rest of the vermin won’t know what to do.” The other slaves drew together, away from Niama, Rorc, and Rosabel. They seemed to be talking to each other. The three warriors became worried. If the other slaves did not join their cause, they would really become slaves! After about five more minutes, an old squirrel came out from the crowd of slaves, stood before the travelers, and said,
“Strangers, friends, we pledge our lives to your cause. Take whomever you see fit to join you.” Rosabel nodded and said,
“Right now, we need only one. Who here mostly works in the kitchen?” A small, scrawny female shrew came forward and replied, just above a whisper,
“I do.” Rorc motioned for her to come forward and inquired,
“What’s your name, young ‘un?” She softly stammered,
“I…I…I don’t know.”
“Let’s call you Laya, which means “freedom” in the old language of Mossflower” Rosabel suggested, “Would you like that?” A small broke across the shrew’s face.
“Yes, I would like that. My name is Laya!” All the slaves clapped, and the old females embraced her. Rorc smiled and drew her aside.
“Now, Laya,” He said, “Here’s what I need you to do.”
The shrewmaid Laya crept into the kitchens, just as she had done every morning for the past five seasons. She was always the first kitchen slave to begin her work, before dawn. The slavemaster-rat was asleep. A smile crept across Laya’s face as she took out the dagger that Niama had once been carrying.
This rat had tormented Laya ever since she set foot in the kitchen. Because she was so small, he had loved torturing her. His name was Choptail, due to his severed tail. He always claimed that it had been chopped off in battle, but Laya knew the truth. Her father had chopped it off in rage for hurting Laya. Laya shuddered as she saw the vision of her father struggling as he was dragged away to the execution chamber. She had been knocked unconscious afterwards, and awoke with no memory of her name. Out came the dagger, and out came revenge. Choptail was dead. Laya took his sharp sword in her hand.
She then lit the kitchen fire, as she did every morning. All of the walls in the kitchen, except one, were made of wood. The other was an exterior wall made of stone. This was the same throughout the entirety of the castle. Only the exterior walls were made of stone. The shrew grabbed two logs out of the fire, and threw them at the walls.
She was about to leave the room when she saw Choptail’s carcass. Laya felt a bit guilty about killing another creature, so she whispered quietly into his ear,
“Forgive me.” Laya left quietly and closed the door. The kitchen was ablaze.
As Laya was rushing back to the orchard, she hoped that none of the creatures would discover her until it was too late. However, she could hear the sounds of the castle waking. As she exited the castle, she heard many footsteps coming down toward the kitchen. She dashed across the garden, hearing screams and cries of,
Laya reached the orchard, out of breath. Rosabel greeted her,
“Did you do it?” All Laya could do was nod.
“When the shrews see the castle on fire, they will start the attack. We’d better be ready.” Rorc reminded. A young male mouse asked,
“How do we get weapons?” Niama answered, “Lay your chains straight across this rock.” The young mouse did so. With two swift movements, Niama hacked a length of chain, about three feet long. She handed it to the young mouse.
“Here is your freedom,” she said, “and here is your weapon.” The mouse ran to the other slaves with a smile on his face, shouting
“I’m free! I’m free!”
“Hush!”Said Niama as she began work on freeing the other slaves.
~ ~ ~ ~
About fifteen minutes later, all of the slaves were free. Rorc looked up at the castle. The roof was almost ablaze. Citizens were running left and right, trying to make sense of the situation.
About twoscore of the young, strong, fit slaves were armed and ready with the chains that had once chained them. The light of battle was in their eyes. Niama, Rosabel, and Rorc looked at each other. They had traveled all this way, and now this was the big moment. All of them realized that this may be the last time they ever spoke to each other, or spoke at all.
“You have been wonderful friends, both of you. If I die… remember me.” Said Niama.
“Mateys through and through,” Replied Rorc.
“Companions till the end of time,” Replied Rosabel.
The castle roof was on fire. Rosabel gave the signal for silence, and her sharp ears picked up a faint battle cry.
All eyes were on Rosabel as she softly, but grimly said the word.
And charge they did.