This is a prequel to Of Warriors and Corsairs. It is mainly about the pasts of Wengle Brookrudder, Rackorg Vinn, Kovra Silverfang, and some others.
Whether or not you have read Of Warriors and Corsairs really doesn't matter, as this is a prequel.
A lone ship drifted along the currents of the eastern sea. Seabirds wheeled and screeched above, winging back to their nests for the coming night. The setting sun cast long streaks of yellow, pink, and gold along the calm waters.
On the stern of the ship, a tall, handsome young weasel in his late teenage seasons stood leaning on a long scimitar. His dark, malicious eyes watched the sun set beyond the west. He winced as he heard the raucous laughter and shouts coming from below deck. His father was having another victory celebration. Now half of the crew would be drunk, and the ship would be adrift for another three days or so.
A young searat came up from below deck, obviously half-drunk. He was about the weasel's own age, but looked much younger due to his small size. He tottered around the deck and cackled,
“Well Racky me old shipmate, why don't ye join the party?”
The weasel replied simply, “I do not wish to.”
The searat came over to him and slapped him on the back. “You're ol' daddy won't be too happy 'bout it!”
“I don't care.”
The searat grinned drunkenly. “Wot's the matter mate? It's not that pretty liddle weaselmaid that you had to leave back at the tavern is it? Hahahaharr!”
The weasel frowned but did not reply.
The searat leaned closer and the weasel recoiled at his grog-scented breath. “Wot's wrong matey? Come on, you can tell yer ol' pal Kovra!” The weasel growled and turned away, walking along the deck towards the bow. Kovra followed him, still asking,
“Wot is it? Go on an' tell me mate!”
The weasel whirled on him and snarled, “Shut your blathering face, Kovra! If I don't want to tell ye, then I won't!”
“What's all this ruckus about?”
A deep, harsh voice came from behind them. Both of the young vermin turned to see Tytrad Vinn standing in the doorway between the decks.
He was a tall, powerfully built weasel, with an eyepatch over his right eye and a round, spiked helmet on his head. In his belt was thrust a pair of daggers and across his back was strapped a long, double-headed battleaxe. He looked at the young weasel, “Answer me son! What's yer problem?”
Rackorg Vinn glared at Kovra and muttered, “I don't like you all celebrating like a bunch of fools every time we raid an island or plunder another ship. It's stupid to get your crew all drunk and lazy like that.” Kovra glanced nervously at Tytrad; he knew that the captain's son was taking a big risk in speaking disrespectfully to his father.
The weasel captain stared at his son for a moment, then sneered, “Well then, if you're so clever why don't you fight me for command o' this ship, eh?”
Rackorg did not answer. Instead he growled, “We're coming to land soon.”
Tytrad stared at him. “Really now? How do ya know that?”
The young weasel shrugged and felt the edge of his scimitar. “I just know.”
The weasel captain looked out eastward and narrowed his good eye. He saw the faint smudge of a dark shape on the horizon. He turned to his son. “How do ye know that it ain't just clouds?”
Rackorg smiled slightly and spoke as if he were the parent, “Because the seabirds are all going in that direction to nest for the night! Tut tut, you should know that my dear father! But you're too busy filling yer gut with grog to see such things.”
Rackorg Vinn felt the edge of his father's battleaxe touch his throat. The big weasel snarled, “One more word like that, an' I'll be fillin' your gut with my axe-blade!”
Rackorg sneered and pushed the axe away with his scimitar, “I'm not afraid of you! Besides, I'm a valuable crew member so you can't kill me!”
Tytrad muttered and cursed as he drew his axe back. Then he turned to Kovra as if just noticing him, “What are you staring at?”
The searat started and mumbled, “Well I was just, er...”
“Well stop 'just ering' and get the crew ready! We're coming to land soon an' I want 'em ready for a raid!” Kovra jumped up and raced below deck with all speed. Tytrad turned back to his son, “And as for you, yer just gonna keep yer mouth shut about you finding the land first! I don't want my crew to lose trust in me! Ye got that?”
Rackorg smiled and nodded. “Aye, father, I understand!”
The captain snorted and paced along the deck until some crewbeasts came tottering up the stairs. Tytrad pointed to a fat stoat that was leaning up against the doorpost, “Ahoy Worgutt, wot are ye doing just standin' there? Get up in the crow's nest where you belong!” Worgutt saluted awkwardly and stumbled off towards the rigging. He climbed halfway up, then fell in a heap on top of a searat that was walking by.
Tytrad cursed under his breath and Rackorg sneered, “See? What did I tell ya? A drunken crew is like no crew at all!” The captain did not reply, but simply stormed off to his cabin.
Rackorg watched him go, then motioned to a fox that was waiting nearby, “Well Agrat, did ye lay the trap?” The fox, who was just a few seasons older than he, nodded, “Aye! A little bit o' this in his grog each day will get 'im weaker an' weaker.” He pulled a small vial from his cloak and uncorked it. Rackorg Vinn smiled evilly and chuckled, “Very good! Soon he will be too weak to fight back when I go in and deliver him a departing gift!”
They both sniggered at this, then the weasel said, “And remember, when he finally kicks the bucket, you'll get to be my first-mate!” Agrat smiled and put the vial of poison back into his cloak, “Thank you....Captain Rackorg Vinn!”
The weasel patted the fox's back, “Not quite yet my friend, not until that soon-to-come day when I slit the throat of that old seascum and turn his carcass into fishbait!”
Far away on the land across the eastern sea, a big male otter stood alone on the shoreline. He was a strong, powerfully-built beast and had never been bested in battle. But he was kind-hearted and gentle as well. His name was Kordan Brookrudder, and he lived in a group of caves with his wife and his young son. They all lived with a colony of many creatures; other otters, mice, shrews, hedgehogs, and squirrels. They dwelt by the sea and lived off of it, catching fish and harvesting edible sea plants. Most of the creatures in the colony lived further inland, away from the ever-going tides. But not Kordan. His father had been a river otter, and his mother a sea otter, so he was constantly drawn to both land and sea.
He sighed and picked up a large pebble. He loaded it in his sling and started twirling it. Faster and faster it whirled until he finally let it fly off over the ocean waves. It went so far that he did not even see it splash into the water. He smiled to himself and was about to pick up another pebble, when he saw a ship coming around a jutting rock formation to his left. He peered closely at it, then smiled.
It was not any corsair ship, it was a trading vessel, the Rosalie, belonging to a burly hedgehog named Jorflun Bigspike who was a friend of his. The otter cupped his paws over his mouth and called out, “Ahoy, Jorflun matey, how are ye today?”
The big hedgehog stood on the deck of the ship and waved, his booming voice carrying across the waves, “Well if it isn't me old matey Kordan Brookrudder! I'm doin' just fine messmate! I've got a cargo of goods and some passengers for ya!”
Kordan waded out into the sea and called again, “Just bring 'er around to the dock! I'll be waitin' there for you!” Then he raced back up the beach towards his cave. His wife, Nela, saw him coming and went outside the cave to meet him. “What's the matter dear?” she asked.
Kordan kissed her on the cheek and said, “Jorflun's just bringing in a load o' stuff for the colony, so I'm gonna go out an' help him unload it.” She smiled and went back inside, coming out a little later with a young otter about three seasons old. Kordan grinned and picked up his young son, tossing him in the air and playing with him. The little otter giggled with delight and held on to his father's paw when he finally put him down.
Nela smiled, “Little Wengle wants to come along to see the ship. The last time it came was when he was a babe.”
Kordan nodded and patted his son on the head, “Alright little matey! You can come along! But stay close, alright?”
Wengle nodded and Kordan picked up a large canvas bag that he used to carry the cargo back. He kissed his wife again and then set off across the beach towards the ship Rosalie, which had just come to anchor at the dock.
Jorflun Bigspike came down the gangplank, followed by a few shrews, mice, and hedgehogs carrying supplies. The big sea captain chuckled as he shook Kordan's paw, “Well well, mate! I haven't seen you in ages! How 'ave you been?”
The otter grinned, “Never better mate! So where did you go this time, eh?”
Jorflun sat down on a box and straightened his short beard, “Well I stopped off at a few islands, one of 'em was inhabited by vermin, though thankfully we didn't stay long.” Kordan narrowed his eyes and growled at the mention of the word 'vermin', but the hedgehog took no notice.
“Then we stopped of on Mossflower shore. Did a bit o' tradin' with some sea otters an' a tribe of squirrels. In fact....” He looked down at Wengle, who stood staring at him with wide eyes, “Why hello there little mate! Hoi Kordan, this can't be the little babe that you had last I was here, eh?”
The big otter was staring off at sea as if he were in a trance. He started and shook his head, “Er, what? Oh, yes, this is little Wengle. Bet he's grown a bit since you last saw him.”
Jorflun chuckled and took the young otter on his knee, “A bit? Why he's almost as big as a shark! Hohohoho!”
Just then, a shrew with big gold earrings came up holding a large wooden box. He grunted under the weight of it and asked breathlessly, “Hoi, Cap'n. Where do I put this load o' fruit?”
Jorflun stood up and took the heavy box from the shrew in one paw. He set it down on top of another box and opened it. Inside were many varieties of fruits. Damsons, pears, plums, strawberries and many others. He took out a small plum and wiped it on his jerkin before handing to Wengle, “Here y'are matey. A nice plum grown in Mossflower Woods!”
Wengle bit into the fruit, the purple juice running down his chin. Kordan laughed and wiped the juice off of his son's face.
Jorflun snapped his claws as if just remembering something, “Oh, an' I brought somethin' for you, mate.” He picked up a large chest and took out a flask. He opened it and winked at his friend, “This is special October Ale brewed at Redwall Abbey! I've been keeping it hidden, 'cause me crew would down it in a flash!”
Kordan took the flask reverently and asked, “The famous Redwall Abbey? Did you actually go there?” The hedgehog shook his head, “Unfortunately no. I traded for it with some squirrels who live around there. A tribe called Bigbrush or something like that. Oh!”
He turned and looked out among the group of creatures that had gathered on the dock. He pointed to a middle-aged squirrel that was standing alone a short ways away, “That feller right there, he's from that squirrel clan. 'Is name's, eh...Hampa Swiftbow, I think. Aye, that's it.”
They walked over to the squirrel and Jorflun introduced him, “Ahoy Hampa, matey! This is me best mate Kordan Brookrudder an' his son Wengle. Kordan, this is Hampa Swiftbow from the Bigbrush clan.”
Hampa smiled sadly and corrected him, “Actually it's Longbrush, and I'm not with them anymore. But anyways, it's a pleasure to meet you Kordan.” They shook paws and Captain Bigspike shrugged, “Bigbrush, Longbrush, it's all the same!”
Kordan asked, “So what do you mean that you're not with them anymore? What happened?”
The squirrel sighed, “It was nothing, really. I got in an argument with the leader of the clan, Oakflight Longbrush, and I decided to leave. So when I heard about the ship going across the sea, I got aboard and came here.”
Kordan scratched his chin, “Have you ever been to Redwall Abbey?”
Hampa smiled and nodded, “Aye, I have! Once when I was young, and again just before I left. It's a beautiful place, and the creatures there are very kind and hospitable.”
“What about the sword? Did you see that?”
Hampa nodded again with a far-away look in his eyes, “Yes, and it was the most beautifuly deadly weapon I have ever seen. They say it was made by a great Badger Lord from a falling star.”
Kordan chuckled and looked down at his sling, “What I wouldn't give to wield that blade! I'll bet that the warrior who holds it now could take on a thousand enemies!” The squirrel sighed, “Well right now, there is no warrior to wield it. It sits above a beautiful tapestry in the Abbey's Great Hall. Oakflight Longbrush was considering having his son Spruce take up the blade, but then both they and the Abbeybeasts decided that it wasn't the right time.”
Jorflun Bigspike had gone off helping with the cargo, and Wengle had fallen asleep with the half-eaten plum in his paw. His father picked him up and nodded to Hampa, “You can come and stay with me and my family if you like.”
The squirrel smiled and shook his head, “Sorry, no, but thank you! I think that I'll go and meet some of the other creatures around here.”
Kordan pointed up inland towards a grove of trees. “There's a few families of squirrels that live there. You can join 'em if you'd like.”
Hampa picked up a knapsack and nodded, “Alright, I think I might. Well, have a good rest of the day, Kordan, and you too little Wengle. See you soon!” The two otters waved to the squirrel as he walked along the dock and out onto the shore. Kordan sighed and took a sip of the October Ale. He sighed contentedly and smacked his lips just as Jorflun came up.
“Well mate, how do ye like the October Ale, eh?”
The otter grinned, “It's very good! I haven't tasted anything like it!”
The hedgehog nodded, “Aye, has a nice nutty, spicy flavor to it. 'Tis brewed by hogs like me!” He paused reflectively, “Maybe someday I'll settle down an' do that for a livin'. T'would be nice.”
Kordan laughed, “You? Settle down? Ha, next thing you'll be tellin' me is that moles can fly!” The two friends laughed uproariously as they walked out along the beach, exchanging banter and stories.
Wengle walked with them, giggling whenever he heard the big hedgehog's booming laughter. He turned and looked back at the ship one last time. And he saw something else too. It was just a small speck on the horizon, but it kept coming closer and closer. Had he known what it was, he would have urgently told his father. But his young mind didn't even contemplate on it and he kept on walking towards his home.
Tytrad Vinn sat in his cabin, muttering curses to himself and swilling the last of his grog. A thin, sly-looking ferret stood nearby, one paw on a cutlass at his side. Tytrad drank the last drop of grog from the flask and threw it to the ground. The ferret watched the flask roll along the floor in time with the moving ship and spoke. “Is there something the matter Captain?”
The big weasel snarled at him, “Of course there is! My upstart liddle son thinks that he's smarter than me! He keeps on telling me that I'm doing everything wrong, and that he should be the captain of the Bloodhelm!”
The ferret tapped his claws on the cutlass hilt, “Did he actually say that?”
Tytrad growled, “No, but he's thinkin' it! I know he is....” He looked around suspiciously, “He's planning something, I know's it!”
The ferret placed a paw on his captain's shoulder and said soothingly, “Relax, there's nothing to worry about. Besides, even if your son tried to assassinate you, he would fail, for you are the greatest fighter on the seas!”
Tytrad sighed and lay down on his bed, “I suppose you're right, Whipfang. But he's planning somethin' sure enough!” Suddenly he bent over double and grunted in pain. Whipfang came over and tried to help him up, but the weasel pushed him away, “I'm fine, ferret! I don't need any help. Just a small twinge is all.”
Whipfang shook his head, “I don't think that all is well with you Captain. You've been acting like this for more'n four days now. Maybe it was something that you ate.”
Tytrad groaned and muttered, “Maybe you're right. I think I did eat some fish that wasn't cooked properly. Gruddy's gonna feel the lash tomorrer if'n I don't get better!”
Whipfang smiled wickedly, “That old poisoner, eh? 'E shoulda been killed long ago fer all of that slop that he serves us!”
Tytrad glared at him, “Shut your face ferret an' leave me be. I need to rest. But get the crew all armed fer battle, who know's what sorta creatures we'll face on the land.”
The ferret nodded and turned to leave. As he did, he picked up the empty grog-flask that was on the floor and peered at it. Whipfang smiled slightly and went out the door.
The crew of the Bloodhelm stood out on the deck. They numbered about forty all-told and were ready and armed to the teeth. Yet most were still groggy from the party the day before.
Rackorg Vinn stood with his back to them, leaning on his scimitar and gazing out across the night-time sea. Kovra and Agrat stood near him, waiting for the young weasel to make a move. Just then, Whipfang came over to them.
He held up the empty flask to the two young vermin and asked, “Do either of you know if anybeast has been tampering with the Captain's drink?” Agrat was immediately nervous, but he did not show it. He shrugged. “How should I know? I don't pay attention to those kinda things.”
Kovra scratched his chin, “Neither do I. Why're ya askin'?”
Agrat winced inwardly as he waited for Whipfang's reply. The ferret looked at them suspisiously, and said. “It is none of your concern.” Then he stalked off.
Agrat breathed a sigh of relief and Kovra looked at him. “What was that about?”
The fox waved a paw. “Oh, nothing to worry about, I suppose. You know ol' Whipfang, always suspicious about somebeast tryin' ter murder the Cap'n. Silly if'n you ask me.”
Kovra frowned. “Hm, yeah. Is somebeast tryin' to murder the Cap'n?”
Before Agrat could answer, Rackorg Vinn came up to them. “We are nearly there.” he said with a grin, “Soon we shall be dipping our blades in blood once again!”
Agrat replied, glad to change the subject, “Aye, indeed! Do'ye think that the Cap'n will be joining us anytime soon?”
Rackorg smirked, “No, not anytime soon I figure. My poor father has a tummy-ache!”
He winked at Agrat and the fox grinned evilly.
Kovra drew a pair of stilettos from his belt and twirled them around, “Well then what are we waitin' for? Let's get the crew all ready ter do battle!”
Rackorg Vinn strode out in front of the crowd of waiting sea-vermin and raised his scimitar, “As many of you know, we are coming to land soon. We do not know what sort of creatures live there, so when we get close, I will send a few of you out in the lifeboat to scout the island. You will then come back and report to me about what sort of creatures live there and how many of them there are. You see, I am not like my dear father, I do not just go charging into battle with no strategies. I think!”
The crew cheered and Kovra nudged Agrat, “He'd make a good Cap'n sure enough!” The fox smiled at the irony of the searat's statement.
Rackorg Vinn pointed out five vermin, “You, you, you, and you two are gonna go with Kovra in the lifeboat.”
At the mention of his name, Kovra jumped. He stared at Rackorg in shock, “But-but....why me?”
The weasel smiled dangerously, “Because I told you to, that's why!”
The young searat grumbled to himself and went with the other five vermin towards the lifeboat.
Rackorg Vinn spoke to the rest of the crewbeasts, “The rest of you will stay here and ready your weapons for slaughter!”
The vermin cheered wildly and stamped their paws and weapons on the deck.
In his cabin, Tytrad Vinn lay on the bed, groaning and holding his stomach. He snarled savagely when he heard the loud noises coming from above-deck. He called out. “Whipfang!”
The ferret came a few moments later, “Yes, Captain?”
The weasel growled, “What's all that racket up there?”
Whipfang shrugged, “Oh it's just the crew getting ready for battle.”
“Well tell them to shut up or I'll get them ready for Dark Forest gates!”
Whipfang nodded and was about to leave when Tytrad asked him, “Where's my son?”
The ferret smiled inwardly and replied, “Captain, your son is the one that is riling them up.”
The weasel captain nearly leaped out of his bed, “What?! That snotty little brat needs to know who's the captain 'round here!” He grabbed his battleaxe and stormed out of the room followed by Whipfang, who grinned evilly as he walked out.
Rackorg Vinn saw the land not far away. He called to Kovra, “Get down in the boat now! We're close enough.”
The searat frowned and climbed into the lifeboat, followed by the five appointed vermin. Just as they were about to lower the boat, Tytrad Vinn came out on deck.
All of the vermin went quiet and saluted as he passed them.
The big weasel stalked over to his son and placed the axe-head at his neck. “So what's all the racket about, eh son?”
Rackorg smiled and turned around, pushing the axe to one side, “Just getting the crewbeasts ready for battle is all, father.”
Tytrad's voice was tight with rage, “Then what are Kovra and five of me crew doin' in the lifeboat, eh?”
The young weasel knew that he was in a dangerous position, but he stayed calm, “They were going out in the lifeboat to scout the land ahead so that we can find out what sort of creatures live there.”
Tytrad stood glaring at him for a moment, then his mood seemed to totally change, “Very good, son, you're learnin' all about being a good sea captain. But uh, why is yer mate Kovra goin' with 'em?”
The searat looked at Rackorg, “Yeah... why am I goin'?”
The weasel smiled and said simply, “Because I think that he's the perfect beast for the job. Swift, smart, and a good leader. He'd probably cover the whole island in an hour!”
Kovra swelled with pride at this, and looked down arrogantly at the other vermin with him in the boat.
Tytrad glanced over at him and scowled, “Very well. But if 'e ain't back in an hour, then we'll go on without 'em.”
Rackorg nodded, and the lifeboat was let down into the water. Kovra felt a new sense of dignity at the compliments that had been placed upon him. He handed the oars to two of the vermin.
“Start rowing you lot! We need to get there quickly, so on the double or I'll have yer guts fer garters!”
The remaining crewbeasts watched the small boat go off into the fog. Tytrad turned to his them, “Well don't just stand there gawking! Get movin' you nitheads! Worgutt, how close are we to the shore?”
The stoat called down, “Er, about eight knots off shore, Cap'n! And there's another ship there too!”
Tytrad ran to the side of the bulwark, peering out through the coming fog, “Where? Where is it? What type o' ship is it?”
Worgutt looked for a few moments, then shouted down, “It's just off the shore, Cap'n, on the port side! An' it looks like a tradin' vessel Cap'n!”
The big weasel smiled evilly, “A tradin' vessel, eh? I'll bet that they 'ave lot's of plunder 'n loot fer us! Aren't we a lucky bunch! Hahaharrharr!”
Nela Brookrudder stirred a pot of stew for her husband and Jorflun Bigspike, who was staying with them for the night. The two old friends talked and laughed about past events while Wengle slept in his small bed.
Jorflun poured himself a beaker of blackberry wine and asked, “So Kordan matey, do'you remember me ol' cousin Middlo?”
The otter took a bite of bread and narrowed his eyes thoughtfully, “Aye, I think I do. Doesn't he have that huge ship, the, eh, Seahog I believe it was?”
Jorflun took a sip of his wine and nodded, “Aye, he does. The biggest ship to plow the main is the Seahog. He uses it for transporting goods from faraway islands so he does. Similar to what I do, but he can hold a whole lot more cargo than Rosalie can.”
Nela turned to him, “Speaking of which, how is she?”
The hedgehog looked up, “What, me ship?”
The otterwife laughed, “No, your wife!”
Jorflun chuckled, “Oh yes, I've almost forgotten about her. Haven't seen 'er in a few months now. Ahhh, But that's why I named me ship after her, so's that I can always have her with me.” He wiped away a tear and quickly said, “Well anyway, about Middlo, I passed by him about a week ago an' he said that he was gonna head this way after he made a few stops.”
He winked at Nela, “Which means that you'll be having to make a whole shipload of stew, marm! My cousin can eat a whale!” Nela laughed and brought them two steaming bowls of seafood stew, “Here you are gentlebeasts! The hotroot pepper is over there if you want it.” Kordan grabbed it and dumped it liberally on his stew. He sighed, “Ahhh! Nothing like 'otroot pepper to put a gleam in your eye and a shine to your fur!” He passed it to Jorflun, but the hedgehog shook his head and chuckled, “No thankee mate! I don't go for all of that fire an' spice!”
He took a bite of the stew and nodded approvingly, “Mmmmm! Very nice marm! Even better than I remember!”
Just then a young mouse came running into the cave, “Mister Kordan, Captain Bigspike, come quick! A ship has been spotted a ways off!”
Jorflun grinned, “It's probably me cousin comin' to drop by!”
The mouse shook his head, “No sir, it's a corsair ship!”
Kovra stood at the bow of the small life-boat, his paws on hips and his chest swelled importantly. The other five vermin took turns rowing while the young searat berated them like a true, hardened sea captain. “Put yer backs inter it ye swabs! Row harder or I'll 'ave ye keelhauled!”
One of the vermin, a big ferret, muttered to his companion, a lean searat. “Why ain't he rowin' wid the rest o's us? 'E's no better'n we are!” Kovra turned and glared at him ferociously. “What's the ye say, Rip'ide? Mutiny, eh?”
The ferret curled his lip at him. “We ain't gonna waste our time mutinyin' against the likes o' you! Cap'n Vinn may 'ave put ye in charge o' this mission, but you ain't gonna keep bossin' us around like your the Cap'n!”
Kovra came up to him and stood at his full height (which wasn't much). He narrowed his eyes and growled. “Well if I'm in charge, then I can do what I likes! Am' I'm not gonna row if'n I don't want to!” Riphide grumbled and muttered and Kovra turned to the rest of the vermin. “An' that goes for da rest o' you as well! No complainin' or I'll gut ye! Understood?”
Suddenly the boat came to a grinding stop, sending the vermin all tumbling on top of each other. Pushing aside a stoat that had fallen on his head, Kovra leaped up and peered over the boat. He grinned.
“Well mates, here we are! A nice island full o' goods an' plunder!”
They all got out and the lean searat whispered to his companion, Riphide. “Just watch, this island'll be either full o' dangers or have no plunder or food at all!” Kovra glared at him.
“What's that, Muckro?”
Muckro looked at the ground. “Nothing.”
Kovra drew one of his stilettos and motioned with it as he issued orders. “Right. We'll split up an' scout the island. There's six o' us so we'll go in three groups. Scraggo an' Ridj, you go down along the beach going west, but keep to the rocks an' shadows. Flatback, you come wid me across the northeastern shore. Riphide an' Muckro, you go out inter that groups o' trees over there. We'll met back 'ere if'n we finds anything. Let's go crew!”
Whipfang, the ferret aide of Tytrad Vinn, sat in the captain's cabin, holding the empty flask of grog and studying it carefully. He was very suspicious about that fox, Agrat, and the searat Kovra. They were friends of Rackorg, and Whipfang knew that the young weasel would assassinate his father if he got the chance.
The ferret stood abruptly when the door burst open and Tytrad Vinn stepped into the room. The big weasel grinned at him.
“Get ready for some fightin' Whipfang, 'cause we're comin' to another island that's just ready an' waitin' for us to plunder!” He looked at the flask in the ferret's paw. “What are ye doin' with me grog flask?”
Whipfang shrugged and held it up. “I was simply checking for any poison or such, Captain.”
Tytrad snorted. “Oh come now, if'n that had any poison in it, wouldn't I be in Davy Jones' locker now? You worry too much Whippy!”
The ferret narrowed his eyes, but said nothing.
Kordan Brookrudder raced out of the cave, followed by Jorflun, who had drawn his big, iron-headed mallet from his belt. The sea otter looked frantically out across the moon-lite sea. “Where did you see 'em?” he asked the mouse who had brought the news.
The mouse pointed down southwest. “That way sir! But I think it went around that outcropping of rocks.”
Jorflun Bigspike was plodding along the beach as fast as he could go, “I'll go an' rally me crew. Some of 'em should still be on the ship.”
Kordan turned to the mouse. “Go and gather every able-bodied beast ye can find an' tell 'em to get the wives an' young 'uns further inland. And find the squirrel Hampa Swiftbow; he seems like an experienced warrior.”
The mouse nodded and ran of to do as told. Kordan looked out at the peninsula of rocks that the ship had hidden behind, then ran back to his cave.
Scraggo the stoat and Ridj the searat scouted along the beach, hiding behind rocks and clumps of grass every so often. Scraggo kicked at a crab that was crawling over his footpaws.
“Ack! This is useless! Why don't we just run in an' slaughter 'em all. We'll be able ter overpower 'em!”
Ridj shook his head. “I don't think tis that easy, mate. Cap'n Vinn knows what he's doin'.”
The stoat snorted, “Aye, but which Vinn are ye talkin' about? Tytrad, or his son?”
Ridj shrugged, “I really don't care which. Rackorg may be smarter'n his daddy, but Tytrad's a better fighter if'n you ask me.”
Before they could get into a heated discussion, Scraggo stopped still and pointed. “Hoi, look mate. There's some light comin' from that liddle cave yonder. Wonder if'n it's a campfire?”
The searat peered out into the gloom and nodded, “Aye, 'ts a fire alright. Let's go in an' have a look.”
Nela Brookrudder stood at the entryway of their cave home, holding little Wengle's paw. She watched as Kordan came closer to her, a fierce, determined light in his eye. She asked him worridly. “Is it a corsair ship?”
The big sea otter did not answer. He stalked past her and to the back of the cave. He pushed aside a pile of rope and pulled out a long, iron-tipped javelin. He held it firmly and turned to face his wife.
“We're not really sure if'n it is, but we can't take chances. You an' Wengle must go into the woods. There's some mice'n shrews there that'll take care of you.”
Nela's eyes grew wide, “But what about you, dear?”
Her husband stood up tall and strong, the ends of his javelin and his eyes both glittering in the firelight. He sighed deeply and grit his teeth. “I will stay here and protect our homeland with my very life.”
Wengle toddled over to him and lifted his arms to be picked up. Kordan picked up his young son and hugged him tight, tears forming in his eyes. Nela came over and embraced them both. She was weeping openly.
Kordan sighed and said, "I'll be back. Don't ye worry, I'll fight off the scum and come back to ye. Now hurry and gather whatever you can, we need to get you into the woods as soon as possible!"
Kovra walked along the southeastern shore with the weasel named Flatback. They plodded along the beach, looking this way and that for any signs of life. After they had gone quite a ways along the beach without finding anything important, Flatback sat down on a rock and sighed. “Should we go back soon? We ain't seen anythin' yet.”
Kovra sat down next to him. “I know how ye feel mate. But we 'ave orders from both Cap'n Vinn and Rackorg ter search every inch o' this island.”
“If'n it is an island.” Flatback muttered.
After a few moments of rest, Kovra got up. “Come on! Let's go a liddle further an' see what's up ahead.”
Flatback grumbled but got up and followed the searat down the shore again. Suddenly the weasel pointed and said, “Ain't that a ship out there?”
Kovra peered out and grinned. “Aye, it is! 'Tis a big'un too. Wonder who's on it?”
Flatback shrugged. “Who knows? But should we find out? It could be important.”
The searat thought for a moment, then thinking of the praise and promotion that he'd get if it was something important, said, “Alright, let's go find out who's on it. But quietly now, maybe if'n the rest get back an' the ship puts ter shore, we could capture it!”
Flatback scoffed. “Huh, only five creatures capturin' a huge ship with who knows how many beasts aboard? Bah! T'would be suicide!”
Kovra licked his stiletto-blade. “Well I'll give ya a choice then. Help me and you get ter be me first mate, or don't help me......” The stiletto pricked Flatback's throat. “and ye can feed the fishes. Your choice, mate.”
The weasel gulped and nodded as best he could. “Alright, alright, I'll help ya!”
Kovra sheathed his blades. “Good! Now, let's go see what that big ol' boat brings us.....”
Jorflun Bigspike was aboard his ship, Rosalie, and getting his sleepy crew ready to defend their ship and the island. The big hedgehog used his mallet to point around while issuing orders.
“Alright, you seadogs! Get your weapons and ready yerselves for battle! Hoist anchor and take her out 'round the point! Bilgan, you're in charge now, 'cause I'm going ashore to help me matey Kordan to defend the island. And if I'm slain in battle, the ship's your's.”
The first-mate shrew Bilgan, saluted. “Aye aye Cap'n! Pray the fates that won't happen though, sir.”
Jorflun walked down the gangplank and onto the dock. He looked back at his ship as it sailed slowly along the edge of the island and around the bend into an inlet a few miles away. The hedgehog wiped a tear from his eye and turned back towards the Brookrudder's home.
Scraggo and Ridj slunk along the beach closer towards the firelight that they had seen. They suddenly stopped when they heard voices and they quickly hid behind a small dune. The two vermin peered over it and saw Kordan Brookrudder standing out on the shore and waving good-bye to his wife and young son.
Ridj whispered to Scraggo. “Well now we know that they're otter's here.”
The stoat gulped. “Aye, an' big un's too. I sure hope we don't have ter fight against a whole army o' beasts like that!”
Ridj looked over at him. “Should we go back an' report to Kovra?”
Scraggo nodded. “Aye. Don't want ter let'em know we're here.”
As soon as they had turned around and started walking back, Ridj gave a yelp and tripped. Scraggo looked down at him. “What's wrong mate?”
The searat bit his lip. “I think I sprained me footpaw on a rock. I'll be fine.” He tried to stand, but he fell down again with a whimper.
Scraggo looked back at the otter and jumped. “He's comin'!” he said frantically, “The big otter must've heard ya!”
The stoat took off running and his companion tried to drag himself after him. “Wait mate, wait fer me!”
Kordan gulped back a lump in his throat as he waved his last goodbyes to Nela and Wengle. Then he turned and faced the shoreline, his javelin held tightly in his paws. Then he heard the yelp from his left, down the beach and turned sharply to see what it was. Listening closely and gripping his javelin, Kordan slipped along the beach towards the noise.
He came upon Ridj, who was pulling himself along the sand with his spear. The otter came silently over to him and held his javelin tip to the searat's neck, asking in a coarse whisper. “What are you doing here, searat?”
Ridj almost jumped and turned over, his eyes going wide in fear and pain. He stammered. “I.... I weren't doin' anything, sir, honest, plea- urgh!”
Kordan lifted him up by the scruff of the neck and pricked the searat's throat with his javelin. “Where's the rest o' yer crew?” he growled, “How many are there and how are they gonna attack?”
Ridj bit his lip and whimpered. “They're all on the ship 'cept for me an' a few others, an' there's about forty or so. But I've no idea about how or when they're gonna come!”
The otter frowned at Ridj as if he didn't believe him at first, then he nodded and dropped the searat on the ground. “Alright. Now get out o' here, vermin!”
The searat scrabbled along the ground. “Ye mean yer not going ter kill me?”
Kordan bared his teeth. “I've never killed an injured creature before and I ain't started now. But if'n you was in fightin' condition, ye'd be dead. Now get out!”
Ridj stumbled off into the dark and Kordan sighed and turned back to his cave just as Jorflun came up.
“Well mate,” the burly hedgehog said, “the Rosalie is off goin' around the side o' the island ter get out o' the way of the corsairs. Most of me crew is comin' back by land ter help in any fightin'.”
Kordan nodded. “Good. I just questioned a searat from the corsair crew, an' he said that there's about forty or so vermin on board the ship. So it won't be easy, but we can hold 'em off.”
Jorflun shouldered his mallet. “Good. Where is this searat now? In Dark Forest I suppose.”
The big otter shook his head. “No, he was injured already, so's I didn't kill him. Just sent him away limping.”
The hedgehog frowned. “Well that's one less vermin to deal with. So have any o' the creatures from inland come yet to help in the fightin'?”
“Not that I know of.” Kordan said, “But I sent for Hampa and some reinforcements awhile ago so they should be here soon.”
When Scraggo got back to the scouting party's designated meeting place, he saw that Riphide the ferret and Muckro the searat were the only ones back. Scraggo came panting up and slumped down on the sands.
Riphide stood leaning against the small boat. He looked down at the stoat. “What's the matter mate? You act like you was bein' chased by a badger!”
Scraggo gasped. “Almost that, mate. It was a big otter. I think it took out poor ol' Ridj. He hurt his footpaw and yelled an' the otter heard him. I hope Ridj didn't give any information away to 'im.”
Riphide spat. “Well if'n he did an' the otter didn't already slay him, I'll do it meself!”
The stoat changed the subject. “So what did you two find in the woods?”
The ferret spat into the sea. “Oh, just some squirrels an' mice an' such. They didn't see us, though it wouldn't matter anyhow. They didn't look like fighters to me.”
Muckro looked around. “Where's Kovra an' Flatback?”
Scraggo shrugged. “I don't know, I just got back here.”
They heard a muffled groaning from behind them and they all turned to see Ridj crawling along the sand, whimpering in pain. Riphide leaped over to him and grabbed him by the throat, snarling. “Did you tell that otter anythin'? Eh, did ya?!”
The unlucky searat gurgled and tried to get free of the burly ferret's grasp. Riphide dropped him and Ridj gasped. “Aye, but he had me at javelin point, what else was I supposed ter do?”
Before the searat could say anything else, Riphide grabbed Muckro's spear and ran him through. The other two vermin stared in shock, but the ferret snorted and handed the bloodied spear back to Muckro. “I told ye I'd kill him! Besides, even if I didn't, Cap'n Tytrad or his son would've; and they would do it slower, believe me. So I did ol' Ridj a favor, really. Now, let's go an' find Kovra.”
In his cabin aboard the Bloodhelm, Captain Tytrad Vinn paced the floor, fingering his ax-blade and glancing every now and then at an hourglass that sat on a small table. Whipfang sat in a chair nearby, watching his captain through half-closed eyes.
The big weasel muttered half to himself and half to his aide. “It's already been at least a half an hour since Kovra and his clods went ashore. I can't wait much longer..... I wanna attack this island afore it's too late!”
Whipfang leaned back, clasping his paws behind his head. “Well Captain, you don't have to wait any longer if you don't want to. You are the Captain and leader of this ship and it's crew after all.....”
Tytrad narrowed his good eye and looked at Whipfang. “So we go an' attack now?”
The ferret shrugged. “That's what I would do if I was you Captain. Besides, it was your son who sent the scouting party out, not you. That's what I call usurpation and defiance, and it shouldn't go unpunished.”
Tytrad slammed his ax down on the floor, causing the cabin to rock slightly. The weasel snarled. “That snot-nosed liddle son o' mine better learn who's the real Cap'n of this ship soon or he'll be fishbait!”
Whipfang gave a slow, wicked grin. “What if, during the battle on shore that is soon to come, young Rackorg has a little.... accident? Tripping onto a fallen spear half-buried in the sand, or maybe an 'enemy arrow' taking him down? Hehe, the possibilities are endless.....”
Tytrad Vinn stood staring at Whipfang for awhile. At first it seemed as though he would berate his aide for even mentioning the thought of murdering his own son, but an evil smile lite up his brutal features. “Why, you're right! An' why not take out his little pal, that fox Agrat as well? I never liked that 'un.”
Whipfang snickered evilly. “Hehehehe.... now that's the Captain that I know and serve!”
Tytrad turned and smashed the hourglass with his ax. He grinned. “We ain't gonna wait any longer. We're attackin' right now!”
He stalked up to the deck with a new air of savage confidence.
Whipfang got up from his seat and followed his captain, stepping carefully around the broken glass and sand that littered the floor. The crafty ferret laughed inwardly. Why take over by force when you could stay in the background, out of suspicion, and manipulate your way to power? Rackorg was the only real threat in the way of his becoming Captain of the Bloodhelm, and Whipfang would get rid of him one way or another.
Hampa Swiftbow lay on a cot in a small hut that was concealed in the boughs of a broad elm tree. He sighed and rolled over. It was hard sleeping in a new country. He was already missing Mossflower country. Granted, this new land was plentiful, and the creatures were very kind and hospitable, but there was nothing like Mossflower. He wondered if he would ever see those beloved groves and meadows again; see his old friends and visit Redwall Abbey again. Someday he might take a short journey back, but not today. His thoughts were interrupted by a voice from below.
“Hello! Is a squirrel by the name of Hampa Swiftbow here?” There was a tone of urgency in the voice.
Hampa leaned over and saw a young mouse looking about the woods frantically. The squirrel called down. “Ahoy! Were you looking for me?” The mouse looked up and motioned for him. “Yes! Mister Kordan Brookrudder and Captain Jorflun are in need of your help! I can't say it out loud, or it'll cause panic.”
Hampa grabbed his bow and quiver of arrows and climbed down the tree. He dropped right next to the young mouse. “Now then lad, what's the trouble?”
The mouse looked carefully about at all the other squirrel huts in the trees and then whispered. “A corsair ship has been spotted right off the coast. We're not sure if and where they're going to attack.”
As soon as he heard the word 'corsair', Hampa was wide awake. His jaw tightened and he gripped his bow. “Take me to Kordan and Captain Bigspike.” The mouse nodded and Hampa followed him off through the night-time forest. Maybe life here wouldn't so be dull after all....
The Bloodhelm had been anchored in a small cove off the southeastern side of the island of which the landward side was surrounded by tall, imposing rock formations, causing any ship ported there to be unseen from the land. In fact, if the rocks had not been there, the Bloodhelm would have been visible to Kovra and Flatback, who passed by unnoticed on the other side of the cove.
Rackorg Vinn stood leaning against the railing of the ship, waiting patiently for the time of attack. The vermin crew milled about, desperate to get ashore and fight. Agrat sat aways off from Rackorg, watching him expectedly. What exactly was he planning? How would he use the battle to usurp his father's position as Captain? Before the fox could think further, Tytrad Vinn came out on deck.
He held his battle-ax high and roared, “Alright crew, we're going ashore ter do some fightin'! We've been waitin' long enough!”
The corsair's cheered and Agrat narrowed his eyes, wondering what Rackorg's reaction would be. The young weasel turned and looked as his father as if he was not surprised. “Kovra and his scouts have not yet returned.” he said flatly.
Tytrad hefted his ax dangerously. “So....?”
Rackorg felt the edge of his scimitar. “So we do not know about what creatures live on this island, how many they are, if they are warriors or not..... Information that is vital in combat tactics.”
All eyes were on Tytrad as he strode over to his son and placed his ax-blade on Rackorg's forehead. He smiled menacingly. “So who said that we're gonna use combat tactics? I am the Captain of this ship, and I give the orders! We're attackin' now!”
Rackorg Vinn showed no emotion. “Fine then.” He pushed aside his father's ax and turned to the vermin crew that stood around. He called out, “Tonight we will go out and invade this island that we have come upon! We are going without knowledge of what types and how many creatures live there, but we throw all of that aside as we are led into battle by our great Captain, Tytrad Vinn!”
Any of Tytrad's mutterings were drowned out by the cheering and stomping of the crew. Agrat smiled to himself at the vile craftiness of Rackorg Vinn. So this was his plan; If they were defeated, then the crew would put the blame on Tytrad and possibly mutiny, but if they were victorious..... then that would be when Rackorg would deliver the final blow and become captain of the Bloodhelm.
The corsair ship was brought out of the rocky inlet and closer to the sandy beaches, with every vermin on board ready for slaughter and armed to the teeth.
When Hampa Swiftbow arrived at Kordan's cave, he saw a crowd of creatures: squirrels, otters, mice, shrews, and hedgehogs, standing about and wielding weapons of different sorts. Farming tools, knives, bows and arrows, slings, javelins, and some swords and spears among the crew of the Rosalie, who had arrived as well.
When Kordan saw the old squirrel warrior, he smiled and ran out to meet him. “Hoi there, Hampa! Good to see you! Want to know the situation?”
Hampa fitted an arrow to his bow and sighted on it. “I think I can figure it out. Some scummy crew o' vermin came by and thought that they could invade us by surprise. Well, now we're ready for 'em.”
Kordan stared at him for a moment, then he smiled grimly and nodded. “Aye, that's basically it as far as I know. The searat I questioned said that he was with a few others who came to shore. Probably a scoutin' party. So they may or may not know of us.”
Jorflun Bigspike hefted his big mallet. “Well we know about them, so that's all that matters now. When do'ye think they'll attack?”
Kordan scratched his chin. “Not sure. They're probably waitin' for the scouts to report back an' then they'll-”
He was cut off by a shout, “There it is! There's the ship!”
Everybeast was up and ready to arms. Kordan, Jorflun and Hampa raced over to the otter that had spotted the ship. Kordan asked, “Where is it?”
The otter pointed to the prow of the Bloodhelm that poked around the corner of the rocky inlet and was slowly moving towards them.
Kordan immediately took charge. He roared out, “Alright, to yer stations! Archers and slingers prepare to fire a volley as soon as they come ashore! Everybeast else, stay hidden and prepare to fight for yer homes and families!”
The Rosalie's crew were the only beasts who were really used to fighting. They held their weapons ready, hiding behind rocks, dunes and trees. Jorflun Bigspike stood out on the sand with Kordan and Hampa. The hedgehog sighed and looked up at the starry night-time sky. “I sure hope that this ain't gonna be our last night mates.”
Kordan tightened his grip on his javelin. “Well if'n it is, at least we'll be doing it for the safety of our families.”
The otter turned to Hampa. “You don't have any family or home here, so you really don't have to fight for our sakes.”
That question had been going though the squirrel's mind for some time. But he was resolved. “This is now my home, and you are my friends, so I will defend it with my very life; as much as I would my old home.”
The three warriors, backed by archers and slingers, stood out on the shore, watching and waiting as the Bloodhelm drew nearer and nearer.
Tytrad Vinn stood aboard the Bloodhelm, grinning broadly as he watched the shore coming around the bend. Whipfang stood next to him, brandishing his cutlass. The big weasel captain felt the edge of his ax. “This plan o' yours better work.”
Whipfang smiled slightly. “It will work. It gets your son out of the way for awhile and proves to be an excellent battle strategy. With me as your guide, you shall prove the greatest corsair captain of all time.”
Tytrad glared at him. “And just why can't I do it by meself, eh?”
The ferret tapped his head. “You are the leadership and fighting skills and I am the cunning. You are perfectly capable by yourself, but as your advisor I add just the right touch.”
Tytrad stared at him for awhile, then he laughed, “Well of course ye are, Whippy! My loyal crewbeast in all storms, eh?”
Whipfang smiled. “Of course, Captain!”