A/N: Any characters and places not Brian Jacques' in this fic are mine, including Rainbow Cavern. A/N 2: The opening poem is still in progress.
- The pearls are gone, Mad Eyes is dead; a snake can't live without its head.
- I thought that marten's legacy would go away and leave me be.
- My paws would never raise my bow to kill again. But it's not so.
- The armored mouse has led me here, joined by the one I hold most dear.
- My husband yearns to live in peace. And so did I. I craved release.
- Release from war, release from hate. I almost crossed Dark Forest's gate
- To join my kin the day they died. They said it's easy, but they lied.
- Vengeance is now all I crave, nobeast now my soul can save.
You can put the past behind you, but sometimes it comes back.
You can put the past behind you, but sometimes it comes back.
Always, my paws are at the bowstring of my yew bow, and a quiver of deadly ashwood shafts, each ready to fly straight and true, sits at my waist. I am not vermin or an evil creature, as some may think. I am Grath Longfletch of the Holt of Lutra, last of my family.
I despise searats with every fiber of my existence- it courses through my veins like wildfire, plagues my mind day and night. The scum do not deserve to live; they deserve to be wiped off the face of the planet. It is only fair. It is, as they all call it, justice. My heart burns as I remember the day the wavescum killed my holt. The screams, the destruction are still engraved freshly into my mind. The image of my home, the only home I had ever known, being consumed by roaring flames will never leave me, nor will the memory of the pain and fear I felt then. . . . .
My mother and my sisters beg for mercy, mercy they'll never get. "HOLT LUTRAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" My father's battle cry rings through the air, bringing all of us running out of the holt, grabbing weapons. We charge out of the holt, bows, slings and javelins bristling around us, ready to aid, but the vermin are on us before we can strike back. My mother and my sisters beg for mercy, mercy they'll never get. I watch helplessly as my dear mother is felled before my eyes. Seeing her fall sends my father and the rest of us into a berserker rage. My father and brothers try to fight and defend them, falling themselves under an onslaught of spears and blades. I can still hear the sound of laughter, horrible vermin laughter as my loved ones are ripped to shreds, and the screams from my family of agony, of grief, of rage. The cause of their death? Six rose-colored pearls in a scallop-shell case. The Tears of all Oceans. Aptly named, for all they brought to anybeast was despair and death. My family never knew that until it was too late.
The Tears of All Oceans were most admired in our holt, but my father always looked at them with a grim, stern expression. Once, when I asked him why, he pulled me on his knee, looking at me gravely. "Those pearls are most treacherous," he rumbled softly in his dignified voice. I was young and naïve. "Treacherous? How? Aren't they our treasures? Lutra looked at me, then laughed. My father always had a nice laugh, a booming sound that made you want to laugh along with him. Then he said, "The Tears are not our treasures." "Then what are?" I asked. "Aren't we poor then?" "No, little one, we're not poor at all." He hugged me.
Greed, particularly the greed of a pine marten and corsairs, changed my life forever. It took my family from me and set me on a path to becoming a merciless killer. I know now why the pearls are pink. . . They are white pearls stained with the blood of the beasts who died because of them.
I jolted to full awareness and looked around Holt Rudderwake, shivering violently. There was no danger that I could see; the cave was quiet except for the crackle of twigs on the fire and the snoring of sleeping otters. Now that I was awake, I knew where I was and that I was safe here, nevertheless, the memory refused to fade. Every night, it seemed, I relived the murders of my kin in my dreams. Drawing a quilt around my shoulders, I rose from my mat, picked up my weapons from where they lay beside me and moved to sit near the fire, holding my bow and quiver of arrows close to me like a frightened otter kit would hold a security blanket. I huddled around them in a near-fetal position, gazing into the flames as though watching the fire flicker and dance would banish the horror of my past. I still remembered the vow I made to myself inside my wrecked holt as I cried over my massacred family, covering each body with a blanket, touching each paw one last time and saying a final goodbye to each of them individually; a vow I'd reaffirmed to myself as I worked to seal the cavern entrance. I felt the tears rising in my throat as I remembered that promise, word-for-word: I'll see you on the other side at the gates of Dark Forest when my time comes. I love you all. I'll make those wavescum pay for slaughtering you. I'll send them all to Hellgates. I may lose my life in the process, but you'll be avenged.
On the way back to Ruddaring and Holt Rudderwake to drop me and Inbar off, Abbot Durral and I had sat together in the main cabin on the Seaking and he'd given me advice: "Anger or the desire for revenge can't bring back the creatures you've loved and lost, Grath. Hate is wasted energy that can be used for something more productive. What's the point in continuing to hate a creature after he's dead?" "I don't know how to stop, Durral. It's all Mad Eyes' fault. . ." "He's dead," the old mouse repeated, taking both of my paws in his and squeezing them gently. "I know it's his fault your family's dead, but he's dead now, too. You've killed vermin in revenge, but what good has it been, really?"
Fresh tears stung my eyes; my shoulders slumped and the quilt fell to the mat as I stood slowly and left the cave. Durral had been right: I'd killed vermin left and right; numerous corsairs had fallen to my arrows, but no matter how much blood I shed it couldn't open the gates of Dark Forest and bring my family back to life. I shouldn't wake Inbar and the others for this, I need to be out of here and somewhere where I can grieve alone, NOW. I forcibly choke back the sobs threatening to break free and bolt as soon as I'm out of earshot, running east.
I knew where I was going. Not far from Holt Rudderwake is another cave, this one filled with clear, natural quartz crystals that jut from the ceiling and the walls. The only place the crystals don't grow is the floor and a solitary, wide window cut into the cavern wall near the ceiling. It's one of the loveliest places I've ever seen in my life, one of the most comforting for me.
When Martin II, Clecky, Plogg, Welko, Viola Bankvole and I arrived here, Winniegold had shown the cave to us the morning before we left on our voyage to rescue Durral from the vermin. "Welcome to Rainbow Cavern, mates. I know you don't have a lot of time, but I wanted to show this to all of you before you left. I hope the sun's out . . ." Her words seemed to be the cue for what happened next: In almost the exact instant the ottermaid finished speaking, the sun emerged from behind a cloud, shining down through the window and through the crystals, turning them into prisms. My companions and I stood in silent awe. Flashes of color danced on the walls, the floors, the ceiling . . . the entire cave was alive with rainbows!
Martin let out a whistle. "Wow!"
"This is bally amazin'!" Clecky breathed.
"Amazin' ain't the word for it because it's too minor," I finally managed to say. "How did this cave come into bein'?"
"Our ancestors cut this window into the cavern wall long seasons ago when they first came to Ruddaring," Winniegold explained. "Nature did the rest of the work."
"Winniegold, this is beautiful," Viola half-whispered. "I wish we had a place like this at Redwall Abbey."
"I wish we had a place like your Abbey here at Ruddaring. I'd love to be able to see and visit it myself someday."
"Anybeast who comes to Redwall Abbey in peace is welcome there."
That memory fades in the mists of time as I reach the cave. Running into the semi-darkness, let my weapons fall to the ground and prostrate myself on the cavern floor, keening in agony.
After what seems like an eternity I look up.
Watching the shifting patterns of the moonlight where it comes through the crystals, reflecting faint rainbows on the walls, I feel myself hypnotized. The walls of the cavern expand, receding further and further away. Minute details spring into sharp focus. My eyes trace the outline of every paw print, every pebble, and each grain of dust; I catch a movement out of the corner of my eye and notice a large dragonfly clinging motionless to a stalactite, its wings spread and flashing with tiny rainbows of their own. With single-minded purpose I start slowly, cautiously toward it to get a closer look, not wanting to frighten the insect away.