In the heart of Mossflower Woods, by an old path now overgrown with weeds, sat the ruins of a large building. Crumbling outer walls surrounded a sprawling area covered with trees, an orchard that had run rampant with no one to tend it. A small pond sat on the grounds, untouched by any creature but the fish that lived in it. The main gates and the large gatehouse beside them had long ago rotted away, as had the three smaller doors in the walls.
At the center of this ruin lay an abandoned abbey, beautifully carved from red sandstone. Sadly, the place was empty of any life but that of insects and scavenger birds, and was slowly but surely being worn away by time. Plants now grew over much of the structure, and none more prevalent than an overgrown rose bush that had ceased to produce blooms. It would be hard for any who had heard the tales to believe that this was the once glorious Redwall Abbey.
Within the ruined hall-its stained glass windows having been broken in ages past-lay two barely recognizable artifacts. One was a tapestry, all but devoured by moths and decay, with faded scenery woven into it. Battles between ancient heroes and monsters of all kinds were indistinguishable from scenes of peace, so blurred had the colors become.
On a pair of iron hooks hung a sword-covered in dust, but still intact despite its great age. It was a wondrous weapon, but many an age had passed since any hero had taken it up in defense of others. Now it was forgotten, left behind by creatures long since dead.
This scene of ruined splendor was broken as a figure appeared, staring at the sword. He was a mouse, dressed in a gleaming suit of armor, with an empty scabbard at his side. Had the tapestry retained its color, his image would have appeared at its center, larger than any other. For this was Martin the Warrior, Redwall’s founding Warrior and its guardian spirit from the time of his passing…until now.
Martin turned from the blade he had carried in life to the ruins of his old home, sorrow etched on his face. It had been many seasons since Redwall had been left vacant. Between young creatures leaving to pursue adventure, and old ones passing on with none to take their place, Redwall had fallen into ruin. He had remained here all that time, hoping that someone might return…but no one had. Now, at last, it was time for him to leave.
Turning back to his weapon, Martin reached out his hand and took the sword by its handle. As he lifted, a second sword appeared in his hand, which he sheathed at his side. The artifact hanging on the wall was now devoid of his presence, which had served to help so many champions of right through the ages. In time it would rust and corrode, and finally fall to dust-just like the rest of Redwall.
With heavy heart, Martin took one last walk through the halls of Redwall, going everywhere in the venerable structure. He took in the ruined wine cellars, the hidden tombs of Abbess Germaine and his own mortal remains, and the old comfort of the kitchens and Cavern Hole. He strode the Great Hall, walked through the dormitories, and even entered the lofts where once had dwelt sparrows and other birds friendly to the creatures of Redwall.
Then, with a final tour of the grounds, he left through the main gateway, walking towards the west.
As he traveled, Martin saw many things. He was not the only spirit to be moving through Mossflower Woods, though he was by far the most noble. Many who flitted about the woods were those villains who had fallen in their efforts to claim Redwall as their own in times long forgotten. The sight of him caused many to turn aside and cower, hoping to hide, but he saw them and knew those whom he had helped to defeat.
Tsarmina, Swartt Sixclaw, Graypatch, and Ferahgo the Assassin. Cluny the Scourge, Asmodeus, Slagar, and General Ironbeak. Damug Warfang, the Marlfoxes, the Juska Clans, and the Pure Ferrets. Zassaliss and his siblings, Raga Bol, Gulo the Savage, and Razzid Wearat.
These murderers and others fled, cursing the warrior who had either in person or through his counsel to others had brought about their demise. In life, their evil would have made Martin’s heart burn with loathing for the wicked deeds they had committed. But in death, powerless and afraid, they only made him feel more the weight of the countless seasons in which he had stood as a guardian. Now that his time had come to an end, they merely served to bring back memories of friends…friends who had long since passed on to happier places.
He saw the living as he marched, as well, though they could not see him. Guosim shrews and otters traveled the rivers, arguing with each other and amongst themselves, though usually in a good natured way. Families of moles, hedgehogs, mice, and voles wandered Mossflower freely, in little fear of evil. Squirrels and birds spent their time in the trees or in the sky, enjoying their freedom from the terrors of ages past. No Flitchaye, Painted Ones, or Brownrats troubled these creatures; not for many seasons had any evil dared lay claim to Mossflower.
It warmed Martin’s heart to see it, though it felt strange in a way. To see the peace he had long been denied throughout his life brought to others, after spending so many ages helping to bring it about. He knew that troubles would come again, of course; such was the nature of life. But for now, all was quiet, and he hoped that the creatures he saw would enjoy it while it lasted. For from now on, he would not be there to stand with them.
At long last Martin’s journey brought him to the sea, and to a familiar sight: the mountain of Salamandastron. Sadly, the once great fortress was now as barren and empty as Redwall, with neither Badger Ruler nor hares to keep it. The coasts of Mossflower had likewise been safe for many a season, and the reputation of Salamandastron’s former residents had been enough to dissuade many attackers. But now they were gone, and their children’s children had gone on to other places.
It was thus quite a surprise for Martin to see activity on the beach, and of a kind he had not seen in a great deal of time. Other spirits like himself were massed on the shoreline, readying a fleet of ghostly ships for departure. Immediately curious, the mouse warrior continued his march towards them, wondering what he would see.
He soon began to recognize the vessels-many of them he had seen from his place at Redwall as he provided guidance to those who had followed in his footsteps. There was the Posy Gurdy, with Rogue Crew and Long Patrol members massed around her, along with a handful of Redwallers. Amongst them were Rake Nightfur and Buff Redspore, who had married following their capture of the vessel aboard which they now stood.
Further down the line came the Eulalia, with Lord Gorath and Lady Salixa standing at its bow. Docked beside it were the Purloined Petunia and the Fearless Frunk, with otters from Green Isle, Long Patrol Hares, and Redwallers likewise readying it for departure. The Petunia’s preparations were being overseen by Queen Tiria Wildlough and her husband, Leatho Shellhound, who to his dying day had insisted on being known as the Commander of the Green Clan Regiment, not as the king of otters.
Martin’s march past the vessels had been noticed now, and more than a few creatures were recognizing him and calling out. One such was Trisscar Swordmaid aboard the ghostly Freedom, reunited with her friends Shogg, Welfo, Scarum, Kroova, and Lord Sagaxus of Salamandastron. “Hello Martin! We’ve been wondering when you would make your way here to join us!”
“My apologies, Trisscar; I didn’t know that I was keeping anyone waiting!”
“So, this be the salty old warrior I’ve heard tell about, eh?” This came from the next vessel down, which Martin recognized as the Pearl Queen. Standing at its stern and peering down at Martin was a handsome sea otter with a fierce twinkle in his eyes. Several other otters stood beside him, as did faces more familiar to Martin: Mariel and Dandin, whose adventures beyond Redwall had included marriage and raising a family, and Mariel’s father Joseph the Bellmaker.
“Aye, and ye must be Finnbarr Galedeep. You’re looking well, Captain, as is your ship.”
“That she is, matey, that she is,” beamed the otter.
Martin continued his march-past the ships claimed by Trag from the pirates of Gabool the Wild-until he came to a very familiar vessel. He saw others beyond it, some of which he knew, but none were as familiar as this one. At once he knew that this vessel was the one that would carry him to where he was to go next. After all, the last time he had been at Salamandastron, had he not also departed aboard the Wuddship?
Scaling a ramp that led up to the deck of the ship, Martin found himself confronted by a towering figure. A badger all dressed in armor, with a massive sword sheathed at his side. The Badger Lord’s face was obscured by his visor, though Martin could make out a wise old pair of eyes looking out at him from between its slits. Finally, the giant warrior reached up and lifted his helmet from his head, revealing a face younger than the one Martin had known in life, but still familiar.
“Long it has been since you visited my shores, Martin son of Luke,” Boar the Fighter said with a smile. “To be honest, you are not far behind me in being here. Long has my spirit dwelt at Salamandastron, always prepared for the coming of another Badger Lord or Lady. But now there are no more to be-or if there are, it falls to others to guide them.”
“It has been far too long, Boar; I am glad to see you again.”
“As am I to see you; but there is something I must ask. May I have your sword?”
“My sword? Why?”
“This is a journey of peace, Martin. The time for swords has left us all far behind. You carried it well in life, and did your best to see that others carried it well afterwards. But now there is no need.”
For a long moment, Martin was motionless, silently contemplating Boar’s words. Then he calmly unbelted his spectral weapon from his side and handed it to the Badger Lord. “I suppose it’s only fitting; you are the one who made my sword the weapon of legend that it became.”
“Come now, Martin-as its most renowned wielder, you have far more to do with the legend than I,” Boar replied.
With a smile, Martin stepped forward as Boar turned to let him pass. The deck of the ship was crowded with familiar faces-creatures he had known and loved throughout his life at Redwall. One in particular brought a smile to his face as he strode forward, feathered cap at an angle with a flute stuffed into his belt.
“Late as usual, matey,” said Gonff the Prince of Mousethieves as he looked his old friend over. “Still wearin’ the old armor, I see. Well, I doubt that’ll last-you gave up yer sword easily enough. Glad to see that you still look like yourself-ugly enough to frighten babes, but who isn’t compared to me?”
“And I see you’re still as much a rogue as ever, Gonff. Where are Columbine and your young uns? I haven’t seen them in an absolute age.”
“Oh, they’re aboard, Martin, and you’ll have plenty of time to see them on the voyage and once we’ve reached where we’re going. But you’ll have some explaining to do to them-and to me, but I can wait.”
“What do I have to explain?”
Gonff turned serious, a rarity for him, before replying. “You kept secrets from us, matey. There was a whole chapter of your life that you never breathed a word of, and that just ain’t right. Sure, I know you had your reasons, but I would’ve thought you could trust us.”
Martin didn’t know what to say; he was completely speechless. Before he could regain himself enough to speak, Gonff turned to let four figures come forward. One was a thin but powerfully built squirrel; to his side stood a young but wise-looking male mouse. Next in line was a hedgehog, followed by a mole with a friendly smile on his face and a ladle in hand.
The squirrel looked at the awestruck warrior, and a smile came to his face-something Martin couldn’t remember seeing much when both he and the squirrel had known each other. “What’s the matter, Martin? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“Technically he’s seen quite a few ghosts, Felldoh, though I imagine we’re four he didn’t expect to see here,” said the mouse. Looking at him, Martin saw a combination of features from two mice he had known, and realized which of the two he was. Though he had apparently come to favor his father Urran Voh in later life, Brome was still recognizable.
“Ho urr, zurr Marthen; been a long time, o aye,” said the mole, who stepped forward and offered a hefty digging claw. With a tear in his eye, Martin reached out and took it, smiling in happy recognition as he spoke.
“Indeed it has, Grumm; too long. It seems I should have spoken of you earlier-you must have told Gonff about my past. Please forgive me; you know that I wished only to keep Noonvale’s secret from the world.”
“We’re a bit old for secrets, Martin,” responded Pallum the hedgehog. “But then again, we do have one more for you-more of a surprise, really. You see, there’s someone else traveling aboard Wuddship with us…someone who has missed you far more than any of us.”
Eyes widening, Martin opened his mouth to speak, but not a syllable had passed his lips when he heard a beautiful voice singing from the bow. There were no words, just a stream of sound with a beautiful melody. With wordless smiles, Martin’s four old friends moved aside, each of them seeking other companions. Felldoh's paw found that of Celandine, who had overcome her vanity in the seasons after Marshank's fall and come to miss the warrior squirrel. Brome, still smiling, took his place with his wife Gauchee as Pallum moved next to Teaslepaw and Grumm stood with a molewife Martin had never met.
At the bow of the ship stood a mousemaid in a plain blue robe, ideal for traveling. She had long hair tied back in a ponytail, with brown eyes filled with kindness. As Martin’s eyes met them, she came to the conclusion of her song, lips closing in the warmest smile the mouse warrior had ever seen.
Martin stood motionless for a moment, spellbound by the song and by the sight of the mousemaid. When he finally moved, a transformation came over him that was stunning to the eye. His armor fell away and disappeared, leaving behind a rough tunic of somewhat lighter blue than the mousemaid’s robe. A change came over his visage as well: seasons seemed to fall away from it, until he looked the mouse that he had been when he had parted ways with Grumm and the others long ago.
One more thing had changed, and if anything it was more significant than the physical transformations. As long as anyone at Redwall had known him, Martin had always carried a sadness with him-imperceptible, often held at bay by the peace and joy of being with his friends-but always there nonetheless. Now, though, as he was reunited with the love of his life, from whom he had long ago been tragically separated, the sadness fled as swiftly as the ghosts of the fallen tyrants in Mossflower Woods.
At last Martin stood facing the mousemaid, close enough that they were almost touching. His eyes had remained locked on hers, unable to look away-even if he had wanted to. Slowly he reached out and took her hands in his own, meeting no resistance. Tears flowed from his eyes, but a smile more pure and happy than any Gonff had ever seen on him appeared on his face.
“I’ve missed you…more than I can say.”
“I know…and I have missed you too. That’s why my distant niece, Aubretia, came to Redwall with the rose cutting. I wanted to send you some comfort…until we could be together again.”
“The rose was a blessing…but seeing you again is far more of one.”
As they stood together, their eyes still locked on each other’s, a loud voice rang out from one of the other ships. Though he didn’t turn to look, Martin recognized it as that of Orlando the Axe, the Badger Lord who had helped Matthias rescue Mattimeo from Malkariss and who had left Redwall and become ruler of Salamandastron many ages past. “All ships, it is time to depart! We’ve been waitin’ a long time for this; now let’s get underway!”
In response to Orlando’s command, the fleet of ghostly vessels took up their ropes and planks, and within a minute were sailing towards the setting sun. As one, the heroes-both warriors and healers, guardians and creatures of gentleness-turned their eyes towards the horizon. From Lord Brocktree to Sunflash the Mace, from Matthias and Cornflower to Deyna son of Rillflag and his wife Swash, from Abbot Humble to Abbess Perrit; all had joined in this last great journey.
For the first time since seeing Rose, Martin was able to tear his eyes away from looking into hers. His gaze went to the setting sun, where so many of the others voyagers were also looking. “Where are we going, Rose? What great journey were you all waiting for me to join you on?”
Rose’s hand reached up and touched his cheek, turning him once again to face her. Looking at her, he couldn’t help but wonder if he were dreaming-it seemed so impossible that they were together again. Obviously sensing his wonder, Rose smiled at him gently.
“On the great journey that all must take, Martin. Of course, as to where it goes, there are a variety of opinions. Some say it is the way to Dark Forest; others say it leads to a place of gentle slopes and quiet streams. And of course, there are those who say that it is where heroes go to become stars in the night sky.
“But for me, Martin, it is even more wonderful than all that. It is the place where you and I can be together forever.”
That hope, brilliant and beautiful, brought a new smile to Martin’s face. He took Rose by the shoulders, pulled her close, and kissed her as he had longed to do when they both lived and had bitterly regretted not doing after she had died. When it was over, the two of them embraced, holding each other close.
They didn’t need to look into the distance, or imagine what lay ahead of them in their new home. All they knew was that at long last, they were together again, and that was enough for them.
And thus it was that the last tale of Redwall was told, and the Warrior called Martin found true rest at last.