This was the first fanfiction I wrote when I first joined Redwall Wikia a year ago. Although it's been re-written, if you look closely, you can see the progress I've made from the first chapter to the last chapter. Thanks for reading.
Amidst the blowing snow being thrown left and right by the ever howling wind, among the dark bruised clouds slowly gliding over the landscape, a traveler is seen coming down the path, paw tracks appearing and disappearing on the snow covered road. With her head bent, cloak fluttering, and dirk rustling within its sheath in the wind, she continues to walk until she catches sight of mighty structure up ahead.
The building is a dark red stoned structure old beyond belief that is empty with the chill whisper of loneliness. She walks through the mighty gates that are almost off their rusty hinges and enters the buildings' terrace. Glancing off to the side, she sees a thick layer of ice covering a pond and an unkempt orchard with trees arched in their winter’s sleep. Still walking doggedly against the wind, she makes her way towards a building that emanates warmth and solidness. Reaching the door, she valiantly opens it against winter’s keen howl and scrambles inside. Wiping the snow off of her garments, she survey’s the inside of the domicile with wide eyes and starts to walk around.
As she explores, she senses that another creature is following her and tenses herself to turn and confront the sneaky follower. Suddenly she stops, turns, and pounces on the unsuspecting creature. As she made contact, she suddenly panicked since the creature that was following her was only an old dormouse with battle scars tracing his frame. She gets up and starts to check to make sure that the dormouse wasn't hurt.
After patting the dust off of him and pulling him in an upright position, the old one begins to stir. The mysterious traveler then makes a fire out of pieces of wood she finds here and there. When the dormouse is fully alert, the fire is well blazing, and the traveler starts to takes off her pack so she can make a warming meal for the both of them. She produces some vegetables and a medium sized pot from within her pack and goes outside to collect some snow which she can melt to make soup. She comes back, puts the pot on a stone and places the heavy combination into the fire. Taking a wooden plank, she spreads leeks, onions, tomatoes, and lentils over it and begins chopping the ingredients roughly with her dirk. After the vegetables have been chopped, she scoops them up in her paws and begins to plop them into the now boiling pot of water. Taking some dried cilantro and sage from within her pouch on her haversack, she also adds it in the boiling concoction
As she is stirring, the traveler glances sideways at the old creature, "Who are you and why do you stay in this deserted place?"
The dormouse takes a bit to find his words, "My name is Taegan and I stay at this deserted place because I was once abbot of it."
- "Abbot of what?"
- "Redwall Abbey"
The traveler stops stirring and gapes at the dormouse, jaw dropping visually.
- "You're telling me that this old ruin was once the famous Abbey of Redwall?"
- "That is correct"
- "What happened to it?"
The dormouse smiled sadly with a faraway look in his eyes,
- "That is a story I am well acquainted with, so keep stirring that soup young’un, ‘tis a long and mighty story."
They say that he came from the far reaches of the Earth, some say he comes out the Hellgates, but no one can dispute that Zan Shear was the most evil, most frightening leader ever spawned. A cross between a pine marten and a ferret, he was in his early middle seasons, handsome in a cold chilling way, a smile that spelled death, and a face that was seemingly innocent. His eyes were dark olive, piercing, calculating. He dressed plainly, but logically for a vermin leader; a steel helmet, chain mail, greaves, and armguards.
He led an army that no one has seen since the Blue Hordes of Ungatt Trunn. With this mighty legion, he systematically began to take over the northern country, starting with the Highland and the Border territories first. Then he went after the Eastern coast and slowly spread his way across to the West coast. After this remarkable feat of conquest, he turned his horde south towards the fertile land of Mossflower and the famed Redwall Abbey.
Taegan still had his best seasons before him, he was rather young to be Father Abbot of all of Redwall, but nobeast, whether elders or friends, can deny that he held the wisdom and dignity that befitted his eminent position. Although he has the extraordinary knowledge and patience that comes with abbotship, he was at his wit’s end.
With news that Zan was starting to move south, creatures and refugees from all over came to Redwall seeking sanctuary. Even though Redwall was a place of plenty, even it was reaching maximum capacity. Abbot Taegan was besieged from all sides with problems of not enough bedding, food rations, and theft from some of the more questionable guests. He consulted these problems with his lifelong friend, Skipper Raynor.
- "What should we do about all these creatures, we can't possibly shelter them forever, we are already running out of food, even though we are rationing. The only good thing is that we have no shortage of warriors that are willing to fight to defend the abbey, but still, we have too many creatures and it is really taxing our supplies just to feed them."
Skipper Raynor looked thoughtful,
- "Well, we can't just turn them loose out into Mossflower Woods, you and I both know the dangers of the forest at night and with Zan's horde advancing steadily closer each day, Mossflower is potentially terminal. Neither can we send waltzing off to Salamandastrom, I doubt Lord Oakeye's would be pleased when he sees a few hundred beasts knocking at his front door, mate. But at the moment, that is our only option.”
The otter Skipper chuckled humorlessly, "For untold seasons has Redwall Abbey stood, now we are facing a horde that can literally destroy Redwall within a fortnight, dame fortune is cruel, mate."
As they walked across the abbey lawns, the main gates were open and what appeared to be refugees came through. Brother Frey the Abbey Recorder, after writing some note in the journal he carried, came striding up to Taegan and Raynor,
- "More creatures Father Abbot, Skipper. A band of squirrels and otters from the Northwest have just arrived, some wounded."
- "See to their hurt and send them up to the infirmary, if they are hungry, have them visit Friar Kerr for rations.”
Brother Frey bowed, “As you wish Father.”
As Taegan and Skipper walked toward the gates to greet the group of survivors, their leader, a fair sable furred otter lady, broke off to voice her thanks,
- "G'day Father Abbot, my name is Adena Riverlough, Holt of Tungsten. On behalf of my creatures, I would like to thank you for admitting us even though your hospitality must be strained to a point I imagine. I bring five score fit fighting beasts to your disposal; they will fight to the death against Zan and his horde. They have much to repay him for."
Raynor was still deep in thought and was about to start up a discussion about abbey defenses when Adena appeared. Her appearance was so sudden that he gave a start but then did a double take; she was the most alluring otter he had ever seen. With her soft dark fur that came from seasons of drinking otter hotroot soup, almond shaped eyes with piercing green irises and the lean muscles customary to otters; he was so overwhelmed by her beauty that he forgot to keep a tab on the conservation.
- "Well what do you think Skipper?"
Raynor shook himself out of his stupor,
- "Er...what did you say mate?"
- "I said that do you think we can support one more group or do we have to start turning them south towards Salamandastrom?"
- "Of course they can stay, mate"
As hard as he could try, he could not take his eyes off Adena, who had also noticed him and was now staring back. Brown eyes met green and never left. Taegan smoothly left the two wonderstruck otters, "I'll let the both of you to talk together for a bit."
After he had silently walked away, Adena gave a slight grin which then bubbled over into a giggle, and then suddenly both of them burst out laughing like Dibbuns who escaped bath time. Skipper was first to contain his merriment,
- "Well, don’t we make great leaders, laughing over nothing, well, since you are a guest of Redwall, would you like to see of the abbey?"
- "Aye, that would be nice Skip and if the legends are true, Redwall kitchens should have the best food in Mossflower."
Both of them walked together towards the main abbey building, stopping at the kitchens first for a light summer repast and then strolling around the grounds discussing their families to the current situation to strategies. By night time, both were inseparable and fond of each other.
As they walked back to the main abbey building, a Guosim shrew passed by and informed them, "Council of War is going to be held in Cavern Hole, all leaders are required to come"
Adena and Raynor nodded their thanks and walked towards the direction of Cavern Hole.
As soon as they arrived at Cavern Hole, the council started with the main speaker being a squirrel from Scouts, a group of woodland guards and sentries created by the Abbot to report the progress of Zan and his horde. When all the chatter had died away, the Scout spoke,
- "I was doing a long reconnaissance around the Western fringes of Mossflower y'see and thats when I saw them. Zan's horde camped by the river that runs out to sea. The bad news is that they are less than half a season’s march from reaching the Abbey which is also good news, since it might give us time to prepare. Another bit of good news is that the lot of them looked starved, only the officers seemed well-fed. So there is a potential that Zan's army would starve as they march for Redwall. Saw no sign of Zan though, which worries me, he's a crafty one that Zan, intelligent and devious."
With that, the scout bowed and excused herself. Almost immediately Cavern Hole was filled with the discourse of the leaders about possible preparations and ideas.
Abbot Taegan vainly tried to get their attention, but for leaders, they were pretty panicked and didn’t even register the Abbot’s attempt in their heads. Order was restored when the leader of the Guosim, Logalog Caseb, roared out in his baritone voice,
- "Everybeast, shut your mouths and listen to the Abbot!” He bowed to Taegan, “Father, you have the floor.”
Abbot Taegan struggled for a moment to find his words,
- "As most of you know, I am quite young to be abbot, even by Redwall standards, and there is much to life I have not even thought about yet. But, war is one those things I wish to never know, a foolish idea in this time. Because most of you had fought vermin before, there are nobeasts more capable in this area than the creatures before me in this room. I am still learning, so I leave the Abbey's defense in your hands friends. Skipper?"
Raynor nodded and spoke,
- "Righto mates, first things first, the defense of this abbey and the surrounding area, any ideas?"
Spikepaw, a hedgehog driven from his home by Zan, spoke up,
- "We could always lay traps all around and deep into the woodlands that might kill or slow down any vermin marching our way.”
More suggestions soon came after, every beast talking at once,
- "We could dig pits and line them with sharp stakes!"
- "Triplines, mate. Nothing but triplines and rope traps"
- "How about the old seesaw log? Step on one end, the other comes up and belts them across the head."
- "You foogle, that works only if they are going through water, they are probably going to be on the path as it is more direct."
- "Foogle yourself you bottlenose, they could be traveling through the shallows!"
- "Boi okey, oi, say we cumm out and give them sum billyoh!"
- "We can't they outnumber out like ten to one, we'd get slaughtered!"
Order was once again restored by Logalog Caseb,
- "Will you lot SHUT UP? Please???"
In the following silence Foremole Redlin, leader of the Redwall moles, offered some of his mole logic,
- "What abowt the h'nfants, elders, and, mothers? Oi say'ee shud send em to salad-anna-sconn furr safety bo urr aye"
Then a powerfully built mouse, one of the woodland evacuee's shouted, "What's salad-and a-scone? Sounds like lunch to me!" As the room burst into chuckles, Taegan interrupted and said,
- "Foremole Redlin means Salamandastrom, and although I imagine that Lord Oakeye will not be too happy about our ‘civilians’ appearing unexpectedly, it’s the only option we have, and we must get all those not who can't fight to safety first before Zan's hordes get here. It would not bode well for our conscience if a babe or a nursing mother got killed or injured when the fighting starts."
There were murmers of agreement as the council of war ended and beasts were filing out of the room Logalog Caseb said to another shrew,
- "I h'always says you can't beat mole logic."
Chapter Three Illustrated
In the Western fringes of Mossflower, the sun was setting. With the rays getting lower and redder, they basked the sky in a brilliant shade of purple streaked with red-orange tails, chasing away the gray night clouds like woodpigeons. All this was lost on Zan Shear who was presented with two problems every leader faced, an army cannot march on an empty stomach and dissenters who are looking for ways to seize control. Zan was a highly intelligent and dangerous, especially for vermin, his mind constantly analyzing everything he sees or hears.
What made him dangerous though was his knife slinging abilities, gifted with a quick reflex and eyes that can slow things down in his mind, he could throw a dagger so fast and accurate that it would pierce a zipping hummingbird at its neck. At the moment, he was standing inside his tent by the fire, with his back facing the entrance, mind juggling army needs to his ambitions. He eyes shifted to the left as his ears picked up the scrape of metal on metal coming his way.
Scragfur, one of his weasel captains clanked noisily up to him, saluted with his spear, and made his report.
- "Fourteen more dead from starvation chief, they are starting to eat the dead to just keep alive. I recommend that we------"
A blade suddenly flashed through the air like silver lightning and struck an oak tree that was beside the tent. Almost instantaneously, Scragfur was on his knees, paws shaking over where a quarter of his cheek once was , Zan took his blade from the tree and cleaned it meticulously with a rag, wiping one side slowly, then the other, while speaking to Scragfur in a expressionless tone, "I do not want to hear reports of the dead being eaten and I certainly don't want to hear your fatuous suggestions about what to do. I only want to know how long before we reach Redwall and how long it will take after to reach Salamandastrom, captain. Now if you are done whimpering like a babe, get out of my sight or you will lose an eye next. Understood Scragfur?"
- Pulling himself off the ground, Scragfur voice trembled nervously as he replied, "Un-understood ch-chief. W-we will r-reach Redwall in h-half a season."
As he left, he stooped down to the floor to pick up his flap of cheek and stumbled out of his chieftain's sight. Zan gave a exasperated sigh took off his helmet and rubbed his brow, "Why must conquest of this country be made increasingly more difficult by idiotic captains?"
He gave another irritated sigh and shoved the helmet back on his head. He then walked out of his tent and strode out to the front of his army, where various captains then started to gather around him for orders. "Tell everyone to get up and get moving. We continue to march southeast"
As the captains bawled out orders to the rank and file, trackers were sent ahead to get the gist of the land. Within a short time, the entire army was moving like a well oiled machine. Zan stood by one side and watched as the drums of his army beat the pace of the march. He smiled inwardly, what force in the world can stop him now? His army was the largest of its kind in history and his soldiers were well-trained, through fear and practice.
In the early hours before daybreak, even before the woodlark woke up to sing its song, Redwall was already bustling with activity. Noncombatants and refugees were preparing for the journey to Salamandastrom while moles, hedgehogs and other woodland creatures were trundling through the main gate to rig Mossflower Woods into a maze of traps. Amidst all this activity, Abbot Taegan, who was passing by the Great Hall, took a moment to stop and stare at the tapestry of Martin the Warrior. Like almost everybeast that passed through these walls, Taegan was staring in respectful awe of the legendary mouse warrior. Then he spoke to the tapestry like I was a living thing, "Martin, for countless seasons has this abbey stood, for countless seasons have former inhabitants defended Redwall against all odds and conquerors; I fear for the abbey that might fall when Zan's horde breaks upon us. How do we stop an army that has taken over half the country? The only thing standing between us and domination is less than half a season and a few defenders compared to Zan’s army. Martin, if we do fall, keep our travelers to Salamandastrom safe and happy for seasons to come. I beg of you."
Abbot Taegan then turned his attention to the sword that was once wielded by the warrior mouse himself. A thing of legends and desired weapon, the swords was forged from the metal of a falling star, light as a feather, sturdy as an oak tree. It's double edged blade was keen as any razor and shone like the whitest of fire.
Acting on an impulse, Taegan picked up the blade from its silver pegs and thrust it into its scabbard. Now carrying the sword and scabbard, Abbot Taegan left Great Hall to oversee the evacuation proceedings. He did not notice that a slight breeze had suddenly appeared out of nowhere and made the tapestry flutter. When the tapestry had stopped moving, Martin appeared to have a sad smile on his face and his eyes bespoke the weight of knowing what there is to come.
Abbot Taegan was outside in the abbey grounds to view the cavalcade. He sadly saw families, with warriors staying behind, were tearfully hugging each other, bidding each other good luck. Dibbuns were being chased by their parents, intent to keep their charges still and packs upon packs of necessities were being piled by the pond.
Accompanying the noncombatants were eight score warriors who each lay down their lives for the survival of the group. Also in the group he saw the otter leader Adena Riverlough with Skipper Raynor, she was resting her head on his shoulder and both had closed their eyes while embracing each other. Taegan marveled at the fondness both had for each other after such as short period of time together, because of this, he did not wish to separate them. He went up to them and spoke with Skipper, "Our friends are embarking on a rather risky adventure; they will need all the help they can get Skip."
Skipper agreed, "Aye, 'tis goin' to be a long and hard journey especially if its t' Salamandastrom, mate. I estimate that they will get there within the season, maybe a bit shorter if the Guosim lend us their boats."
Taegan wondered, "Do you want to go with them?"
- "Aye, especially if most o' them had never been to Salamandastrom, but the Abbey still needs defending, mate."
The abbot’s face was solemn, "Since you put it in your own words that most of them had never been to Salamandastrom, I'm putting you in charge of the journey and in charge of this."
He raised the sword and scabbard of Martin the Warrior from his side and presented it hilt first to Skipper, speaking to both of them, "I hope you two lead happy and full lives, keep the sword safe and it will keep you safe. I wish you both luck."
Adena and Raynor’s eyes widened in astonishment at the abbot’s decision and simultaneously hugged Taegan tightly. Releasing the abbot, Skipper scrubbed at his eyes with a rough paw, "This is the greatest gift you could've given t'us mate. I promise one day it will return and be back in its rightful place."
As the last preparations were finished, the group of travelers lined up in three lines facing the gates just as the sun was rising upon a new day, with the ocean of the air laced with clouds and the sun rays drawing fiery trails in the sky.
A Scout squirrel by the name of Nia started to sing soft and slow, she had quite a nice alto voice.
- There is a voice, that has no name
- It comes with evening or behind the rain
- I have no time now to stop and explain
- I just keep moving, 'cause it helps to ease the pain
A quartet of bass shrews and otters starts humming
- The night has music, that calls to me
- across the canyons of an endless sea
- I have no time now, to stop and explain
- I just keep moving, cause it helps to ease the pain
Abbot Taegan watched their departure until he could see nothing of them but the dust kicked up by their footpaws. He gave a heavy sigh and took out a kerchief which he used to mop moist eyes.
Chapter Four Illustrated
For almost half a season, Zan ruthlessly marched his army south of eastward, not even bothering to stop for meals during the daytime. The only respite the soldiers got was at night, when everyone was bone-weary and mutinous. Even though he was aware of the mutterings of discontent within his army, he just couldn't afford anymore delays. With every stop they took, it was a break for a few hours, then, when they had to continue marching again; it would take at least a few hours just to get the horde moving because of its vast size. But they made good time, hitting the far end of the path shortly before evening; Zan allowed his usually exhausted creatures to rest.
His cold eyes gleamed with anger at the still amount of traveling left before reaching the abbey. When the army had made camp, cooking fires bloomed all over the vast area of land they were situated on. Hordebeasts were cooking many varieties of subsistence from greens to fruits, some were roasting birds if they got lucky.
As Zan ordered his soldiers to set up a tent for him, he sneaked quietly away from his own shelter and donned typical horde gear with a breastplate and visored helmet. He walked about unknown within the ranks of his own army listening to rebellious mutterings and possible assassination plans. He heard many things,
- "Lookit this mate, my footpaws 'as got blisters upon blisters from all the marching t'day."
- "Aye me too, and just lookit this food, roasted ra'soms and apples. Yukkkk. Not even fit t'eat."
- "Do you think Zan knows where he's going? Seems like we have been marching around this hell of woodlands f’ forever."
- "Lousy gnats, been biting me all day, wha’ am I? A rat meal for the bugs dat’s what."
- "Tonight, let’s kill Zan and take the horde for ourselves. Why should we die for him?"
Zan’s ear perked up at this new revelation he had discovered and leaned against a tree to eavesdrop more of the conversation
- "Aye, why should we die for him, matey? What has he done for us?"
- "Nuthin’, that's what, nuthin’ except coming into our dens and beating us over the head until we agreed to join his cursed army."
- "His press gang beated me in the ribs, lookit this bruise, three seasons and it still hasn't gone away."
- "They threatened to cut off my stick....."
- "Tha jus plain wrong mate, I'm tryin to eat 'ere ye know."
- "Yea mate, go ina dark hole an' neva come out. Even vermin like us have limits too"
- "Ahh, firgit this mate, I say we go tonight an' see if we can beat some mercy outa him mates."
- "Aye, an'I say we cut'ff his stick too."
- "Can yew PLEAZ shud' up?"
Zan’s fertile mind heard and digested this new information, already devising a solution to this snag. He slipped away from the mutinous soldiers and readied a night reception for them at his tent.
As night fell and the sounds of the woodlands came alive, the muted murmuring around campfires died down, the entire camp was filled with the baritone snores of hordebeasts. Some were dreaming and acting their dreams out. One beast was fighting in his sleep, throwing punches into the air, a weasel was singing an ode to a strawberry shortcake, and a stoat just snuffled and rolled.
But three pairs of eyes were still open: Hangeye the rat, Leenu the ferret, and Gerald the weasel were still awake and waiting for complete lethargy from the army.
A few hours later, when all was quiet and the night late, the three of them made their move. Armed with spears and a rusty nicked sword, they padded carefully over to the tent where Zan slept.
The guards who stood by the entrance were fast asleep, completely doing the opposite of their duties, stomach probably full of nettle grog that was drank to last them through the tedious boredom of sentry duty.
As Hangeye and Leenu went into the tent, Gerald tripped over an empty tankard and a swift rustle sounded in the night. His two comrades turned and saw the corpse of their conspirator just lying on the ground as if he was asleep. Shakily they continued onward, now fearful of the night, quivering at the silence and twitching everytime they heard something; the five seconds it took to reach Zan's bed from the entrance seemed like five days in their mind. When they finally and breathlessly got there, Leenu turned to Hangeye and nodded. He nodded back, acknowledging the signal. They both took a sharp intake of breath and stabbed with their spears at the dark shape on the cot.
As the spears went in, Leenu noticed how easily it had slipped in and immediately knew that their plan had gone wrong. As Hangeye died with a shocked choke, he fell onto the bed with a knife in his neck, blood already flowing freely. Leenu turned to run, but when he turned around, Zan appeared behind him like a ghostly apparition, smirking.
- "Looks like assassins got assassinated."
He swung his dagger armed paw in a diagonal arc and blood fountained from Leenu's face and neck. He fell backwards from the force and lay dying in his own pool of life fluids, eyes quickly clouding up as he gasped his last breath. Zan contemptuously spat on the corpse.
- “Tell the Dark One who sent you when you meet him at the hellgates.”
The next morning, Zan marshaled his soldiers to him to make a declamation; as he spoke, his voice was deceptively calm, silky. But the softness of his voice covered up the cold raw danger behind it.
- "It has vividly come to my attention that you assembled here are not happy with the way things are being run. Most of you think that either we are lost or hopelessly following a creature with blind ambitions. Some of you take that even further and assume that I'm deaf and stupid. Some of you might even be planning to kill me in my sleep."
He noticed the shuffle of several members, flinching like a ratbabe being caught with cookies.
- "Let this hopefully be the last time I have to deal with this personally or several of you might just end up looking like this."
Zan held up the head of Leenu, with an agonized expression frozen on his face or what's left of a face. His skin was half sliced off, hanging and flapping in the wind. Blood was slowly dripping from his left eye socket, where there was no eye. The wind made an eerie sound as it passed through the empty socket. Zan spoke again,
- "Consider him lucky, he was dead before all the facial surgery. If I catch anyone of you, it will not be merciful death, but the most miserable moments of your lives. Best of all, I might even let you live if you scream enough times."
He left his horde to go back to his tent, which was cleaned up, and called his captains.
- "If I hear another attempt of mutiny or assassination the punishments will be on the perpetrators heads (He pauses) and on yours my captains. Or off if you get my meaning. You are captains; you are responsible for maintaining discipline and order within the army. A mutineering beast reflects back on the captain who is supposed to control his soldiers. By that extension, I might even go as far as to say that maybe the hordebeast got their ideas from their captains."
He glanced off to the side, “Dogflank.”
The ferret captain gulped visibly while Zan continued on, "We continue marching for the Abbey of Redwall, we will stop only at night. I will separate the weak from the strong and I have no need for the weak and useless in conquest. Dismissed."
Chapter Five Illustrated
Back at Redwall, the abbey was turning into the opposite of a peaceful sanctuary. All along the abbey wall perimeter wooden stakes and spikes pointed outwards. Every few feet along the battlments were quivers of arrows, piles of javelins, and heaps of stones ready for shooting at the enemy. Out in the woodlands was a different matter though, the moles, hedgehogs, and other volunteers had liberally sprinkled Mossflower woods, in a league radius, with pitfalls, stake traps, snares, logs on a pinpoint balance, hidden boulders, the works. A bonus was also the marshes east of the abbey with their own natural traps. As Foremole put it,
- "Them pesky vermun ar goin' to have sum bootiful un’ noice surproises hurr hurr hurr."
Abbot Taegan was practicing with bow and arrow, seeing as he was staying at the abbey and wasn't much of a healer, he decided to try out archery. Surprisingly he had a natural talent for it, hitting the bull’s-eye on his fifth try. Lady Weoflun, leader of her band of Northern Archer squirrels chuckled admiringly as she was passing by and said in her odd accent, "Give it fev seasons Fader Abbot and you can probably hit a dragonfly on de ving mittout even trying, dead shot you are. I take it dis means dat you are going to be fighting on de valls mitt de rest of us?"
Taegan nodded, “Aye, I would feel pretty useless if I didn't fight alongside my creatures for the freedom of the land."
Then he did something that was out of character for an Abbot of Redwall, h winked roguishly and slipped into rough tone at her, "Besides, tha’ where all the action is mate. Ah’m not gonna work in the stuffy infirmary while I miss d’fight of seasons. As ye said, ah’m a dead shot."
Lady Weoflun grinned a sharp milk white teeth smile in satisfaction and went off to attend oversee additional defenses from her squirrels.
Putting down a few more shots, he finished his archery session and went to the main building to see how the infirmary and the kitchens were doing. With the abbey working at full capacity, it was also his job to make sure that there was as much of a surplus that can be stored in the event of a siege.
He stopped by the kitchens first where Friar Kerr was busy keeping the kitchens in order. With so many creatures seeking shelter, Friar Kerr found that he had an endless supply of good cooks willing to work in the kitchens. Abbot Taegan called him over, "Friar Kerr, a moment please."
The shrew friar wiped his paws on a bark cloth that he always over shoulder and asked the Abbot,
- "Whot do ye need Father Aboot?"
- "Are the kitchens running short of food yet?"
- "Nay Father Aboot, now tha' a few 'undred moeths are gone, we 'ave less t'feed."
- "And your staff?"
- "They're well fed an' 'appy, I 'av dem workin' on shifts so they don't git overworked."
- "Good, if you do run short, now is the time to forage in the woods for extra supplies, take moles with you just to make sure you don't run into any traps. Plus, it would be a strategic advantage if we leave nothing for Zan's horde to eat in the event of a siege."
- "As ye wish Father."
As he left the kitchens for the infirmary, he couldn't resist dipping his paw into the meadow cream that the friar had left on the counter. Recorder Frey, who was watching, walked beside him eyes twinkling,
- "Shame on you Father Abbot, for someone of your stature, you shouldn't be pinching the friar's meadowcream."
Abbot Taegan smiled,
- "Hey, I'm the abbot, it’s technically my kitchen he's working in. Besides, I'm still young, haven't you ever pinched anything in your younger seasons?"
Brother Frey smiled wistfully at a memory, "Aye, as I recall, Old Abbess Dunham once caught me pinching her bedsheets."
- "What did you do with them?"
- "Turned them into a sail for my bowl boat of course. Nope, she was not happy with two holes in her best bedsheets and a good trifle bowl at the bottom of the pond. She claimed it was me that turned her gray and bent. Ahhh, Dibbun days. Where are you going now?"
When they had reached the infirmary, Brother Phis "Ick", so aptly named for his pungent medicines, was busy ministering to an unfortunate otter who had stomach cramps.
- "Now drink this up, Naira, t'will help ease the cramps in your stomach."
Naira took a sip of the herbal brew and immediately spat it back out,
- "Splut! Blehh!”
The otter made a disgusted face, Ughh, wot’s in there Brother? Please keep it away from me. I rather face a band of vermin than drink your vile concoction."
- "Nonsense, this physick is made from the best of Mossflower. Some wild ransoms, a bit of greensap curds, and my own secret ingredient."
"Secret ingredient?!?! Mercy, I beg of you, mercy!"
- "Nonsense, now say ahh and drink the rest like a good riverdog."
- "Hmm, another patient successfully treated and a new abbey road record. Well, that made my day."
Abbot Taegan and Recorder Frey picked themselves up from the floor where they had fallen from Naira’s escape out of the infirmary. Frey remarks, "Huh, I guess that another victim of the pickled physick. You really enjoy treating other beasts, don't you Phis?
- "Aye, ‘tis not everyday here in the infirmary where an otter dashes out like a boiled frog and dives into the pond. So, how can I help you two today abbot and recorder?"
Abbot Taegan inquired,
- "Are you running short of herbs and dressings yet Brother Phis?"
- "Aye, I'm just about empty on dockleaves, bark clothes, and prickly ash bark. I am planning to go out later to collect some extra of everything for emergencies."
- "Make sure you have a mole as a guide, wouldn't want my only herbalist to get snared up in the tangles of some willow."
- "As you wish Father Abbot."
As Recorder Frey and Abbot Taegan walked out of the infirmary, they met Naira the physicked otter staggering back holding his stomach, dripping wet.
Raynor and Adena were in a dilemma with their traveling band, everyone was bored. As it usually is with elders, they all thought that, because they were older, each one of them knew the way to Salamanstron, and thus made increasing annoying comments towards Skipper, giving him unneeded advice that, “Salamanstron is that way” followed by a unhelpful wave of the paw in the wrong direction.
The Dibbuns were running around helter skelter, seeking to amuse themselves with items that had found or games that young ones usually played, like Thunder and Lightning, where the Dibbuns who were “lightning” tried to “zap” the Dibbuns who were “thunder.” Obviously this did amuse the mothers one bit, as this meant chasing after them in attempts to catch the wild little ones. In the end, the babes would only escape and the mother would be exhausted.
The eight score warriors tried to help with the situation, but they could not do anything more than trying to explain to the elders about the situation or help catch the babes. Some of them were barely out of their teen seasons themselves, made warriors by the harsh experience of death and war.
Raynor and Adena were sitting in a circle around a fire with other fighters eating honey wheat flatbread with cheese and apples while discussing about how the trip was going to be traveled and what to do if they encountered any foe beasts.
- "The problem is 'ow to defend ever'body if we do get attacked mates. Besides Zan's army, Painted Ones roam these parts o'the Woodlands, and they are dangerous if we go anywhere near their terr'tory. Once we trespass in, it will be hard to get out in one piece. Damn darts, you get 'it with one, the muscles around tha area gets deadened for an entire day. “
- "Wha' about using fire?"
- "What about it?"
- "It 'as been proven that Painty Ones are afeared of fire mate. They always shrink back every time they see fire aroun' der homes."
- "Aye, that's true, but it's also dry and hot here. Even one spark could cause a fire and kill us all. Don't forget that we also want to live through this too."
- "We'll be careful then, if any fire starts, quickly smother it in dirt."
- "Right, after that, what about the Juska on the coast?"
- "The Juska 'ave bin woiped owt or joined Zun's army. We'm dun need to worry 'bowt them pesky vermunt."
- "So, all we need to do is get down to the coast and we'd be home free then?"
- "Aye, that seems 'bout right."
Skipper dusted himself downl and stood up, tapping his rudder impatiently,
- "So what are we doing around here then mates? The sooner we get through those woods, the sooner we get to Salamadastron. Now let's go catch those babes and be on our way."
The sun was high over as the entire group of travelers was rounded up and began the voyage west with hopes that they will get through the Painted One's land unharmed. As they marched, the green pines of the Painted Ones became clearer and clearer until they could see the green gloom, an ominous dark portal caused by the sun shining through overlapping tree branches created among the pines. As they neared Adena whispered warnings,
- "Everyone will need to be quiet now, anyone make a sound and we're all dead, got that mate?"
A chorus of murmured ayes answered her.
To the babes, Skipper put on a scowl and said in a gruff voice,
- "If you liddle scallywags make one sound, I'll tan your tails so hard, you won't be able to sit 'til next ten seasons come and you will be on pot washing duties, forever, savvy?"
The Dibbuns promptly mimed locking their mouths and throwing away the key.
As Skipper and Adena entered the pines, Skipper drew the sword of Martin the Warrior and Adena armed herself with a double pointed otter javelin and a torch. They entered the pine quietly, like oiled silk, neither of them speaking and only communicating with signals. A wave of a paw or a twitch with the sword was all they needed. Small little eyes gleamed in the darkness from the heights of the pine branches as they watched the traveler’s progression. The group of refugees spent the next two hours creeping through the forest and were doing quite well, with daylight visible a few minutes ahead, until an elder tripped and fell onto a hollow branch.
The sound echoed for eerily among the pines, reverberating from tree trunk to tree trunk before all was silent, for a second. Then the trees began to scream with the shrill voices of the Painted Ones. Pebbles were slung from small slings so fast and so often that it sounded like a summer storm of hail, only more deadly. Darts were also whistling from every angle, striking beast and tree alike.
- "Yaayaa, killem all, dey be deadbeasts now, ohohoho yisyis."
The warriors accompanying the group responded with arrows and stones as fast as they could, felling Painted Ones by the dozens. But for every tree rat the Painted Ones lost another ten sprung up in its place. Any Painted Ones jumping down to attack Skipper were met with a mortal slash; any jumping to attack Adena was met with a fatal stab.
Skipper wiped the blood from his brows as took a small breather from the fighting; it was clear that the Painted Ones had numbers on their side and if the defenders didn’t get out soon, they wouldn’t get out at all.
The Painted Ones sensed this too and started to press their advantage even harder. Being pushed back by the increased flow of Painted Ones, Skipper tripped over a body of a dead rat and fell to the ground. He was immediately attacked by the nearest Painted Ones and began trying to throw them off. Realizing the how increasingly dangerous the situation was becoming, Nia stuck her weapons in the ground and pulled out a spare torch from her pack. Sparking flint and steel together, she ignited the the resin soaked piece of wood and leapt forward with the conflagration swinging in her paw, roaring,
The Painted Ones immediately scattered and retreated to the upper boughs of their pine homes, screeching in panic the entire time. For their fear of fire can be compared to facing a den of giant adders with nothing but your bare paws.
Not taking any chances, the fighters took the opportunity and sprinted for the exit, picking up any friendly casualties they came across, and made it out. The sun seemed to kiss their faces with its warmth and dust clouds floated about lazily as they half ran and half danced a safe distance away from the dangerous pines. Skipper strode wearily over to Nia,
- "Harharr, that was a reckless thing t'do Scout, but it worked. Nice job mate."
She accepted the thanks and smiled sorrowfully,
- "Aye, that it was Skip, but not everybody made it out safely."
She gestured at the row of dead that they managed to recover, a dozen elders, some Dibbuns, and numerous fighters.
- “I know there were going to be some fatalities Skip, but I didn’t expect the toll to be this high. If just passing through a forest leaves us this many dead, what if we have to fight a real battle?”
Skipper Raynor face was somber as he replied,
- "Well, all we can really hope for is we get whoever we have left safely to Salamanstron and hope that we don’t encounter a real pitched battle. But I really don’t know Nia, I really don’t know. Come on let’s help bury these poor creatures.”
Willing paws dug holes in the ground with spear and sword; they gently lowered the bodies into the makeshift tombs and covered the burials with dirt again. Nia scribed a verse on a large flat piece of shale and stuck it in the nearest grave.
- For the ones who died
- Let us not cry
- It is surest
- That they'll go in peace
- To the dark forest
The travelers formed up again and marched silently, exiting the fringe of woodland that was the boundary of Mossflower woods. A couple weeks later, they reached the Western coast and the vast endless ocean. A new sight to most of those present; they stood in awe of the majestic blue-green waters with its rolling breakers and eternal thunderous pounding upon the shore. As they whooped and exclaimed delights, sinister eyes twinkled from a fair distance away from a bubbling swamp in the east, watching the traveler’s progress across the coast.
Dawn broke slowly over shore and dune. Dissipating the night's fog lazily, sunbeams poked holes in the curtain of gray swirls. Two toads scouts, each a fine specimen of their kind, hopped quickly across the misty shore. Keeping their tridents at an angle so they wouldn’t trip, both toads slowed and saluted into the fog. Out of nowhere a voice boomed out,
- "Grrokk This is the land of the Great Toad Wart-Horn. Speak to identify. Speak or die. Krrr"
The two toads croaked the required greeting monotonously as if they were both lifeless automatons.
- "Grrroikk All hail the Great Toad, may his warts grow always and his enemies become fly food."
The smaller of the two toads croaked to himself quietly,
- "Rrrebb And may his face be bloated with swamp muck."
A trident immediately came out of the fog and stabbed the insolent toad in the throat; blood squirted everywhere as the trident cut off his airway and causing blood to fill his lungs. Drowning him in his own life liquid, he emitted a gurgled croak and fell silent forever. His partner flinched at his sudden death turned his attention back to fog in front of him. Two score toads came out carrying what seemed to be a large toad sitting on a throne made out of many strands of dried reeds twisted together on a wooden platform. As the litter stopped, the toad jumped from his chair and approached the lone toad. The scout felt himself shake in apprehension with as the toad king approached closer; the king was the most intimidating specimen of his species the scout had ever seen. The toad king was huge, taller than the scout by half his length, with dark green warts covering his entire body and four hornlike growths protruding majestically over his brow. When he spoke, it was heavy with undisguised scorn,
- "Rrebb What brings such a lowly creature to me, even though you're a scout, you're still at the bottom of toads. Most scouts are. Krroikk Make your report and if it does not satisfy me, I shall feed you with your own legs."
The toad scout, whose name was Kroib, gulped and made his report about what he and his recently deceased partner had seen,
- "To the south of here, there are hundreds of creatures, mostly babes and elders. They seem to be journeying south towards the fire mountain. They are sparsely protected and would feed us for many, many seasons King Wart-Horn. Grroikk"
Wart-horn briefly thought about this information for a moment and exclaimed with a pleased tone,
- "Groikk This is good news. I will let you live so you can command some toads of your own. Spread the word and tell my commanders to gather up my toads and attack. We will have food for many seasons."
The traveling group was progressing well, making good time with Salamadastron less than a league away. But Skipper Raynor suddenly stopped moving and stood stock still. His ears twitching as if he was trying to hear something from a long way, nose twitching as he sniffed the breeze that carried up from the seashores; he stood as motionless as a statue for few minutes. Nia noticed this and asked,
- "What's up Skip?"
Upon hearing her voice, Raynor broke out of his reverie, turned around and saw thousands of toads rushing at them with tridents and flails evident. The air thundered with croaks from the sheer amount of toads as the mass marched across the sand, heading towards his position. He immediately started to give out orders,
- "Archers, string bows and nock arrows, slingers start finding good size rocks and load your slings. You Guosim front and center, rapiers out. Miz Riverlough, take a score of fighters and the all the noncombatants. Start running for Salamadastron."
As the group began to frantically organize themselves, babes started to cry in fright from the amount of noise caused by the milling warriors and thunderous croaks. The elders began to panic, some already beginning to run towards the mountain.
Adena turned sharply,
Skipper rushed to her and put a paw on her mouth,
- "No questions asked, just get to Salamadastron as quickly as you can. Blood is going to be shed soon, some of it ours."
He took his paw away and ran out to the group of fighters he had just organized,
- "Form defensive lines, cover our flanks! Archers at the ready! Slingers, give them a volley after archers shoot, alternate!"
Adena stood dumbfounded for a moment and then started to run after him, armed with a javelin. Skipper noticed the disturbance behind him and turned. Halting her as she ran past him,
- "Stop! Riverlough, what are you doing?"
She knocked him lightly in the chest with the shaft of her javelin,
- "What else am I doing? I’m a leader, not a coward. I don’t run at the first sign of trouble, it’s my duty as a leader to fight at the front with my warriors."
- "And what about the babes then? What about the elders? Are you going to leave them to fend for themselves? Did you forget it was also a leader’s duty to protect those under their wing?"
They eyed each other hotly before Skipper turned away to give further instructions. Adena reached out and put a paw on his shoulder, conflict written in her face,
- “Just promise me you’ll live, that you won’t go blood berserker like other warriors have done.”
Skipper turned around and looked at her oddly, before planting fervent kiss. Adena startled in shock before accepting and returning the favor as fiercely as she could. They held the embrace for what seemed like forever, but was in fact a few seconds, before releasing each other. With foreheads touching, he murmured,
"I'll be alright, just get them to safety. Go, now!"
Without looking back, she barked a command at the group and they set off for Salamadastron at a swift trot. As Raynor watched them go he unsheathed the sword of Martin the Warrior and swung it in readiness, the blade almost glowing with desire to draw blood.