Baragaurd the eagle flapped out of the dark, leafy foliage. He looked down at his audience. Young creatures, not quite dibbuns, looked impatiently up at him. One, a young hedgehog, roared impudently "Big birdee wirdee bag, get a moove on it!" The golden eagles eyes silenced him fiercely. "KKKRREEEE!!!! I tell you when I wan' to. You learn yer manners, yung un!" Howerver, the eagle looked down with amusement. "I tell it to you, iv you bee goood. KKRREE!!!" Thus the tale of the otter warrior unfolded.
Vulma and the horde
Drendel wandered down the corridors of the abbey with her friend, the teenage-otter Vulma.
"Wers da shtarecase? Wersit?"
Vulma smiled at the young mouse. "Between the great hall and cavern hole. We're nearly there." The impatient Drendel was not encouraged. "It bees fifteen-two biwion owers, and we stiw not dare yet!" Vulma sighed. "I told you, we're nearly there, Drendel. Maybe, after this, I can get Skipper to give you a dagger and a cape, like you wanted." Drendel's mood skyrocketed. He jumped ahead of Vulma, rushed down the stairs and into the great hall.
"I bees gettin' dare fers! I be gonna win!"
Vulma laughed and chased after her.
"You little rascal, I'm comin' to get you!"
"You bees goin' shower den a shnail! I bees gonna win!"
"Back here, young mouse, or I'll tell Mother Vhelra that you took Skipper's dagger!"
Drendel started to sing impudently; "I bees a bee! I bees mista burbledurblehurble bee!" Vulma finally caught up with him. They rolled around on the ground, laughing and yelling.
"What would all that racket be for, me mateys?"
Vulma recognized the voice. She stood up, wearing a guilty look as she looked up at Skipper Rorflag. Rorflag was an impressive figure. He had thick, muscular arms, a bronze hoop-earring, with nothing to cover his bare brown chest. On both of his shoulders, he had a tattoo of a trident. He wore a hazel-brown tunic, and in his belt he held a curved, double-bladed sword. Also, in his belt, there was a dagger, keener than any other weapon. One eyepatch covered an empty eye socket, which he had lost in a battle with Vendra the Murderess. Vulma apologized for her behavior at once. "Er, sorry, I was chasing that rascal of a dibbun, Drendel." Rorflag's solemn face broke into a hearty grin. "Sorry? Sorry?! Sorry?!! Vulma, you are learnin' some nice wrestlin' skills! I bet even Vhelra would have a hard time facin' you!" Vulma grinned modestly. "I learned it all from you." Rorflag's grin faded. "I can see some natural talent. Don't get over modest. Some day, it could be a fatal mistake. But modesty is also a good- 'ey, you liddle rascal, stop messin' with me dagger!" Drendel smiled impudently. "Vuwma sed I cud have you dagger!" Rorflag's grin returned. "Maybe when you're older, and maybe if you change yer name tah rascaldibbun." However, Drendel wasn't listening. He had dashed right out of the great hall and was standing on the fourth step of a staircase. "Cummon, yoo guys! Dish bees da shtarecaish!" Rorflag looked at her. "What staircase? Oh, that one... but what da you wan' with it?" Drendel's response was not satisfactory: "Dis bees da shtarecaishe duh duh abbey!" Vulma translated what he said in a more descriptive manner: "When I searched in the old records, looking for a file, I found a paper by recorder Methuselah, the second oldest non-badger creature in our abbey, second only to our recorder, Menthunusi. He wrote of a warrior named Matthias, who found the tomb of Martin the warrior. It was supposed to be in the fourth stair of that staircase. We wanted to investigate it." Rorflag opened his mouth in astonishment. It was clear that never in a thousand seasons would he expect to find the tomb of Martin the warrior. "Holy cyclopes... oh geez. Do ye still have that paper? It would be priceless!" Drendel produced the answer: "Dumbudee took duh papir." Rorflag's expression solidified. Solemnly he murmured something. "What?" "Whad did oo zay?" Rorflag sighed and looked down at the floor. "I said, did ye see the beast who took it?" Drendel answered at the top of her voice: "I daw 'im! I daw 'im! Ee was big, and scaywy!" Vulma added slowly: "He was big, very sinewy, clothed in a shiny dark green cape, holding a trident. I think he might have been a pine marten or a sable, but either way, he was evil. I told him to stop, but he knocked me onto the floor. Drendel tried to help, but whomever he was picked her up and threw her out of the window and onto the porch. He jumped out the window, climbed down the roof, and ran toward the gatehouse. I think he stole some 'ore papers, but I couldn't see. I tried telling Vhelra, but she just said that that was nonsense and to go to bed. I wanted to go ask Martin how to catch the thief." Rorflag barely had enough time to say thank you before he whizzed out of the great hall.
That night Redwall looked like a military fortress. Rorflag and his crew were lined up outside. Log-a-log Foor also had his 5 score army of shrews out in the open, with many other redwallers. Vhelra's white robe was littered with daggers, which she had received as a present from the badger lord Coonbar Thunderhead.
In the woods, a massive horde of vermin camped. The horde numbered more than nine hundred. It consisted of a menagerie of species: foxes, weasels, stoats, ferrets, rats, Martens, sables, polecats, and so on and so forth. However, Xenarath Flash the Pine Marten knew by instinct exactly where he was going. And there it was: the largest tent, with a number of vermin eating by the fire outside. However, only two were of importance to him: one, sable with barbaric beauty that sat by the fire in black silk robes. The other, the fearsome leader of the horde, was Vezmar the bloodhound. The Marten (Vezmar) had a sinewy body. He wore a silk robe, which was littered with bones; he had a chain-mail tunic, with a deadly sword buckled in his belt. On his head he wore a red-plumed greek helmet, his symbol of power. He had a black cape, and one curved spike on each shoulder. His barbaric red eyes were fixed on Xenarath. "Have you completed my orders with success?"
Xenarath cringed at his master's unnatural voice. "Master, here are the papers."
The female sable spoke before he could hand them over: "These idiots next to us are so noisy I can't hear what you're saying."
Her sleek voice cut through the air like a knife. At once, the vermin fell silent. Xenarath dismissed them with a swift "Go back to your tent mates. And give your tongues a rest. The whole woodland will know we're here!" With a few grumbles, the vermin got up and walked away into the labyrinth of tents. Vezmar tore the papers from Xenarath's paw, and examined them. "Yes! Plans!" Vezmar examined them. "So the weakest part of the abbey would be the tomb of the Marten warrior or whatever. It's below the walls, and close to the east end of Redwall. If we tunnel into this chamber, we could access the main building. We would practically have the abbey under our control. The hard part of it is aiming right. However, I found that it is in the southwest corner, practically directly below it. We could then send our forces to the main gate and open it up. We would station three-quarters of our forces there, probably with a battering ram. They will be helpless to stop us. Continue, Vendra, my Murderess." Vendra finished outlining Vezmar's plans.
"Once we have the redwallers captured, it will really be quite simple. Just scour the woodlands for woodlanders, and we will rule this woods as our empire." Xenarath could not see why Vendra and Vezmar were so solemn. He could not resist asking. Vezmar answered solemnly. "Our spies have reported that a certain badger named Vhelra inhabits this abbey. Every four seasons she visits the badger lord of salamandastron, Coonbar Thunderhead. You know the failure that we had when we tried to conquer his mountain." Vendra whispered something to Vezmar. Suddenly he seemed energetic.
"I have a new plan. Badger lords have much honor, so if we threaten to kill Vhelra if he does not surrender and allow of to enslave him and his army of hares, then we will be safe." Suddenly, a weasel messenger named Rottail came bounding out of the gloom, panting. "Master, a spy named Darttail reported that the woodlanders are gathering an army to find those papers!" Vezmar was not disturbed. "They could never track Xenarath Flash. If they leave their abbey unguarded, they will pay for their mistake." With that, he turned and swept into the tent.
Coonbar Thunderhead looked at the sea. The massive badger was an impressive sight. His jagged stripe took the form of a lightning bolt, which earned him his name, Thunderhead. On the other side of his two black stripes, his fur was an orange-ish-red color. He had spiked gold-colored armor. In his paw he held a massive weapon: a three-bladed battle-axe. He sighed as he looked at his domain. Not a corsair, searat, murderer, not even a single vermin in sight. He sighed again as he thought of how much time he must be wasting, waiting for a long, long time to destroy another vermin army. He recounted his last battle to himself. Ah! Not a single one of those vermins' hearts would beat after that gruesome battle. He remembered how his hares had killed Valux Darth, the warlord chieftain and Taggerung of the Juskadarth. He remembered their eerie chant: Valux juskadarth taggerung! Zann juskadarth taggerung! Valux juskadarth taggerung! And he also remembered throwing their bodies into the sea.
His peace was disturbed by screams. He roared and thundered into the mountain. He found out what was happening when he entered the great hall. A young hare, Mickoc Fayze, had gone mad. His pupils were replaced with red orbs as he smashed blindly around the room, waving his sword wildly and destroying many objects, while watching hares screamed. Coonbar was forced to intervene. Just as Fayze was nearing the ranks of hares, Coonbar made his move. With massive power, Coonbar punched Fayze in the back. He looked stunned for a moment, then toppled backwards. Anxiously several hares crowded around the limp leveret. Finally, an elderly hare called Windplow reported to the mountain lord. "Sire, we put him under a thorough investigation. He's still breathing, 's heart's still beatin', but he has a jolly big bruise on his young back. I'd say, ah dunno what the heck was he was in, because that certainly ain't the bloodwrath.” Coonbar took command of the surprisingly odd situation. “Take him to the infirmary. Give him some slow-breathing potion. He was hyperventilating earlier, so I don’t think he will be mad if he breathes slower.” Colonel Extabar urgently whispered something Windplow. The badger lord could here the two hares’ murmurs quite clearly, then said, “Good idea. Lea Lightningpaw, I have a mission for you.”
Lea Lightningpaw wasn’t called Lightningpaw for nothing. No beast, no matter whom, could outrun her. Thus she was a perfect messenger. And in this case, she was to deliver a message the redwall abbey. Off she zoomed. In a mere 20 minutes she couldn’t even see Salamandastron. She looked towards the mountain range. Pah! A good ten minutes and she would be racing up their sides, though not quite as fast. In thirty minutes, she could see redwall, bundled up by Mossflower woods. As she neared the abbey, she could make out two figures that Coonbar feared she might see: more vermin. The first one was a sable. A she-sable, Lea could see she was wearing a black silk robe. She stopped. The sable had two earrings, a snake-fang bracelet, on which rested a green emerald. The other figure was a sinewy rat. She could see large, tattered ears poking out of a blue hooded robe. He had grey-black fur, long whiskers, and a dull bronze spear. On the tip of his long, black tail she could make out a light steel arrowhead like a dragon’s. It contained poison she guessed. She drew closer. What were they saying? In the moonlight, her keen ears could hear what they were speaking.
“He won’t be pleased, milady.”
“You’re right, my spy. Recount me how many creatures you saw, Darttail.”
“Umm…” he tried to remember. At last, he said something.
“Probably 450 creatures total…”
“HHmmm… The otters number about sixty, shrews about a hundred, the rest regular redwallers. That’ll be allot to face, if we didn’t have almost a thousand creatures…” Lea couldn’t hold back any longer. “You cowardly murderers! You filthy scum! You… you… VERMIN!” The she-sable and Darttail whirled around. Darttail whispered to the sable, “Milady Vendra, what do we have hear? A fresh young captive hare! I’ll see how his highness will react!” Vendra slowly smiled. “Master will be pleased.” Lea drew her curved rapier. “Watch out, Sable. If you decide tuh tussle with me, yer gonna have to explain to you’re filthy master why you’ll look allot like a carcass! And you too, rotten rat.” Darttail barred his teeth, but Vendra didn’t react to the insult. Instead, she asked “Why don’t you challenge me to a duel? Come on hare, do you want me to think you’re a coward?” Lea barred her teeth as she nodded. She immediately regretted it as the solemn expression on the sable’s face changed to and evil and confident smugness. The sable drew her dagger.
“Sable, do you think that a dagger’ll duel against a rapier?” Vendra was drawing closer to the unsuspecting hare. Inside her traveling cloak, she was undetectably drawing a rapier. Lea lunged, but a moment too soon. Vendra sank her claws into the young hare’s foot. Lea drew back in agony. As Vendra lunged, Lea made a few futile attempts to draw her rapier. She hit the tree too soon and collapsed senseless down on the ground. Vendra called back to Darttail. “Bring me the rope!” Darttail instantly produced a coil of rope from the folds of his robe. He threw it to Vendra, who skillfully caught it in her right hand. In a few moments Lea was bound tightly, so tightly that a bit of blood trickled down her light grey fur.
Vendra was a ruthless killer. She would have loved to kill Lea right there and then, but she knew she was wasting a perfect opportunity for the surrender of Coonbar Thunderhead. But ruthlessness could not be ignored either. Her two parts battled an internal battle, threatening to tear her apart.
“EERRRRGGHHEEEE!!!” Finally, she made up her mind. She stabbed Lea in the foot.
“AAAAHHHHEEEERRRGGGEEEEE!!!!” Lea’s agonized scream woke the whole woodlands. Immediately, Redwall was alert. In a few minutes, the battlements were crowded with creatures, looking down at the three creatures on the ground. Log-a-log Foor whispered to Rorflag “We’re going to take care of this.”
Vendra was excited. She placed a dagger on the haremaid’s unconscious throat, then spat “One move and this one dies!”
Vhelra pushed through the crowd. Because she had been raised at Salamandastron, she knew exactly what to say. “Speak you’re peace and be gone, vermin.” Darttail murmured solemnly something to the abbey creatures. “Surrender, or watch how milady Vendra kills hares.” The vermin didn’t notice until too late that Rorflag was charging at them from behind, his eyes glowing with a thirst for revenge. “YOOOAAARRRGGGHHHH!!!!”
Being a pine marten, Vezmar knew exactly how to climb. It was a useful skill. He now had climbed into the tree, Vaxus’s weapon, and stepped forward. Vaxus Juskadarth Taggerung’s eyes were fixed on the murderous pine marten. But instead of backing up with terror, the ferret smiled. “Does thy a-know how to fight without thart weapon?” Vezmar took the sign at once, but made no move. “Defeated… I thought juska honored no beast as taggerung unless no other beast could defeat him… is that right, Venzi?” Venzi was an old polecat, who had once been part of the juskatharn clan. He knew juska law, and could settle such arguments. Venzi decided to side on the more powerful side. “Master, you are correct. To be beaten in battle is, to a taggerung, a gigantic dishonor, so large that you may be able to take the title from the-” He went no further. The last thing he beheld was a sickle protruding right on his heart. Vaxus looked up slowly. Vezmar looked down. “Coward, coward, coward.” He threw his dagger at Vaxus, which hit ferret strait in the chest. Vezmar looked down in disgust at Vaxus. The ferret took one look at the dagger, then said calmly: “I die, then you die.” Vezmar had no time to think before his head smashed against a tree. He crumpled, and fell onto the ground for the last time. The taggerung and the bloodhound both died at the same instant. For a second, not a breath was drawn. Then came the screams of both rage and triumph from both sides, as they charged each other. Thanks to the armored stoat Bloodfang, the carnage did not last. “Dis arman avrax nova, dis mlalos! Verj dis carnas em embars arman! Stop this right now, this instant! Let this carnage and murdering stop!” Bloodfang had been raised among a juska clan, which spoke another language, so he often said the words in both languages. A large mongoose named Bullweep roared back at Bloodfang. “You killed our master! You killed him, and you have no right to the juskadarth! I vote we kill you.” “Enj verbles, poop. Verja zee tu vyt tu jevm zall emb si tu fer contre jes. Anja, jes enj vus puin daz el juskadarth. Be quiet, idiot. Can’t you see you would all die if you fought against us, you would die? Besides, we are more powerful than the juskadarth.” “Yeah, right. You’re leaderless. Yer like a beheaded snake. Who’ll take the place of master now?” Bloodfang gave a look at Bullweep that conveyed disgust to all around him. “Vendra, on elee dej van. Vendra, when she gets back.”
And Vendra was coming back. In the dungeons, she was trying to get Darttail to unfasten his dart. “Get a move on it, idiot. We’ll be here ‘til we’re sacrificed on an altar if you don’t go any faster. Come on! NOW!” Darttail floundered on the floor, trying to unfasten the tightly-fastened dart. “EEEYOWWWWOOOGAAAOOOOWWWWW!!!!” With a shriek of pain, Darttail wrenched the dart from his tail with such force that he was sent head over heel into the cell wall, while his manacles tugged at his legs. “Get up, idiot. If you lie there any longer you’ll take root.” Muttering something about needing food, Darttail angrily heaved himself up and threw the dart to Vendra, who skillfully caught it in her right hand. She first unlocked her manacles with the dart, the Darttail’s, who shrieked so loud Vendra had to put a paw over his mouth to prevent an otter from checking on them. Finally, she unlocked the door. Two evil vermin were now unleashed in the abbey!
Vendra and Darttail quietly snuck through the great hall and into the cellars to get their weapons. “SSSHHHHTTTTT!!!! They might hear us, rat!” “At least I have my dart back o-” “Stop whispering about you’re stupid dart! We need to get to the cellars.” The cellars weren’t hard to find. A large sign in calligraphic writing pointing downwards that wrote CELLARS in red ink led them strait down to where their weapons were.
Cellarhog Dug Spiketips looked fondly at his caskets of October ale and strawberry cordial. Ah, their smell! He fell on the ground as a dagger butt hit his head. Vendra murderously stalked forward, and, knowing that she was going to kill, Darttail looked eagerly at her sword. “Doin’ something, vermin?” Vendra whirled around, to find her archenemy standing in the doorway. Rorflag. Vendra hissed. “Ready to lose another eye, otter?” Rorflag didn’t respond, but he whacked Darttail on the head. He crumpled, then hit a barrel. Blood trickled from his head. Vendra barred her teeth. She strode over to Dug, but Rorflag anticipated the move. Vendra found her stabbing had clashed against a stout curved double-bladed slashing sword. This time it was Rorflag’s turn to bare his teeth. With another clash the swords collided, then another, then another. Out of the cellars they dueled, past the large sign, through the great hall, and out into the open.
Foremole Dumbler was the first to wake up.
“TSHEE, CLLLAANNGG!!! TTTSSSEEEUUWWWAAAJEEEEEEEEEZZZZZZZZ!!”
“You’re spoilt. You don’t even know how to fight without being dominated by threats! Die, stupid!”
“HUHU! Like!! I do work, I don’t have slaves, I don’t complain! I say it’s you who’s spoilt, vermin lahdey!”
Slowly, everyone was wakened. The mole crew, the otter crew, Log-a-log, Vhelra, Squirrel queen Megara (who was sleeping with her squirrels on the eastern edge of the abbey), and more.
In the gatehouse, Menthunusi had just finished curing Lea. Though he was old, no one could heal faster then him. “Qu-quickly, young h-hare. IIII Am o-old… you must help your friend. Vendra is younger, quicker; qu-quickly!!!” Lea needed no second bidding. With a jump she sailed out of the gatehouse, to find both combatants rolling on the ground, weapons forgotten. With a leap she landed right next to the fight and punched Vendra on the head. Slightly dazed, Vendra relaxed her grip just enough for Skipper to roll free and grab his weapon. Vendra had no time. Soon she found herself facing two swords. Lea and Rorflag struck at the same time! Unfortunately, Rorflag’s sword accidentally pushed Lea’s sword away from Vendra. His force carried them both away from Vendra. The murderess wasted no time. As quick as lightning she threw herself upon the hilt of her sword, drew it, and ran into the gatehouse. Menthunusi barely had time to raise his hand before the sable was out and had shut the door. Almost the moment she did that, a horde of redwallers, guosim and the otter crew thundered out of the great hall. Scarflesh the otter came of to Rorflag. “Skipper, did tha’ liddle vermin hurt ye?” Skipper Rorflag shook his head. “A few bruises, nothing else. That blood is vermin blood.” “Well, aaneeway, we’ve gotta surprise fer ye, Skipper!” He strode majestically backwards, revealing a sword-wielding Vulma. Roflag’s jaw dropped. “Vulmaa… wait a secon’. That sword… it says…” Vulma nodded and showed him the engravings. Martin of ninian, Luke of the north shores, Martin the warrior Dandin, Samkim, Matthias, Mattimeo, Martin the second, Arven, Danflower Regulba, Deyna, Trisscar, Bragoon, Sister Armel, Rakkety Tam Macburl, Orkiwill Prink, Bosie Mcscutta, Clarrina, Lord Barthhead Varzet Byron, Beldar, Vulma Rorflag took a closer look at the word “VULMA.” “Yer name needs tuh be recarved, me matey.” “Skipper! Skipper!” He looked over to see Lea running towards him. “Ain’t you gonna finnish that brown piece o’ scum?” Rorflag looked mock-stunned for a second, then roared, “Of course! Crew, stay back a’ the abbey. Scarflesh, Byron, Vethix, Venda, and a few others, come with us. Megara?” The squirrel queen strode forward. “Aye, Skipper?” Megara was an elegant figure. She wore a beautiful red cap, with two green plumes on the left side. An elegant Indian cloak was fastened onto her neck, while her arms bore bracelets of coral, bone, and bronze. She had short sleeves, a quiver with many patterns on it, and an oaken bow that shot the green-plumed arrows at her enemies. “Erm… your highne-” Megara smiled. “Don’t do that crazy “your highness” thing to me. Squirrel queen means squirrel chieftain.” “Okay. Anyway, I would love it if ye and yer squirrels served as backup, just ‘n case we have tuh make a quick escape.” She smiled again. “Ziborz hetszporz vanzipar elmrar vogh, yet you still worry about needing reinforcements!” Vulma shot a puzzled look up at Rorflag. “Erm… what does that mean?” Her question was answered by Megara. “Ziborz hetszporz vanzipar elmrar vogh, they’re words from an ancient badger poem.” “Oh.”
Menthunusi slowly paced forward. “The moon has risen, my young ones. Fortune holds dark fate for our abbey. Ziborz hetszporz vanzipar vogh, yet vermin hold the upper hand. Zezvar azmbar zibrorz ziborz elmicar salamandastron Saurasporon!” Vulma knew all about war, but she was surprised by the intensity of the grim looks on both the squirrelqueen and the Skippers’ faces.
A plump woodpigeon’s carcass lay on the ground, with a bloody trident imbedded in his heart. The trident’s owner stood over the carcass. Hmmm… tasty. Xenarath Flash picked up the trident. Then he picked up the carcass. He ate his food raw.
After his bloody meal, the thief started up again. “Krickle, krackle. ZOOM!!” Xenarath Flash ducked just in time to get out of the way of a horde of warlike squirrels, led by queen Megara.
When they had gone, he smiled. Tonight was going to have action.
Rorflag, Vulma and Lea were carried in front by Megara’s quietest squirrels.
“SSHHHTTT!!! Zigar, that was a twig that cracked!”
"I know, Bandtail! Log-a-log, prepare diversion now!"
"As squirrel queen, Bandtail, I say wait! Do you agree, Rorflag?"
"Absolutely, me lady."
"Good! Depart now, you three!"
Vulma slowly got of the muscular squirrel Zigar. It was an eerie night, but she could hear vermin roaring by hundreds of campfires. "My lady Megara, there they are!" Megara looked in the direction he was pointing. To the north-east, she could see smoke, as well as Vendra's footprints.
"She should be around there, milady."
"Correct, Zigar. Take three quarters of the force to the camp, and make a diversion. Lea Lightningpaw, you too, but at a different section. Rorflag and Vulma, you know what to do?"
It was Log-a-log Foor who responded. "They know, seeing as they've gone off te some place in that huge... whatsaword... oh, never mind. Shrews! To attention! Okey, Nirvet, you take half a score to guard the 2 otters."
Vendra was exited. Clothed in Vezmar's former armor, she felt a surge of exaltation and anticipation. She could remove herself of Xenarath Flash, when he came back. She also liked to play on the rats' weakness, a likeness of grog.
A hooded fox moved toward Vendra slightly.