A quest of vengeance, a quest of war, this is the story of a kestrel and an otter along with one of the most unlikely beasts. Come hear a tale of war, friendship, and vengeance.
Author Notes: Edit
This is a collab team written by Nashog and WildloughRhulain. If it's also found on fanfiction.net under the username kestter, that's our account.
A kestrel flew over the path scanning the ground below. The path was covered in snow and he was blinded by the sun reflecting off it. Below, a tall otter was heading west toward the ford. They had heard from the Abbeybeasts that a group of vermin led by a stoat had camped there.
"I can see smoke ahead, we are getting close." the kestrel said in a low voice.
The otter gritted her teeth. She reached behind her and pulled a well-used claymore from its sheath over her back. "Tarnfalk, ah dinnae intend tae leave any o' the scum alive tae do their dirty work." Her accent grew stronger as her normally-emerald eyes turned a deep crimson.
"Well I didn't either but let's no' make it too loud now. Don't want t' wake the entire woodlands." Tarnfalk dug his talons deeper into the snow.
Kiath grinned sadistically and nodded. "Aye, we dinnae want tae take that risk. Ah've got payment for each lash on mah back, each scar frae the chains ah had tae wear. Et's ri' here." She held her sword over her head.
He just nodded knowing this was when she was at her most dangerous. He had learned of her slavery long ago and had helped kill the wildcat that had enslaved her. He usually didn't get anywhere near her when she was like this even though he doubted the otter would harm him after two seasons of traveling and fighting together.
Two seasons ago, they had met.
Kiath had been brought to the cat's compound where she had broken out killing two guards with her bare paws and teeth. She had seized the sword from one and had sworn revenge.
As they rounded the corner the camp at the ford came into view along with five stoats sitting around a campfire laughing and eating breakfast.
The Highlander stiffened. Her eyes blazed with a savage crimson fire as she raised her claymore over her head. The kestrel took to the air letting out a harsh "Kree" and flew towards the vermin.
Kiath was already sprinting forward as she took a deep breath and bellowed her warcry at the tops of her lungs. "HAWAAAY THE BRAAAAAW!"
Tarnfalk watched as the vermin scrambled to get their weapons and then Kiath was among them. The otter's claymore flashed like lightning as she made one powerful swing. . . Three stoats looked into her eyes and saw the fires of Hellgates.
A second later, their heads hit the ground and their bodies followed. The last stoat, a female, gave a scream as Tarnfalk dug his talons into her face and forced her to the ground. He leaped off her and then plunged his razor like beak into her neck silencing her forever.
Kiath turned, venting her rage on the tent, tearing it to shreds and revealing a baby stoat inside. It started crying.
Tarnfalk, getting off the stoat, came over and looked inside. He started shaking slightly.
Though the otter's eyes were still cold as she looked at him, their redness was slowly abating. "What dae ye ken ah dae a'the noo?"
"We can't leave him in the cold, we ain't vermin. I just can't think of any creature who would take a stoat for their own however." He shook as he said this and started going into shock. They had never had to deal with something like this before. A life of a young vermin had lain in their talons and there was nothing he could think of that could save it.
"An idea jest hit mah. Ah dinnae ken what else would work, the Abbey." The Highlander coolly walked off, holding her bloody claymore in one paw. She turned in mid-stride, wiping her blade on her tartan. The dark blue and green plaid now shone with blood, but it didn't faze her.
Tarnfalk watched as the otter left the tent then cleaned his beak on a blanket and started cleaning his talons. "You are going to have to carry him," he said to the otter.
"Ah'll dae et this once, ma bonnie laddie. Ef ah ever carry vermin again, et's cause ah'm stackin' their bodies."
"Well what's on the fire since I'm hungry after that fight?" he said, changing the subject.
Kiath stepped coolly over to the fire, ignoring the bodies, and inspected a pair of trout, turning them over with her blade. She started whistling a reel her father had taught her as a cub, a melody called Red Jemmie.
Tarnfalk stepped over one of the heads looking down at it with disgust as he exited the tent and strode up next to her. He looked at the fish and licked his beak.
"This will be perfect on a cold day like today." As he said this he flapped his wings stretching them and accidentally buffeted her with them.
"Speakin' o' cauld. . . ye dinnae want this bluid tae freeze en yore feathers. Ah dinnae care how cauld et is, ah need tae get et off mah fur." Kiath headed for the ford, whistling.
Tarnfalk ripped a piece of meat off a fish and started preening some of the blood off his white breast feathers. "Can you get this blood off my face when you're done."
"Aye, laddie." The otter slipped into the water without a splash. Her world turned into this still and soundless bubble. Normally, otters would relish being alone underwater and find peace in it, but Kiath found something else. . . . .Her memories overwhelmed her.
Kiath felt the lash of slavers' rods as they bit into her back, could feel the warmth of the blood flowing over her pelt, matting her fur. Strangely, she felt no pain. She had long gone past that.
It would be so easy, she thought, to give up under the rods, to just cower meekly like the countless broken creatures who had come before her; the creatures she had shared work duties with. They want mah tae give oop, tae call for mercy. The day ah ask for mercy frae them es the day Hellgates freezes over.
As the lashes came down her eyes became red as blood and she yanked hard on the ropes that were being held by a rat. She pulled him over to her sinking her teeth into his neck as he screamed for mercy.
The other vermin, a ferret, swung down hard at her only to have his whip caught in her paws. He tried yanking it back only to find the otter coming towards him with it gripped in her paws. The last thing he saw was Hellgates reflected in her eyes. He died screaming as she dug her paws into his neck and snapped it. She grabbed the sword on his back along with the sheath and belt it was on and ran, barging her way through the gates. She didn't stop running for a day and finally collapsed by a stream.
Kiath shook as she came out of her memories. She looked up through the water at the sky above. Then she noticed Tarnfalk looking down at her through the water.
The otter resurfaced, shaking water from her ears. "Sorry, laddie, ah cuidnae hear ye."
"I was saying you won't get any of the fish unless you got this blood off since it is starting to freeze and my feathers can't really afford to be frozen." As he said this he gestured with his wing at the fish.
"Come on en. Ah can get yore feathers and ye can dry by the fire," Kiath offered.
"Fine just promise not to laugh once I am dry." He dunked his body into the freezing stream.
"Ah'd never laugh at a mate." The Highlander started to gently clean his feathers with her paws.
"What about the time I got captured by rats and nearly eaten, then you said it should have been the other way around."
Kiath's face flushed and she swore. "Ah'm sorry aboot that. Ah wasnae thinkin'." She lowered her head.
"Its fine mate but now that I think about it was pretty funny. Anyways get this blood off my face now."
Kiath wordlessly pulled a clump of soft moss from a rock in the river and began to gently scrub the dried blood from the kestrel's face.
Tarnfalk didn't say a word as she did mainly because he didn't feel like stabbing her paws with his beak but also because he was thinking that this was probably the most peaceful she had been since he had met her.
The otter sighed heavily, voicing her thoughts aloud. "Ah killed 'em tae quickly. . . . shuid ha' done et slower."
Pulling back his head now that most of the blood was gone he said "You're forgetting the babe, I wouldn't want it to see or hear what you do ta vermin."
Kiath's face flushed. "Och, aye. Ah'm goin' for a walk."
"No you aren't; we are getting that babe to Redwall and you are going to eat some of that fish since you only ate a small breakfast at the abbey."
She narrowed her eyes. "Och, ye great, fat feather bag, ye're as bad as a hare."
"Well I was taught to eat all of what I caught least it go to waste. Besides it's just rude to leave a half eaten mouse in the middle of a path." He got out of the water shaking his feathers and hopped over to the fire where he started drying himself off.
Kiath sighed and picked the baby stoat up. Tarnfalk motioned with his wing towards one of the fish and leaned over to start eating the other one.
"Can you cover the babe's eyes he shouldn't see his parents or whatever they were. Nobeast should see their parents being killed or their bodies afterwards." He tore off a small piece of cloth from the tent giving it to her.
The otter nodded and yelped as the babe bit her paw. "Ach, ye wee terror! Come on." Kiath covered the infant's face with the cloth.
As Tarnfalk went back to drying off and eating he realised that just downstream from here was his former home. He couldn't go back there, not yet. He had discussed it with Kiath but that was two seasons ago and they were wanderers now. It just wouldn't work.
Kiath cuddled the babe and seemed to stare off into space.
"Well you need to eat it will help you take your mind off things. Does for me most of the time. Now little one I wonder what your name is."
"Ah wonder. What dae ye think o' Verraten?" the otter asked the baby.
"Sounds good to me" Tarnfalk clacked his beak and if he could have smiled he would have.
Kiath gave one of her rare smiles to the little stoat.
"Well you should eat since I am almost dry." His feathers had started to get more and more fluffy as he dried and he was now starting to resemble one big fluffy ball of down.
"Ah'm no' really hungry." Kiath scooped up a pawful of snow and put it in her mouth.
The Highlander's eyes suddenly grew big, she made a choking noise in her throat and covered her mouth with both paws. Tarnfalk glared at her and just shook his head and sighed.
"Cannae. . ." Kiath let out a whooping, ragged gasp and grabbed her throat with her paws.
"Can you breathe, otter?" Tarnfalk said as he started preening his feathers getting them so they weren't so funny to look at.
Kiath choked and shook her head. "Cannae," she rasped.
"Need me to whack you on the back." Tarnfalk said this as he strode over to her.
The otter nodded causing him to hit her hard with his talons balled up on her back.
Kiath coughed. "Ah'm sorry."
"It's fine, just help me with these feathers. I don't want the entire woodlands seeing me like this." Tarnfalk bent down so the otter could easily get his back as he preened his stomach. Kiath smoothed his back feathers into place with strangely gentle paws.
A little while later they arrived at the abbey with the stoat sleeping quietly in the otter's paws. Kiath looked up at the wall, then looked at the infant as though she'd carry a decaying, half-eaten rat. "Ef ah ever carry a vermin again-" Her voice lowered menacingly.
"You said it would be to stack their bodies." Tarnfalk watched the gates wondering if anyone had seen them coming.
"Aye." The otter looked back up at the wall. "This'll wake him oop. Ah dinnae ken what tae dae." She took a deep breath as she laid the baby on the ground, stepped back, cupped her paws around her mouth and let loose at the tops of her lungs.
"HAWAAAAAAAAAAY THE BRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAW!"
Tarnfalk winced as she yelled and the stoat started crying but he ignored it waiting to see who would come onto the walls.
A tall otter appeared on the ramparts with a javelin in his paw. "What in Hellgates is going on down there?!"
Kiath laughed darkly. "Laddie, ye've go' no idea. . . . Skipper, we're back."
"We found a stoat baby when we attacked a camp of vermin at the ford. We didn't know what else to do so we brought him here." He nodded at the baby and wrapped his talons around it before flying it up to the wall.
The gates opened and Kiath walked back through, raising her sheathed claymore in a salute to the other otter.
"Ah dinnae ken what tae dae a' the noo."
Tarnfalk handed the baby to the Skipper and nodded slightly at it. "His name is Verraten. I think I killed his mum so take very good care of him unless you want me to deal with." He said this with a hint of regret in his voice but it vanished quickly and he went back to being his normal self.
Kiath raised her voice. "We need tae be goin'!" The Highlander turned on her heel and headed back out the gate. Tarnfalk took to the air and landed next to her as they walked off.