Welcome, young ones. Come in and have a nice mug of strawberry cordial, or perhaps some mint tea? Sit down, please.
I want to tell you of a story I have just discovered. Achoo! Excuse me, still dusty in here.
Right, this is the story of unsung heroes. As far as I know, this is the first ever written tome that proves their existence.
Now get comfortable, as I tell you the tale of Kalvar the Ranger, and his feud with Dakkar the white fox.
Chapter 1: HordeEdit
Kalvar leapt off the rock and smashed the weasel underfoot. The creature squealed, and the mouse finished him off with a slash of his dagger.
Tirdea strode up from behind. "An efficient kill, sir."
Kalvar nodded and wiped the blood off his dagger, then stowed it.
"Everyone is gathered?"
"Then let us leave. I fear our enemy is moving faster than we expected."
Tirdea moved off to get the rangers moving, and Kalvar examined the emaciated weasel. A scout. It would soon be discovered that he was missing.
Riptang fiddled with his cutlass. Dirty again, he'd have to wash it.
Blasted Captains, touching your bloody weapons and then giving you a reaming for not having it clean.
The Lieutenant walked down from the hill to his tent.
Riptang was known to be a stickler for cleanliness with his equipment, but he was also known for not forcing it on others. This did mean, however, that he did not enjoy engaging in parties with the other officers.
He sat down and took out his oils and rags, washing the blade down, and finishing off with a waxing of his hilt and crossbar.
Once done, he sheathed his weapon carefully, and left the tent.
Walking to the guard's outpost, he proceeded to interrogate the sentries there, making sure they were remaining alert.
"And where are the scouts?"
"All present and accounted for, sah. Except one..."
"Oi dunno his name, sah. Just a weasel."
Riptang looked south, where the weasel had gone.
Who were these creatures the warlord wanted so desperately dead?
The Rangers slunk quietly through the wilderness.
Somehow, all ten score of the creatures managed to move almost invisibly. Kalvar amused himself by following a couple of bankvoles before revealing himself to them.
They were in such a fright that it required little persuasion before they decided to move south, and went to pack for the trip.
It took several days, but they all eventually reached a slightly warmer climate. Woods began to appear, and food became abundant. Unfortunately, so did the vermin.
Fortunately, there were only small parties which any Ranger alone could have slaughtered.
It was not long before they reached the object of Kalvar's interest.
But so had the vermin horde.
Abbot Pius left the Abbey through the front door and observed several of the young'uns practicing with quarterstaves.
One otter was being particularly feisty, fighting three others at once. And not doing a bad job.
One of his foes charged in, coming in with a high swing.
The otter flipped his staff around the others and delivered a quick hit to the opponent's stomach with her tail.. The creature fell backward, and his weapons went flying from the neat disarm.
The other two rushed in, attempting to take advantage of her back being turned.
Spinning, she blocked seven attacks from the two remaining opponents, and then was able to reach her staff around their defenses and rap his knees. The foe tripped, but the other gave a low horizontal swing to her waist.
The otter crouched and flipped over the incoming swing, and finished her final opponent with a quick bop on his head.
Standing erect, she bowed to the creatures on the ground.
"Thank ye for the battle. You all require improvement, however."
The three moaned and groaned, nursing there aches which had been expertly administered.
The otter noticed the Abbot and strode over.
"Father Abbot, thank you for noticing our sparring. We do enjoy spectators."
Pius smiled. "You are most welcome, Angelica. I do like to see us keeping up to speed on our fighting skills."
Angelica returned the smile. "Might I join you?"
"Please do. A partner on these walks does lighten the day."
The two walked up the steps and on to the battlements.
"How goes your training?"
"Very well, Abbot. The young'uns are advancing well, although t'would be better if we could make practice swords. I've had the foremole searching for the proper wood, but the going is slow, what with the vermin moving in to the woods."
They were about halfway across the east battlements when a commotion broke out at the edge of the woods.
Forty vermin tumbled out of the woods, and looked ready to do battle.
They turned back to the woods as a hail or arrows whistled out and cut down half of the vermin.
Another figure walked out of the woods, clad in leather armor and shrouded in a dark green cloak.
The figure stopped but ten paces from the remaining vermin, who glared at the lone enemy.
There was a rustle from the stranger's cloak, and a sword appeared. He twirled it through a simple figure eight pattern, then held the blade perfectly horizontal, pointed at the vermin.
One rat charged forward, swinging a shortsword.
The newcomer waited until the rat had almost batted his sword away before he twisted his blade, causing the rat to overextend. He twisted his sword again, and skewered the creature on its tip, the metal embedded all of two inches in to the rat's rib cage.
The cloaked stranger took a step back, and the rat fell.
Pius and Angelica stood in awe. Two swift movements and the rat had been killed by the very tip of a long sword, with almost no effort.
Pius turned to the otter maid. "Quick, go and open the gate, we must help this stranger!"
She shook her head. "No need father. Look!"
Pius turned back to a scene of carnage.
The vermin had charged the stranger en masse, who had adopted a fighting style unknown to Abbot Pius, who had studied all known fighting styles.
The stranger seemed to be dancing, his sword a baton, dicing spear, shield, and helm alike.
It was not long before all twenty vermin lay dead on the plains.
The stranger wiped off his sword and looked up at Pius and Angelica.
He swept his hood back, and Angelica observed a handsome young mouse. He waved towards the woods, and ten score creatures wandered out of the woods and meandered towards the gate.
Pius found his tongue. "Angelica, open the gate. I suspect we have visitors."
The 200 rag tag warriors marched in to the grounds, all hooded and cloaked, except for their leader.
Pius and Angelica strode toward the mouse.
"What is your business at Redwall, young warrior? And what is your name?"
"My name is Kalvar, and my business is the defense of this abbey."
"What do you mean, child?"
"Dakkar the warlord is on his way, with a force of over 10,000 vermin.
This news caused a great stir, and Pius felt dazed.
Kalvar continued. "I must warn you, however, some of my fighters are what you may label 'vermin'."
Sure enough, as Pius looked around, he saw a smattering of ferrets, stoats, weasels, and even a pair of rats, obviously mates.
Kalvar smiled. "Father Abbot, the Rangers of the North are at your service."
The Rangers of the North. Pius thought. Things are bad.
Pius soon decided that the Rangers weren't that bad, especially with dibbuns. In fact, the first time a dibbun clambered on to a ferret's lap at the protest of his parents. The ferret, however, laughed and helped the small squirrel get some blackberry crumble, which they shared. Most of the other Redwallers were not so accepting, often having to force politeness to any "vermin" attempting conversation, even dabbling in sarcasm.
Breakfast was subdued, due to the Rangers not being used to conversing with such civilized and un-warlike beasts. The awkward silence didn't last long before the Rangers moved off and began sparring about one hundred fifty paces off.
Angelica and some of the other Redwall fighter initiates walked over to observe their fighting skill. About fifty sparred at a time, each pair causing a cacophony of noise made by the pinging of metal on metal. No verbal noise was made, except for the occasional grunt from a kick or smack.
Farther off, twenty had set up some simple targets and were practicing their archery, each one firing one arrow every six to eight seconds, with extreme accuracy.
More and more Redwallers wandered over.
One hour after their end of breakfast, all the sparring pairs stopped fighting, bowed to each other, and broke up.
Kalvar walked to the Abbot, having sparred the entire time without a break and not having broken a sweat.
"I have sent ten to burn the bodies of the forty vermin in the ditch, Father Abbot, and have set a watch on the wall. We are expecting Dakkar to arrive in a few days."
The Abbot sighed, resigned to this fate. "Thank you, Kalvar."
"I'm afraid my warriors are not used to speaking. We've spent the last two weeks communicating through paw signals, and we aren't used to socialization with civilized beasts."
"Why are you so used to it, then?"
Kalvar's left eye twitched. "I guess its because I was raised as 'royalty'."
"Is that why you're leader?"
This time his eyes flashed with a hint of anger. "Father Abbot, I appreciate your taking us in, but please do not say that I have gotten where I am because of what I am. I got here because of what I've done."
"Abbot, I would also like to protest the conduct of your creatures towards towards mine. I know this may sound like I'm complaining, but this could be a problem later when we're fighting the vermin horde."
"Very well, I will go and speak with my creatures."
"Thank you, Abbot Pius."
Riptang stared up at the red stone and felt a sense of wonder.
Whole armies had thrown themselves at the high gates of the Abbey, only to be dashed against them.
Damug Warfang himself had attempted to slaughter a mere 400 hundred Redwallers with an army a thousand strong, but had been defeated by the army of Salamandastron.
But how could even hundreds of hares and dozens of badgers stand against an army ten thousand strong?
And there were but a thousand woodlanders in those walls, who were soon to be slaughtered by the armies of Dakkar.
"Hehehe... I see the light of conquest in your eyes, Lieutenant."
Riptang jumped and spun around.
"Warlord Dakkar! Excellency!"
The white fox was standing over Riptang, staring down at him, his golden eyes flashing greedily,
The fox smiled, then disappeared.
Riptang swallowed. Not many saw their elusive warlord, and even fewer lived to tell the tale.
His paw twitched, and he set off to clean his armor.
Soon, very soon, Redwall would fall.
Tirdea the ferret spun and returned the way he came, his hood keeping the rain out of his eyes.
The rogues placed in the plains had reported back. The bulk of Dakkar's horde had arrived, and they were planning on attacking in the morning.
The fox was known for attacking early in the morning, when armies were known to be groggy.
What he wasn't expecting was the ten score beasts behind the battlements.
As Tirdea walked past his leader, Kalvar gave him the thumbs up.
Tirdea nodded. Only a few hours.
The horde awoke early, with as little bustle as possible.
The creatures looked up in to the branches of an old, dead oak tree, to see a white fox, clad in thick plate mail armor, a stoat behind him.
The fox squinted at Redwall.
"Ladder carriers to the front! Hordes of the North! Charge!"
Ten thousand vermin swarmed to the walls of Redwall Abbey.
Ten score Rangers looked out at the advancing ocean of vermin.
Kalvar held up a hand, and they all stood, stringing arrows to bows.
"Rangers, pick your targets!"
Behind them, the Matthias and Methuselah bells sang out, and Redwallers swarmed out of the front door.
The vermin were several hundred paces from the ditch.
Two hundred arrows soared out over the ditch, silhouetted in the rising sun.
Dakkar watched the arrows formed beams as they soared down, striking their targets with unerring accuracy.
One landed on the head of a nearby rat, and he walked over and pulled it out.
Black, with bright white feathers.
And a gold band around the fletchings.
Dakkar snarled, and looked up to the top of the wall.
A mouse stood there, staring at him, calmly stringing another arrow as rocks and arrows deflected off his leather armor, or just missed him entirely.
"You!" Dakkar screamed to the mouse.
The mouse raised his bow and released the string. Dakkar sidestepped and the arrow slew a ferret behind him.
Chapter 2: To the Walls!Edit
"To the walls, Redwallers!" Abbot Pius roared, grabbing a spear and rushing to the wall steps.
The Redwallers behind him snatched up any weapon they could find and followed their Abbot.
The Rangers on the walls had lit a row of fire along the tops of the battlements, and were lighting arrows on fire, then shooting them down in to the oncoming horde.
Tirdea met the Abbot. "Father, the Rangers will hold this side of the wall. Have your creatures hold the other three."
Pius looked down at the oncoming horde. "200 of you holding all of them off?"
A twinkle entered the ferret's eyes. "Call us if you need help."
"Get those ladders up, you nitwits! Get up there and kill those rangers!"
The Rangers had other plans for the ladder bearers. Their fire was fast and accurate, striking the bearers down, slowing their progress, and the vermin arrows and stones either missed or merely bounced off their armor. Only a couple were able to get through, and those wounded popped back up a few minutes later, their wounds bandaged.
Dakkar roared to the skies.
"Imbeciles, the lot of you!"
He pushed his way through, hefting his tower shield above his head.
A few arrows bounced off it, but the metal held without denting, or even becoming scratched.
He reached the first ladder. "Shield bearers, get over here!"
Several weasels bearing shields rushed over to their master.
"Now, form ranks! Do as you were trained!" Dakkar snarled.
The horde beasts formed a tesudo formation, a shield square which made the infantry within it nearly invulnerable to missiles.
Thus the shield bearers were able to lift and carry the ladders successfully.
Kalvar observed this, and was ready when the first ladder was tipped upwards.
A stoat perched on the top of it leapt in to his blade, and was skewered.
"Rangers, draw your blades! Take down the ladders!"
The now uncloaked Rangers drew their blades, metal that glistened in the early morning light.
As the vermin clambered up the wide siege ladders, they were cut down by shimmering blades.
Tirdea yelled for help, and two other Rangers ran to his aid. They grabbed the top rung of the ladder and shoved to the side. The ladder slid, then fell, taking thirty vermin with it.
On its way down, the ladder got caught on something, and snapped in two.
The battle continued, long in to the day.
The Redwallers were observing the battle from the other walls, since most other officers of Dakkar's army had little initiative.
Angelica and the other defenders helped as little as they could, but there was no overrunning the tight-unit Rangers.
Every time one of theirs was wounded, he would fall back to a medic. If the wound was too grievous, he wouldn't return to the fight.
The bad news was that holes were starting to open in their lines. About two and a half score Rangers were wounded, and out of the battle.
She knew she had to take action. The middle of the wall was now almost completely overrun by vermin.
"Redwallers, help them! Take the walls back! Reeeeedwaaaallllll!"
Kalvar swung his blade horizontally and cut a red fox off at the waist. Turning left, he repeated the move and sliced right through a stoat's sword, then ran him through.
He heard the war cry, and watched the Redwallers turn on to the west wall.
He yelled his own war cry, and charged in to the middle, tossing a small ladder over on his way.
Tirdea locked his shields with three others. "Form wall groupings, delta formation!"
Seven groups of Rangers formed wall grouping squares. The design had been thought up and based off of the tesudo formation, but made for easier tactical movement. The delta formation was seven of these groups in the shape of an arrow.
The groups moved themselves forward, while the ranks behind strung arrows to bows.
Vermin fell under the hail of arrows, then to swords, reaching out from between the walls of moving shields, and were soon run off the walls.
"Thanks for the help, young otter."
Angelica turned from her lunch and found herself looking in to the eyes of the Ranger leader, clad from neck to toe in leather armor, his cloak falling down his back.
The mouse waved his hand. "Don't you 'sir' me, missy. You fight well."
"Not as well as any of your Rangers."
The mouse was getting to something. "What do you want?"
"I want you to join the Rangers."
Angelica's jaw dropped. "Me, but... why?"
"You fight well, you're courageous, and you can only improve."
Angelica nodded. "What do you need me to do?"
Kalvar's eye smiled. "Train with us tomorrow. We'll provide the armor and weapons."
Angelica felt awkward the next day, having a ferret help her in to the armor.
This was when she learned that the Rangers first put on chainmail shirts and leggings, followed by the leather jerkin and leggings, to be finished off with leather boots with steel toes. Gloves were optional, and Angelica decided to forego them.
She was then given a real long sword. The grip was comfortable, and the ferret nodded. "You are ready. Now, let us spar."
The ferret adopted the en garde pose. "Have you used a sword before, otter?"
"Don't 'sir' me. Name's Tirdea."
"Your leader is the same way."
"We all are. Now, lets begin."
The cacophony of noise began after breakfast again, this time with more Redwallers coming to observe the skill of the Rangers.
They did not spar as long, and broke up but half an hour after beginning.
The Abbot was curious. "Why not so long?"
The female rat, Hadier, answered. "War, Father Abbot. No use wasting energy when it can be spent doing other things."
Sure enough, the Rangers were breaking up in to groups and grabbing their dark cloaks.
"What are you doing?" Pius questioned Hadier.
"Gathering weapon supplies. You've obviously studied the fighting arts, you know that northerners are some of the best makers of siege weaponry."
Pius nodded. "What do you plan on making?"
Hadier shrugged. "Cell work. We just gather what we're told. That way if one group is captured the enemy cannot learn all our plans."
Pius nodded again. "But they know you're northerners. They must know what you're doing."
Hadier laughed. "There are only a thousand creatures who know Ranger siege weapons. Only five can make them. Two of them are in this detachment."
"How many Rangers are there?"
Hadier just smiled.
The parties soon returned with woods of varying sorts, which Kalvar and Tirdea set the Rangers upon with protracted efficiency, beginning to construct their siege weapons.
Up went two triangular frames, attached to a square base. On one side of the base in between two intersections of the triangles a hook was screwed in to place, which had a long, flat part. The base had four long indents carved in to it, one on each corner, and were set on to a well oiled circular frame. Tirdea pushed, and the entire square frame spun easily.
A circular beam was put on top, and greased well to minimize friction.
A long, thick willow beam was wrapped on to the horizontal beam, and secured tightly to it.
Then a net was brought to the short end, and filled with dozens of rocks. On the other end went a large sling, within was placed a large rock.
Kalvar and Tirdea hooped up the long end to the hook, and stood back to admire their work.
"Well done, Rangers."
Pius observed the odd siege engine. "What have you two constructed?"
Tirdea had clambered up to the wall, and was sighting through a telescope. "Five degrees south!"
Three Rangers pushed until it was aiming slightly left.
They did, and Pius watched the arm shoot towards the sky, flinging the large stone.
Several seconds passed, then a whump was heard, followed by a shrill scream.
Tirdea turned back to the ground. "Got five! Load 'er again!"
Kalvar walked up to the Abbot. "Trebuchet. Developed for sieges of large fortresses."
"Is it effective?"
Another clink was made as the hook was released, then another whump, and this time a loud crunch as well as a squeal.
"Got a catapult and two vermin! Reload!" Some sentries cheered.
Pius posed a question: "Won't you run out of rock soon?"
Kalvar smiled. "I, ah, recruited your moles to dig holes underneath the grounds, we have a nearly infinite amount of ammunition."
This time smaller stones were used. "Got six that time!" Another cheer.
"Kalvar, please come with me."
"Yes Father Abbot?"
The pair walked in to the Abbey.
"I want to tell you about our Abbey history. Not so long ago, just two seasons ago, in fact. You've heard of Slagar the Cruel?"
"Fox, survived a poisonous bite from Asmodeus, and adder. Thought he owed his wrath to Matthias the Warrior, so he stole some young ones from Redwall, but was eventually caught by Matthias and Orlando the Axe."
"How do you know this?"
"Why do you think Dakkar is sitting outside with a large host of vermin?"
Pius was shocked. "So its true... Chickenhound wasn't an only child."
"Same father, different mothers. Dakkar wants you for killing his half-brother, and he wants me for killing his mother."
"Then you know where Matthias has gone?"
Kalvar shook his head. "I know he's not here, but I can guess."
"He took his son on a training journey, the season they returned, but they haven't come back. I don't know if they ever will."
Kalvar grabbed the Abbot's shoulder. "Abbot Pius, I know not by what you mean, but know this: Whether it be days or a dozen seasons from now, I will ensure that they have a home to come back to."
"I know you will, child, I know."
Kalvar looked up to observe the tapestry of Martin the Warrior, and the sword hooks.
"Did Matthias take his blade with him?"
"No, why do-"
Pius stared up at the sword hooks. They were empty.
At the moment that Pius and Kalvar were conversing, the two subjects of there conversation were currently up to their knees in a small party of vermin.
Mattimeo ran a weasel through. "Best of luck, eh Dad? Not one day from Redwall and we finally find some more vermin."
Matthias ducked a club and lopped its owners paw off. "Yes, aren't we lucky. But, oof, just look at them. Either its another small gang like the ones we've spent a season and a half clearing out of Mossflower, or else its a scouting party."
Mattimeo jumped on a ferret's back and punched the back of his neck. "Scouting party. Too small of weapons."
Matthias glanced behind Mattimeo. "Son, get down!"
The two warrior mice threw themselves on to the ground as a hail of arrows sliced out of the woods, cutting the remaining vermin down.
Eight shadows materialized from the darkness, cloaked creatures, carrying black bows and wearing leather armor.
Matthias saw a gold bracer glint in the moonlight, which withdrew in to the cloak immediately.
One of the creatures stood forward, and threw back its hood. Matthias and Mattimeo leapt up as they saw the ferret, but paused as the others threw back their hoods, and saw a mouse, two hedgehogs, and an otter, along with other vermin.
"Why are you staring at us?"
The ferret stepped forth. "I am Tirdea, second-in-command of the Rangers of the North, Matthias and Mattimeo of Redwall. I must say, you are in the nick of time."
Kalvar watched the ten creatures enter, eight of them in Ranger armor and cloaks, two in green habits.
He ran down the steps, and confronted the two mice, holding out his paw.
"Matthias and Mattimeo, its an honor."
Mattimeo looked around. He saw two strange catapults, and a lot of creatures standing about, wearing leather armor. Here and there were pairs sparring, the blades tinging rapidly off each other.
Matthias shook the stranger's paw. "Who are you?"
"I'm Kalvar, leader of the Rangers of the North. I'm glad you're hear, it'll bolster our defenses."
"Why do you need defenses?" Mattimeo questioned as he observed some of the "Rangers" breaking off from their jobs to look at him and his father.
"Redwall is currently under siege by a large host of vermin. We need warriors like you."
Matthias had noticed the Rangers looking at them, and he saw his wife running toward him.
"Why do your warriors stare at us?"
Kalvar looked behind him at the warriors, and Tirdea and his team moved off. The others went back to work.
"You two are heroes to most of us, including myself."
Cornflower had reached her family. "Matthias, Mattimeo! Its been so long!"
The two mice embraced Cornflower, and Kalvar stood awkwardly at the family reunion.
Cornflower let the two go. "You must tell me everything that has happened! But where is Constance and the others?"
Matthias slapped his forehead. "They're behind us by about an hour! They'll surely run in to the vermin parties!"
Kalvar stood forward, snapping two claws. Tirdea and three rangers rushed to him. "Well then, lets lend 'em a hand."
Chapter 3: Returning HeroesEdit
The seven warriors combed quietly through the woods in search of the party of Redwallers.
They came upon them soon enough. However, they also came upon a small party of vermin, who fell upon them with an avid vengeance.
"Hoho, I say chaps! Ambush, wot!"
Matthias rose. "That's Basil! Charge!"
The seven charged in to a woodland chaos, with Redwallers on one side and Dakkar's vermin on the other.
The newcomers turned the tide of battle, and the vermin were soon driven off, and the Redwallers returned safely home.
Introductions were made all around, and Redwallers welcomed their kind back in to the fold.
The Rangers stood off a ways, not being used to all the gaiety. The Abbot soon announced that a famous Redwall feast was to commence by sundown.
Redwallers soon began invited the Rangers to join them in activities, and one mousemaid asked Kalvar to dance. He accepted, and they were soon twirling round and round.
"What is your name, ma'am?"
"Please, don't 'sir' me."
She laughed, and he thought it was one of the most beautiful laughs in the world.
Instruments were set out, and it t'was not long until the Rangers were invited to sing and dance.
Tirdea and Kalvar arrayed the Rangers in three long lines, twenty to each, and started stomping, in a slow, rhythmic beat.
The Hadier and her mate, Tripolius stood up and began to swing, with loud, tenor voices. Tirdea began beating on the drum, keeping the beat.
Oh, we're the Rangers of the North
We do what must be done and forth!
Roo rye hah!
We fight for out families
Although we know not who they are!
Roo rye hah!
Here the other Rangers joined in, stomping faster and faster on the wet ground. The ends started moving forward, forming a circle. The Rangers put their arms around each others shoulder. As the middle circle became too small, a few creatures popped out and began cartwheeling, tumbling, and other such acrobatics.
What do you demand of us?
How would you have us do it?
Roo rye hah!
Beware, evil ones! Rangers are on yar tracks!
We fight for all who need us!
Roo rye hah! Roo rye hah!
The beat continued, faster and faster, while the song started over again. Each second, the circles became tighter, each time a creature would not fit, he popped out and began the aerobics.
When the song ended, each Ranger stomped once, flipped backward, and ended where they began, on tip paw, with their arms held out straight, with Kalvar in the center.
One last beat on the large drum, and the Rangers bowed. The Redwallers cheered, and the song master, Brother Hamilton, was heard to say: "Not the best lyrics I've heard, but what a display of acrobatics, what skill!"
Kalvar smiled. "Its a song we're taught on initiation, to increase our sense of balance and coordination. Just imagine, sixty babes of two seasons each, trying to do that!"
"Two seasons? That's madness!"
Kalvar turned to Pius, whom the outburst had come from. Those who had heard had fallen silent, and were staring at the warrior mouse.
"Problem, Father Abbot?"
"You've been fighting since you were two seasons old!?"
"Training since then. Killed my first vermin at six seasons."
"Because we had to. Have you been to the North?"
"No, but I've read of it."
"Then you know its either fight or die. In this case, our clan leaders decided we needed special warriors, trained for not much but battle. They decided to sacrifice a few to save many."
"Sacrifices are immoral."
"We did it to survive! If we were not here, and you had nothing to defend yourself, would you not do what you had to to ensure that as many as possible survives?"
"Not if that includes sending my own creatures to a life of death!"
Kalvar strode to the Abbot and ripped off his tunic, then his leather jerkin and chainmail shirt, for all to see. The Redwallers gasped as they saw the scars crisscrossing his chest, mothers covering dibbun's eyes.
"See what was done to me? I was but a season old when Nortian the Metal came for a visit. She laughed as she scored my flesh to my ribs. I felt the hot knife burning my lungs. My back was broken, I'm happy I can still walk, else I'd have been fighting without legs. I watched her burn my family in front of my eyes. So I ask you, how could I not fight? How could I not feel anything but hate at the one who took everything from me?"
He swept his paw, taking in the Rangers. "Each one of us is an orphan. Each one has been scarred in some way. We are all volunteers, willing to sacrifice our own lives so that everyone else might live. Why would any creature like us not want to?"
He swept up his armor and tunic and walked in to the Abbey.
Kalvar's outburst had drawn a cloud over the Abbey's mood, now that they knew who he was. They could not argue his logic.
That did not mean they didn't try.
"Did you not try a peaceful life?" A hedgehog questioned Tirdea, who, they found, had a habit for answering with a question.
"What do you think I tried first?"
"There are other things besides fighting." A mouse interrogated Hadier.
"I'll try that when I'm done fighting."
"When will you be done?"
"When one of those vermin pry my weapon from my cold, useless paws."
"Not even if you bear a babe?"
"I'll just fight harder for it."
Kalvar swung under the ferret's sword and kicked him down the way he came. Dakkar was making a push all around this time, pushing in on all sides.
A weasel leapt on to the battlements, crushing a mole underfoot and running him through with his spear. Kalvar lopped the spear in half and bashed the weasel's nose in.
He cut the rope attaching the grappling hook to the rope, and a whole line of vermin fell.
"Hadier, get some oil buckets over here, else we'll be overrun! We've got too many ladders popping up!"
Hadier and several Redwallers rushed up, bearing buckets of vegetable oil.
The buckets were poured carefully on to the ladders, then torchbearers lit the oil.
The walls of Redwall Abbey burned, and flaming vermin leapt from ladders and ropes, searing those beneath them.
Kalvar watched them burn calmly.
"That's one side cleared. Get a refill and let's see if we can clear the other walls!"
The East Wall was almost overrun, so Kalvar decided to start there.
He charged in to the fray, sword glistening in the sunlight, blood flying as he slew vermin left an right.
It was not long before he and the warriors behind him had almost cleared the wall.
He looked over to the West Wall as the ladders and ropes were oiled and burned to see Matthias doing the same as he, and Mattimeo on the North Wall.
"We got 'em off the walls, now we just need to keep them out of the grounds. If I know Dakkar, his next move will actually be coming up with a strategy."
Chapter 4: A New AbbeyEdit
Abbot Pius was saddened every time he walked on to the grounds. He knew it was necessary if Redwall was to be kept from being overrun and destroyed by Dakkar's horde, but he didn't like the trenches, the stashes of spears and arrows, the siege weapons accumulating by the hour.
And so he spent most of his time inside, organizing those unfit to fight, and hoping that this would all be over soon.
Velvet was taking lessons in quarterstaff fighting from Angelica, freshly initiated in to the Rangers.
The mousemaid had to admit, Angelica's skills had increased drastically since she'd joined them.
The otter flipped over in a somersault and landed to her right. Velvet spun and swung horizontally. The otter just ducked and knocked Velvet's legs out from under her.
She coughed, and felt the staff at her throat.
"Pinned again, friend. You're too predictable."
"I'm afraid that's a problem when you're not used to fighting."
"You will be, if your boy friend there has anything to say about it."
Velvet looked over to where Kalvar and Tirdea were sparring with naked swords.
"He's not my boyfriend."
"Not yet, but I've seen how he looks at you."
"What do you mean?"
"Have you seen him look at most creatures? He's got that hard, warrior look. Little emotion, like the weight of this Abbey is on his shoulders. But when he looks at you, it softens somewhat. I'd say that's as close to comfortable as he can be with any creature besides those Rangers of his."
Velvet watched him for another minute, then picked up her staff.
"Maybe, but its time to get back to work."
Unbeknown to her and Angelica, Tirdea and Kalvar had been watching the young maids spar, the movements the Rangers had been doing had been ingrained in to them for long seasons. They had no need to watch their movements, and their hoods kept their eyes in shadow.
"Both good fighters." Tirdea said, slashing diagonally.
"Yes, but Velvet will never join the Rangers. She's got family here at Redwall, too much to lose." Kalvar blocked it and twisted the other way.
"How do you know?" Tirdea leapt backward, then charged forward.
Kalvar blushed under his hood as the sparring continued. "There was a couple hours to the feast before the Abbot saw fit to confront me."
"So you can attach to creatures."
"Why would I not be able to?"
"Pius behind you."
Kalvar sheathed his sword and turned around as Tirdea wandered away. "Yes, Father Abbot?"
"I'm sorry for last night. My delving in to your ethics was-"
"Understandable. You're not used to war, to having to fight every day for your life."
"Thank you, child. On to fighting for survival, I've just heard that our cellars are running low on supplies."
"I'll organize some parties to bring food and seeds from the forest. Don't worry, we don't eat birds, but we will warn them if we see them."
"Thank you again."
Riptang lay on his stomach as the healer poured the ointment on to his back and slathered it around.
Being and officer is great. He thought to himself. Officers got better care, and while he wasn't at the top tier, he wasn't low on the chain.
He'd fallen off the rope at a low height, so he only sprained his ankle, but got his back burned when the rope landed on him.
"Rest now, don't move." The healer said, and left his tent.
He checked the bandages, and decided to sleep.
Riptang awoke several hours later to a commotion outside. Deciding not to test the outdoors just yet, he looked through a rip in his tent.
Captain Incer was cowering before Dakkar, who was clad in his plate mail armor. Riptang stood in awe every time he saw that armor. Never had any weapon ever pierced it. He knew it wasn't steel, but he couldn't know what it was.
"You are a bumbling fool, Captain! What were your orders!?"
"Spit it out, you blathering idiot!"
"S-s-surround the Rangers on the West Wall and keep them f-f-f-from getting to the other w-walls, s-s-sir."
"Yes. And what happened?"
"I-I failed, s-sir."
"Yes, you did." Dakkar finished, drawing out his words."
He unsheathed his sword. "Now, fight me!"
Incer never stood a chance. His head was flying across the camp before he had a chance to pull out his spear.
Dakkar wiped his longsword off on Incer's body. "Feed this thing to the fires."
He turned to Riptang's tent, and Riptang felt his blood go cold.
"Riptang! Get out here, now!"
Riptang stumped his way out, wincing as his burnt back stretched. "Yes, Excellency?"
Dakkar turned to him, sheathing his sword. "You will take Incer's place. I've seen you inspire troops to greatness. Perhaps you can do better than he did."
Riptang bowed as low as he could, biting back a bark of pain. "Thank you, Excellency."
Dakkar grabbed a torch and threw it in to Riptang's tent. "You'll have Incer's possessions, they're far better than the junk you're used to."
Riptang watched his tent burn. Him, a captain. And one closer to Dakkar.
He wasn't sure whether he was happy or frightened.
Velvet walked to the top of the stairs, alongside Cornflower, who turned to her. "I'll take the South and East Walls. You take the North and West." Then she winked.
Why'd she do that? Velvet wondered.
She found out not ten minutes later why. The last creature she was to serve soup to was Kalvar, the one she'd danced with.
He nodded to her. "Good evening, ma'am."
"Don't 'ma'am' me."
He turned to her and smiled. One of the few smiles she'd seen him wear. He seemed to save them for when he was with creatures he trusted.
He turned back to the battlements to watch the west plains, where the bulk of Dakkar's army was camping. There seemed to be some celebration going on, or something.
As if reading her mind, Kalvar explained: "Promotion. Dakkar just slew a Captain and promoted one of his Lieutenants, one who'll do a better job."
Velvet looked to him. He kept staring at the large bonfire. "How do you know that?"
He tilted his head right, then left, then right again. She looked out and saw a bush rustle, and a stick move.
"We all have our uses. That rogues been there for three days, the others, not quite so long."
"He'll have some terrible cramps, but he'll have a nice, hot bath to loosen up, he'll stretch, and then he'll pick up a sword and fight."
"How many have been captured?"
"One got close, but he managed to get away."
She sat there as he sipped his soup, then looked at her. Velvet could have sworn she saw his eyes twinkle.
"You're not here for idle chatter."
It was a statement, not a question.
"No, I'm not. I'm told you usually don't attach well to other creatures."
"Nope, not well."
An awkward silence ensued, while Kalvar continued on his soup.
"So why me?"
"We're both seeking someone to attach to."
"How you do figure that?"
"Because you aren't attaching to anyone else, as there are already attachments made. I've never had anyone to attach myself to, and I feel I need to."
"You're very honest."
"No point in not being honest."
"I would tend to agree."
He looked at her, and his eyes twinkled again. "So, shall we talk while I watch?"
Tirdea was passing by underneath, and looked up to where Kalvar was on watch, and saw two creatures there, talking.
He smiled, and continued on his way.
The Boss deserved a relationship. Tirdea swore he'd see it happen.
Riptang examined his new charts that he had. They were much more detailed than the ones he'd had as a Lieutenant.
He leaned over them and brought a torch closer. Aha.
He'd found what he'd been looking for. Riptang wrapped up the map and stalked out of his tent.
Dakkar was sitting on his throne, sipping blackberry wine, when one of the four elite guard outside the entrance stuck his head in.
"Captain Riptang requesting permission to see you, Excellency!"
"Let him in."
The red fox marched in, a large map under his arm. Dakkar twitched a finger to him.
Riptang strode to the table and unfolded the map.
"What have you found?" Dakkar questioned, sipping his wine.
"An underground entrance, Excellency. Have you heard of Kotir?"
"Of course. Stupid wildcat Tsarmina."
"Then you know that Redwall is built on top of Kotir's ruins?"
Dakkar leaned forward, intrigued. "Yes. Tell me what it is you've found."
Chapter 5: Under the EarthEdit
Hadier and her team had found a jackpot: a large pear tree, ripe with the fruit, and were stuffing it in to their gathering bags.
The female rat heard a noise, and pumped her arm up and down. The ten Rangers dove for cover as five score vermin marched by, with Dakkar in the lead, and a Captain.
She crawled closer to listen, and heard Dakkar and the Captain, Riptang, conversing.
"This is the place?"
"Yes Excellency. If we dig down here we can reach the access tunnels. What will be difficult is crossing the tower. After that, we can dig straight up and in to the Abbey grounds."
Dakkar and two score vermin left, while the Captain stayed to organize the rest in to digging parties.
Hadier signaled again and the Rangers packed up the fruit and left. She had to tell the leaders what she'd heard.
"And you're sure of this?"
"Positive. They're planning on digging under the wall, but said something about a tower." Hadier finished her report.
Basil scratched his head. "Now we know how to stop them digging, wot. But what's this about a tower under the wall? Bally silly configuration for an Abbey, wot wot."
Pius stood. "I believe I've heard such before. Stay here while I check our records." And he walked out of Cavern Hole.
Mattimeo turned back to the table. "Right, what can we do to get ready for them?"
Basil looked at the map. "Large force means a bigger hole, wot. I'd say he plans on sending in a small force to open the gates."
Matthias turned to Foremole. "Are those listening tunnels we dug during the siege of Cluny the Scourge still intact?"
Foremole scratched his chin. "Bo hurr, Matthias, Oi reckon day are still there. Oi'll go 'n' see." And Foremole plodded out with two of his crew.
Kalvar was sitting in an oak chair, silent the whole time.
Matthias looked to him. "Any objections?"
Kalvar didn't move. "No. It sounds like something Dakkar would do. The Rangers will hold the walls, he'll undoubtedly strike there as a diversion. I say give it two, maybe three sunrises."
Matthias squinted at him. "And do you happen to know anything about the Sword of Martin the Warrior?"
"No, why would I?"
The warriors left to prepare for the coming assault.
Abbot Pius flipped to the next page. No, that was the design of the Abbey itself, not the outer walls. Maybe...
Yes, there it was. The South Wall, built over-
Kotir's guard tower. Amazing.
The Abbot marked the page and closed the book, then hurried down the stairs.
Foremole and his team went to the South Wall and entered the listening tunnels.
The moles placed their ears at even places along the tunnel walls.
Matthias, Kalvar, and Jess the Squirrel stood at the entrance.
"Here anything moles?" Matthias called down the steps.
"Hurr, Oi hear a sloight tarpin', sirs. Its moi guess thart they be a diggin' up here in about two, maybe three sunrises, bo hurr."
"Right on target," Kalvar said.
"Tell me, friend. Why is it that you, a far northerner does not have the dialect of that region?" Matthias questioned the Ranger leader.
"Ah read books, sirrah. Bain't mech point pickin' up the di'lect if'n yeh sound ever'thin' oot." Kalvar replied dryly.
"Not the best I've heard."
"That's because its the second time I've used it. What'd you expect?"
Matthias rolled his eyes, and the two warriors walked off to supper.
Matthias was slightly surprised when Kalvar approached him near the end of his meal, carrying two swords.
"Warrior of Redwall, shall we spar?"
Matthias nodded and took the proffered sword, and the two mice moved two hundred paces away and faced off, both adopting the en garde stances, and circling each other.
They both attacked at the same time, and both spun their wrists to catch their opponents blade on the flat of their own.
Backing away, they circled again, the light of battle creeping in to their eyes. A small audience was beginning to accumulate.
Matthias rushed in, stabbing to Kalvar's middle, who jumped over the blade and swung a high horizontal to Matthias' head, who blocked in incoming blow and returned with a diagonal slash to Kalvar's torso.
Kalvar blocked this and pressed in, locking swords. He hauled back and rapped Matthias on the stomach, who grunted and slid back a bit, then straightened, reassuming his stance.
The two charged each other, swinging and parrying for a long while, either barely moving.
Eventually Matthias rammed Kalvar and knocked him back, who smiled and charged back.
On and on they went, back and forth for two hours. By the end a large crowd had gathered to watch, and were only noticed when the warriors stopped.
Kalvar held his paw out to Matthias. "Well fought, warrior."
Matthias took his paw and shook it. "And you too, ranger."
The two smiled and strode away from each other.
It was not long before Velvet joined Kalvar on the ramparts.
"That was quite a display."
"Matthias is a warrior of incredible skill."
"And you met him, swing for parry."
He looked at her and flashed one of his rare smiles. "Are you trying to boost my self-esteem?"
She shrugged. "Is there anything wrong with a compliment?"
He laughed. "No, there isn't. But compliments should go to both sides, when they can."
"Ah trah mah best, dearie." Kalvar said in his bad northerner accent.
"Not the best I've heard."
"Not the first time I've heard that."
They both continued to talk as the sun set in to the west.
Unbeknownst to them, Dakkar had spies of his own.
Foremole was down in the listening tunnels again.
"Burr oi, they'm be a'gettin' closer."
Kalvar was standing at the entrance. "How long?"
"Definitely one mar sunroise, Marster Karvar."
Kalvar smiled at the mole's comical dialect and went up to the ramparts to find Matthias.
Instead, he found Mattimeo. "Hey young 'un. One more day, and they'll be breaking through in to the grounds."
The younger mouse nodded. "And all the preparations are in place?"
Kalvar turned to walk away. "The Redwallers do their job, we'll do ours."
"What, precisely, is 'your job'?"
Kalvar faced him. "To die for you."
Angelica paced the high battlements on the corner of the South and West wall. Tirdea strode up to her.
"Yes, not a-"
She looked over the ramparts. "Wait. There!"
Tirdea knocked an arrow to his moonwood bow and aimed. "I got him."
The arrow streaked out and in to a bush. A fox screamed and stood upright. Angelica raised her bow to finish him off, but Tirdea pushed the bow down.
"He'd dead, his mind just doesn't know it. Save your arrows, Missy."
Sure enough, the fox was on the ground when she looked back around, dead.
The ferret turned away. "I know, but we can't waste arrows when we have thousands more to kill. Do you know how much pain a creature feels when dying?"
"Not much, actually. The brain is shutting down. The screams and spasms are muscles twitching. He didn't feel much in the few seconds after I shot him. Yes, it hurts us to see creatures do that, but just remember that it only hurts us."
"How do you know?"
"Because I've watched hundreds of creatures do the same thing. I'm just sorry that you have to as well."
Sam Squirrel hopped his way to the South Wall where preparations to repel the diggers were underway. Once he got there he was met by his mother, Jess.
"Strange isn't it, that Kalvar wants Redwallers to get the vermin in the tunnels and have the Rangers up on the top."
Sam scratched between his ears. "His reasoning is sound."
Jess banged her javelin on the ground. "But how does he know how Dakkar works. Look at the Rangers, they're not balanced evenly. More are on the West Wall than any other wall. Its like Kalvar knows exactly how many creatures Dakkar will throw against our walls."
Sam shrugged. "He's been right up to this point."
Jess shook her head. "I know, but something is not right about it."
Sam strode off to help with the preparations. "What can we do but trust him? He's the only one here who knows how to fight that fox."
Every beast understood that. Including the weasel hiding in the bush.
Skirg the weasel pulled out his bow and arrows and wrote a quick note out on his last scrap of parchment.
Carefully tying the parchment to and arrow, he took aim and fired.
Skirg was jerked out of the bush and found himself looking in to the eyes of a male rat.
"Wot have we he-ah?"
Skirg was muzzled and dragged off by Tripolius, whimpering.
The attack came the next morning with the sunrise.
Kalvar stood on the West Wall with six score Rangers, the other four score on the North and East Walls. He tilted his head to the left, and an arrow sailed right by it.
"Fire at will!"
Arrows poured down in to the unshielded ranks of Dakkar's horde.
Kalvar held his arrow, however, and waited for a target of opportunity.
Riptang returned to the Warlord, standing on the top of the old dead tree.
"Excellency, the tunnelers are nearly through."
Dakkar smiled, a wicked smile. "Good, good. Let Fanga take over there. Sit here with me."
Riptang gulped, but did what he was told. If he calculated right, sitting closer to the Warlord kept him farther from harm.
"Sah, we've broken through!"
Fanga grinned and drew his cutlass, adjusting his katar, a dagger blade with a handle, also known as a punching dagger. "Well then, lets go say 'hi'."
The four hundred arrayed vermin behind him laughed, and the pine marten who'd reported to Fanga punched through the surface and clambered up.
Fanga leapt up, and looked in to the angry eyes of a large badger.
The badger's fist smashed down, slaying Fanga instantly.
Boiling water poured forth in to the hole, filling it.
Constance stood paws on hips. "If the Abbot's right, then we'll still have a problem, what with that old tower being under there. Moles, get ready!"
Dakkar stood and snarled. "What's going on?"
Riptang walked up to join him. "Something wrong, Sire?"
"What are those fools at the South Wall doing?"
Riptang looked to the South Wall and saw a few hundred vermin fleeing from the dig site.
"Shall I go see what is the matter, Lord?"
Dakkar nodded, and Riptang dropped expertly out of the tree and ran to the site.
Lieutenant Fisk was trying to drag himself out of the hole, burns along his back.
Riptang reached down, grabbed him by the back of the neck, and lifted him in to the air. "What do you think you're doing, Lieutenant?"
Fisk struggled to get free, but Riptang's grip was too strong. "Redwallers. Hot. Water. Burn. Gah!"
Riptang dropped Fisk back in to the hole. The stoat bounced twice and screamed, then screamed louder, and Riptang heard spears hit something.
Riptang drew his cutlass as two Redwallers rushed him. The mouse stabbed him with a spear, but Riptang leaned right and sliced his paws off. As the mouse fell screaming, the hedgehog leapt at the fox, brandishing two daggers. Riptang parried the attacks and swiftly headbutted the hedgehog, then ran him through.
He finished the mouse with a quick slice, then looked down the hole.
Seven archers, looking mad enough to storm the Dark Forest stood there, arrows knocked to bowstrings.
"Hellspit!" Riptang dove left, then ran as the arrows sprang from the hole. He looked back to see the archers and other beasts coming out and dragging the bodies in to the hole behind him. One of the archers was wailing, holding the body of the pawless mouse.
Something's wrong. Kalvar thought to himself.
Pausing in his fighting, he looked over to the other walls.
"Tirdea! Take two score and hit the North Wall! Hadier take another two score and get to the East Wall!"
Dakkar slammed his gauntleted paw in to the branch.
Bounding from the tree, he grabbed a ladder and climbed up it. He quickly reached the top and bounded on to the battlements, slamming his visor down.
In front of him stood three Rangers, each one grasping a longsword. They charged him, with cries of "Roo rye hah!"
He brought his own sword to bear, and brought his tower shield up, blocking the swords.
He laughed. "I am Dakkar, my armor cannot be scratched, you pathetic wretches!" And attacked.
Dakkar charged, and soon all three were at his feet, mortally wounded.
Then he saw their leader.
"I've got you now, mouse!"
Kalvar turned to face the white fox, fully clad in his armor. "That depends. Do you think you're agile enough to grab me?"
The two warriors charged each other. Dakkar was stronger, but Kalvar was much faster.
Kalvar ducked the first swing, then bowled Dakkar over the battlements.
Dakkar hit the ground hard, and crushed several vermin underneath him.
Kalvar watched silently as the Warlord got up and strode away, almost unharmed.
Chapter 6: Finishing TouchesEdit
Sam tipped the last wheelbarrow of dirt and rocks in to the hole. "There ya go, Foremole!"
Sam strode away, towards the Abbey door to put the barrow away.
He opened the door and bumped in to Angelica, garbed in her new Ranger armor and sporting a sword at her hip and a moonwood bow over her back.
"Oh, hey Sam."
"Hey, Angie. Sentry duty?"
"Yeah. Hey, you hear a Ranger died?"
Sam froze. "The first one?"
Angelica nodded. "Frankly, I'm surprised half of us aren't dead. We've been assaulted three times by thousands of vermin, and out of two hundred, they've lost one, and out of six hundred Redwallers, thirty have died."
Sam shook his head. "Those Rangers are insane fighters. I heard that at least four are in the infirmary with wounds that would have killed almost any regular creature."
"Kalvar's the most insane. He fought Dakkar hand to hand and won without swinging his blade."
"So Dakkar is dead?"
The ottermaid shook her head. "Nay, Kalvar pushed him over the battlements and the villain stood up and walked off." And she walked off to guard duty.
Sam saw Kalvar walking off the wall, having been relieved by Angelica.
The mouse looked to the young squirrel. "Yes?"
"Why didn't you kill Dakkar?"
Kalvar laughed. "I did throw him from the walls."
"Why didn't you swing your sword?"
"No room to do so. If I'd have backed up to swing he'd have gutted me." Kalvar began to step inside.
Sam felt a twinge of suspicion. "How is it you know how Dakkar works?"
Kalvar paused. "Because I trained with him. He was my best friend. Now excuse me, I have a meeting to attend, in which I believe I'm going to get a chewing out." He started forward again, but Sam stopped him.
"Why are you telling me this now?"
"Because it's going to be discussed in there." And he walked in to the door.
It took Sam several minutes to digest this information before running up to the battlements to shed this drop of knowledge with Angelica.
Kalvar joined the leaders around the table in Cavern Hole, well aware of the accusing glances being tossed his way, and the angry stances in their seats the rest were taking. He sighed.
"Alright, get it over with."
Wham! "I will, you presumptuous wretch!" Constance roared.
The Ranger folded his arms and leaned back in his chair in preparation to weather the tirade.
"You led us to believe that you knew how the fox worked! You had us believe that you had our best interests! And what do we do? We trust you! And what do you do!? Lie to us, and cost us twenty lives today!"
Several others, including Matthias and Basil, joined in, but were soon cut off by Abbot Pius banging the table. "That's enough. I believe Kalvar should have a chance to explain himself."
Kalvar nodded. "Thank you, Abbot. I must say I did not expect this."
Constance growled. "So you admit you were wrong."
Kalvar held up a paw, cutting her off. "No. I said unexpected, not wrong."
Constance was stunned. "How-"
Kalvar held up his paw again. "Please, allow me to finish. I just told Sam Squirrel about my history with Dakkar, so I'll start there."
He took a breath and began: "When I first joined the Rangers I was bunked in with Dakkar, and we trained together. We became the best of friends.
"Then I learned who he was. Needless to say, it began to create a rift between us.
"That is all I will say about our history for now. But I do want you to know that Rangers are trained to be unexpected. Dakkar normally does not succeed in that, and so I didn't expect to discover what one of my warriors found."
Kalvar snapped his fingers, and a door opened, and Tripolius entered, carrying a struggling weasel. The Ranger leader stood and went to him, gesturing and circling the captive vermin.
"Meet Skrig. For the last few hours, I've been questioning him."
Pius stood. "Torture!?"
Kalvar whipped around. "Never! It gets you nowhere! No, I question, and I learned that he had heard a certain squirrel talking about our plans with her son. No, I do not blame her, but please, I must ask you to not talk of our plans outside a secure room unless you have to."
Kalvar sat, and Tripolius dragged Skrig out.
Constance was standing, shocked. "I must apologize, ranger. I still see that you have our best interests at heart."
Much to the surprise of every beast, Kalvar shook his head and proclaimed. "No apology is required. I understand, and I deserve the lecture. Our number one rule is to never be predictable, and I should have seen this coming."
Constance sat. "Our warriors will be buried in the grounds this evening. Is that where you would like your ranger to be buried?"
"No. He won't be buried."
The Abbot decided to interject. "I'm sorry if we don't understand you, but what do you mean, 'knowledge'?"
Kalvar leaned his chair back. "When a Ranger enters our ranks, he is given a choice of how his funeral will be carried out. My ranger will have a funeral, and then we'll use his body to learn more about everyone's body. Then he will be cremated."
Matthias sat up straight. "You're going to cut him open?"
"No, that's the medic's job. I'm going to watch, learn, and record. That's my job."
Here Basil pulled a wry face. "Cutting a dead beast open? Nasty business, why would you do such a thing."
"Like I said, to learn. We do what we do to learn about how our bodies work. For instance, did you know that a muscle in your chest pumps blood throughout your body?"
Pius snorted. "Of course we know that. A heart."
Kalvar almost grinned. "How many chambers does it have?"
"Your heart pumps twice for one full beat. All of us in this room have four chambers in our heart. However, a bird has three."
Pius looked puzzled. "Can you share these writings with me?"
Kalvar nodded. "Of course. Now, shall we get on to the planning?"
Constance nodded, and spoke in a subdued voice. "Yes, let's do so."
Matthias caught up with Kalvar soon afterward. "You have a good sense of logic."
Kalvar sighed. "Not good enough, I'm afraid," he said, looking at the twenty new graves and the many grieving creatures.
Matthias looked at Kalvar's melancholy expression. "What are you going to do?"
Matthias took a step back as Kalvar looked over his shoulder at him, the veins in his eyes starting flush, turning his eyes a slight red color. "I'm going to kill every last vermin out there if I have to. Starting tonight." He shook his head, and the spell cleared. "Good night, Warrior of Redwall."
"Good night, Ranger of the North."
Thirty cloaked creatures left through the east wicker gate later that night.
Kalvar whispered to the others. "Stay quiet, paw signals only, and only if you have to. Remember, get the storage areas first, then random pots and kettles and other food. And remember, you don't need much. Let's go."
The creatures slunk quietly away in to the darkness.
Chapter 7: Chip off the BlockEdit
Velvet sat down next to Kalvar the next morning, who appeared to be lightly dozing. "Hey sleepyhead, wake up!"
Kalvar jumped, and his paw went for his dagger, but he stopped when he remembered where he was. "Oh, g'morning."
"Boy are you tired. Long night?"
He smiled, looking in to her blue eyes. "You really don't want to know."
Constance bent closer to the Abbot, conversing quietly with him.
"Our Velvet seems to have taken a liking to that Ranger leader, Kalvar."
The Abbot, however, was focused on his breakfast.
"Mmm, I must remember to thank the Friar. Mrmph, good porridge. Bwuh, what Constance? Oh yes, dearie me. So she has."
"I think that may not be best for both of them."
"Why would you say that?"
"He's a warrior, and she's a creature of peace. He roams to where the biggest fight is, she stays as far from it as possible."
Pius observed the couple silently for a minute before responding. "I would agree, old friend, but they are happy together. He is trapped here for now, and so is she. Let us cross that short bridge once the large one has been crossed."
Constance growled so no one could hear. Kalvar was a suspicious figure, him and his Rangers. He still hadn't given them the whole picture.
Dakkar was finished with another murdering spree. Thirty vermin lay dead before him, the last one torn to shreds by an expert flourish from the fox.
Riptang sat on a nearby sack, shivering with fear. He'd be next, he knew it...
"Captain Riptang. Come here."
Riptang stood and strode to the Warlord as steadily as he could. "Yes, Excellency?" He couldn't stop his eyes from flicking to the blood spots on the white fox's sword, but he stood as straight as possible. Don't die with a whimper.
"You've served me well."
Dakkar smiled. "Don't fear my blade today, red one. Your plan was sound, skillfully laid out. The only problems were those out of your reach. And now those problems are removed, I would like you to come to my tent, that we may plan the next assault together."
Riptang stood a little straighter, the quakes gone out of him. "Yes, Excellency."
Lunch was served inside, a meal of scones, with ripe strawberries and meadow cream, topped with a slightly aged October Ale.
Kalvar sipped his ale while he watched the dibbuns dash about, playing and blowing cream on each other.
Sisters Velvet and Cornflower, and Mrs. Churchmouse were rushing about, trying to settle them down. He decided to lend a hand.
The ranger jumped out of his seat and nabbed a baby squirrel as he made a run for it. Diving in, he managed to grab several more.
Velvet giggled as she walked up to him, carrying four babes. "Heehee, the mighty ranger, forced to hunt and capture renegade dibbuns."
Kalvar blushed slightly as Churchmouse and Cornflower giggled along, and played along. "Aye, there the fiercest of the fierce. You always need a strong paw to give you some help, or they'll run you under, the braggarts."
The squirrel he'd nabbed first wriggled free and clambered up on to his shoulders. "Miv'sta ranga giva me ridesh, go round 'n' round da abbey."
Kalvar smiled and looked up at him. "Right, let's start with wherever Sister Velvet's going."
The squirrel tried to leap away, but Kalvar managed to reach out and nab him around the waste, almost dropping the other dibbuns in the process.
"Nonono, don't warra baff."
Kalvar carried the squeaking dibbuns up the stairs, following Velvet. "Quit struggling, you lot, or I'll give you the ranger pinch."
The squirrel stopped struggling for a second. "Warra ranga pinkch?"
Kalvar mockingly glared at the babe. "Let's just say that the last creature I did it to didn't move for hours. And he had bruises. Tsk, tsk."
The dibbuns stopped struggling, and bath time turned out to be a rarely quiet affair, Kalvar's threat hanging thick in the air, the dibbuns watched him do tricks with a dagger while they were bathed. Kalvar didn't talk much, just watched out the windows, rarely looking anywhere else.
About halfway through he excused himself and left, whipping out his sword and rushing down the stairs.
"'Scuse me, ladies."
The maids looked worriedly at each other, but they didn't hear the two bells ring, so they continued with the dibbun's morning bathing.
"You twelve, come with me."
The rangers leapt up from their breakfast and rushed out the door with Kalvar, drawing swords.
The two kicked the wicker gate opened and faced the two score vermin outside.
What ensued was a small skirmish in which the rangers forced the vermin back in to the woods.
"Take three prisoners! Kill the rest." Kalvar ordered as his beasts pursued the scattered vermin, and he bent to examine what they'd been doing.
Tirdea marched up, wiping the blood off his sword. "Always go through the area of least resistance, eh?"
Kalvar stood, having finished filling the hole back in. "Aye. That's not Dakkar's work, just some idiot officer with initiative. Good quality if you're smart."
His rangers returned, carrying three prisoners. One Ranger each dragged a vermin along. The ermine was obviously the officer, having better quality armor.
"Take them inside, lock them in the empty cellar room. One guard in the hall at all times."
Breakfast was interrupted momentarily by the rangers returning, and some of the gentler beasts started at the blood on the Ranger's armor and the small wounds they had sustained. However, their main curiosity was the three prisoners being dragged down to the cellars.
Kalvar went to his dormitory to clean his armor and sword, then returned to the bathing room, where the dibbun's were running around. The three mice maidens were trying to dry them.
"Stay still, you little things."
"Oy, get back here!"
"Ouch! Watch those spines, young hedgehog!"
"Need some help gathering them up!? Or shall I dispense some indiscriminate justice!?" Kalvar roared, paw on sword hilt. This brought immediate silence to the energetic dibbuns.
The maids and Kalvar finished drying the dibbuns, who then tumbled out of the room, rushing down for breakfast.
Cornflower stood, examining her soaked dress. "You certainly have a way with dibbuns."
Kalvar shrugged. "Play to your strengths. Rule two." And he left.
Velvet followed. "You have a strange personality."
The two took a detour down a third floor hallway, and stopped to look out the windows.
Kalvar tilted his head, neck bones clicking. "I do what needs to be done."
"Then why do you give me a lot of attention."
He looked at her, and she batted her eyelashes. The Ranger smiled. "Doing what needs to be done is just a small part of life."
"Am I a small part?"
"No, m'dear. The large part is having a reason to do the small part."
She laughed, and the two continued on their walk, holding paws.
Tirdea smiled as Kalvar strode up to him. The rangers sat together on the West battlements.
The ferret was first to speak. "How's the relationship with Velvet."
The mouse smiled. "Good. The talks and walks are most enjoyable."
Tirdea almost dared not ask: "And the silent times."
Kalvar just smiled, and changed the subject. "All quiet down there?"
His second in command slapped his forehead. "All quiet. Some kind of slaughter took place. That bonfire you see? Something like forty carcasses in there."
Kalvar pulled out a blackberry flan and broke it in two, giving one half to Tirdea. "Punishing the failures in the diggin plan, Lieutenants, Sergeants, and regular grunts. All those he holds responsible."
Tirdea could not hold back a question of curiosity: "Why do you hate him so much?"
Kalvar sipped at a flash of strawberry cordial and stood to leave. "He burned our old academy down, slaughtered a bunch of young recruits. Oh, and he killed me."
The Ranger leader strode off before Tirdea could absorb this information and ask more questions. Instead the ranger officer was left to munch the flan and drink his cordial, and stew over this bit of information. This feud with Dakkar was bringing a lot about his leader to light.
Chapter 8: Roo rye hah!Edit
Riptang let out a rare snarl. There had to be a way to break the Abbey, there just had to be!
But the only way he could see to break the creatures was to get rid of those Rangers. And the problem there was that for every Ranger on those walls, a hundred of their army fell!
The cunning fox pored through the texts he kept, looking for clues.
Supper was being served, a good meal of freshwater shrimp and hotroot soup. For those who didn't particularly enjoy the spicy brew, there was vegetable soup to be had. Drink was a cold October Ale.
The rangers particularly enjoyed the hotroot soup, some going to far as to duel it out with the otters. Hilarity ensued as watery eyed creatures sipped the ever hotter liquid and ran chugged down cooling gulps of the Abbey's famous Ale.
Constance watched as Kalvar and Velvet left the party and walked up the stairs. She leaned to the Abbot.
"There's no doubt about it, Father Abbot. They just won't let each other go."
The Abbot slammed his spoon down perhaps a little harder than he meant to. He waited for the creatures around them to return to their food before responding.
"And what would you have me do? It is not our place to get in between them! Besides, it's too late. They love each other! Get over it, Constance!"
"He'll get her killed!"
"He will not. He is fanatical in the defense of anything good. Imagine how he will defend her if she is threatened."
"Then he'll break her heart. Have you asked any of his warriors how many Rangers die of old age?"
"No, I have not. Do tell me."
Constance rapped the table with her claws. "Just one. Each died in battle or were assassinated after they retired. I know not who survived to die of old age. I heard a rumor that Kalvar has technically already been killed!"
The Abbot sighed, long and deep. "Velvet is a smart creature, she knows the risks. I'm sure they've spoken of it. Kalvar would not keep her in the dark about such things, and she would not accept him if she didn't like it."
At the moment Kalvar and Velvet were on the roof, staring out to the east, over Mossflower woods, leaning against each other.
Velvet looked up in to Kalvar's eyes.
"I heard that you were killed. How can that be?"
Kalvar closed his eyes. "Dakkar stabbed me seven times in the back. The healer who revived me told me that my heart was not beating and I wasn't breathing for almost two minutes."
"How are you talking to me now?"
"We have a way of pumping a creatures heart back to life, and filling their lungs with air. I'm not the only one that's happened to."
Velvet dropped her gaze and thought of her parents. They'd dies when a vermin gang has burned their log home in. She'd been trapped under the branch, unable to stop them slicing her parents to ribbons. Maybe if she had known this trick, she could have-
"I'm sorry, but you couldn't have saved them."
She looked up, startled. "How did you know that? It's almost like you're psychic."
He shrugged. "I just knew that the topic would eventually lead to this, especially my telling of the revival technique. You've told me of how your parents died. Again, I'm sorry, but by the time you freed yourself from the branch, it was too late. It only works if you can get them revived with a few minutes."
She lay her head back on his shoulder. "At least I won't have to stew over that one for a while."
"That often leads to terrible thoughts."
"Could you teach me how to use that technique?"
Kalvar smiled. "I'd be happy to, love."
"The shrews! The shrews!"
The east wicker gate swung open, and Logalog and fifteen score shrew warriors and their families poured in to the grounds to mass applause.
Introductions were made all around, and Kalvar was surprised to find that the Guosim already knew of the Rangers.
He stood shaking Logalog's paw. "It's an honor to meet you, Logalog."
Logalog grinned from ear to ear. "And it is a pleasure to meet you, Kalvar the Ranger."
Logalog released Kalvar's paw, and Kalvar folded his arms across his chest. "So, I take it you're here to fight?"
The shrew leader fiddled with his rapier handle. "Aye, that we are. We're tired of the scum scaring off all the fish and eating all the fruit, as well as picking us off one by one. 'Tis not good for raising shrewbabes. Yes, we're with you Kalvar, to freedom or death."
Kalvar turned to Abbot Pius, who had just struggled free from a horde of shrewbabes. "I'd say our odds just got better, Father."
Pius nodded, and was promptly run under by another wave of young shrews.
The kitchens turned out another meal to feed the newcomers, and the Redwall dibbuns awoke to play with their new friends.
Logalog and the other leaders sat on the southwest battlement, getting caught up to speed. Logalog had bittersweet news.
"The forest is quite devoid of food. The Guosim have been surviving on roots and tubers for the last few sunrises. Just two days ago we decided to come here. Those vermin will be hard pressed to find food."
Kalvar shook his head. "I doubt it. Look."
Every beast looked out to the west, where Dakkar's main host was still camped.
Basil scratched his head. "Not much to see there, sirrah. Just a bally lot of fires, wot."
Kalvar nodded. "And I guarantee you that in each one of those large bonfires is at least forty of their dead."
Constance turned to face him. "You mean they eat their dead?"
The Ranger nodded. "Yes, and one of those beasts can feed at least a score of live ones."
Abbot Pius wrinkled his nose. "That's vile!"
Kalvar's gaze hardened. "Aye, he feeds his army whenever he attacks us. There are only three ways we get them out. We kill the entire army, or I kill Dakkar."
Jess couldn't take her eyes off the fires. "How do you plan on doing that? In the last score of days, I've seen arrows, javelins, spears, even your warriors three swords bounce right off that armor of his. Its indestructible! And its even crazier to sneak in there and assassinate him. He's surrounded by thousands of his creatures!"
Kalvar pulled out his dagger and placed it by his head, the tip at his neck and the pommel half a paw's width from his ear. "Stab down like that. There's a gap between his helmet and collar guard. Stab a blade there. I know the design of that armor, it has a dozen spots similar to that one. That's why I have to fight him."
Basil stood rigid. "So you'll have to challenge the blighter, eh, wot wot?"
Constance swept her arms out. "No, there's got to be another way! You alone can't fight that demon!"
Pius and the others agreed wholeheartedly, but Kalvar held up a paw.
The Ranger smiled. "I already did. Twenty minutes ago, when the bells rang."
Velvet rushed in to the room to find Kalvar fixing up his army. Using a small hammer and tongs, he was straightening the dented chainmail.
The mousemaid was livid. "You're going to fight Dakkar tomorrow!?"
The chinking stopped and Kalvar turned around. "Yes, I am."
"That armor is impenetrable!"
He was already shaking his head. "I already explained that it has weaknesses."
"And what about the chainmail underneath! For that matter, knowing you, he'll probably be defending his weak spots!"
The Ranger shrugged. "Already does. As you've pointed out, its impossible to pierce the plates."
She stood in the doorway, paws akimbo. "So you'll die for Redwall? Sacrifice yourself to rid this world of one warlord?"
Kalvar strode over and placed his paws on Velvet's shoulders, who had now crossed her arms and was glaring fiercely at him. "No, I won't die."
"How do you know?" She spat.
He smiled and turned back to his work. "I have a reason to live. Please, I need to finish fixing my equipment."
She stood there, trembling slightly, then turned and slammed the door.
Kalvar sighed and closed his eyes for a second, then went back to work.
The next morning was pleasant, Kalvar thought as he walked to the path and stopped twenty paces short of it.
He was clad in his thick leather armor, underneath which was his chainmail suit. He had no gloves or helmet, but carried his sword and dagger on his waist, and a round shield on his back.
Not bothering to look behind him, he knew Redwallers would be lining the ramparts, and his Rangers lining the ground in front of the gate he'd left through.
He shed his cloak and grabbed his shield as Dakkar approached in full plate mail, from helmet to boots and gauntlets, and sporting his tower shield and longsword. The white fox leapt over the ditch and slammed his visor down.
Kalvar drew his longsword from its sheath. "Hello, old friend."
Dakkar drew his sword as well. "Have you come do sacrifice yourself to kill me, Ranger?"
"And yet you will defend this Abbey to your last breath."
"My last breath will be taken when you rip the lungs from my chest."
"Ah, so you have a reason to live now. Odd for a Ranger leader."
Kalvar stood straight and proclaimed loudly. "I have two reasons to live. What do you have?"
Kalvar assumed a high horizontal guard as Dakkar charged in, then switched to a lower vertical guard as Dakkar switched his angle of attack.
Their blades met in a loud clash, and Kalvar used Dakkar's momentum to spin in to a high swing.
His blade clanged off Dakkar's helmet, not even leaving a scratch.
The warlord laughed. "You can't hurt me, little mouse."
Kalvar laughed right back. "I seem to remember your mother saying something similar."
Dakkar screamed and charged in with a straight stab to Kalvar's chest, who rolled forward and right, taking him next to Dakkar, who spun to follow him.
Kalvar held up his shield and took the hit close to Dakkar's hilt. The force of the swing pulled him in to Dakkar, and the mouse bowled the plated warlord over, and came out on top.
He dropped his shield, leaving it attached to Dakkar's sword and whipped out his dagger. He rammed it down between the tasset and breastplate, stabbing the fox in his hip bone and drawing forth a pained howl. The blade didn't go far, and Kalvar managed to pull his blade out. Unfortunately Dakkar managed to get a gauntleted paw around Kalvar's throat. While his chainmail and thick leather prevented the warlord from choking him properly, Dakkar's helmet was perfectly suited for headbutting, so that's what he did.
Kalvar growled as the helmet struck his face three times, feeling his flesh break open. He wrapped his paw tight around his sword hilt and slammed the pommel down on Dakkar's wrist. The gauntlet snapped back roughly, and Dakkar flinched, releasing the mouse, who immediately pushed off and sprung backward out of reach.
He assumed a crouched pose, both blades held out in front of him, then was forced to roll again as the fox charged him, then grunted as his foes' sword arm came around, and with it his blade.
Dakkar's sword diced his leather and crushed his chainmail, opening a long but shallow wound in his chest. However, the damage went deeper than that, and Kalvar spat up a minuscule amount of blood, but again assumed his double bladed stance.
Up on the walls, things didn't look good, as Jess was quick to mention.
"Kalvar had better get his blade somewhere important, else Dakkar will strike a blow he won't get back up from."
Velvet was gripping the battlements tightly while Cornflower attempted to comfort her.
"There, there, young'un. Kalvar's too smart to let that fox get him so easy."
Dakkar charged in again, and this time Kalvar threw himself flat on his back, then swung both blades up as the warlord passed over.
One of his blades caught one of the tower shields leather straps and cut through it.
As he rose, Dakkar was shaking his shield loose.
Cornflower tried to smile comfortingly. "See there? Just like he said. Weaknesses all over that armor."
Velvet shook her head. "That's just the shield. Its the rest of the armor that's the hard part."
The two combatants were circling slowly. Dakkar shook his head and snarled. "You always were the fast one."
Kalvar twirled his dagger and wiped a small trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth with the other paw. "And you always were the strong one. Pity it didn't stretch to your head."
Dakkar roared and charged in, feinting right, then left, then swinging straight down. Kalvar pivoted on his right paw, and the blade sunk in to the earth. He dropped his sword and grabbed Dakkar's paw, laying his dagger almost flat on the fox's vambrace, then pulling.
The short blade slipped down Dakkar's gauntlet and stabbed his wrist. Kalvar twisted the blade, cutting deep, but not catching any arteries.
He twisted and pulled the blade out just in time. Dakkar leapt back, attempting to take the dagger with him, but Kalvar had been in and out faster than Dakkar could follow.
Kalvar sprung backward and picked up his sword.
He smiled through a bloody mouth, and spat up more blood. "You always were good with rule two. Pity you never got the hang of rule one."
Dakkar tested his paw, but it didn't move. He used the arm as a balance, but let the useless paw hang.
"Got a few more of them Redwallers than I should have, had you not bothered to forget rule one."
Kalvar laughed, then grimaced. "Aye, not in the plan, but you unwittingly helped me. If you kill me and survive, then one heart will be shattered. If I kill you, then more than nine thousand minds will be lost. That is why me remembering rule one allows me to forget rule two."
Dakkar was momentarily caught off guard. "What do you mean by that?"
Kalvar gestured with his longsword to Dakkar's tower shield. "Case in point."
Dakkar snarled and approached Kalvar.
When he was but a few paces away he leapt forward. Kalvar rolled right, then rolled again as Dakkar changed course.
He caught the edge of the shield with his footpaw and flipped it up, holding it in the air for a moment with both his footpaws.
Dakkar ran full tilt in to it, making the metal screech but hold and causing Kalvar's legs to piston in to his chest, releasing his breath in a whoosh, along with a small mist of blood.
Dakkar flipped on his stomach, and managed to turn himself over to see Kalvar soaring in the air towards him.
He twisted his paw, bringing the point up.
Kalvar fell on the blade, roaring as the sword ran him through above the waist, the point sticking out his back.. Nonetheless, he managed to plunge his dagger in between Dakkar's gorget and pauldron.
Kalvar and Dakkar both twisted their blades, and growled.
Velvet held her paws over her mouth, and acutely noticed that Cornflower had no reassuring words this time. No one was talking.
Dakkar pulled away, and Kalvar's dagger broke off in Dakkar's shoulder, who howled and released his sword hilt. He released the grip and grabbed the blade stuck in him, pulling it out an inch at a time. He pulled it out, then bent double and vomited blood on the grass.
He staggered back, but not before Dakkar landed another blow to his thigh. Kalvar felt the bone give way, and a shot of pain lanced up his body, blocking out every thing else. Everything became a misty red haze, and all he saw was his enemy, retreating. His vision began to dim.
"Get back here you coward!" He roared after the fox and struggled to stand, but his leg wouldn't support him, and he fell. Dimly he saw the warlord leap over the ditch to safety, then everything was lost to him.
Chapter 9: RecoveryEdit
The infirmary keeper, a squirrel named Leafcatcher, finished the splint around his leg.
"There we go, that's the best I can do. I've fixed all the wounds on his outside, but there's little I can do about his internal injuries. I'm sorry, Miss Velvet."
Velvet thanked the healer, and sat holding Kalvar's paw as he twitched in his sleep. Others such as Angelica, Tirdea, and Matthias soon joined her. She glanced up and saw several creatures out in the hallway, looking in and trying to see what was going on.
Kalvar was dreaming.
He had to be. There were no winter flowers where he was.
The mouse stuck his hand in to the soft petals, letting the smooth texture run over his paws.
His dirt brown tunic and trousers hung comfortably off his body. Odd, he'd never worn these clothes. Not for many long seasons...
He looked up to see his family, and was sad when they faded from sight. In their place stood Dakkar, clad in the same brown clothing Kalvar wore.
Kalvar smiled and went to join his friend, but Dakkar backed away.
Kalvar was puzzled. "What is wrong, friend?"
Dakkar's face became slightly frightened. "You killed my mother, fiend. Stay away from me!" And he pointed towards Kalvar's paws.
Kalvar looked at them. They were stained red and dried.
Visitors came and went, but Velvet never left his side.
Kalvar clicked his jaw and turned his head toward her. Out of one eye a tear leaked.
The stone was cold on Kalvar's paws. Odd, the academy was leagues from the flower pasture.
He approached the wooden door. The guards stood aside, and he pushed the doors open.
The academy burned. Blood caked the walls. He dreamily noticed that the red was similar to the red on his paws.
A young mouse staggered out of a door, and fell in to Kalvar's arms. The mouse's tunic was stained with blood. He was dead.
Kalvar looked up and saw Dakkar standing at the end of the hall, holding a burning torch and a bloody sword.
Dakkar held the sword up and stared down at the blood stains on it. Then he pointed the sword at the mouse in Kalvar's arms.
"Is this your legacy, Ranger?"
Kalvar tilted his head down and looked in to his own, unseeing eyes.
Kalvar snarled, his brow sweating.
Velvet dabbed at it, feeling helpless. It was getting on to morning, the only visitor now was Constance, who felt a sense of debt to the Ranger.
Kalvar snarled again, and his unbroken leg kicked out, and Velvet put her paw on his chest. Something was wrong.
Abbot Pius and Matthias were walking up the stairs, on their way to the infirmary.
"Kalvar seems to be getting on well."
Matthias nodded. "He may actually survive. Amazing for being stabbed right through the midriff.
They came to the infirmary door and were about to knock when it opened and Constance stepped out, head hung.
Pius was frozen in place. "Kalvar. Is he-?"
Constance shook her head, and Matthias and Abbot Pius closed their eyes and hung their heads.
Kalvar awoke to white walls and light coming in through the windows.
He gasped and almost choked, coughing and turning over. Pain seared up his side, and he yelped.
"Oh stop it, you big lummox!" Velvet was smiling, with tears running down her face.
The door slammed open, and Constance, Pius, and Matthias charged in.
Constance looked stunned. "You were dead. You were dead."
Velvet smiled. "He was."
Kalvar laughed. "Well great, that's two to my count."
He grabbed Velvet's paw, who squeezed his tight.
He lay back, still smiling. "Now, you get to tell all of us here why I have two reasons to live."
Velvet's jaw worked momentarily up and down, and the other three creatures laughed. "Go on, Velvet, tell us!?
Kalvar lay back, waiting for Velvet to speak. He remembered the last part of his dream.
Kalvar stood on the shore, clad in green clothing, his armor underneath. Today was a good day for a swim, so he did.
Odd, he didn't need to seem to breath. This surprised him, so he swam back to the beach.
Off in the distance he saw a large, dark disk on the horizon. Odd, there was no land that close.
Turning around, he was faced with a mouse a few paces off, clad in plate mail and carrying a sword at his side. He wore no helmet.
Martin did not move a muscle, but Kalvar clearly heard his voice:
Go south, Ranger, and find your foe.
Your work in this land is done for now.
Take your friends, not a horde.
You will meet your old friend on a distant battlefield.
But you will not slay him there, or the next place.
Go now, it is not your time to join me!
Martin turned and disappeared, and Kalvar was met with a view of a large castle in the distance, with Martin's sword hanging above it, before everything faded.
The Rangers were helping to rebuild Redwall after the great siege. Dakkar's army had left, traveling south.
Kalvar leaned on his crutch and stumped his way out in to the grounds. He was happier than he ever could have been.
The trebuchets were being disassembled, the wood being stored for later jobs or taken to the cellar to make barrels.
The three prisoners were set free, and were set facing west.
Tirdea strode up as Kalvar observed the trebuchets were being torn to scrap, all except the sling arms.
The ferret smiled as his leader continued stumping his way across the grounds, examining the reconstruction.
"Pity those shrews never got a chance to fight. Logalog about beat the tar out of his boots when he saw them runnin' off."
Kalvar smiled sadly. "Aye, he would."
Tirdea caught up easily with his leader. "Two reasons to live, eh? What, might I ask, is the second?"
Kalvar smiled, a bright and easy smile. "I'm going to be a father, Tirdea."
Tirdea roared with laughter, and two nearby moles looked up, then went back to work.
"Hurr, 'ee ranngirs be'm a croizy lot, boi okey."
"Oh aye, art least thart one's harpy."
"Oi think they're both harpy."
"Hurm, we'm all better be's."
The two ranger's mannerism became much more serious as they rounded the corner and came upon the back of the Abbey.
Rolling up their sleeves to reveal two golden bracelets around their wrists, intricate carvings adorning them both.
Pulling out small knives, the two sliced around their forearms, where the edge of the bracelet met their flesh, until an their entire arms were cut all the way around.
Clasping each others forearms near the elbows and letting the blood flow, the Rangers stared at each other, not flinching.
Tirdea spoke first. "Your family is my family-"
"Your blood is my blood." Kalvar finished.
Blood had covered their forepaws and the bracelets, mingling of its own accord.
The strange ritual done, the pair wrapped their forearms up and pulled the sleeves back down, and continued their walk.
Kalvar and Velvet lay up on the roof again, this time looking west, watching the great host leave.
"I'm going to have to leave, sometime."
Velvet leaned up against him. "I know, Martin told me. He said you'd know why."
He squeezed her. "I have to, because I don't want my child to grow up like me. Don't worry, I'll be here for two or three seasons yet."
They snuggled closer, warming each other against the coming cold of the setting sun.
From the Writings of Tim ChurchmouseEdit
Recorder and bookkeeper of Redwall Abbey
It's been two seasons since Kalvar the Ranger fought off Dakkar the Warlord. Fifty Redwallers and six Rangers died defending this Abbey against a horde of 10,000, but all the Rangers were injured and about half the Redwallers, some permanently.
But there is good news. Velvet has given birth to a babe, a little female mouse! Kalvar sat with them for two days before they all left the room to enter the Great Hall, Velvet carrying the newcomer in a blanket.
They were met with cheers of congratulations, and a feast ensued the likes of which I have not seen! All the tables were carried outside, and the kitchens put out all the food they could muster. The night was a happy one, with Velvet and Kalvar sitting together with their newborn child, who seems to have taken a liking to strawberry cordial.
She has been named Stardust, having been born in the night. I like the name, it has a ring to it.
Kalvar has told me that he will be leaving Redwall next season. I know not why, but he and some others have been scurrying around at night, planning something. Kalvar himself asked me to bury my account of this siege deep. Ranger tradition, he says. Tirdea whispered to me that the tradition was really to not leave any record that the Rangers had been there. Imagine! Me, writing the first known record of the Rangers of the North!
I'm afraid I don't have anything to write now. I must go and search for more news. Good bye, friends, and peace be with you.
Well, that is the end of the first one. Now please, go and play. I need to find the next one, I know it's here somewhere.
Can we help you look, sir?
No, I'm afraid you can't. Its in a specific place. Buried deep, I'm told. Yes, deep.
Now be off with you! And don't 'sir' me!