A six-year-old black rat crouched in the ruins of Malkariss’s cave. He was Lupin- son of Cluny the Scourge and a gray she-rat named Lilith. (Note: Lupin is the name of a poisonous plant.)
Lupin jumped as his mother’s heavily-accented voice carried from the entrance. “Lupin?! Lupin, what you doin’ here?”
He sighed and went to her. “Lupin!” She thundered. “How many times do you want to end up like your eejit father, smashed under a metal bell, may he rest in peace?”
“Good.” Lilith smirked, and pressed three gold coins into Lupin’s paw. “Go.” She whispered. “Go on down to Clott’s tavern and get your mommy some rum.”
“B-but,” Lupin stammered. “Aren’t you still havin’ a---”
“I KNOW I’M STILL HAVIN’ A HANGOVER!” Lilith roared. “Just be a good boy and get me what I want.”
“All right.” Frightened, Lupin made off towards the entrance.
“Sweetie…” Lilith murmured, stroking Lupin’s dark fur. “You look just like your father….” She murmured pleasurably.
“Yellow-green eyes like his…. Yes, wonderful…. Luscious.” Lilith often got like this when she was drunk, which was every day. She had gone mad with grief after Cluny’s death.
Shuddering, Lupin broke free from his mother’s grasp and ran off towards the small village down the road.
Book I: The Scourge and his FollowersEdit
Chapter One: The mad surgeonEdit
Years went by. Lupin turned 33. He became a warlord, like his father. Better, even.
Until one afternoon in May, during the Spring of the White Tulip, in which a fragment of artillery shell blew clear through his leg and the rat was left for dead. As his followers carried him on a wooden board through the woods as they’d done for his father when he was only a child, Lupin never lost consciousness. He had no idea if it was a good thing or not. The slightest movement was agony, and his leg felt as though it’d been dipped in acid.
I’m going to die. He thought miserably. I’m going to die in my prime just like my father, who never had a chance to show the world his wrath.
Lupin whimpered slightly and stroked the ragged pieces of chain-mail that still remained on his chest.
Redtail, who was at the head of the line glanced worriedly towards the searat and advised “Lie still, chief. Try not to move if it hurts you.”
“Oh hellgates, shut up.” Lupin managed to bark from his board. Strains of the war song he’d composed himself drifted faintly through his head.
Steel unload, final blow! Filthy animals beat them low, blood and bone, black and blue- wretches and kings we come for you! Their camp was located in a small canyon half a mile away. Redtail, along with a female skunk named Twigclaw managed to carry Lupin into his tent, where he swung himself off the board and painfully maneuvered himself into bed. After that, Redtail soon retreated to call for HobGoblin, the mad surgeon.
HobGoblin or Gob as he was known to most was an elderly weasel who was known for walking with a bizarre limp. He was known as a seasoned healer and lived next door to Lupin’s camp.
“Damnation, Gob you’re not cutting off my leg. I’ll fight you tooth and claw if you try.” Lupin folded his front paws against him and lay back in bed angrily.
The weasel bowed before his chief and said “My lord Lupin, I can make no promises.” And with that, he pulled back the sheet and revealed to the roomful of animals Lupin’s left hind leg. It was an awful sight. Encrusted with blood, its black fur was burned and missing in patches. It was swollen to an ugly hue of purplish-black.
Weakly, Lupin sat up and stroked the injured limb. He felt no sensation there and could not move it even a fraction of an inch. It was a dead thing that would serve him no more purpose. When Lupin touched it again he yelped in exquisite pain and forced himself to lie back down, cursing at his position of defenselessness.
“And there you have it.” Said Gob, grinning vilely, putting on a pair of well-worn leather pawgloves. “Worst infection I’ve ever seen.” He pronounced.
“When will you amputate?” Lupin asked, closing one eye in dread.
“Tonight.” Hob then turned warily back to Lupin. “I know you’re not fond of the idea, but amputation is your only choice. Look. You’re a healthy young rat. You’re a fighter. You’ll probably only need one, two weeks of recovery before you can go around like the whole dern thing never happened.”
Lupin sat up in bed. “Fair enough.” He muttered.
HobGoblin limped out towards the door. “But before I leave for the afternoon, my pay, if I might?”
Grinning, Lupin snatched a leather satchel from his bedside table and pulled out a fistful of gold coins. “More than enough.” He said and emotionlessly handed them to Gob. A few moments went by, and all of Lupin’s officers and underlings slowly left their injured chief alone with the terrifying thought of the night’s surgery.
Gob returned again that night, as promised. Lupin lay awake in his bed, trembling in slight, only slight fear. It deeply worried Gob that he couldn't find any Tigerlily, a herb typically used as an anesthetic. But in the end, it wasn't needed. The infection was so awful that Lupin blacked out on his own manner.
The amputation itself was easy enough- only two hours long. But harder than one might assume. Gob had to cut again and again before the leg finally came and when it did there was blood. So much blood. It spilled down from the wooden table and onto the grass floor of the tent.
Dizzily Gob found himself awash in a sea of red, nervous at what his fate might be. If Lupin lost too much blood and the amputation had to be cancelled because of it, Gob would be executed for sure- he'd seen the grotesque, mutilated headless carcasses of animals who'd failed to meet Lupin's vehement demands. (Lupin had them beheaded and mounted on his banner, a plain burgundy cloth that was adorned with those vile things, like trophies.) But then, as he stood there shaking in fear, all of a sudden the bleeding stopped. Gob heaved a nervous sigh of relief and looked down at the leg he'd just cut off. For an experienced healer such as he, ironically, the weasel couldn't always handle the sight of blood.
Gingerly he fished it off the table with two claws. A spike of bone protruded from it. Gob laid it back onto the table and then turned his attention back to his unconscious patient. He cleaned out the stump, applied a poultice and quickly and neatly bandaged it. Slowly and gently, he managed to carry Lupin a few feet across the room and laid him back into bed. Then, Gob, clenching his teeth picked up the stump with two claws and buried it outside. When morning came, he could only pray his head wouldn't be mounted on Lupin's banner with all the others.
Chapter two: The carrying-on of plansEdit
Lupin awoke the next morning to see Gob examining him while Redtail, (an otter) and a few of his other officers milled around aimlessly, chatting of minor things and waiting for their chief to issue his first order.
Gob froze and immeadietly stopped counting Lupin's pulse as he saw that the rat's yellowy eyes were open- and looking directly at him! Gob cringed and stepped backward. Gob quickly regained his usually calm and all-buisness demeanor and hastily bowed before his patient. "How are you feeling, your majesty?"
"Better." Lupin said as he picked at his usual breakfast of cheese, meat and wine. When he was done, Lupin did not hesitate to look at the bandaged stump that had once been his hind leg. As he gently ran his claws over it, he yelped in pain like a dog, a strange noise that earned quiet murmurs among the officers and a giggle from Redtail. But in his head, Lupin immeadietly began planning. As soon as he grew well enough to walk or rather hobble (which would probably not take very long) he would return to business with the rest of his horde.
Yes, I'll conquer Redwall if it's the last thing I do! Lupin thought to himself. Oh I will.....
By afternoon, Redtail was drilling the rest of the horde near the mouth of the stream that ran through the camp. "Attention!" He yelled, as strictly as an army drill seargent.
All the animals outside were deathly still. "All right, look alive, the chief will be here soon."
As he spoke, Lupin came hobbling out of his tent on the far side of the canyon, same old spitfire in his eyes, and Redtail grimaced. "I stand corrected." He said. "The chief IS here."
All the animals in the horde began trembling as Lupin looked them over. "Idiots and cowards." He murmured and digust. "Why can't any of you be more like Redtail? You're nothing more than a lot of pub thugs, you are."
Finally, Lupin stopped and began staring at a fat young otter named Bluddclaw, who happened to be Redtail's little brother. A piece of chocolate was clutched firmly in Bluddclaw's shaking fist. "Bluddclaw." Lupin said discretely, looking glee at the otter's fear. "You know what happens if any of you posess candy without my knowing."
"It... It's confiscated?" Bluddclaw whimpered.
Lupin smiled an evil smile. "No." He said. "All right, step out you." Bluddclaw did as he was told. "Face the sun. Thirty lashes."
Bluddclaw screamed in pain as Lupin's barbed tail swung again and again across his back, until it was crisscrossed with disgusting, bleeding open wounds. Finally, at the thirtieth lash Lupin stopped, and Bluddclaw collapsed to the ground.
"Is he dead?!?!" Redtail demanded to know. "Did you kill my brother?!"
Lupin only shook his head. "No, but you wouldn't want to be him in half an hour." And with that, Lupin limped off towards his tent.
As soon as the rat came in, he saw Gob sitting in a chair, humming an old Mossflower ballad to himself. "Pay thyself." Lupin said in mockingly old-fashioned speech as he allowed the healer to count his own wages.
"I'll be back this afternoon." Gob warned as he eagerly collected his money and trotted out the door.
Exhausted, Lupin promptly went back to bed, but his sleep was soon broken by a nightmare....
The young Lupin stood, helpless as his father was crushed by the weight of the Joseph Bell, as the Redwallers celebrated inside the abbey. The scene then changed to the present. Lupin stood on the ramparts of Redwall, on all four legs, sword at the ready. An unknown animal in a red hooded cloak stood before him, a mouthful of grinning fangs exposed beneath the shadows of the hood. "Who are you?" Lupin asked in a snarled tone.
The creature's grin only widened and he said "I am no one. Yet... And yet I am someone."
As Lupin's racing mind was analyzing the meaning of the strange riddle, the animal thrust his sword deep into Lupin's left hind leg and in one swift motion sliced it off. Lupin howled in pain and tripped, nearly falling from the abbey wall and dangled from the side, his claws death-gripping the old stone. In a frenzy, he tried to pull himself up but slipped and fell towards the ground as the Matthias and Methuselah bells sounded his demise: BONG! BONG!! BONG!!!!!
Lupin awoke later that afternoon with a start. Still not quite awake, he screamed "Villains! Monsters! Dissemble no more! I am dead! It is the tolling of the hideous bells!!!"
Meanwhile, in nearby part of camp, Bluddclaw sat with his hind paws in the water while Redtail painted his wounds with antiseptic and bandaged them. "Sounds like the chief is having a bad time." Bluddclaw remarked.
Redtail had to smile and said "Of course he is."
When Gob returned as promised, that afternoon, he got down to business examining the remnants of Lupin's leg. "Better." Gob said, peering beneath the bandage. He then continued "If you want to start walking again, that's perfectly fine, but stop if it hurts you. The stump will hurt for some time until you're completely healed. You may have to take herbs for some time, but...."
"Yes, yes I know!" Lupin said impatiently. "But what I really want to know Gob is when I'll be fit to travel."
Gob only shrugged. "As I told you yesterday, about a week."
"Good." Said Lupin, getting out of bed. "Because as you know, I have plans to carry out."
Exactly one week later, they departed in the direction of Redwall abbey.
Chapter three: Wretches and kingsEdit
The horde was on the road once more. It was Bluddclaw who had first discovered the faint shilouette of buildings in the distance. "Hey, uh chief; look! A city, who knows what kinda stuff they have there? Uh, chief? Hey, wait up!" As Bluddclaw spoke this, Lupin whipped his horse into a gallop and all the other hordesbeasts followed his lead and Bluddclaw was left in the dust. During the road rage, he felt a sickening tightening sensation around his neck, and realized that Lupin, who rode nearby had used his tail to pull Bluddclaw right out of his saddle! Bluddclaw was forced to walk on the side of Lupin's horse for the remainder of the journey.
Later that afternoon, they broke camp in a small meadow with a river running through it. This was where the horde would stay until they'd fully developed their plans. Lupin stood alone in his tent, dressed in his father's armor, facing the full-length mirror. Absentmindedly, he ran his front paw along the cold metal surface of the helmet that had once been his father's, decorated with the horns of a stag beetle. I'll never be you. Lupin thought. But I can avenge your name.
Lupin leaned heavily on his wooden crutch, and sheathed his sword. He limped out of the tent to find Redtail and Bluddclaw playing cards on the grass. "Get up, boys." He said to them. They scrambled to their paws, and Redtail saluted. "It's showtime."
During the next ten minutes, Lupin had the entire horde assembled, told them to ready the packhorses, briefly inspected them, before they mounted their horses and rode off to the city of Devonshire.
"This is what we are going to do." Lupin said to the assembled animals as they stood alone in a back alley. "We'll do what we've always done. Divide and conquer. Take no prisoners, leave no one alive. Now get your sorry hides out of my presence."
Obediently, they scattered, and it was only a matter of time before Lupin found himself alone in another cold, isolated alley, roused by the sound of another creature's breathing. He followed it to its source, a young ottermaid who couldn't have been more than sixteen or seventeen.
Immeadietly Lupin unsheathed his sword and held it to her head.
"Please," She whispered. "Please don't kill me. Not like my mam and da and my sister Lois and...."
"Ah, save your whining for someone more sympathetic!" Lupin snarled, and the otter shut one eye. "Now unless you want your head to be mounted on my banner I suggest you act quickly. What do they call you, young one?"
The otter said nothing and continued to shiver.
"What's the matter, eh? Rat got your tongue?" Lupin moved his sword until it was only an inch in front of her heart.
"Beth. They call me Beth." She whimpered.
"Ah. Wise choice." Lupin sheathed his sword, and for a moment the otter Beth thought she saw a flicker of mercy in his eyes. But if the emotion was indeed mercy, it was only enough to save her life. Cold and frightened, Beth remained sitting. "Get up, you insolent creature!" He whipped her twice across the chest. "You are my hostage now." He said to her. "You will not walk unless I say so. You will not speak unless I say so. By the teeth of hell, you won't even BREATHE unless I tell you to! Is that clear?"
"I said IS THAT CLEAR!??!?!?!"
"Yes..." Beth whimpered. Lupin snatched up the otter's paw and dragged her through the streets until he met up with Redtail and the others in the town square. There wasn't a non-horde animal in sight. "Look what I found." He said grimly. Redtail trotted over to Lupin.
"A young one, eh?" He said, studying Beth with interest.
Lupin only shook his head. "Don't even think about it." He said, turning to Beth. "In case you haven't already noticed, this is Redtail, and he's to be your master in the instance I'm not around." Lupin then said to Redtail "Tie her to that horse there." He jabbed a claw at a runty packhorse.
"All right." With some diffuculty, Redtail lifted Beth into the saddle and tied her there with a piece of rope. Lupin then quickly left to see if there were any other live animals to be taken prisoner.
Since Redtail was still there, Beth took an opprotunity to ask him "Why does he only have three legs?"
Redtail only said gravely "His leg was a casulaty of war." Without even meaning to, Beth laughed. Then she clamped her paw over her muzzle and was quiet.
Lupin and co. rode through the bloody streets of Devonshire, their horse's hooves making wet clopping noises on the bloodied cobblestones. Wild cheers of "All hail Lupin!" And "Long live the Scourge!"
As for the otter Beth, now a prisoner, she rode miserably along, still tied down to the saddle. The horse itself was tethered to Lupin's own horse, Rhett so that the warlord could keep an eye on her at all times. Beth fell asleep to the sound of Redtail beating his war-drum, Lupin's lilting voice as he sang out 'Wretches and Kings' the horde's battle song. Beth's eyes began to grow heavy as the countless bodies swam before her. She stayed awake for some time before finally giving into sleep.
Chapter four: The Yellow HorseshoeEdit
By morning Beth awoke to the sound of horseshoes striking the earth, and blinked to see they were still traveling. They'd arrived in the beautiful countryside of Mossflower, and as Beth took in the gorgeous landscape, Lupin treated her as if she wasn't even there. Soon they'd passed a weathered stone that read: REDWALL TWENTY MI.
Lupin screamed "Yes! At last I will have my revenge! All of us will have our revenge!"
The horde cheered wildly and Beth murmured "Hooray," under her breath. A few miles later they stopped at a modest two-story building with a handpainted wooden sign swinging in the breeze. It read: THE YELLOW HORSESHOE and had a picture of a yellow horseshoe underneath the words. Lupin dismounted, and he, Redtail and a guinea pig named Monty (The horde's healer) went inside, and Lupin ordered everyone else to wait by the hitching rail until they returned.
Lupin strutted inside like the arrogant peacock of a rat he could sometimes be shouting "Gotham! Your finest table, please!" They ended up sitting near the bar, as Lupin drank more rum than he could swallow. For the pain, he said.
After some time, a skunk dressed in a dark purple suit came over to the table. It was Gotham, the owner of the Yellow Horseshoe and a past aquaintance of Lupin. They had briefly kown each other since, Lupin's parents had gotten married on the tavern's grounds.
"My word Lupin, what happened to you?" Gotham exclaimed, surveying the bandaged stump that had once been Lupin's hind leg.
Gotham only shrugged and said "Like father like son, that's where being a warlord will get you." Lupin ignored this comment and said, "Gotham, by any chance is Calliope still working here?"
Calliope, a she-rabbit was the on-and-off girlfriend of Lupin's, who had a low-paying job as the night janitor at the Yellow Horseshoe. Gotham only shook his head. "She quit. Left to find a better job."
"SHE QUIT!??!??!?!?" Lupin's aungished cry of rage had several other patrons of the Yellow Horseshoe staring at him in oddity.
"Aye." Said Gotham. "Left to find a better-paying job."
And with that, Lupin snatched up his crutch, got to his paws and said to Monty and Redtail "Come on. We're leaving."
"Leaving?" Monty protested. "Come on Chief, we just got here!"
"No buts or you'll taste this." Lupin gestured with his barbed tail, and Monty gulped but then nodded.
When they returned to the hitching post, Lupin found Bluddclaw chatting with Beth, munching on a cheese danish he'd swiped in Devonshire. Bluddclaw swallowed, licked his claws and said "Go. Live your dream."
"Thank you. I will."
And with that, Lupin swung himself up onto Rhett and prepared to lead them away.
Bluddclaw gave him a look and said "No, not you. Your dream sucks. I was talking to her." Bluddclaw stabbed a claw at Beth. Lupin gave him an icy stare, and with that they were on the road once more.
Two old turtles were sitting by the side of the road. One craned his neck towards the cloud of dust steadily charging towards them. "Oh no. It's that danged Scourge again. RUN AWAY!!!!!!!!" The turtles meekly tried to inch away as the horses galloped towards them at impossibly high speeds.
Lupin's war cry rose up among the approaching melee: "All right! Give 'em blood'n whiskey!" Horse after horse galloped on top of the turtle's shells, until Lupin slowed down Rhett and had him gracefully trot over their hoof-marked shells.
"Ow! Ow! Ow!" The turtles cried, but if Lupin heard their screams of pain he ignored them. When at last, the cloud of dust had settled, what appeared to be two empty shells lay by the side of the road. One turtle poked his head out. "Those danged whippersnappers!" He roared. "Tarnation! We oughta teach 'em a lesson."
"I agree. CHAAAAAAARGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
The turtles began their slow descent down the well-worn trail.
Chapter five: Lupin's StoryEdit
When the horde broke camp again, it was in a small, out-of-the way marsh five miles from Redwall. Lupin paced his tent, unable to keep still, waiting for Beth. "Redtail I thought I told you---!"
Lupin turned to see Beth standing in the doorway, an expression of fear on her face. "Y-you asked for me?"
Lupin smiled. "Of course."
Beth remained motionless. "Well! Come on!" Already getting impatient, Lupin slapped the grass with his barbed tail. "Come into the light, where I can see you."
This time Beth did not hesitate to follow his orders. Unsure of what else to do, the ottermaid kneeled on the ground as it was obvious she hadn't been told to take a seat. "What is it? D-did I do something wrong?"
Lupin only laughed and took a swig of his rum. "No." He hissed vehemntly. "There are just a few things I have to say."
Lupin leaned back in his chair. "Silence, you fool! Prisoners only speak when spoken to."
Beth swallowed and shifted into a more comfortable position under her master's chair.
"I am going to be telling my story." She gave Lupin a suprised look. "It begins in Mossflower twenty-seven years ago, just after the Summer Wars..."
It began when I ran away from home when I was nearly seven. I didn't get far. As I was crossing the Mossflower border, I was captured by a patrol representing Esau the Bloodthirsty, a stoat, the evillest warlord ever to roam the earth at the time. I was struck on my left hip with a branding iron, that's how I got that scar there, and Esau's insignia is stil there too: His initials and a dagger.
From that day foward I worked in Esau's camp as a slave, a pet to lick his boots till they shone and a mule to carry heavy loads till I collapsed. Imagine! Six years old, I was. Esau wasn't my only enemy in the camp. I feared and hated his second-in-command, his brother-in-law Claude, another stoat, who seemed to be filled with joy whenever he whipped me with my own barb, which had been torn off my tail.
One day, when I was eleven, I snapped, refusing to do Claude's bidding. He set upon me like a tiger, barbed tail flying. "Come on, young master!" He taunted, as he knew that I was Cluny's offspring. "Let's hear you scream!"
He flogged and cut me again and again until I collapsed in a senseless heap at his vicious paws. All day and all night I lay like a carcass for the vultures to prey upon, rib-thin, too bony for their tastes. I lay in a pool of my own blood, hardly breathing, afraid to. I feared that if Claude or Esau returned and saw I was still alive I'd be killed for sure.
But as time went by, I yearned for death, so great was the stinging, burning pain in my back. And my first waking thought was that I had to live, had to get well so I could seek my revenge on Claude and Esau. And recover I did. I found my opprotunity and seized it shortly after my sixteenth birthday. Esau and Claude had guests from Aggahar visiting for dinner and wine, and as usual I was to serve Esau. Laughing, Esau leaned back in his chair and said to his guests "Feisty young thing isn't he? From what they tell me this little bag of bones is actually the son of Cluny the Scourge! Can you believe it?!?!?"
"Yech, a real Son of the Scourge!" Claude guffawed, toasting with Esau.
Everyone laughed while I lay in wait. Suddenly, Esau collapsed dead in his chair. So did Claude and everyone else. That was because I had poisoned the wine with Deadly Nightshade the moment company had arrived. I had done this in secret, by the banks of the stream I was allowed to drink from.
Laughing giddily, I grabbed Esau's lute, his insturment of choice and began strumming it madly. Then, I crept up to Claude's body and tore off the metal barb that was rightfully mine! Filled with a deadly lust for revenge, I tore off a piece of Claude's shirt and used it to tie the barb back onto my tail, where it belonged. Then, I ran from the camp and knew from that day foward I was my father's child, that my fervent desire for revenge would take me wherever I wanted. And that, otter is the end of my story.
Grinning smugly, Lupin said "You are dismissed."
Beth stood there, unblinking. "How do I know that story is true?" She asked quietly.
Laughing, Lupin tore off his cloak and said "So I see the brand hasn't convinced you, eh?" He turned to face her, revealing a back crisscrossed by dozens of old scars, and Beth began to feel dizzy. Lupin sat back in his chair and put his shirt back on. "Now go on and remove yourself from my presence, water-rat."
And with that, Beth went racing out as though her fur was alight.
Voices plagued Lupin the Scourge that same night. He lay in bed, unable to open his eyes for fear of what he might see, fear of what he might not. The voices were those of Claude and Esau, taunting, torturing him. "We are always there Lupin, we are always watching you."
And Esau said "You know it wasn't wise to kill me, Lupin. I could've found great use for you!"
"Avaricious monsters!" Lupin snarled. "For once in my life, leave me!!!!!"
Lupin forced himself to open his eyes and saw nothing, heard nothing. He breathed a sigh of relief. Claude and Esau had haunted his fevered dreams when his leg had first been injured. Claude clutched an empty wine glass in his bloodied fist, half his face a grinning skull. Esau walked swifly, although he looked like a rotting carcass, and the memories deeply disturbed Lupin even then.
He was interrupted from his thoughts as Bluddclaw stood outside the doorway. "Sir? You all right?"
Lupin forced himself to say yes. "Good as I'll ever be."
From outside, Bluddclaw cocked his head. "Sure you don't want me to call Monty?"
Lupin fiercly shook his head. "I told you I'm fine! Go!"
As soon as Bluddclaw had gone, Lupin tore off the bedsheet and removed the bandage on what was left of his hind leg. There was no evidence of swelling or redness anywhere although it still throbbed constantly. Lupin put the bandage back on and settled back into bed and dared to close his eyes. But the malicious voices of Claude and Esau continued to ring if he did so. No, it was better not to sleep.
Chapter six: The Scourge is comingEdit
“Hear ye, hear ye! This is all the information we have on the infamous Lupin the Scourge!” A dog exclaimed, unfolding a parchment wanted poster. “He is a warlord and mass murderer. He keeps ‘em alive as prisoners, then he stabs them, impales them and dismembers them!” A gasp went up through the crowd. “…And we are lucky enough to have some evidence right here!”
Martin II, son of Mattimeo the Warrior frowned. He'd visited the nearby village of Indigo Crossing to see if the rumors of the so-called 'Lupin the Scourge' were true.
Martin stepped up to the dog and said "Um sir, would you be so kind as to show me this evidence?" Grinning, the dog produced what appeared to be a femur bone with the name LUPIN chiseled into it. Dizzy at the ghastly artifact, Martin stepped down from the makeshift podium and regained his place in the crowd.
"Hey. HEYA!" Martin felt a sharp tug on his pantleg as he swung up onto his horse and prepared to leave. He looked down to see a mole staring at him. "Mit yuu be Marthen tee Wurrier?"
"Yes, that'd be me."
"Duzz ye reely beeleave what they're a sayin' abot the scurrg?" Said the mole in his thick accent.
Martin just shook his head. "I'm honestly not sure what to make of it all."
The mole looked thoughtfully up at the gray sky. "Ah, yes. The scurrg be cumin' allrite, the scurrg be cumin'."
Meanwhile, in Lupin's camp, Lupin was aware it was morning. There was a hideous, indescribable pain in the remains of his leg, He ignored it, and felt for his crutch, got dressed and assembled the horde for yet another inspection.
Bluddclaw had no chocolate this time, but if he did he must've eaten it. Lupin noticed this as he steadily paced before the nervous, trembling animals. But for a single, eternal moment Lupin froze. For he heard a voice in his head, speaking to him.
Lupin! Take up thy sword and fight!
All the while words of his own echoed Pay thyself! No, but I wouldn't want to be him in half an hour! Oh hellgates, shut up! Rat got your tongue? No buts or you'll taste this! Ah, save your whining for someone more sympathetic!
Overcome by dizziness and a hideous sense of pain and fear, Lupin collapsed on the wet swamp grass, crutch beside him.
In Lupin's dream he was eleven, at Esau's camp, lying on the damp ground. He stared up at the stars, for it helped him keep his mind off the pain, the burning otherworldly agony unlike anything he'd ever experienced. He'd lain in his own blood since afternoon, and all of Esau's officers who passed through acted like Lupin wasn't even there. Lupin had since tried to drink some of his own blood from the puddle, as he couldn't walk all the way to the nearby lake. The blood came right back up, just like he expected it to. Lupin was startled from his thoughts by the sound of paws on the well-walked dirt trail. Claude.
"Get up!" He snarled, poking Lupin with the shaft of his cane.
"I can't." Lupin whimpered, which was the honest truth.
"Oh, young master you'll get up if it kills yeh because I'm not carryin' you." In a fit of unforseen rage, Lupin dragged himself foward and bit Claude.
"Yeow!" The stoat roared. "Monster! Demon!" He raged.
Lupin forced himself to his paws and dragged himself back to camp.
When Esau saw him, his muzzle contorted in disgust and he said "That one isn't fit for work. Half a week's rest, he'll have. That's it. No more." For the next week and a half, Lupin lay on his straw-filled pallet, going in and out of consciousness, cared for by Star, an old raccoon kept by Esau because she was a skilled healer. She let him drink broth from a stone bowl, and although it wasn't much it was to Lupin the most delicious thing he'd ever drank, better even than his father's coveted strawberry rum. And so Lupin's tongue flicked greedily against the wooden spoon, as he was nothing but skin on bones. When at last the week and a half was up, Esau took one look at Lupin, deemed him healthy despite his skeletal appearance.
Star did everything in her not-very-far extending power to speak in Lupin's name, but still Esau had Lupin drag himself up the hill, to pull a large wooden sledge along with half a dozen other rats, some he recognized from his father's horde. Claude was driving it (go figure!) and when at last the team reached the top of the hill, Lupin collapsed in pure exhaustion, panting for breath like a dog.
"Water," He gasped. "Water."
Grinning evilly, Claude leapt down from his platfom on the sledge and took a big sip of his expensive wine. "Thirsty are you, young master?" Then, Claude poured all the wine in the grass in front of Lupin, and the young rat was filled with unspeakable urge to bite Claude again. But somehow, he did not. And from then on, things were worse than they had ever been in Esau's camp.
~Remembering Lilith: A flashback chapter~Edit
It had been frigid late November day long before the spring of the white tulip, and Lupin stood in the falling snow, wearing nothing but Esau’s fur-lined cloak, shivering. He squinted, as a black-and-white dog wearing a tattered brown jacket and a leather satchel walked up to him through the blizzard. “Is your name Lupin?” He called over the wind.
Breathlessly, Lupin nodded. “Is your mother’s name Lilith?” Again Lupin nodded. The dog stuck out his paw. “Name’s Gregor Malfang. I’m a healer. Your mother’s asking for you. Dying, I think.”
Lupin froze, no pun intended. He faced Malfang and wrapped his tail around his neck, drawing the dog in. “What does my mother have?” He asked in a vehement tone.
Silence from Malfang.
“What does she have?” He said again, losing patience.
“The fever. Yellow fever.” Lupin promptly released Gregor Malfang from his grip. And with that, Lupin trotted off in the direction of the small, one-room log cabin in which he and his mother had lived. They probably could’ve afforded something much better, but when Lupin was younger, she’d spent all her money on liquor out of grief for Cluny.
Lupin entered and shook snow from his thinly clad body. The cabin had changed little since he’d last been there ten years before. The air smelled good, of dried flowers and a vague whiff of medicinal herbs. Lupin turned to look at his mother. She lay in bed, a single kerosene lamp suspended on the wall above her, looking pale and small. Lilith’s naturally silver fur had long ago lost its silver hue, and a wet handkerchief on the nightstand showed Lupin she’d been coughing up some of the yellowish bile that marked a yellow fever victim. There was no smell of the drink on her. And there was no trace of the spirited and witty ratmaid who’d won Cluny’s heart.
“Cluny,” She whispered, as she saw Lupin standing in the doorway. Lupin hung his cloak on the wall.
“No. It’s Lupin. Your son.”
“Lupin….” She whispered, blinking. “After all these years…” It was all Lilith could get out before breaking into a coughing fit, before laying weakly back in bed. “Come,” She whispered. “You can sit with me. I’m not contagious anymore.” And then she added under her breath “But I am dying.”
“Mother, everyone has their time.”
“Your father didn’t.” They stared at each other for a moment. Then, Lilith said to him “How old are you now? Fifteen?”
Lilith wept quietly, drying her eyes on her paw. “Ten years, lord have mercy,” She whispered. “A whole decade you’ve been gone.”
“Yes, but I’m here now.” Lupin said, taking her paw.
“I’m sorry.” Lilith told him. “I’m sorry that I drank so much that I made you run away.”
Lilith closed her eyes and was so still Lupin almost thought she was dead until he saw her breathe. He touched her forehead. Burning to the touch.
When Lilith opened her eyes again Lupin asked “Tell me something of my father.” He prompted. “Tell me something I never knew.”
Lilith looked at him in a strange way. “Lupin…” She whispered, clutching his paw more urgently. “This is no time…. To be telling stories.”
“I don’t want a story! I just want to know something that’s true! Not after how often you lied to me.”
Lilith hesitated a moment before closing her eyes. Looking peaceful, she said “…Your father and I, we didn’t honeymoon in Scraggway like I told you.”
“No. Scraggway is a land of dust and bone. Nothing beautiful grows there. We….” Lilith broke off and coughed up more bile before continuing “We, we spent our honeymoon in Mossflower. By the sea. That’s where I found out I was having you. Your father and I….. We stood on the beach, two lovestruck creatures who weren’t wanted anywhere…. It made us feel like we belonged, like there was someplace in the world for us. And your father, he said ‘Hellgates, it is beautiful here.’ And we stood there for the longest time, just there- by the sea…” And with that, Lilith’s eyes closed and her breathing became erratic. Lupin knew that when her paw finally slipped from hers….. That his mother was dead.
What she saw in her dying moments, Lupin didn’t know, but he could only hope that his parents were together…. Wherever they ended up.
Chapter seven: The poker gameEdit
Slowly, Lupin came awake and recognized his surroundings. He was in his tent, that much was obvious. But everything seemed so strange. Blood dripped from the walls and flintlocks and single-shot muskets fired while what appeared to be dying horses screamed outside. Lupin took it in a moment; couldn't comprehend and promptly lapsed back into unconsciousness.
"You there! Get outta here! Hoo boy, the chief'll go bananas if he catches you in here!"
"Redtail, let her stay."
Awake now, Lupin managed to sit up. "You heard me." Lupin then proceeded to maneuver himself into a nearby chair. "And if you're still thinking about my little fainting spell it's nothing. Just the heat. Summer's coming fast."
After a moment of silence, Lupin lit a cigar and said "So. Redtail, want to play poker?"
Redtail shook his head. "No thank you. But, I bet Bluddclaw does!"
That was exactly the answer Lupin had hoped for. Lupin rubbed his front paws together and smiled. No, there was certainly no fool like a thirteen-year-old fool, which Bluddclaw happened to be. He was absoloutely the worst player of poker that Lupin had ever seen. And the warlord had no problem with that.
They ended up using rocks for chips, and Bluddclaw sat trembling in his chair while Lupin simply stared at him with an unreadable, blank expression. A poker face. Shuffling his own cards absentmindedly, Lupin looked Bluddclaw in the eye. It was very easy to know when he had a bad tell, because he smiled nervously and plucked at the collar of his shirt. Half an hour later, the game was over and Bluddclaw still lost. Because as usual, Lupin had cheated.
Chapter eight: A father-and-son conversation (of the supernatural kind!!)Edit
Later that night, Lupin felt himself being shaken awake roughly. He blearily opened his eyes to see Cluny standing over him, wearing the same black cloak he'd married Lilith in, a white glow surrounding his body. A ghost. Lupin sat up in bed and stared, dumbstruck.
Cluny only threw back his head and laughed. "What's the matter, Lupin? Afraid of your own father?"
Lupin said quietly "You're dead."
"Don't believe in ghosts, eh? So I'm dead! By the teeth of hell, that's nothing new! Ghosts exist whether someone believes in them or not." Cluny's one eye fell on Lupin's cloak, draped over a nearby chair. "So I see you've inherited some of my clothes."
Lupin nodded. "Found them in a trunk at mom's house after she died. Your sword and armor were there too."
"Lupin." Cluny said, suddnely looking at his son very seriously. "I'm proud of you." Cluny said, putting a paw on Lupin's shoulder. All Lupin felt was a cold chill.
After a hesitation, Lupin said "It's high time I told you. I spent my entire adolescence thinking being a Son of the Scourge was a bad thing. I felt like a puppy, kicked out onto the street. Right after you died, mom couldn't cope. She started drinking all the time and I ran away. I went to the border and got captured by that monster Esau, and his just-as-evil brother-in-law. He treated me like a slave. I was tied up to a hitching post like a horse, and had to lick his boots like a dog. And look what else Esau did to me!" In a frenzy, Lupin tore off his shirt and showed Cluny the array of long, jagged old scars covering his back. Breathing hard, Lupin continued "Every day I wanted to die, it was so awful. If you hadn't died, none of this would've happened. You got me into this mess. And not only me, you had to drag mom into it too! You should've seen her cry! You were never there for me dad, you were never there!" And when Lupin looked again, the spirit was gone.
Chapter Nine: Lupin leads a merry chaseEdit
Lupin was being set upon by a pack of hounds outside Indigo Crossing. They snarled and foamed viciously, hot on his trail. Bounty hunters. Lupin led them down a long, winding trail. He threw back his head and laughed in exhiliartion. This was his kind of entertainment! Twice Lupin looked over his shoulder to see the dogs still bounding after him.
“Oh fur and fangs!” He muttered and whipped Rhett into a mad canter. Finally, Lupin cleared a fence over a large pond and called triumphantly “No one catches Lupin the Scourge and lives!”
Seconds later, the bounty hunters tried to jump the fence and drowned in the pond. When Martin and old Auma (Really, she was only 41) caught up a moment later, Auma swiftly dismounted and began inspecting the scene.
“Uh huh!” She cried, examining a bloodstain on the wooden rail.
“Look closely.” Martin pulled away in repulsion, but Auma only grinned.
“Martin, do you realize what this means!? Lupin the Scourge has left us his calling card.”
When they returned to Indigo Crossing, Auma went back to Redwall but Martin lingered in the village awhile, not suprised that most animals were packing up and moving out. He stopped at a house where Jonathan, a mouse who was a friend of his was throwing luggage at the back of his horse-cart. "Aye, Marty it's a bad day ain't it?" He said in his strange accent.
"Me and Suzy, we're leavin'. Goin' west."
"West?" Martin echoed,
"Aye. If the Scourge was here once he'll be back again. C'mon!" Jonathan slapped the reins on his horse's back, and he and Suzy departed out of town.
Reluctantly, Martin too, soon left and headed back to Redwall.
That night, Lupin gathered the horde at the neck of the woods. Bluddclaw hoisted the banner high and everyone was singing Wretches and Kings, with Redtail accompanying on his war-drum. "What is the gospel of the horde!?!?" Lupin urged them.
"SHOW NO MERCY!!" They shouted at the same time.
"And what is our policy?"
"TAKE NO PRISONERS!"
"Exactly! And above all.... GIVE EM BLOOD N WHISKEEEEEEEEEY" Lupin's eerie, echoing war cry pierced the stillness of the night and could be heard several miles away. Suddenly, Lupin fidgeted in his saddle and rubbed the side of his head. He heard a dull, persistent tolling of a bell inside his head, repeating over and over..... He had an uncontrollable urge to whip someone right then and there but didn't do it because there was no reason.
"Chief? Er, Chief..." Bluddclaw was standing next to Lupin.
"What is it?!?!" Lupin snarled.
"It was real weird, Chief. You were like, spacin' out overe there. It was creepy."
"Well I'm fine." Lupin said, and brushed Bluddclaw off. "Onward! To Redwaaaaaaaall!" Lupin howled, raising his sword high, glistening in the moonlight. Viewing the world through the visor of his war-helmet, Lupin could only hope that the bell-ringing in his head would stop and soon.
Chapter Ten: The siegeEdit
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Because I have not gotten as far as the Pearls of Lutra, I've made up nearly all the animals at Redwall, XD
"Abbot Elijah?" Martin stood worriedly in the doorway.
"Yes Martin, what is it?" Asked the Abbot, getting down from his chair in the library. Abbot Elijah was an older, reddish-brown mouse sometime in his 50s, and proved himself just as good an Abbot as Abbot Mordalfus had been.
Instinctively, Martin bowed in respect and said "Sir, it's Lupin. Auma and I went to Indigo Crossing again today and it's official. He's coming."
"He is, eh?" Elijah said, polishing his glasses so that he could see. "Martin, I mean to tell you I'm not afraid of Lupin."
Thunder flashed outside.
"Yes. Lupin is nothing but a coward at heart, if you look beneath his vicious and bloodthirsty surface. When Lupin the Scourge comes we'll certainly we ready for him. And Martin?"
"Yes?" Martin lingered in the doorway.
"Lupin may be a coward, but's he's a powerful one at that. He has a lust for vengeance that completely consumes him. Pure evil, that's what it is. He's just as rotten as his father, probably even worse. Yes, he's going to give us a time when he comes."
The next day, Abbot Elijah turned out to have been right. Lupin, Redtail, Bluddclaw and a hamster named Sandy crouched in the grass outside Redwall, waiting. "When I give the order we go in." Lupin said. "Ready? Now! And QUIETLY!"
Sandy, Redtail and Bluddclaw silently padded off to the wall, and managed to work their way up with grappling hooks. Redtail waved to Lupin from up high, the signal they'd been working on. Lupin waved back and ducked into the foliage. Looking both ways to make sure no one was coming, Lupin parted the bushes in front of him and limped up to the front door, and nudged it open. It creaked, and Lupin silently cursed himself. He waited.
No one came.
Breathing a sigh of relief, he slipped in and managed to navigate down the vast hallways. Being a rat, there weren't very many places for him to hide in Redwall, but Lupin only had one thing on his mind: To steal the tapestry just like his father before him had done!
Grinning maliciously, Lupin tried frantically to remember which hall the tapestry was in. Guessing, he walked down a corridor to the right and found it. Without hesitation, Lupin tore it right off the wall, leapt onto a table and maneuevered himself out an open window just as someone noticed the tapestry was missing.
"Woo boy, chief the stakes are high tonight!" Redtail whooped, raising his sword high in the air.
"Look, Redtail." Lupin muttered. "Look up."
"Huh? Oh.....Dang." The word 'dang' was said in a high-pitched squeak, for they were surrounded.
"Give me a grappeling hook. I'm going up."
"But chief, get serious!" Bluddclaw protested. "You're goin' into the danger zone up there!"
"I know that!" Lupin snarled, taking the grappling hook from Bluddclaw. He took a step back, hurled it into the air and pulled himself up the rope. Martin was waiting for him on the ramparts, sword secured to his belt. "You'll never get the tapestry. Not while I'm around." Martin growled fiercely, drawing his sword.
Lupin grinned. "You want to fight? Go ahead. I'm ready for you." At the same time, the rat and the mouse unsheathed their swords, and Lupin, in his free paw produced a switchblade. He clicked it and tried to slit Martin's throat, but he hadn't cut near deep enough, and Martin still stood, wincing in pain.
"Why you...." The warrior growled, and stabbed Lupin in return, just above the ribs, causing him to drop his switchblade. It fell off the wall and onto the ground. Lupin grimaced and held his now-free paw to the steadily increasing red spot. In doing so, he looked down. Suddenly, Lupin's vision swam before him and he realized this was an almost exact repition of the nightmare he'd had!
Still dizzy, Lupin fell from the wall, like in his dream. But somehow, miraculously he landed on his feet. Yes, all 3 1/2 of them. In a frenzy, Lupin, Redtail, Bluddclaw and a few other hordesbeasts made it out to the hitching rail and madly galloped off.
That night, Bluddclaw secretly sent a badly written ransom note to Redwall. It read: Redwollers, wey hav yer tapezztree. Pleez send a rep'sentive who can taulk 2 Luupin. -Bluddclaw
The representative turned out to be Martin. He stood at Lupin's property line, a little frightened. It was obvious from the camp's disheveled appearance that the horde was still celebrating the capture of the tapestry: Half-broken wine glasses were strewn all over the ground and much noise could be heard from the tents. Martin took a half-step over the white line. And then he saw the colorful, handmade signs. They read: BEWARE OF RAT! THIS LAND IS PROPERTY OF LUPIN THE SCOURGE. ALL TRESPASSERS WILL BE BEHEADED! And most frightening: HAVE MUSKET. WILL SHOOT.
Martin stood there a moment, reading the signs and trembling. But then, he caught a trace of a vile scent in the air. "Praise Abbot Mortimer, what is that stench!?!?" He muttered. It smelled like rotting flesh.
He followed his rodent nose to a cloth banner mounted on a pole and propped up against a tent doorflap, decorated with severed heads! Flies feasted on the rotting carcasses, and two grinning skulls jeered back at Martin from their perch. He backed away and looked at the banner. It featured an insignia of a black wolf and a strange-looking plant. Lupin the plant. And Lupin. Lupin means wolf.
Suddenly, the warrior mouse couldn't help but get goosebumps as a familiar, gruff voice said "So the Redwaller is here now, eh?"
"Yes, unfortunately that's me."
"Come in." Martin hestitantly went in to Lupin's tent to see the Warlord sitting in a chair with his good back leg propped on a foostool, still wearing some of his armor, a chalice of wine in his paws. "I am the Scourge." Lupin said calmly. "Before me you tremble."
Without even realizing it, Martin did.
Lupin only laughed. "What kind of warrior's son are you?" He sneered. "Foolish boy. A warrior stands before his enemies, not trembles before them. You were tricked, so to speak."
Martin continued to stand saying nothing. He wanted to keep his head.
"So." Lupin said quietly. "In a mood for wine?" And so they spent the next fifteen minutes chatting of minor things, as though the warrior and the warlord were guests at a society party.
Finally, Martin bolstered his courage and managed to say "Yes, about that tapestry?" Eyeing the tapestry hanging in plain view.
Lupin grinned and sipped more of his chardonnay. "Oh yes. That's what you've come for." He said plainly.
Wow. Martin thought. For a vicious, bloodthirsty warlord with a reputation like his he seems to know who he's dealing with. He's ambitious. Cunning. "So." Martin said. "Let's see how vicious you are. Are you going to kill me just for asking that question?"
Lupin regretfully shook his head. "Unfortunately, no. If the circumstances were normal you'd be dead by now. But yes, there's an old saying 'Don't shoot the messenger' which you happen to be. And besides, it would be most unwise to be caught with blood on my paws this early in the war."
"War!?" Martin echoed.
Lupin nodded, giving him a genuine I'm so smart and you're so dumb! Smile. "Yes. And you will take this message back to your Abbot Elijah telling that I have declared war. Now go. Remove yourself from my presence, wretched mouse." Martin was more than happy to do so.
Later that night, Lupin lay propped up in bed while Monty insisted on treating his stab wound from the afternoon sword fight. "You're a lucky one," Monty murmured as he applied a salve. "Coulda been much deeper than it is."
"I know that."
"Where's the mouse from Redwall?" Lupin shrugged, despite his pain. "Left a few hours ago when I declared his war. Some warrior's son he is. Total coward. Probably still runnin' back to the blinking abbey screaming 'oh Abbot, oh Abbot the Scourge declared war on us what'll we do?'"
Monty sniggered at this.
"I'm not worried about him." Lupin proclaimed triumphantly. "No, I'm not worried at all."
Chapter eleven: Redtail's SecretEdit
Redtail found Beth shackled to stake a yard away from Lupin's tent, looking miserable. "Get out of my sight." She cautioned, waving a claw at him. "You're no better than Lupin himself."
Redtail still approached her and sat down next to her.
"You're his second-in-command." Beth said glumly. "I bet you have a flintlock or a dagger or something and want to beat me out of my brains right here."
"No." Redtail said quietly, grinning. "I'm here to tell you a secret. I trust you with it. How old are you?"
"What's the secret?" Redtail got a little closer and said to her "When Bluddclaw and I first came to the horde, I was nine and he was five. The chief was passing through a village not too far from here and killed our parents. Killed everyone. Bluddclaw and I were hiding upstairs, in the back corner of the attic. When he found us alive after everyone else in the village had been killed, he was impressed with our cleverness and accepted us as one of the horde." Redtail leaned close to Beth and whispered "Back then my name was Malachy. Bluddclaw's name was Oliver. We changed our names to please the Chief."
Beth was fascinated. "I... I like the name Malachy." She said quietly.
Redtail only shrugged. "Chief didn't." He said abruptly before trotting off into the night.
Chapter twelve: Lupin, at your serviceEdit
While that was going on, Lupin was out hunting. He was startled by the sound of a twig snapping. He looked up to see a greyish-brown mousemaid a hundred yards away, gathering blackberries. Impossible. It was the Redwaller Mariah, who had very briefly been his friend during the Summer Wars, back when both of them were six.
"Looking for someone?" Lupin's barbed tail was embracing Mariah, stroking her.
She shivered in repulsion. "Lupin...." She whispered, gazing up into his fervent, vengeance-maddened eyes.
"That's my name. Don't wear it out."
The curious, happy-go-lucky Lupin she had once known was gone, dead. The rat who stood in his place was vicious, cold and bloodthirsty. Mariah couldn't tell which Scourge she looked at, Lupin or Cluny. Their faces blurred together like an optical illusion. Dazed, Mariah said "You've changed."
He nod"ded. "Indeed."
"Lupin, you're a monster!" Mariah cried, voice rising. "And both of us know this has got to stop! I know what you are."
Lupin grinned vilely. "Name one animal who doesn't." And with that, the two went their seperate ways.
But not before Lupin called over his shoulder "I always keep you in my thoughts, 'Riah."
She flinched at the playful childhood nickname. That was the last thing Mariah heard before the Scourge disappeared beyond the shadows.
When Mariah returned to Redwall, she told Abbot Elijah about her bizarre encounter in the woods. "This much I know," Elijah mumured, crossing the library-room to his old wooden desk. "You don't want Lupin the Scourge inside your head."
Elijah got out his quill and began to write. "Tell me everything." He said calmly. "I want this transcripted."
"Okay," Mariah said, shifting on one back paw. "I know this much. He kills in cold blood, he never shows mercy, and he's never, never impulsive or nervous in the least. From what the rumors say, he's stealthy too. One moment you could be standing in front of him and the next you're dead with a dagger in your heart." Mariah sighed.
Elijah said "Mariah, you know we don't have a lot of time before Lupin does it again."
"I know," Mariah whispered. "I know." Shortly after, Mariah went to bed early, exhausted by her insane day.
In Mariah’s dream it was dark. The air smelled of metal and dried blood. Because there were no candles or any sort of lighting, she did not know where she was. All Mariah knew was that she was afraid. Very afraid. She made out the form of a large, gray object smashed on the floor. The old Joseph Bell.
Two bloodied back legs and a lithe tail protruded out from under it. A young rat who couldn’t have been older than seven stood by the bell, weeping. He was dressed in a ragged blue tunic and a cloak of the same color. In one paw he clutched a wooden ball, and strapped to his belt there was a small, twisted dagger. And when Mariah looked into the rat’s eyes, she knew who it was. They were the sickening, yellowy-green color of lemon juice and they were tormented, almost vengeful. And then it happened.
The bell and the young Lupin were gone. Mariah was confronted by images of him. Lupin whipping Bluddclaw. Lupin talking about the ‘gospel of the horde’ Lupin in the woods, speaking to her. And finally, Mariah’s eyes went huge as the adult Lupin’s eyes stared out at her from the shadows. The last thing she saw was Lupin standing over her, jaws wide open, dripping with blood and saliva…..
Mariah could barely breathe when she awoke. She had a sickening sense of being watched, and a feeling of pain and fear. She thought she heard the padding of many paws on the grass outside her window, and orders being shouted. After a few minutes or so of this, Mariah was nearly asleep when she heard her door being creaked open just an inch.
Frightened, Mariah lay on her bed, shivering. This could only mean one thing: the horde had returned. This was confirmed when she heard the achingly familiar, low voice whispering "Is this Mariah?" Mariah said nothing. "Well hello there, Mariah."
Chapter thirteen: BloodwrathEdit
As though a gentlebeast, Lupin strutted arrogantly across the room and kissed Mariah's paw. She wrenched it away as though she'd been burned. Lupin only laughed. "Still as feisty as ever, I see."
He stood there a moment, surveying her. "Pity you already have a mate, but then again, so do I."
Mariah stood there, eyes going huge, trembling. "H-how did you know?" She whispered.
Lupin grinned slyly. "Warlord's intuition." Was all he said. "It's Martin isn't it?" He said after a while.
Mariah said nothing. "Just what I thought. Too bad you're going to be a widow after tonight."
"A WIDOW!?!?" Just as Mariah undestand what Lupin meant he'd already slipped out the door.
Lupin's breath caught when he realized where the wrong turn in the hall had led him. The bell tower. This was a place of bad karma. This was where his father had died. Now, the room was filled with the musky scent of rat once more, and once again there would be a heated battle between warrior and scourge.
Martin was there.
"Martin." Lupin said icily. "At last we meet again. I must say, that Mariah is a pretty little one." He grinned. "My premature congratulations."
"Save the talk for later, Lupin." Martin growled, unsheathing his sword.
"So you aren't afraid are you?"
Lupin smiled. "Fine then. Let's begin."
Amost instantly, the two rodents were on the wooden floor, snarling and biting each other viciously. A typical sort of fight. Then, it happened. Lupin's vision became hazy and tinted red. Teeth of hell... He thought, incredulous. Again? It's coming back?! I don't believe it! Bloodwrath. A temporary, sort of insanity in which the sufferer becomes crazed for the blood and aungish of their victim.
The last time Lupin had had Bloodwrath he'd been eleven, back during the day he'd bit Claude. Now, during the fight everything went red to Lupin. He was filled with a tangible, very real desire to kill unlike any other he'd ever felt. He thought he felt Martin bite him once on his good back leg, but he barely felt it. Instead of pain all he felt was a faint, pinching sensation and then nothing.
And now, now Lupin heard the bells in his head, louder than he'd ever heard them, Lupin thought All right, Dad. This one's for us!
With a loud, bloodcurdling cry, Lupin sank his fangs into Martin's chest. And then, Lupin felt himself sliding off his enemy and back onto the floor with a dull, thump! It's gone. He thought hazily. The bloodwrath is over.
When Lupin awoke, the haze was gone and so was Martin. A sticky red substance was scattered all over the floor. Their blood.
Slowly, Lupin pulled himself into a sitting position, head spinning. Only when the dizziness had passed did he attempt to stand, leaning on his sword for support. As he'd done that, Redtail appeared in the doorway, cleaning off his dagger on his navy blue cloak.
"Chief?" He asked worriedly. Lupin paused to wipe some blood off his muzzle.
"What's the report?" He asked. Redtail stood beside Lupin. "Well, sir, the invasion is going better than we'd planned, but the Redwallers are fighting back, but that's to be expected."
Lupin grimaced. "Has oldbeast Elijah done anything yet?"
Redtail shook his head. "Not yet, anyway, but he's a smart one, Chief. He's up to something all right."
"Where's your brother?"
Redtail shrugged. "Last saw him stealing something from the kitchen." Lupin limped out the door. "Gather everyone and tell them to meet me in the courtyard."
Lupin grinned evilly. "Because our plan needs further discussion." And with that, the two proceeded to leave, via a rope outside the open window.
When all of the horde had been gathered, (excluding Bluddclaw, as he was still Missing In Action) Redtail checked them over, saluted Lupin and said "ATTENTION! Chief, the entire horde is present and accounted for, sir! Except for, Bluddclaw's absence."
Lupin grinned maliciously. "Good." He said. "I'm sure Bluddclaw will turn up somewhere."
As the horde stood in the courtyard, reviewing their tactics, Lupin settled himself on a rock and began sunning himself.
Today was the very first day of June! A new summer had come to Mossflower. Yes, the Summer of the Black Devil!
Book II: The Summer of the Black DevilEdit
Chapter fourteen: A house dividedEdit
As all of this was going on, Elijah could be seen pacing his room, tense. He jumped when somebeast knocked on the doorway. "Martin, sir." Said the voice at the door.
The Abbot relaxed immeadietly. "Come on in."
Martin made himself comfortable on the abbot's armchair by the bookcase and said "What are we going to do? Half the abbey has been blocked off and sealed already, and we're being overrun with rats. Listen, you can still hear them drilling out in the yard..." Elijah stiffened and began looking grim. "Martin my boy, I'm afraid there is nothing we can do except...."
Abbot Elijah sighed and went to the door. "Martin, I say it's high time we show Lupin that we can fight too!"
"Mmh, this is a tasty chicken leg!"
"This chocolate cake is amazing!"
In the ransacked kitchen, Bluddclaw eagerly sampled the delacies laid out on counters or on a long table. Bluddclaw stopped eating his chocolate cake. A badger stood in the doorway. She did not seem happy. Bluddclaw swallowed down the wet, chocolatey gunk still in his mouth.
The badger grabbed a wooden spoon and brandished it like a weapon, saying "What are you doing in this kitchen?"
"Eating." Bluddclaw said through a full mouth, wolfing down another slice of cake.
"Not in this one, you don't! You represent Lupin the Scourge, don't you?"
The badger, Auma grimaced. "Get out of here." She said firmly.
"Aw come on, can't I have at least one more leg of--"
"I said GET OUT!"
Grimacing, Bluddclaw fiddled with his scabbard. "So you've got a wooden spoon. I'm terrified. Oh yeah, well look what I got!" From his scabbard, Bluddclaw produced what was obviously supposed to be a sword or dagger. Actually it was a stick. Auma glared at him, and Bluddclaw went running out. But not before he grabbed one more slice of cake.
Bluddclaw came rushing out into the courtyard, slamming on his mental brakes when he saw Lupin was staring coldly at him. "You're late." He said.
"Yeah, yeah I am." Bluddclaw settled himself on the grass. "So what'd I miss?"
Again Lupin glared at his second-in-command's brother. "You missed everything. Redtail and me and everyone else were reviewing the tactics that are coming into play tonight! Where, by my father's lash were you?"
Bluddclaw grimaced. "In the kitchen." He squealed.
Lupin looked pained and ignored him. He said to Redtail just enough for Bluddclaw to hear "Make sure your brother doesn't get to handle the flaming arrows tonight." Redtail nodded obediently.
"What!!??!??" Bluddclaw spluttered. "But... I've been waiting for this moment for years!" Bluddclaw began to grovel at his Chief's feet. "Please give me another chance!" He begged. "I didn't even eat that much! I'll do anything for the flaming arrows, Chief. Anything you want I'll do it!"
Lupin considered this. With a subtle, cunning grin that Bluddclaw did not see, he said "You drive a hard bargain, Bluddclaw. Maybe when you're a little older I'll promote you. In the meantime, stay on your claws, because I've got a job for you."
Bluddclaw's face brightened.
Lupin leaned close to him and whispered something in his ear.
"OH THANK YOU CHIEF! YOU WON'T REGRET IT!" And with that, Bluddclaw skipped off to fufill his mystery job.
"I sure as hellgates hope I don't...." Lupin muttered.
Five minutes later the otter had dragged his fat self up the grappeling hook still dangling off the ramparts. Bluddclaw's task was to patrol and defend the ramparts, and report to Redtail or Lupin immeadietly if he saw any non-horde animal coming. Knowing very well he was playing a dangerous game, Bluddclaw walked on top of the ramparts, unaware that his fellow hordesbeasts were staring bug-eyed at him from below. The ramparts had been the death of many animals, and nobeast could quite believe Bluddclaw was so aloof at what he was doing. "My father was nearly killed that way," Lupin muttered, staring up at Bluddclaw, strolling cheerfully along the wall. He had given the thirteen-year-old a dangerous job on purpose and he acted like he did this every day! Lupin turned to Redtail "That's some brother you have up there." And the older otter grinned. "I know. That's Bluddclaw all right." Now Bluddclaw was beginning to sing. "Is this the real life? Caught in the crossfire, no escape from reality. 'Cause I'm easy come, easy go; I'm up high, Chief's down low. Walking while the wind blows, nothing really matters, to meeee!" Lupin, and the rest of the horde heard every lyric to Bluddclaw's song, and they were all impressed with his carefree attitude. And then it happened. Because he was so preoccupied with singing and walking at the same time, Bluddclaw did not pay attention to where he was going. He lost his balance and plummeted towards the ground." Lupin flinched and looked away. "I don't wanna see." He muttered. Redtail's eyes were huge, and he could not tear himself away from the sight of his brother falling to his death. "OLIVER!!!!!!!!!!!" Redtail didn't care he'd used Bluddclaw's real name. He tore off in the direction of the ramparts, but arrived too late. Bluddclaw was already on the ground, body twisted at an odd angle. Lupin an all the rest of the horde stood over Bluddclaw's broken body, saying things like "My deepest symapthy," And "He'll be with your parents." Enraged, Redtail pointed a trembling gray-black claw at Lupin. "You..." He whispered. "You gave Bluddclaw a dangerous job on purpose. You really are the Scourge's son." Lupin however, was silent. What Redtail said was partially true. Yes, he had given Bluddclaw an unsafe job on purpose, but at the same time hadn't meant to kill him, only to test his skill. But then, Lupin felt a pang of raw guilt, very briefly for once in his life. He almost missed seeing Bluddclaw heaving a short, panting breath in Bluddclaw's arms. Everyone gasped. Then, all went quiet. All eyes, even Lupin's were on Bluddclaw and Redtail. Bluddclaw whimpered, and then moaned. "Cake...." He muttered. "Chief, Red.... Where's my cake? Want my cake..." Bluddclaw was talking about food. He would be okay. Redtail's eyes were alight with happiness. He normally resented his little brother, almost hated him because he was such a nuisance. But all those emotions were cast aside for now, as were Lupin's. "Don't worry," Redtail murmured soothingly to Bluddclaw. "You'll get your cake. I'll get one somewhere." "Here." Emotionessly, Lupin handed Bluddclaw his crutch. Lupin hardly needed it since he had his sword to lean on, and as most animals did, he usually walked on all fours anyway. "All right." Lupin said to the rest of the horde, excluding Redtail and Bluddclaw. "Show's over. Get back to work." To Redtail he said "Wait here. Don't move him; I'll fetch Monty." Redtail's eyes remained fixed on the finely-carved wooden crutch that was now Bluddclaw's. Lupin had shown sympathy. Barely any, but still sympathy. Redtail was positively bewildered, and at the same time awed that he'd seen such a strange and enlighteneing phenomena.
Later, Redtail managed to get Bluddclaw settled, propped up on a pillow, lying on an old blanket with the red-granite wall of Redwall up behind his back. Monty had left some five minutes ago, saying that Bluddclaw had a broken back leg and a few cracked ribs, but in time he'd be all right. Monty had said to wait until it was safe to move Bluddclaw back to camp. Redtail had no idea what the guinea pig healer meant by that. "You know everything," Bluddclaw prodded his brother, voice a hoarse whisper. "Tell me a story about the Chief." Redtail hesitated. He looked left and right, making sure nobeast was around. Then he said to Bluddclaw in a low voice "Well, the Chief's had it rough. He was worse off then me 'n you growing up." "How?'" "I'm gettin' to that!" Redtail snarled, shocked at his own irrationality. "He grew up with three older half-brothers named Damian, Sydney and Edward. Damian and Sydney always called him things like 'runt' and 'weakling' and picked on him. Edward was his only friend. Anyway, Damian and Sydney died as the horde's horsecart crashed on their way here. Edward eventually wandered off and got eaten by.... The snake. Well, at the end of the war, his father, Cluny the Scourge, kicked the bucket or rather the bell during the war. The chief was only six then. He and his mother left the area and lived in a small log cabin in the south" Redtail leaned closer to Bluddclaw and he said "His parents loved each other somethin' special, and Lupin's mother, Lilith I think her name was, got all depressed and the like. She began drinking and couldn't stop. So the Chief got sick of it all and ran away. That's when he got captured and enslaved by that old-time warlord, that everyone talks about, Esau the Bloodthirsty and...." Redtail grimaced as he saw Lupin's shadow in the distance. "That's all I'm telling you for today." "Yes?" Redtail trotted over to the black rat. Lupin only gave him a cold look and said "Redtail, you better not have been making up rumors about me over there." "Oh no... I wasn't." Lupin smirked. "Good." He said. "Because I swear on my father's grave that if you were, you'd be executed so fast your head would spin like a top if it could." And with that, the Scourge departed from the premises. Redtail was relived. He knew that if Lupin swore on his father's grave, it was the most serious swear he could ever make. A swear like that was always, always serious. Redtail grimaced, said to Bluddclaw "I'll be right back." And left to rejoin the rest of the horde. The rest of the afternoon, Lupin was plagued by strange visions of Lainarch the Scourge, his father's father, whom he'd never known. Cluny had loved to brag of his father's reputation to anyone bold enough to ask. In Mossflower, Lainarch was simply a name with no identity, but in the Northern and Western seas, on the islands within them, Lainarch and his descendants were feared and hated. Lupin knew nothing of Lainarch's appearance, other than that his coat was a dark, steel gray color and his eyes had been green. Bright green. Lupin had also been told, by Lilith, who had briefly known Lainarch back during her teenage years, told him that Lainarch had always worn a long, navy blue waistcoat that reached the floor, and that his mate, Kiya, liked to dip snuff. Lupin shook the surreal memories from his head and returned his attention to the horde. Everybeast he set his eyes upon were utterly and completely battle-ready- everyone wore armor and had their weapons, be they swords, maces, bolas, flintlocks or battle-axes at the ready or else strapped to their scabbards. Lupin studied Redtail from the distance. The otter was wearing his typical battle apparel- a simple silver leaf breastplate, torn-up pants tied on with a rope belt, and a hood of chain-mail. A needle-sharp battle axe was clutched between his paw, and in his other there was a bow and arrow. Lupin began pacing back and forth. "Is everybeast ready to fight?" He coaxed. A bloodthirsty cry rose up from them "YES!!!!!" Lupin grinned. The conquest of Redwall Abbey had begun!
Lupin found Martin and Mariah walking down the hall from cavern hole. Prey. Grinning to himself, Lupin clicked his switchblade, unknowingly snuffing out a nearby candle with his long, whiplike tail. Lupin walked beside them for sometime, as silent as death. He could have been a shadow. Finally, as they neared the end of the hall, The Scourge unexpectedly wrapped his tail around Martin’s neck, like a noose. And as though that weren’t enough he unsheathed his sword and held it, only an inch from Martin’s throat. With his free paw, Lupin held his switchblade against Mariah’s throat. “One false move….” Lupin said, low voice trembling with barely-controlled rage. “And the two of you will be deadbeasts!” Lupin stabbed a claw at Martin. “You,” He whispered. “Your grandfather killed my father!” Like warlords often do, Lupin had temporarily lost his mind in his lust for battle. “Well I’ll tell you something, mousefool!” Lupin said. Martin cringed as a piece of Lupin’s saliva hit him on the muzzle. Lupin pressed the sword further into Martin’s neck but still hadn’t stabbed. “You say you strike for the first Martin, and for your father and grandfather? Well so do I. I’M AVENGING MY FATHER TODAY!!!!!” With a wolfish snarl, Lupin prepared to strike. Lupin removed the blade as a voice said “For the love of this abbey, STOP!” Lupin froze in his tracks. His sword and switchblade fell to the floor with a great clatter, but his tail remained around Martin’s neck, and he now kept a firm grip on Mariah’s front leg. Grimacing and cursing under his breath, Lupin quietly turned to see who had shouted at him. It was Auma, and her resemblance to old Constance, now deceased was so great Lupin stifled a gasp. His tail spasmodically unwound itself from around Martin's neck, and Lupin stood with one paw on the wall. He picked up his sword and held it aloft. Auma was frightened, but didn't show it. "Who in hellgates are you, blackdog?" Auma grinned. "Auma, daughter of Orlando the Axe. You think that sword of yours is something? Look at this!" With a flourish, Auma drew out her father's axe, polished to a gleam, shining in the June sun.
Seconds later the four of them had made a beastpile on the floor. Beads of sweat were running down Lupin’s fur. Clenching his fangs, he heaved an almighty kick with his good leg that sent Auma and Martin flying. Lupin and Mariah still lay on the floor, teeth bared, growling at one another. “Pinned ya,” Mariah said, executing a long-forgotten childhood game. Lupin smiled weakly, then bit her in the front paw. “Pinned you.” He retorted. But Mariah came back with a fierce “Pinned ya again!” While Mariah and Lupin fought it out on the floor of all places, Lupin suddenly picked up his fallen switchblade with his teeth. With his free paw, he hurled it across the room. Although it had been clearly intended for Martin, he moved just seconds before the impact. It hit Auma instead.
“Wh…What?” At an undetermined period later, Auma lazily floated back into consciousness. She blinked. The badger looked around to find herself in the infirmary. Instead of the coarse dark blue dress she’d worn when she’d been stabbed, Auma realized she was now wearing a clean nightgown. Sister Dawn, the newly-appointed infirmary sister was sitting vigil by her bedside, and Sister May, aging but still full of spunk was trifling through a wooden cabinet containing various herbs and medicines. “Where was I hit?” Auma demanded, trying to sit up, but couldn’t. “Easy now. Thank heavens you’re awake.” Sister Dawn gently helped Auma lie back against the pillows. “In the front leg.” Sister May said from the other side of the room. “Yes, it was critical for a little while but you’ll be all right.” Auma examined her stabbed front leg. It was swathed in a bandage, but it didn’t hurt too much when moved. “Martin came running, told us what happened.” Sister May went on, grinding some greenish herbs with a mortar and pestle. Auma breathed a sigh of relief. If Martin had come running like a maniac to the infirmary, then he had to be all right. “When I first looked at you, thought old Lupin had finished you off. But then Dawn broke in with ‘But she’s too tough to die’ and that’s when I saw, thank Mossflower you were alive!” “Yes. My very words.” Sister Dawn said, somewhat arrogantly, getting out of her chair. By this point, Sister May had finished preparing the medicine. She shook the ground-up herbs from the flat rock and into a bowl, which she walked across the room and gave to Auma. Auma chewed the herbs, and after several seconds the pain began to numb. “Auma, now that this war is upon us you’ve gone way beyond your call of duty as the abbey mother. Maybe you should let Martin take the reins for a while.” Auma felt a twinge of slight jealousy. She had been brave and fierce as Orlando the Axe’s daughter and Martin had been brave as well. But the warrior’s son sometimes did without thinking. Would it really be all right to have him take her place?? “Maybe,” Auma said, growing tired. “And where’s Mariah?” Sister May grimaced. “She wasn’t to be seen. By the time Martin took Dawn and I back to where you were stabbed, she and Lupin were gone. He must have taken her as a hostage.” Auma felt the blood draining from her face. “I’ve got to find her!” In a frenzy of movement, Auma tore off the bedsheet and tried to stand. The effort was clearly too much for the badger, and Sister May had to help her back to bed before she fainted. Sister May sighed. “It’s about time I’ve told you, Auma.” She said. “Since your injury’s so severe, I’ve decided it would be best if you stayed in bed a while.” Auma thought she heard herself say “All right,” Before drifting off into a dreamless black sleep.
When Auma awoke again some time later, Sister Dawn had left. It was Sister May’s turn to do the shift at the infirmary, tending to the other wounded. Auma blinked sleepily. “What happened?” She asked Martin, standing in the door. The infirmary reeked of pain and rotting flesh. Martin winced. “News for the convalescent. There was an enormous battle out in the courtyard for the tapestry. Twelve creatures dead on both sides, dozens more wounded.” He glanced at her bandaged left front leg. “How do you feel?” Auma stretched. “Good enough. My leg’s still a little sore, though. Any word on Mariah? All Sister May could tell me was that she’d probably been taken hostage.” Martin shook his head. “Sorry to say no.” Auma scratched at the sleeve of her nightgown while the pained cries of the injured floated all around her. It was going to be a long rest of the day.
Chapter fifteen: EscapeEdit
That night, as Auma lay in her narrow infirmary bed, Mariah sat outside, a ball and chain on her left back leg and manacles on her front ones. It was deep nightfall. She remained awake while the rest of the horde, even Lupin was sleeping. Frightened, Mariah slowly got to her paws, dragging the lead ball behind her. She had a mission to accomplish.
At Lupin’s tent, a candle still flickered dimly at the warlord’s desk. Lupin lay in bed, muttering and tossing restlessly in his sleep. Even asleep he looked vicious and wild. Mariah shuddered. Mariah froze suddenly. Lupin’s right eye had snapped open and was staring right at her! Just when Mariah thought she’d been found out, Lupin closed his eye and continued talking in his sleep. The mousemaid heaved a sigh of relief. The tapestry was standing, in plain sight at the middle of the room. Trembling with nervousness, Mariah picked up the yellowing and tattered scrap of cloth, tucked it in her dress pocket and tiptoed back to the tent entrance, searching for something as a lock pick for her chains. Her eyes fell on Lupin’s small gold-handled switchblade, lying on the desk. It was encrusted with dried blood, and Mariah’s stomach gave a little jump at the sight of it. Mariah picked up the dagger, sat down in Lupin’s chair and hacked at the chains. Luckily, they were old and fell off relatively quickly with a dull Thud! That was not loud enough to wake Lupin. Now for the backs. Mariah inserted the dagger once more into the chain on her back paw. After two tries, it finally broke. Then, she carried the chains slowly to the River Moss at the camp border, dipped them in the water twice and then laid them back on the ground. In the morning, Lupin would surely send out a patrol to look for her. Hopefully, he’d see the wet chains, and believe that she’d drowned trying to get the chains open. It was a risky gamble, but one she’d have to take. For now.
Meanwhile, at Cavern Hole, a conference was underway. Abbot Elijah and Martin sat at the table, trying to dechiper an old ryhme left behind by Methuselah, Redwall's recorder back during the Summer Wars. "At-hem." The Abbot unfurled a dusty strip of parchment and began to read "Through the land and through the sea, there is but one name that chills me: Lupin! Lupin the Scourge! ‘Who is Lupin’ this you ask. Explaining him ‘tis not my task. The Scourge has come once. The Scourge will come twice. After midnight the bell will sound, and blood will stain our Redwall’s grounds. The blood will spill, the fur will fly, ‘tis caused by the one with the yellowy eyes. In the tower at midday, a bloody battle there will break. Warrior and Scourge again will fight, long before the moon’s first light. Seek out Lupin you will not find, as it is long before his time." "That's easy to decipher!" Martin snorted. "The Scourge has come once, the Scourge will come twice means that Lupin has returned to Redwall in his father's place. 'Blood will stain our Redwall's grounds' means that battle today. 'In the tower at midday a bloody battle there will break. Warrior and Scourge again will fight, long before the moon's first light' means the fight Lupin and I had up at the tower. And I guess 'seek out Lupin you will not find as it is long before his time' means that Lupin was too young to be his father's sucessor when this was written." Elijah nodded. "Yes Martin, you are right. But there is more still." Elijah polished his spectacles and read "'Follow the trail to the south, where you’ll find a ramshackle house. Two dead flowers there you’ll see, a rose and a lily past their prime, all that's left of Cluny’s time.'" Martin blinked, staring. He turned to Elijah, who shrugged. They were stumped! Several minutes later, Elijah called off the meeting. It was late, and the meaning of Methuselah's final verse would have to wait till morning, it appeared.
Lupin quickly scaled the elm tree, cursing at the rustling of leaves as he scampered up, as nimble as any monkey. When Lupin reached the end of the wide, gnarled limb he looked down by accident, fighting nausea. The ground loomed, large and threatening before his eyes and he swallowed. One of his father’s officers, a weasel named Scragg had fallen out of and been killed by what Cluny would later refer to as ‘the killer elm’ Lupin shuddered and reminded himself of his mission: To spy on Mariah, to see if he could get any more information on where she’d brought the tapestry. Flinching, the rat’s ears pressed back against his head as he listened. Voices were near. He looked down to see Martin and Mariah strolling through the courtyard. It was a miracle they did not see the peridot eyes gleaming out from the darkness like a Cheshire cat, observing them but not in a predatory way. Martin and Mariah settled themselves on a stone bench and Lupin continued to listen intently. Martin said “Mariah, that was very brave of you to get the tapestry back.” She smiled. “Oh Martin, you know I’m brave every day. So are you.” He laughed, and they looked at each other a moment. “Mariah,” Martin said in a soft, low voice. “Yes?” She whispered, eyes closed. “I…. I love you.” He threw his paws around her, and there, in the stillness of the early June night, they kissed. From his branch, Lupin felt an intense feeling of depression and betrayal. He’d known Mariah before Martin was even born! It wasn’t fair! He and Mariah had known each other in childhood……. They belonged together. But at the same time, they didn’t. The mouse and the rat had led two insanely different childhoods: For the first six years of his life, Lupin was spoiled rotten as his father’s heir, while Mariah lived a sometimes challenging but pleasant life in Redwall. Then, after his father’s death Lupin had ran away and was forced to work in a slave camp for ten years, while Mariah, at the abbey blossomed into maturity like some rare flower. Yes, a flower….. Lupin thought solemnly, thinking of the dead rose he’d found at his mother’s house after she died. His parents were long-gone, yet their shadows still lingered. Lupin smiled, thinking of the passionate, wild relationship that had ensued between the Scourge and the silver-furred she-rat. It was then that Mariah looked up, and saw Lupin. Saw his eyes. Lupin… She said in a barely audible whisper, and Lupin took the opportunity to disappear into the leaves.
That night, during Lupin's little courtyard stunt, Redtail was vainly trying to keep Bluddclaw entertained. In their tent at camp, he bit his lip, thinking. "Bluddclaw, I won't. You're thirteen. You're too old for stories." Bluddclaw looked downcast, then said "Then tell me one that's true." Redtail gulped. He knew what story his brother meant. The story of the first few years of their lives. "Okay," He said, swallowing. "Once upon a time in a small town not too far away, there were two otter brothers named Malachy and Oliver. In the summertime they'd go swimming at the local pond, and ate chocolate-and-cream cheese-cake on their birthdays." Bluddclaw licked his muzzle, clearly remembering the homemade cakes. "Malachy got good grades and school and tried to be his parent's favorite. He thought Oliver was a nuisance." Redtail winked at his younger brother. "But too everyone else the younger otter was an angel who could do no wrong. And then, when Malachy was nine and Oliver was five...." Redtail gulped, a lump forming in his throat, mouth growing dry. Violent images he'd tucked away in his mind came coming back. Redtail had witnesssed his neighbors being brutally impaled at the paws of Lupin's horde. He had seen houses burnt to the ground and young ones being stabbed through the heart with long swords. And Redtail had stood there watching from the attic window, watching as blood turned the January snow a sickening red as he watched his friends and family being tortured to death. Even now, at seventeen he got a shiver just remembering it. If Lupin hadn't taken a shine to me it would've been Bluddclaw and I.....It was then that the otter realized just why the Scourge had liked him so much: the nine-year-old Redtail had given the then twenty-five-year-old Lupin had seen himself- young and curious and innocent, before the loss of both his parents and being tortured in a slave camp for ten long years had made him hardened and merciless. And he wanted to see Redtail prosper and grow up, to be and want all the things that Lupin had never gotten the time for in his bloodstained childhood. Secretly, Lupin loved Redtail as an adopted son, and that was information he would never, never divulge not even to Redtail himself. That was because Redtail was the last and only thing that Lupin could truly care about, and be concerned for. If for some reason, Redtail were to die then Lupin's last scrap of humanity would die with him.