Chapter One: The enemy approachesEdit
It was a beautiful day in Mossflower Woods, but the stillness was broken by the pounding of many footpaws and the rattle of weapons. A pair of watchful eyes observed the source of the noise, a vast vermin horde, as it made its way through the forest. No creature in the column of marchers dared make a sound, lest it should be heard by either their captains, or worse, by their warlord himself. Garok was a cruel beast, and his size and skill with a blade made him a creature to be feared and obeyed.
And everyone obeyed him. He made sure of that. As the great grey wolf surveyed the area around him from the top of a boulder, he spied the building he had set out to conquer. The spire of Redwall Abbey was visible over the treetops. He allowed himself a sigh of contentment as he imagined himself sitting in Cavern Hole with all of the Abbey’s inhabitants as his slaves. He had heard tales of the abbey. Of how no creature had ever been able to conquer it, but he didn’t care. Garok vowed to be the first to bring the Abbey to its knees.
The rhythmic beating of paws upon the ground was suddenly interrupted by a great bout of shouting, and for a moment Garok though his horde had been attacked. Upon closer inspection, he found that the source of the disturbance was one of the captives he had managed to secure several days earlier. His ears swiveled to pick up the sounds of the conflict as he monitored the situation.
“Don’t let go of that chain!”
“Hold ‘er steady!”
“Look out, she’s loose!” There was confusion everywhere among the horde of Garok the wolf as a fierce, red-brown otter maid struggled free of the rabble of stoats, ferrets, and weasels that tried to pin her down. She let loose an ear-piercing battle cry as she lunged for the guards surrounding the vermin’s other captive.
“Cortan, hold on! I’m comin’ for ya!” Her brother was struggling against his captors, but he was quickly overwhelmed and beaten senseless. Garok was at the center of the conflict in an instant. “You foul beast! Release us, or I swear I’ll take ye to hellgates with me.”
“Brave words coming from a beast who’s outnumbered more than a hundred to one with the life of her only surviving family member on the line.” He gestured off to the side to show two weasels supporting Cortan, and a rat with his sword blade to the young otter’s throat. “You’ll stand down now, or the brat has seen his last sunrise.”
The otter maid clenched her fists, but allowed herself to be once again restrained by the vermin rabble. “I swear, wolf, if I ever get free of these chains, I will end your life with my own paws.” She was roughly led away, and Garok turned on his troops, several of whom were trying to slink away, unnoticed.
“Who allowed this to happen!?” Garok roared. “I said there was to be absolute silence during the march to the Abbey!” One unlucky rat was eventually pushed out of the crowd and landed flat on his face in front of the seething wolf.
“I was the one guarding the prisoner, sire, but I swear I didn’t mean for this to happen! Kranton said that the potion would keep the otter asleep until sundown!”
“Silence!” The rat cowered under Garok’s deadly gaze. There was a swish, a thunk, and the rat’s life was snuffed out before he even felt his warlord’s blade.
Everyone in the Abbey was busy in one form or another, preparing for the feast that evening. Sister Clemence watched the dibbuns near the pond while Cellarhog Fumbgur directed some of the younger creatures who were bringing up barrels of ale and cordial from the cellars. The dibbuns squealed as Skipper Rornam and several other otters suddenly surfaced in the center of the pond, holding tight to a large net of freshwater shrimp. A small group of squirrels swung themselves over the east wall and hurried down to the kitchens with heavy loads of wild ramsons and ruhbarb.
In the midst of all this commotion, only one creature was not frantically rushing to complete last minute work. Gavin, a young squirrel, sat staring out of the dormitory window with a glum look on his face and a sigh on his lips. He was an orphan of war, having been brought to the abbey by a group of Salamandastron hares after being found amidst the rubble of his family's newly destroyed home. He had few friends, and was always seen as something of an outsider by the dibbuns and younger folk in the abbey.
After watching the other creatures bustle around for a few minutes longer, Gavin slowly made his way upstairs to the attics, where he often went to settle down and read parts of the abbey records. Brother Sandil, the abbey recorder, supplied him with these documents, and often wondered why Gavin showed such an interest in them, though he never recieved an answer.
None of the creatures in the Abbey suspected that just out of sight on the plain opposite the abbey lurked a vermin horde bent on destroying the peace they had enjoyed for so long.