Note: Please read Of Warriors and Corsairs before you read this story! Thank you.
A full moon shone over northern Mossflower Woods. The forest was quiet and peaceful. The silence was broken only by three young rabbits played in a field. They tussled and jumped on each other until a voice called to them from their den, “Dillery! Pendo! Manitha! Come home this instant, it's getting late!” A plump, motherly-looking rabbit came out of the den, holding a ladle. Dillery, the oldest, said, “But mum, we want to play more!” The mother rabbit, whose name was Bloombell, said in a no-nonsense voice, “You had better come home this instant young bunnies, or your father will get quite upset!” The father rabbit, Weldron, had already come to the door. He called out in a deep voice, “Come in now or you'll be sent right to bed with no supper!” The young rabbits sighed and went in. Bloombell noticed that there were only two of her children present. She asked the others, “Where is Manitha?” Pendo shrugged, “I don't know. She went off into the woods when we were playing.” Weldron got up and went outside. “Manitha! Where are you?” There was no answer. He sighed and picked up a thick, oaken staff. “I'll go out and find her.” he said.
Weldron went off into the woods of Mossflower. It could be dangerous out in Mossflower at night. Vermin, snakes, birds of prey, or marshlands could mean death for a careless wanderer. He kept calling out his daughter's name every now and then, hoping to get an answer. Suddenly he heard a frightened squeal from over to his right, and he whirled around. He saw his daughter, Manitha, on the ground, with a dark shape looming above her. Weldron charged at the black thing, but something whacked him across the back of his head, and he went sprawling. He looked up to see at least five dark shadowy creatures that seemed to appear out of nowhere. He reached for his staff, but a dagger hissed down and buried itself right next to his paw. An accented voice snarled, “You try dat again and you be a deadbeazt!” Weldron lay motionless on the ground as the dark creature retrieved it's dagger. An evil-sounding, female voice spoke, “Which way is it to the Abbey of Redwall?” Weldron trembled, “I-it is just due s-south. Now p-please, will you give me back my daughter?” The female voice hissed, “That is for Bloodskull to decide!” The father rabbit was about to ask who that was, when a thick, rasping voice came out from the trees, “What is this creature, Skarva?” The female voice answered, “It is two rabbits, master. They told us where the Abbey is.” A large, dark figure came out of the trees, and Weldron gasped in horror. It had on a black hooded cloak and it's fur was pitch black as well. But it's face was what terrified the rabbit. Bright crimson paint was smeared on the beast's face in a pattern so as to make it look like a blood-stained skull. The creature brought it's left arm out of it's cloak and Weldron saw that instead of a paw, it had a vicious three-pronged hook, with two longer hooks on the top and a smaller one on the bottom. The hook flashed down, and grabbed the rabbit by his tunic. Weldron stared in terror at the evil, red-streaked face. The beast's harsh voice was barely a whisper, “So, you know where the Abbey is?” The rabbit nodded. The dark figure smiled, it's face breaking into a ghastly skull-like grin, “Then you must know of it's weaknesses. The places in the walls where there are no thick barriers?” Weldron gulped and stuttered, “W-well, sir, I have not actually been there for a long time. S-so I don't really know of any weaknesses.” The dark creature nodded, and two of the black figures grabbed Manitha by her ears. They lifted her off of the ground, and a pair of saw-edged swords were held at her throat. Weldron struggled to get to his daughter, but the black creature threw him to the ground and placed a foot-paw on him. A long, black sword slid out of his cloak, and was pointed right between Weldron's eyes. The black figure hissed, “If you do not tell me every detail of the Abbey, and what the creatures there are like, then I will slay your daughter. If you still do not comply, then I will, well....” The evil face broke into the ghastly smile, “use a little...persuasion!” He pressed the sword lightly into the rabbit's head and Weldron gave a whimper. The creature rubbed the triple-hook on it's cloak and said, “So now, tell me all that there is to know about Redwall Abbey.”
The otter peered behind the wall. Everything was clear. He sneaked across the grass and over behind a tree, always aware of his enemy. He held his long, beautiful sword tight as he looked and listened for any sign of his opponent. The early morning light shone through the trees of the small copse that he hid in and reflected off of his sword. He sighed and was about to relax, when he heard a rustle from near some bushes by a pond. The otter smiled and crept stealthily over towards the noise. He kept his sword ready for defense, and pulled aside the bushes. Suddenly something leaped out of the shrubs and swung a curved blade at him. The otter blocked his opponent's every move as he tried to get into an attacking position. Then he dropped to the ground and rolled under his enemy's legs, tripping him. The otter leaped up and quickly disarmed his opponent. He held his sword at the defeated creature's chest and said, “Any last words vermin?” The creature grappled on the ground and pleaded, “Please sir, let me go! I'm a cowardly, spineless toad!” Wengle Brookrudder laughed, “Alright you cowardly, spineless toad, get up!” Riddy got up and grinned at him, “Wow! No wonder that you're the warrior of Redwall Abbey, mate!” Wengle picked up the shrew's fallen sword and handed it to him, “Well look at you, you're not that bad of a fighter yourself!” Riddy sheathed his sword and sighed, “It just doesn't seem that long ago when you and I first came here, Wengle.” He rubbed the scar on his right shoulder, “And it doesn't feel that long either!” The otter laughed and sheathed the sword of Martin the Warrior, “Yea, ever since we fought off all of those corsairs and pine martens, we've lived a pretty peaceful life.” Riddy grinned, “And it's all thanks to me coming and saving you all.” Wengle shoved his friend playfully, “Huh, you saved us all? Spruce, Corkly and I could have taken out those vermin easily! We just wanted to see if you cared!” Just then they heard a noise from inside the Abbey and the two friends looked at each other and smiled.
Corkly G. Battlescut the Third came racing out of the Abbey. The lanky hare carried three scones in one paw, and a large hunk of cheese in the other. He ran over to the them, gulping down a piece of cheese and whispered to them, “Beg pardon chaps, but I need to hide for a moment.” Wengle shook his head, “What did you do this time?” The hare took a bite of scone and said, “You're mater is flippin mad at me! And all I did was pinch a few scones and a small piece of cheese!” Riddy chuckled, “Small piece? That chunk is big enough for three badgers to share!” Just then, Wengle's mother, Nela Brookrudder, came storming out of the Abbey door, a ladle in one paw. She glared at Corkly in mock anger, “Mr. Battlescut, how dare you steal food from the kitchens! And just before breakfast too!” Wengle and Riddy stifled their laughter as Corkly stammered, “W-well marm, I don't really make the decision to take, er, borrow the tucker. Me old stomach couldn't wait for breakfast and so I just popped in and helped meself to your prime vittles. You should be jolly well proud that a chap would risk his blinkin' hide to get some of your tucker, wot!” Mrs. Brookrudder stood glaring at the hare, then she broke out into laughter along with Wengle and Riddy. Corkly sniffed, “Humph! I don't see what's so funny about a chap being hungry!” Just then, Friar Dobble, the fat, old mouse cook, came out and rang a small bell. “Breakfast is ready! Mrs. Brookrudder, did you catch that ruffian hare?” When the Friar saw Corkly he started fuming, “You... you... rapscallion! Steaking from our kitchens! You shouldn't be allowed to have any breakfast!” Nela placed a paw on the enraged cook's shoulder, “Don't get in a tizzy, Friar. I already told Mr. Battlescut off.” Corkly stuffed the last scone down his mouth and saluted, “Never again will I steal from your jolly old kitchens again, oh Ruler of the Ovens and Lord of the vittles!” The mouse friar stared at the hare as Nela, Wengle and Riddy fell about laughing. The Friar snorted and muttered, “Well, come on in to breakfast!”
Chapter 3 Edit
Weldron the rabbit told the dark creatures everything that he knew about Redwall Abbey. When he had finished, the dark leader stood silently staring at Weldron. The rabbit whimpered, “N-now sir, w-will you p-please let me and my daughter go?” The creature smiled and said, “Alright. You have told me what you know and you will have a reward.” He made as if to turn away, but he suddenly spun around and drove his black sword into the rabbit's chest, pinning him to the ground. Weldron gurgled and stared up at the dark creature with a look of shock on his face. The beast grinned again, his blood-red face cracking into an evil grimace, “You know too much about Morfelg Bloodskull and his Darkblades! But your daughter will live. I am in need of her.” Weldron glanced over at his young daughter, his eyes misted over, and he fell back dead. Bloodskull yanked his sword out of the rabbit's body and nodded to the creatures that held Manitha and they dropped her in front of him. Morfelg loomed over the young rabbit, his skull-like features inches away from her trembling face. The Darkblade leader whispered soothingly as he stroked her ears with his triple-hook, “Now now my dear, I won't hurt you. But I will if you do not do as I say. Will you do that for me?” Tears ran down her face and she nodded. Bloodskull smiled again, “Good! Now all that you must do is to go to the Abbey of Redwall. Do you know where that is?” Manitha thought for a moment. She had never been there and all that she knew was that it was south, but she was too afraid to say no, so she nodded. Bloodskull let her up and she went racing south into the woodlands. Morfelg watched her go and spoke to three of his Darkblades, “Kyvar, Zelkor, and Vandak. Follow her and see that she goes to the Abbey. And when she gets there...” He slid his swordblade through his hook. “you know what to do!” The three creatures nodded and went silently off into the forest. The female Darkblade, Skarva, went over to where Morfelg stood. She spoke in a questioning voice to him, “Why send her to the Abbey? Then the creatures there will know of our presence.” Bloodskull slid his arms back into his long, black cloak, “Because, my dear sister, the three that I sent out have special instructions to slay the rabbit when she gets near the Abbey. Then they will never know of us, but I will know of them!” Skarva smiled evilly, “Yes! And I assume that Zelkor is to be doing the slaying?” Bloodskull shrugged, “I don't care who does it, as long as the Redwallers never hear of us. Now, let us go and see if we can find any more...” He glanced over at Weldron's body and grinned cruelly, “any more playthings to pass the time!”
Manitha ran as she never had before. The early morning sun shone through the treetops, and the birds sang cheerily, but she paid little attention. The young rabbit was still traumatized by the cold-blooded slaying of her father and she had no idea where she was going. A few yard behind her, the three creatures sent to watch her, strode along the forest floor. As they passed by, the birds stopped singing and the grass seemed to wither underneath them. One of the Darkblades, a female named Vandak, spoke softly to the other two, "Do you think that the rabbit is going in the right direction?" The one Zelkor, pulled a long blow-dart pipe from out of his black cloak and hissed, "Well, if she is not, then I can take care of that!" Vandak nodded and they slid quietly along, darkening the beauty of the morning woodlands.
High up in a tall elm tree, two squirrels watched the young rabbit come stumbling through the woods. One of the squirrels, a pretty young female turned to the other squirrel and asked, "What do you think that young rabbit is doing, father?" The older squirrel, a strong creature who seemed to have many battles under his belt, peered down through the foliage, "Well, Oakflower. It seems as if she's running in fear. But from what?" Oakflower gasped and pointed, "Look!" Spruce Longbrush looked down into the forest and stared for a moment, trying to catch a glimpse of what his daughter had seen. Then he bit his lip and nodded, "Aye there's something there alright. Maybe...three of them? My, you have eyes almost as good as Keekag's!" Oakflower notched an arrow to her small bow, "Shouldn't we take them out, father?" Spruce drew a long arrow from his quiver and loaded it into his bow, but he didn't pull back the string, "Not yet. We need to find out what they are and why they are following that rabbit. But don't kill any of them yet, who knows if they're friend or foe?" Oakflower curled her lip in disgust, "It looks to me like foebeasts for sure! Look at how black and evil they seem!" She pulled back her bowstring but Spruce placed a paw on her arm, "Don't shoot just yet, Oakflower. They may also have arrows." She sighed and put her bow down, "I supose your right daddy. But shouldn't we at least help the rabbit?" Spruce nodded, "Yes, but..." He looked around, "Where are they? They didn't seem to be moving very fast." Oakflower looked down too. Manitha and the three Darkblades were nowhere in sight. Spruce turned to his daughter, "Go back to the Longbrush Glen. I'll see if I can pick up these mysterious strangers trail." She nodded and leaped quietly off into the trees. Spruce Longbrush held his bow loaded as he climbed swiftly through the branches. He was very worried, because the direction that he was following the black creatures was the way to Redwall Abbey.
Chapter 4 Edit
Manitha finally stumbled out of the edge of Mossflower and onto a path. She figured that it must lead to Redwall, so she followed along it. The three Darklades, Vandak, Zelkor, and Kyvar, followed her from on the outskirts of the trees. Careful to not be seen by anybeast that happened along the path. Behind them, leaping swiftly and silently from tree to tree, was Spruce Longbrush. The big squirrel was ready for anything, and he kept an eye on both the rabbit and the three shadowy figures. Suddenly they came to the path right outside of Redwall Abbey. Manitha gave a cry of joy and ran towards the huge sandstone building. The three Darkblades stared up in awe at the Abbey. It's weather-beaten but sturdy walls rose high above the pathway and the belltower in the center of the grounds rose even higher. Spruce stopped in a tall sycamore and watched as Manitha ran forward to the Abbey gates. Then he saw one of the Darkblades raise a blow-dart pipe to it's mouth and the squirrel instantly knew what was going to happen. Quick as lightning he pulled back the string of his already loaded bow and let the shaft fly. The arrow hissed downward and it would have struck the blow-dart creature when a dagger flew through the air and pinned the arrow against a tree. Spruce was amazed at the swiftness of the dagger and the three creatures looked up. Vandak pulled a long, spear-like weapon from her cloak and twirled it around. Kyvar retrieved his dagger and drew another from his belt. Vandak called up, “What are you doing here squirrel?” Spruce loaded another arrow to his bow and called back, “Just protecting an innocent young creature! What are you doing, vermin?” Vandak pointed her weapon at him and snarled, “It is not your business to know of the doings of the Darkblades!” The squirrel glanced over along the path and saw Manitha frantically pounding on the main-gate. He growled down, “Leave that young rabbit alone and get out of Mossflower or I'll have my whole tribe of warriors on you and leave your carcasses for the ants!” Vandak laughed, “Hah! Threats do not scare us, squirrel! Besides, even if you did get your pathetic little army here, we would destroy them all, as we have of other armies and hordes!” Spruce noticed that Zelkor was silently sneaking off towards Redwall's gates, and he shouted, “Don't go near there, scum!” Zelkor turned and smiled up at him, then said, “Or what? You now know that threats cannot scare us, and even if you tried to kill me, Kyvar here would knock your silly little arrow out of the air!” Spruce looked at the one called Kyvar and aimed his shaft at him. Vandak sneered, “Go ahead and try, fool!” Spruce's warrior spirit rose up in him and he let the shaft go with a yell. Vandak twirled her weapon through the air and it snapped the arrow in two in mid-flight. She grinned, “Now leave us be!” Spruce knew that these beasts were expert fighters and that they were not to be messed with. So he sighed and leaped back off through the trees.
Zelkor smirked, “Like always. They think that they are great warriors but they are all put to shame in front of the Darkblades!” Vandak nodded, "Aye! Now let us go and finish this business.” They turned and slid off into the woods like black phantoms.
Spruce had not gone back to the Longbrush Glen. Instead he had circled around and came to the other side of the Abbey. He must warn the Redwallers of these dangerous new foes.
Wengle, Riddy, and Corkly came out of the Abbey to enjoy the warm morning sunshine. The hare groaned, “Oh what a blinkin big stomachache I've got!” Riddy winked at Wengle, “That's probably because you ate five bowls of honeyed oatmeal and four mugs of mint tea!” Wengle chuckled, “Plus the scones and that hunk of cheese before breakfast!” Corkly sniffed, “Please don't mention any sort of tucker again, old chaps! Atleast not until lunchtime, wot!” Riddy slapped a paw to his forehead, “Oh great seasons! I forgot that I was supposed to take over the gatekeeper job from Brother Gerant while he was helping Foremole in the orchard!” He ran over towards the homely little Gatehouse, follwed by Wengle and Corkly. They went inside and the hare said, “My, what a nice little place this is! Quite comfy, wot!”
Riddy was about to reply, when they heard a sudden knocking at the door. The shrew went out of the Gatehouse and over to the big, wooden doors and asked, “Who is it?” A small, frightened voice answered, “Please, sir let me in! I need help!” Riddy glanced over at Wengle and Corkly and whispered to them, “What should I do?” Corkly snorted, “Well, let the pore creature in, you bounder! What else?!” Riddy opened to door and Manitha came in. The young rabbit was in tears as she threw herself on the shrew and sobbed, “Oh, please sir, they killed my father! I don't know if they'll kill mummy and by brothers too! Oh, please help me! Boohoohoo!” Riddy stared down at her in surprise and glanced up at Wengle and Corkly. The otter warrior drew the sword of Martin from it's sheath and asked, “Who killed your father? What happened? Where?” Manitha pointed out the door, “I don't know what they were, but they were scary! They were all black and they killed daddy! Ohhhh!” She collapsed in a heap and Corkly picked her up. He looked worriedly at Wengle, “This seems flippin well serious! I'll take her to the infirmary and you two go outside and look around. I'll join you in a tick.” After they had left, Riddy drew his sword, “Well, what do you make of that story, eh mate?” Wengle frowned, “I think Corkly's right. This sounds very real!” “Oh, it's real alright, warrior!”
They looked up at the walltop above them to see Spruce Longbrush leap down near them. He bit his lip, “It's good that she got here safely, poor thing!” Wengle shook Spruce's paw, “Mr. Longbrush, it's good to see you again! Now, what happened?” The squirrel shook his head, “I'm not sure really, I was out on patrol in Mossflower with my daughter Oakflower, when we spotted three dark creatures following that young rabbit. I told Oakflower to go back to Longbrush Glen and I followed the creatures from behind. When they got to the path outside of here, one of them was about to shoot the rabbit with a blow-dart, when I stopped them. I learned that they are called the Darkblades, and that there are more then three of them roaming Mossflower.” Wengle frowned, “But why were they chasing that young rabbit?” Spruce shrugged, “I have no idea! They said that it was their 'business'.” Riddy licked his blade, “Oh, we'll show them our business sure enough!” Spruce grabbed the shrew by the shoulder and spoke sharply, “No! These creatures are not as easy to fight as you may think! Twice they cut down my shafts that were in mid-flight! They are very skilled fighters!” Wengle gripped the swordhilt tight, “Weather they are good fighters or not, we can't let them harm innocent creatures! We must stop them!” Just then, Corkly came back. He shook his head sadly as he spoke, “The poor thing! It seems as though those vermin cads forced her father to tell them where Redwall was. Then they killed him and told her to go here. Oh, how are you, Spruce old chap, have you heard about...” The squirrel nodded, “Yes I have. I fact I was telling Wengle and Riddy about what I saw and heard. These black creatures, the Darkblades they call themselves, are very deadly. We need to be careful in Mossflower if they are stalking around out there!”
Riddy growled, “I think that we need to go out there and find those three beasts that Spruce saw and make them tell us more of what is going on!” Spruce was about to interject, when Corkly said, “Agreed. Need to put out the little flame before the whole blinkin' forest catches on fire!” Wengle nodded, “We can't let them destroy the peacefulness of Mossflower and Redwall Abbey!” Spruce sighed, “Very well! Just be sure to tell the Abbot about what we are going to do!” Wengle took off, “I'll go ask him now!” Riddy felt the edge of his blade, “I'll go sharpen my sword.” Corkly grinned, “And I shall go and gather some jolly old provisions for the trip!” They all went off and Spruce sighed, “I sure hope that we don't regret this!”
Chapter 5 Edit
The four warriors, Wengle, Riddy, Corkly, and Spruce were ready for their search. They split up into pairs, Wengle and Corkly going south, and Riddy and Spruce going north. They set off into the Mossflower, not knowing if the deadly Darkblades were hiding behind the next tree.
Wengle held the sword of Martin the Warrior tight as he stalked carefully through the forest. Corkly peered around bushes and trees, his long, hard stave at the ready. The hare pulled aside a large branch and looked behind it. Seeing nothing, he snorted, "I think that this is a blooming waste of time! Even if we do find those Darksomthingrather blighters, how are we supposed to fight them? From Spruce's account, they seemed to be some jolly good fighters." Wengle was about to reply, when a sudden commotion sounded from a little ways off. Wengle glanced at Corkly, "Well, do you think..." The hare held his stave inn a fighting stance, "Aye, let's first see what is going on, then we pop in and settle the matter, wot!" They crept along in the shadows, going towards the noises that echoed around the woodlands. Then they got behind a clump of thick bushes and peered at the scene.
There were five vermin. Two stoats, a weasel, a rat, and a fox. The fox seemed to be the leader, as he was the biggest and toughest-looking of the group. He sat by a small fire with one of the stoats and the weasel. The rat and the other stoat were trying to hold a struggling ottermaid down to a tree. The otter bit into the stoat's paw and he screeched. The stoat glared at her and smacked her with a piece of rope that he held, snarling, "Don't you try that again, waterdog! You stay here nice and snug now so's we can get to have some brekkist!" They finally tied the otter down tight to the tree and then joined their companions by the fire. The weasel snickered, "Too much of a pawful for you eh, Veddle?" The stoat Veddle sneered at the weasel, "Well why don't you try tying down a mad ottermaid, Argroo? Or are you just too much of a coward?" Argroo stood and picked up a javelin from beside him, "Nobeast calls Argroo a coward!" Veddle smirked, "Well then, if'n you're not a coward, then let's see you go up to the otter and put your paw near her mouth!" The rat snickered, "Go on Argroo, let's see how brave you are!" The weasel glared at the rat, "Oh shaddup Bilur, I'm no coward! I'll go do it!" He strode up to the ottermaid, who stood glaring at the him. Argroo held the point of his javelin at the otter's throat and sneered, "Go on, waterdog, let's see you bite me paw off!" The ottermaid growled, “That's my javelin that your holding, vermin!” The weasel grinned, “Oooh! So what are you gonna do about it?” The otter just glared at him.
From behind the bushes, Wengle gritted his teeth and started to rise, but Corkly pulled him down, "We don't want them to see us just yet! Stay down!" Wengle bit his lip, "Do you think that they're the Darkblades?" The hare looked at the vermin for a moment and shook his head, "I don't think that these bounders fit to Spruce's description. Not very stealthy or skilled if you ask me!"
Argroo turned to the other vermin, "See? She wouldn't dare to-Arragghh!" He pulled his paw back and hopped around while the other vermin hooted with laughter. The ottermaid spat out blood and grinned at the weasel, "What a brave vermin you are! Just try it again, snotnose, and I'll bite your whole arm off!" Argroo glared at her, then he picked up the javelin sat down by the fire, nursing his wound. He muttered, "Somebeast needs to put a gag on 'er mouth!" Bilur the rat cackled, "Heeheehee! Well, it ain't gonna be you, hero!" Argroo sniffed, "Well do any of you brave buckoes want to do it, eh?" The other vermin sat silent. The ottermaid laughed, "Aye, try and come near me, scum!" The fox, who had been sitting silently by the fire and roasting a thrush on his cutlass the whole time, stood and ripped the carcass off of his blade. He strode over to the otter and quickly pulled the rope up over her mouth. The other vermin stared in awe at the fox as he came back and sat down again. He smiled, "See? That's why the Chief made me in charge of this slave-hunt! Because you are all a bunch of mangy cowards!"
Wengle sat staring at the ottermaid. She was strong-looking and quite pretty. Corkly nudged him and broke him out of his trance, "You go and untie the little warrior over there. I'll create a diversion for these yahoos.” Wengle nodded and started off, when he stepped on a dry twig and it snapped under his paw. Both he and Corkly froze.
The vermin looked over their way, and one of them said, "What was that?" Another whispered, "Do you think that it's those other h'otter's that the h'ottermaid was talking about?" The fox stood up, brandishing his cutlass, "I don't care who it is, I'll slice 'em to ribbons if they try to take our prize away!" He slashed at the bushes with his cutlass, and turned to the other vermin, "See! There's nothing there, or they'd have been taking off by now!” Suddenly Corkly came out from behind the bushes and staggered about, with a pleading look on his face, "Excuse me for intruding on your wonderful little party, but could you spare a few measly crusts for a poor starving wanderer?" He gave a nod to Wengle, who slid off into the woods. The vermin stared in shock at the hare for a moment, then the fox snarled, “Who are you? What are you doing here?” The hare smirked, “I believe that I just said what I am doing, sir! I'm begging for some blinkin vittles!” The fox licked his blade, “You'll be begging for mercy before I'm done with you!” He swung his cutlass at Corkly, but the hare ducked it and leaped around and behind the fox. Before the vermin could move, Corkly gave him a strong blow to the back of his head and the fox fell senseless to the ground.
The other four vermin stared at the hare in awe. They did not notice Wengle sneaking up behind the tree that the ottermaid was tied to. He whispered, “Don't worry, I'm a friend!” With one slash of his sword, the ropes fell to the ground. The ottermaid leaped forward at the vermin, but Wengle grabbed her and pulled her behind the tree. The ottermaid stared at Wengle, "Who are you?" He peered around the tree-trunk and said, "I'm Wengle, the Warrior of Redwall Abbey. Now be quiet!" She clenched her paws, "Those scummy vermin stole my javelin! I need to get it back!" Wengle grabbed her shoulder and pulled her back, hissing, "Sshhh! Let my friend Corkly take care of them!"
The vermin swung out their weapons at Corkly, who easily dodged every one and mocked the vermin each time he did, "Missed me again! You aren't a very good fighters are you?" The stoat Veddle stabbed out at the hare with his spear, but Corkly leaped over the stoat's head, knocked the spear out of Veddle's paw and kicked him head over tail into the bushes. The other three vermin suddenly turned and ran, fleeing the scene in all haste. Corkly snorted and twirled the spear, "Hmph! No, those chaps aren't the flippin Darkblades sure enough!" When Wengle and the ottermaid came out from behind the tree, Corkly turned to them, "Well, it seems as if we've got another recruit! What's your name young lady?" The ottermaid glared towards the unconscious form of the fox, and growled, "I'm Rodala Reedflow, daughter of the Skipper of the North Stream Otters. Those vermin stole me javelin! Me prize javelin that I got from my ol' grampa! They took it!" Corkly stayed her, "Steady on, lassie, don't get in a rage just yet!"
Suddenly, Veddle the stoat came staggering out of the bushes, and fell face down onto the ground. Rodala leaped over to him and held him up, snarling, "Where is my javelin that you stole? Where is it?!" Veddle gulped and stammered, "I-I don't know! The last I saw, Argroo had it! He's the one that took it! I didn't have anything to do with it, honest!" Corkly pulled Rodala back and grabbed Veddle by the scruff of his neck, "Now speak up you rotter, do you know of anybeasts called the Darkblades?" Veddle shook his head, "I've never heard of anybeast called Darkblades, sir! Now please let me go!" Corkly dragged him over to the tree and using the ropes that had bound Rodala, he tied the stoat to the trunk. The hare wagged a paw under Veddle's nose, "After your foxy friend over there wakes up, move your stinking tails and leave Mossflower! Understand?" Veddle nodded unhappily and Corkly went back over to Rodala and Wengle, "Well, that's taken care of, so let's go back to the blinkin' Abbey, wot!" Rodala's eyes widened, "Really? I always wanted to go to Redwall! Let's go..." She turned and looked in the direction that the other vermin had fled and growled, "But I need to get my javelin back!" Wengle went over to the bound Veddle and asked, "Where did your pals go?" The stoat replied, "Probably back to the Chief's camp. I don't know." Wengle exchanged glances with Corkly, "And... what is your Chief's name?" Veddle gulped, "His name is Borskan the Ruthless. But please don't tell him about what I told you all, please!" Wengle nodded, "Don't worry, we won't." He turned back to Corkly and Rodala, "So now we know who to look for to find your javelin. Come on, let's go back to Redwall for now." Rodala gave one last glare at Veddle and followed Wengle and Corkly back through the woods towards Redwall. They did not notice the evil eyes watching from above and the dark shapes moving silently through the trees after them.
Chapter 6 Edit
Further north in Mossflower, Riddy and Spruce were not having much luck either. They had not seen any sign of the Darkblades, and Spruce was getting worried. He leaped up into a tall beech tree and looked around the view of the forest. Riddy called up to him, "See anything?" The squirrel shook his head, "Nothing but some birds. I wonder where they went?" Riddy sighed, "I wonder if Wengle and Corkly are faring any better." Suddenly Spruce froze. He motioned to Riddy and the shrew froze as well. The squirrel mouthed the words, "I heard something!" Riddy nodded and held his sword ready. Then quick as a flash Spruce turned and leaped into the brush behind him, an arrow in . But instead of an enemy, he saw that Spruce had pinned a hefty-looking squirrel to the ground. The squirrel gasped "Alright I give! You don't have to squash me!" The battlelight faded from Spruce's eyes and he grinned, "Rockshaft! What are you doing here?" The big squirrel got up and dusted himself off, "I was looking for you, Spruce. Your daughter told me about what you saw and I came right away." Spruce nodded, "Aye, and I had another run-in with the same creatures later. They call themselves the Darkblades and there seems to be more than three of them. They're also deadly fighters. They knocked two of my arrows out in mid-flight!" Rockshaft groaned and muttered, "As if things could get any worse." Spruce glanced at him, alarmed, "Why? What's wrong?" Rockshaft sighed, "While you and your daughter were out on that patrol, there were reports that the Pineshadows have returned." Spruce's mouth dropped open, "What?! But we drove them all out of this part of Mossflower after the battle!" Rockshaft shrugged, "Well it seems as though they have come back! They've been sniping at the squirrels on the edge of the Glen. I saw with my own eyes the bodies of two of our guards." Riddy spoke, "But couldn't be the Darkblades that are killing them?" Spruce shook his head, "No, the Darkblades didn't seem like the kind that would slay creatures from the outskirts. Besides, what do they have against the Longbrush Glen?" The shrew narrowed his eyes, "Maybe those pine martens and the Darkblades are working together!" Rockshaft sighed, "Well at any rate, we have a lot of enemies right now." Spruce Longbrush nodded, "Riddy and I will go back to Redwall. Rockshaft, you go back to the Glen and get everybeast ready. And keep an eye out for three dark, shadowy figures." The hefty suqirrel nodded and leaped off into the trees. Riddy and Spruce started back for Redwall, now extra aware of danger now that they knew that the Pineshadows had returned.
Back south in Mossflower, the fox that Corkly had knocked out groaned and pushed himself up. He rubbed his head and growled, "Ohhh what happened?" "You got yourself smacked out, Garak, that's what happened. Now untie me!" Garak loked up to see Veddle the stoat glaring at him. The fox grinned, "And I see that you didn't fare any better!" He picked up his cutlass and went over to Veddle. The staot sneared, "Well at least I didn't go braggin' about how brave I was and then get knocked out by a big rabbit!" The fox was about to slash the roped that held the stoat, but he pulled his blade away when he heard the last remark. He held the cutlass point at Veddle's throat and snarled, "Are you gonna take that back, stoat? Or am I gonna slit yer neck?" Veddle growled, "Fine, I take it back! But the only reason is so I would get untied." Garak sliced the roped with a few swings of his cutlass and said, "And the only reason I'm getting you out of this mess is because I don't want to have to tell the Chief that I ignored my responsibilities." Veddle went by the bushes and picked up his spear, saying, "Then why don't you just desert?" The fox stared at him as though he were crazy, "Desert the Chief? Nobeast in their right mind would do that!" The stoat taunted, "Ooohhh! A few moments ago you were braggin' about how brave you were!" Garak spat on the ground, "Are you joking? Nobeast in all of Mossflower is as good of a fighter as the Chief." "You want to bet on that, fox?" Both vermin jumped and turned around to see three dark figures standing in front of them.
Vandak smiled, "Now, who is this Chief that you were talking about?" Veddle stuttered, "Who a-are y-you?" Vandak's long spear-like weapon suddenly appeared, pricking Veddle's throat. She whispered, "Did I tell you to ask who we were, stoat?" Veddle was shaking all over, "N-n-no m-m-marm!" Vandak pulled the weapon back and grinned to the other two Darkblades, "Did you hear that? He called me marm!" Zelkor sniggered, "Pretty proper for a common vermin if you ask me!" Garak was starting to sneak off, when a dagger hissed though the air and stuck right inbetween his footpaws. Kyvar smiled, "Dunt even t'ink about it!" Vandak felt the edge of her blade, "So, are you going to answer my quetion? Or is my weapon going to do it for you?" Veddle was so terrified that he could hardly speak. Garak gulped and stammered, "W-well his name is B-Borskan the Ruthless." Vandak twirled her weapon around and grinned, "Oh, he sounds like a mighty warlord alright! But you may have different thoughts when we take you to our Chief." Zelkor smiled, "Then you shall see the real meaning of ruthless!" Vandak spoke, "Zelkor, take their weapons. Now you two bold buckos, get going north. But don't worry, we'll be right behind you! Kyvar, if either of them makes a funny move, give him a taste of your daggers. Now get going!" The two vermin stumbled along, with their own weapon pointed at their backs. They did not relish meeting this other 'Chief'.
Chapter 7 Edit
Further north, in a cave by a river, a big male otter stood. He looked out through the trees, trying to catch a glimpse of the search party that he had sent out. If they had not found his daughter, then he would go out himself. He sighed and limped back into the cave. His wife stood over a cooking pot, stirring and adding ingredients into it. She looked up at him and asked, "Have they found Rodala yet?" The otter, Skipper Roral, sat down in a chair and shook his head sadly, "No, I'm afraid not. Abrog and his searching party have been out for nearly four days and they haven't returned. I just wish that I hadn't been so hard on her." His wife, Hara, came over and patted his paw, "You were only trying to help her, Roral. She is just young and stubborn and she needs to learn." Skipper sighed, "I guess that you're right, Hara. I just wish that I could go out and help to find her!" His wife smiled, "If wishes were fishes there would be no room in the river to swim!" Roral grinned and said, "Right again, as always me lovely! Now, where's my supper? A beast can't live on only air and water!" She dished up a bowl of soup to him, "Your favorite! Shrimp an' hotroot!" Skipper licked his lips and laughed, "What otter doesn't like hotroot soup?" Hara sighed, "Our Rodala, that's who!" Skipper blew on the hot soup and shook his head, "Somebeast has got to teach that girl about how to be an otter!"
Suddenly, a young male otter burst into the cave shouting, "The searchers have returned, Skip! B-but...you have to come quickly!" Skipper Roral and Hara both leaped up and dashed out of the cave. They stared in shock at what they saw. A female otter staggered forward, with a long slash running down her cheek. Tears poured down her face and she tried to smile, "Hi Skip!" Skipper looked about, "What happened? Where's the rest of the search party? Where's Abrog?" The female otter sat down and nursed her wound. She pointed at four other wounded otters who sat on the ground, being attended to. She shook her head, "This is all that's left Skip. The rest are all slain!" Roral clenched his paws tight, "What happened?" The otter answered, "Well, we had split up into two groups. I lead one of 'em and Abrog lead the other. Well, my group was going through the woods, looking for any sign of Rodala, when suddenly a bunch of savage creatures fell from the trees! They looked to me like some kind of bushy-tailed weasels. Well, we were taken completely by surprise and we had nowhere to go. I had about eight of the crew with me, and there were about two score o' the savages! We didn't stand a chance. Only me and three others escaped alive." Skipper placed a paw over his eyes and growled, "Pine martens! That's what they were! I remember my old pal Spruce Longbrush had some trouble with some kind o' pine martens. I hope that those filthy scum didn't kill off all of Spruce's squirrels! They were good beasts." Hara asked, "But what about Abrog's group? What happened to them?" The female otter sighed and pointed at one of the other wounded otters, "Ask Thorg. He's the only one left alive from his group."
The otter Thorg lay on a cot made from reeds. Two otters were bathing his wounds, and he winced every time they touched his injuries. Skipper knelt by Thorg and asked him, "What happened mate?" The wounded otter looked at him through swollen eyelids, "It was horrible Skip! Just horrible! They were screaming! Dying! And only four of 'em!" Roral could not explain the shudder that ran through his body. He asked again, "What happened? Who was screaming?" Thorg suddenly sat up and looked at Skipper as if he had just noticed him, "We were going through the woods an' looking for young Rodala, when we stumbled on 'em." A terrified, faraway look came into his eyes. Skipper nodded, "Who? Stumbled on who?" Thorg shook his head as if to clear his mind of an awful picture, "There were only four of 'em. Black, hooded creatures. At first I didn't see them, but then one of 'em held a saw-edged blade to my throat. The tallest one was their leader, and he looked like Vulpuz himself!" Skipper heard his wife gasp. Thorg continued, "He was all black, but with red markings on his face. I swear that at first I thought that it's head was a blood-stained skull! It brought it's arm out it's cloak and I saw that it had three metal claws were it's paw was! It grabbed Abrog and asked him what we were doing. Abrog told him and the creature just smiled and said that we were not supposed to stand in the presence of the Darkblades. Then Abrog, you know how he's a brave creature, he just said that we weren't going to bow to anybeast and he smacked the black creature across the legs with his rudder. Well, it didn't even seem to hurt the dark creature and he just smiled again and threw Abrog to the ground. That was when we attacked them. I swung my javelin at the creature with the saw blades, but he sliced my javelin in two and ripped across my arm." He pointed to a long, jagged gash on his arm that had been bandaged up. Then he closed his eyes and said, "I don't know what happened next because I ran. I've never run from an enemy before, you know that Skip, but these were not ordinary enemies! As I ran, I looked back and for the rest of my life I will regret looking back at that scene." He shuddered, closed his eyes, and fell silent. Roral was gritting his teeth together and tears formed in his eyes. He was about to ask for more of the story, when Hara placed a paw on his shoulder and spoke softly, "I don't think that Thorg should tell any more. He needs to rest." Suddenly Thorg's eyes came open and he said, "One more thing that you need to know Skip. Those dark creatures, don't try to go and fight them. We had a dozen or more otters with us and there were only four of those...Darkblades. They completely ripped apart everybeast in the group. Everybeast...dead..." Then he closed his eyes and fell asleep.
Skipper Roral sighed deeply and Hara started to cry. She sobbed brokenly, "What if those monsters have killed or captured our Rodala?" Skipper clenched his paws and pulled a sling from his belt, "Then I will go and rescue or avenge her. I don't care if they have a hundred creatures, I will stop them!"
Chapter 8 Edit
A strange stillness hung on the air. And Garak and Veddle did not like it. All was quiet as they marched through Mossflower, followed closely by their three Darkblade captors. Veddle whispered to Garak, “I don't like it here mate. 'Tis too quiet. I wish we could just get out of here.” The fox gulped as he glanced back at the Darkblades, “I don't like it either, but we don't got much choice about it do we?” Zelkor prodded him with the cutlass, “Shut up and keep moving.” They went on silently, stepping over rocks and branches to avoid making a noise and getting berated or worse by the Darkblades. Finally Vandak halted them. She went forward, listening carefully and peering around trees and bushes. Then she turned and said to them, “Come. We have reached our destination.” They came forward and were lead behind a thick oak. What the two vermin captives saw, gave them a sicking pain in their stomachs and a chill down their spines. Both of them had seen death before and were not strangers to violence, but what they saw was different.
The carcasses of slain otters littered the ground. Many of them had jagged cuts in their throats or chests. Some had their heads bent at a disgusting angle. If they even had a head. Three dark figures hovered in the background. Skarva came forward, drawing a pair of round blades with paw-holds, into her cloak. She glanced at the two vermin and asked, “Who are they?” Vandak answered, “They are prisoners for Bloodskull to question. They have valuable information.” Skarva smiled evilly and pointed to a group of trees. The two vermin watched pensively for a moment. Then Morfelg Bloodskull appeared from behind the trees.
On his triple-hook hung the body of the otter, Abrog. Almost all of his fur had been ripped off and his eyes were gouged out. Bloodskull threw the mangled carcass away and stared at the two vermin. “What information do they have?” Zelkor pushed the trembling vermin to the ground and Morfelg stepped closer. His drew a black bladed, single-headed ax from his cloak and felt the blood-stained edge with his hook. It was too much for Veddle. The stoat fell with his face on the ground, sobbing, “Please sire! We wasn't doing anything I swear it!” The hook flashed down and grabbed the stoat by his tattered jerkin. Veddle stared in horror at the red stained face before his eyes. Bloodskull brought their faces so close together, that their noses touched. The Darkblade leader whispered, “I did not ask what you were doing stoat! I asked what information do you have?” Veddle suddenly gave a moan and fainted dead away. Bloodskull sighed and tossed aside the senseless stoat. Then he turned to Garak, “Well? How about you?” Vandak spoke, “Master, we have found out that these two serve another warlord by the name of Borskan the Ruthless.” Morfelg gave his skull-like grin, “Ruthless eh?” He turned back to Garak, “Your cheiften calls himself ruthless?” The fox gave a nervous nod. Then Bloodskull laughed, “Ha! That fool thinks that he is ruthless!” He grabbed Garak with his hook and pointed his ax-blade at the carnage that was strewn about the ground, “That, is ruthless! I am ruthless! And you will learn that I am the most ruthless and vicious warlord in all of history! Me, Morfelg Bloodskull and my Darkblades warriors!” Garak was completely speechless with terror. Bloodskull dropped him and strode over to the body of one of the otters. He deftly sliced off it's head in one stroke of his axe, hissing, “How many creatures are in your cheiften's horde?” The fox did a quick estimate in his head, “Er, well, about three hundred. Maybe more.” Bloodskull continued, “And where is this Borskan and his mighty horde of three hundred located?” Garak knew the answer right away, “Just south, sire. Straight south and to the east a bit.” Morfelg turned to Skarva, “We march south and east. Go with Torkan and scout ahead. And get that stoat too, we might need some more information if this one's luck runs out.” Garak knew what he meant by that.
Vandak came over to Bloodskull, “Master, we have found exactally where the Abbey is.” He nodded, “Good. What sort of creatures live there?” Vandak answered, “Well, we met with a big, strong-looking squirrel who asked us who we were and what we were doing.” “And?” “We told him that the buisness of the Darkblades is nothing he should know.” Bloodskull toyed with his ax, “And I presume that you slew the rabbit?” Vandak bit her lip, “Uh, well, we...” Morfelg knew that if they had, she would have said so right away. He grabbed Vandak with his hook and hissed in her face, “You fools! Now those Redwallers are going to know of our presence! How could you let one puny little rabbit get away from you?!” Vandak stammered, “W-well master, t-the squirrel, he stopped us!” Bloodskull let her go and slammed his ax-blade into the ground, “Three of my Darkblades stopped by a single squirrel?! If you were not such valuable fighters I would make all three of you curse the day that you were born! Idiots!” He turned away and nodded to Skarva. She and the creature with the saw-edged blades, Torkan, went silently off through the woodlands. Morfelg pointed out after them, “Now let us go and meet this Borskan. He may prove helpful in my conquest.” One of the Darkblades, a huge beast named Bulgor, lifted the unconscious Veddle like he was a leaf and carried him after the procession. Garak was pulled up and dragged along with them. He groaned and wondered what his fate would be when they reached his chieften.
Chapter 9 Edit
Wengle, Corkly, and Rodala went through Mossflower back to Redwall Abbey. Along the way, Rodala told them about herself and her clan. Wengle stared at her, "So you ran away from your family and took your grandfather's javelin?" She nodded, "Aye, but I ran away because my old dad, the Skipper, is too hard on me! It's always, 'Do this if you want to be a real otter' and 'you've got to be like this to be a real warrior'. Hah! I'll show them that someday I can do whatever I want and act however I please!" Wengle was taken aback by her confession. He had never before met any creature who disliked their own parents. Corkly quickly changed the subject, "Well, what's so blinkin special about your grampa's old hide-skewer anyhow?" She stared at him, confused. Wengle sighed and grinned, "He means the javelin." She laughed, "Oh, then why didn't he just say so?" The hare muttered as he marched, "Why does everybeast have to be so flippin straight-forward? Quite cheeky if you ask me, wot!" Wengle nodded to Rodala and she continued, "Well, it belonged to my grandsire and his father before him and his father and so-on. They were all Skippers and it's a special weapon that was just designed for them. It's made out of an aspen sapling, and the ends are studded with steel caps. They say that it was made at the badger fortress on the Western Sea, by a Badger Lord for a Skipper that had helped him in battle." Corkly's nodded, "The old mountain of Salamandastron, eh? If it was flippin' well made there, then it's sure to be good! After all, the frog-sticker that Wengle here's got was made there too, wot!" Rodala looked over at the Sword of Martin that was strapped to Wengle's back. She grinned at him, "I'll bet that only a strong beast like you could wield that thing, eh?" Wengle blushed and cleared his throat. Once again Corkly saved him from further embarrassment. "Well, we should be getting almost to the jolly old Abbey wot!" Suddenly a dozen dark shapes dropped from the trees and surrounded them. Wengle drew his sword, Rodala loaded her sing, and Corkly held his stave ready. One of the creatures came forward. He was a big and wicked-looking pine marten, and he held a bone club topped with adder's fangs. He spoke, "You are trezpazzing on ze land of ze Pinezhadowz! And trezpazzers muzt die!"
Wengle's mouth dropped open, "The Pineshadows?!" Corkly pointed his stave at the leader, "I thought that we cleared all of you yahoos out of here!" The pine marten smiled, "Do you zink zat Lord Valkarano waz ztupid? Of courze he did not bring everybeazt among uz to ze battle! Zome ztayed back and waited for it to end. When we heard zat you had been ze victorz, we hid ourzelvez to make you all zink zat we had dizzapeered! Ha! Foolz!" He spat at them and sneered, "You have undereztimated ze power of ze Pinezhadowz!" Wengle held his sword level with the leader's chest, "Let us pass through, and you won't get hurt, scum!" The Pineshadow smirked, "We won't get hurt? Of courze not! It iz you who zhall be ze onez getting hurt!" The pine martens came forward, and Wengle slew the first two with one stroke of the sword. "I'm warning you!" he challenged "Let us pass through now!" Corkly smacked one that was sneaking up behind the otter, and sniffed, "I think that you cads had best be listening to master Wengle now and scoot! Unless you want us to beat you're flea-ridden bottoms again, wot!" The leader Pineshadow grinned, "Again you undereztimate the power of ze Pinezhadowz!" He drew a bone whistle from his vine belt and was about to blow it, when a stone from Rodala's sling sent it spinning. She growled, "Aye, get out o' here, scum!" The leader pointed his club at them, "Attack!" The Pineshadows leapt on top of them, screaming and waving their spears, clubs and daggers about as they battled. Wengle slashed out with the sword and spoke to Corkly, "Remember when we fought those lizards awhile back?" The hare whacked one of the vermin in the chest and nodded, "Sure do old sport, same plan, eh?" Rodala smashed the skull of one of the Pineshadows as she asked, "What lizards? What are you planning?" Corkly snorted and turned to her, at the same moment, belting one of the Pineshadows in the jaw, "Does she have to know every flippin thing that we say?" But Wengle didn't answer. He had launched himself on the leader marten, and he hacked and battered away at him. But his opponent was no weakling. The pine marten blocked the lighter swings with his club and dodged the stronger ones while swinging his own weapon out at the otter. Wengle staggered back as the club caught him in the face, but he shook himself and ran over again. Suddenly he heard a scream and turned to see Rodala fallen on the ground, trying to block a pine marten's spear. Wengle raced over to help her, but the leader marten knocked him down and raised his club, "I warned you, ztreamdog!" Suddenly Corkly came bounding up and socked the Pineshadow in the jaw. The vermin tottered back and collapsed in a heap on the ground. Wengle leaped up, "Thanks!" Then he fought his way over to where Rodala lay battling the marten that had pinned her. The sword flashed and the vermin lay dead on the ground. Then they heard a sharp whistle. They whirled around to see that one of the Pineshadows had picked up the bone whistle and had blown it. They heard from afar off, the sounds of yelling vermin and bending tree branches. Corkly was suddenly right next to them. He kicked a pine marten down and shouted, "Can't fight 'em if reinforcements come! Run!" They took off, just as the incoming crowd of vermin leaped in to where they had been. Then the chase was on. The three companions ran as fast as they could, trying to dodge flying spears and arrows. Suddenly Corkly went down with a spear in his leg. He yanked it out and winced. Tossing aside the weapon, he yelled to the two young otters, "Get back to the Abbey! Now! I'll hold the blighters off!" Wengle grit his teeth and started to help Corkly up, but the hare was adamant, "Don't worry about me, just go!" Wengle ducked a flying spear and raced off with Rodala, a tear falling down his face. He gave one last glance back to see the Pineshadows falling on top of Corkly and beating him to the ground.
Chapter 10 Edit
Borskan the Ruthless was a fox. A big, sinewy vermin and a skilled warlord. He came from the southwest, gathering vermin in his horde along the way. Now he had about four hundred at his command. His weapons of choice were two cutlasses, and he could use them with skill and ease. In fact, he was known and feared as the most powerful and vicious warlord in all the southwest lands since Ferahgo the Assassin. And now he was coming north into Mossflower region with his savage horde!
Borskan stood in a clearing in southern Mossflower, on the edge of his camp. He watched as a skinny ferret came up to him. "Have you seen Garak and his group yet?" He asked in his deep, harsh voice. The ferret replied, "Not yet Chief. We've not seen a hair of 'em since they left four days back. Borskan growled, drew his swords, and started sharpening their blades on each other, "I was expecting that fool Garak to be back sooner. Now I'll have to go without a personal slave for a few days, seeing as how I killed my old one." He pointed one of his blades at two vermin who were dragging off the carcass of a young mouse. Borskan spat, "Gah! But at least I got to have some fun with 'im afore he died." Suddenly the ferret lookout pointed, "Look Chief! Isn't that Argroo and the others?" The big fox turned to see Argroo the weasel, Bilur the rat, and the stoat Ragtail come panting out of the trees. They fell onto the ground, gasping. Borskan stalked over to the weasel and held up his head with his cutlass, "So Argroo, where's Garak and that idiot Veddle, eh? I hope that you didn't leave 'em out to die in the woods now." Argroo gulped and answered, "I-it was a big rabbit Chief. We had captured a streamdog, but then a big rabbit came and knocked out Garak and threw Veddle in the bushes. We tried to fight 'em, honest!" Borskan nodded in mock sympathy, "Aye, you must have had a long, hard fight, trying to protect your poor mates! I'll give youse all a reward for your courage!" Argroo brightened up, "Really, Chief?" The fox sneered, "Really! Vagar, take these three morons and lock 'em up without food or water for three days! That'll teach 'em not to be stupid cowards!" Another, smaller fox came over with some vermin and dragged the three unfortunates away. As they passed by, Borskan grabbed the javelin from out of Argroo's paw and inspected it. The weasel had an idea of how he thought he could get out of his predicament, "That's for you Chief! A real beauty, eh? I fought off three badgers for it!" The fox nodded, "Why, thank you mate! How very kind an' thoughtful of ye! You get an extra day locked up for thinking me a fool!" The weasel moaned as he was dragged away. Borskan the Ruthless sheathed one of his blades and held the javelin in it's place, remarking to himself, "This is a real, sturdy weapon sure enough! Fit for one such as meself!" He twirled it around and turned to his camp. He knew not what lay in his horde's way, but one thing was for certain. He would surely conquer it!
It was a few hours later when Garak the fox, followed by Morfelg Bloodskull and the Darkblades, spotted his Chief's camp. He stopped and pointed through the trees towards Borskan's camp, "See, sire. There it is." Bloodskull looked and smiled, "Good! In the morning we shall pay this Borskan a little visit!" Garak gulped and asked nervously, "So, eh, sire. Would you please not make us go into the camp with you? Ya see, Our Chief might get really mad at us for getting captured and all, so....would you let us go? Please?" To Garak's surprise, the Darkblade leader nodded and stroked the fox's ears with his hook, "Aye, I shall let you go off where you wish. And don't worry, I won't try to stop you." Garak bowed, "Oh thank you sire! Thank you so much!" Veddle, who had awakened from his faint now, bowed a quick thanks as well, and then they took off into the woodlands. Bloodskull grinned and gave a nod. Zelkor and Kyvar drew out their weapons and slid silently off after the two vermin. Then Morfelg Bloodskull turned back to face the camp of Borskan and he drew his right arm out of his cloak, "Skarva. Get me my mace-and-chain." His sister went over to a small iron chest that Bulgor had carried, and opened the lid. She took out a mace-and-chain and went over to Bloodskull. He gave her his ax and took the deadly, spiked weapon. He gave it a few skilled twirls above his head and then leaned back against a tree and smiled.
Garak and Veddle raced through Mossflower as though the devil were at their heels. They didn't dare to look back as they plowed headlong through bushes and branches. After awhile they slowed to a jog, and then to a walk. Veddle gasped, "Do...do you think we got away from 'em?" Garak leaned against a tree, panting, "I sure hope so. Those beasts were something I'd never want to face even if I had a score o' badgers on my side!" The stoat nodded, "Aye! Now let's try to find some vittles and water." He started to walk off, but suddenly stopped and gave a little grunt and fell over. Garak went over to him, "Veddle, are you al-" He gave a gasp and stumbled backwards when he saw the poisoned dart sticking out of the stoat's neck. He whirled around and the last thing that he saw was Kyvar standing there, a dagger raised back to throw.
Later that night, Argroo, Bilur and Ragtail sat in a wooden cage that was normally used to keep any slaves that the horde captured. A few vermin guards stood around the cage, their heads drooping. A small figure crept carefully by them and over to the cage. It tossed a pebble at Bilur and whispered, "Hey, Bilur. Wake up." The rat rubbed his eyes and looked up to see a smaller rat kneeling by the cage, and holding a small basket. Bilur growled, "Wot are you doing here Gurry?" The little rat took a few pieces of stale bread from out of the basket and handed them to Bilur, "I came to give you and your mates some food. I thought that you might be hungry." Bilur grabbed the bread and wolfed it down, "Hungry? Of course we are! But you're an idiot Gurry! What if the Chief finds out that you were giving us food? He'd keep you locked up in here for twice as long as us if not slay ye!" Gurry sighed, "I know. But I just wanted to help. You being me brother and all." Bilur sneered, "Ah, shaddup with all of the goody-goody stuff! We got put in this army and here we stay. And the Chief has no room for little goody-two-paws like you, so if he finds out..." The other two vermin had woken up and they rubbed their eyes and muttered, "What's going on? Who's that?" Bilur tossed them a few pieces of bread, "It's only me liddle brother. Now keep quiet!" Ragtail the stoat gulped down the bread greedily, winking at Gurry, "Thanks matey! You got any meat?" The little rat nodded and pulled out a few scraps of meat from the basket, "Aye, it's not much, but I don't get a lot anyway." Argroo grabbed a somewhat large piece from Ragtail and Gurry frowned, "Now don't fight o'er it! You need to share it out fairly!" The weasel grinned, "Ooh! Alright little nicey-nice! Why don't you go and get us some lace napkins so's that we can wipe our paws! Heeheehee!" Bilur snarled, "Shaddup Argroo! 'E's my liddle brother and only I can talk to 'im that way!" Suddenly one of the guards snuffled and moved around in his sleep. Bilur whispered, "Better get going, or the guards'll get yer. Now scram!" Gurry nodded and scurried off. Ragtail belched softly and lay down on the rough, wood floor of the cage, "We're lucky that you've got a liddle goody-goody brother or we'd be starving in here!" The rat sighed and curled up, "Aye. But he'll never be a real vermin sure enough. Leastways, not like me. Though sometimes I can't help but feel sorry for him, 'cause the Chief's gonna find out sooner or later."
Gurry took a few bites of what little food was left as he scurried back to his small makeshift tent. Suddenly a footpaw stuck out in his path and tripped him. He fell flat on his face and looked up. Vagar, the gaunt fox that had taken Argroo and his cronies to the cage, stood over him, grinning, "So, where have you been off to, eh?" Gurry gulped and tried to get up, but the fox knocked him down and placed a footpaw on his chest. "I said, where have you been off to?" he repeated. The little rat shrugged, "Just going out for a little stroll, you know. Patroling." Vagar's grin broadened, "Really now? And did yew have a picnic while you were at it?" Gurry glanced at the basket that lay a few feet away, "What? Oh, that. Eh, hehe, that was, er..." Vagar did not let him finish. The fox grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and held his spear to his throat, "You were feeding the prisoners, weren't you?" Gurry stammered, "I-I won't do it again, sir, honest!" The fox threw him to the ground and spat at him, "Well you better not! Cause if I catch you doing that again, you'll be in there for twice as long as they were! And I may even put little spikes on the floor! How would you like that, eh?" Gurry gulped, "N-no sir!" Vagar kicked him and curled his lip, "Then get back to your tent, pipsqueak!" Gurry scrambled off over to the small tent that he shared with several other young vermin. He lay down and sobbed. Why did this Borskan have to come and raid his family's home? Why? He cried himself to sleep, knowing that he would never be able to fit in to this horde and be a real vermin.
Chapter 11 Edit
Wengle and Rodala arrived back at Redwall about the same time that Spruce and Riddy did. Spruce sighed and asked them, "Any luck?" Tears trickled down Wengle's face and he shook his head. The big squirrel asked him, "What's wrong, mate? And where's Corkly?" The otter could not bear to look Spruce in the face. He had shamed the role of the Abbey Warrior by letting Corkly die at the paws of the ruthless Pineshadows. He put his head in his paws and sat down, whispering, "I let Corkly die in the woods." Riddy and Spruce stared at him in disbelief. The shrew stuttered, "Y-you mean Mr. Corkly? Dead?" Wengle nodded and wept openly, "It was the Pineshadows, they've come back. They attacked us and we fought them off for awhile but then their numbers grew and we had to run. Mr. Corkly told us to go back to Redwall while he fought them off. I was so scared that I went without even questioning him. I'm a coward!" Rodala went over to him and stroked his head, "No your not. Remember when you saved me from those vermin? That was brave." Riddy stood staring at the ground. Suddenly he looked up, "Do you know that Corkly died?" Wengle looked up, "Well the last thing that I saw was all of those vermin jumping on him and knocking him to the ground." The shrew questioned further, "But did you actually see him get slain?" Wengle thought for a moment, "No, I didn't." Spruce Longbrush nodded, "Corkly is a hare, and they are perilous creatures. I doubt that he would have given up without a fight, but I know that Pineshadows, and they are savage and brutal vermin. Most likely they took him back to wherever they live and are going to have some 'fun' with him. The barbarians!" Wengle stood up, "Then we have to go and rescue him!" Spruce nodded, "Aye but first we need to get inside the Abbey and take care of your wounds." The otter winced and grinned, "That would be a good idea!"
They went up to the main gates and Spruce knocked on the door. Brother Gerant, the old mouse gatekeeper, opened it and smiled, "Back from your quest are you? Did you find anything?" Spruce sighed, "No sign of those Darkblades, but we did discover that the Pineshadows have returned to Mossflower." Gerant shook his head sadly, "It is sorrowful indeed that some creatures can't just settle down in peace." Then he looked around, "Where is that rascal Mr. Corkly?" Wengle hung his head and Spruce said quickly, "It's a long story, Brother. Now we need to get some provisions and some wounds bound." As they walked up to the Abbey, Rodala looked around in wonder. She whispered to Wengle, "No wonder you like it here! This place is beautiful!" Wengle smiled weakly and glanced around, "Yea, Redwall is a wonderful place sure enough!" He remembered the first time that he had seen the high sandstone walls, and how amazed he was of it's strength and beauty.
Just then, Nela Brookrudder came out of the Abbey doors, along with Abbot Fernald, the dormouse father of Redwall. The otterwife's eyes lit up when she saw her son and his companions coming down the pathway to the Abbey. She ran out and hugged Wengle, "Oh, Wengle I'm so glad that you're back! Did you find anything?" Wengle buried his face in his mother's arms and cried. She looked up at Spruce and Riddy, "What's wrong?" Spruce sighed, "We'll tell you when we get inside. Oh, and Father Abbot, I need to have a word with you privately." Fernald nodded, "Certainly my son. Now let us go inside the Abbey and take care of any injuries."
Wengle lay on the sickbay bed as he told Riddy, Spruce, the Abbot, and his mother all of the details about the reascue of Rodala, and the battle with the Pineshadows. The Abbot sighed, "I do hope that Corkly is alright! And those other vermin, where were they from?" Spruce took him aside, "Well, Father, that's what I've been wanting to talk to you about..." Just then, Foremole, the leader of the Abbey moles, came into the room and said in his mole dialect, "Burr, there be's sum squirruls at um door for e Zurr Longbrush! It'n be's your daughter arnd some other uns." Spruce raised his eyebrows, "Oh yes! I told Rockshaft to bring some of the clan here!" He went down the stairs, followed by the Abbot and Foremole. Nela patted her son's head and kissed him, "I've got to be going and helping Friar Dobble with lunch. Take care now Wengle!" With that, she walked down the stairs to the kitchens. Rodala smiled, "Your mother is very nice, Wengle!" The otter nodded and muttered, "Aye, she is." The ottermaid looked at him, "Where's your father?" Wengle sighed, "He was slain by corsair vermin a long time ago. You see, I come from a land across the eastern sea, and I only came here to Mossflower a few seasons ago." Rodala looked at the ground, "Oh. I'm sorry." There was a moment's awkward silence, then Rodala asked, "So tell me about that sword of your's." Wengle reached down for the sword at his bedside, "The sword of Martin the Warrior is a weapon that can be bested by no other. It was made at Salamandastron, just like your javelin. Anyway, it has been wielded by many great warriors over time, defending Redwall from vermin invaders and other enemies. Names like, Matthias, Deyna, Dandin, Samkim and of course, Martin the Warrior, champion and founder of Redwall Abbey. I hope that one day, I will become like one of them." Rodala had been staring into Wengle's eyes as he spoke. A light burned in them like a wildfire. She smiled at him, "I think that you will." They stared at each other, each with their own thoughts.
Riddy glanced back and forth between the two young otters several times, grinning cheekily. Wengle noticed, and glared at him, "What's so funny?" The shrew leaned back in his chair, "Oh, nothing." Rodala had noticed him too, "Of course it's something! Tell us and stop grinning like a drunken frog!" Riddy stood and started moving slowly for the door, "Well, I should be going! I'll leave you two for some 'quiet time' together! Heeheehee!" Before they could grab him, he bolted down the hallway.
Wengle frowned and muttered, "Little nusiance!" Rodala giggled, "Or as Corkly would say, 'Cheeky young blighter'!" They both laughed at this, then Wengle sighed, "I have to go and rescue Corkly!" Rodala patted his paw, "Don't worry about him, he'll probably have those vermin confused to death when he talks to them!" Wengle couldn't help smiling, and he lay back on the bed, "Well, I sure hope that you're right!"
Chapter 12 Edit
It was finally morning. Morfelg Bloodskull sat on a stump near the edge of the woods, watching the going ons of the horde of Borskan the Ruthless. A few vermin tottered about sleepily, lighting campfires and searching for food. Bloodskull stood and turned to his Darkblades, who all stood behind him, ready for anything. Bloodskull nodded to them, "When the leader awakens, that is when we move. Remember, I shall go out first. And when I give the signal, all of you are to come out, with your weapons ready for use. Understood?" They all nodded silently. Morfelg Bloodskull turned back to the camp, "We shall see if they are willing to comply with me. And if they don't...." He swung his vicious mace-and-chain down and shattered the stump into splinters with one stroke. He grinned, "they will regret ever meeting Morfelg Bloodskull!"
Borskan the Ruthless strode out of his tent and looked around at his horde. Today was the day that they would march further north. His army had rested long enough. He turned and suddenly saw a tall, dark figure hovering near the edge of the woods. The fox drew on of his cutlasses and narrowed his eyes. He motioned to his fox captain Vagar. "Who is that?" he asked, pointing at the figure with his blade. Vagar shrugged, "Don't know Chief. Never seen it afore." Borskan strode over to the dark creature, and asked him, "Who are you and what are you doing here, eh?" The creature smiled under his hood, "I am Morfelg Bloodskull, and I came to ask if you and your horde would like to me and my warriors join my conquest." The fox licked the edge of his blade, "Conquest for what?" Bloodskull leaned against a tree, "For the Abbey of Redwall!" Borskan stared at him, "You mean that the famous Redwall is around here?" Bloodskull nodded, "Aye, just up the road. And I am going to conquer it!" Borskan laughed, "You mean the Abbey? You've got to be mad! Many powerful warlords have tried to conquer that place, and they all lie dead at it's gates. No ordinary warlord could ever defeat those creatures!" Morfelg Bloodskull smiled evilly, "Well then, you will see that I am no ordinary warlord!" He turned and gave a swift motion. Skarva and the rest of the Darkblades came out of the woods, their weapons in paw. Borskan stroked his chin, "A pretty good looking force you got there, Bloodskull. But is that all? Seven?" The Darkblade leader smiled and drew out his triple-hook, "It does not matter the numbers, but the power!"
Many vermin from the horde had gathered around at this point, curious about the strange, dark creatures. Gurry, the little rat, tried to look over the heads of the bigger vermin for a closer look. But they shoved and kicked him out of the way.
Borskan leaned on his cutlass, glancing at the other warlord's hook-paw, "Then let's see your power!" Bloodskull nodded to his Darkblades, and they came forward. He spoke to Borskan, "Send out any number of your best fighters, and I will show you our power!" The fox was hesitant at first, "Er, are you going to kill 'em?" Bloodskull did not reply, only smiled broader and more evilly. Borskan shrugged, he had many creatures, and he could afford to lose a few in gaining some more powerful ones. He called out, "Vagar! Get twelve of me best fighters and send 'em out here!" Soon, twelve strong-looking vermin came out. They had vicious-looking scars, and they carried weapons of different sorts. They looked like seasoned fighters. Bloodskull stepped back and spoke, "I shall introduce my warriors one at a time."
First out came Torkan, with his saw-edged blades. Two vermin came out to meet him, a big ferret with a battle-ax, and a sly-looking rat with a scimitar. Torkan stood silently as the two vermin circled him. The rat jabbed out with his scimitar, and Torkan dodged it and ripped out with his saw-blades criss-crossing each other. The rat fell headless to the ground just as the ferret came up behind the Darkblade and swung down with his ax. Torkan blocked it and, with one blade locked onto the ax, swung his other one around. It ripped though the ferret's side, and he fell mortally wounded. Torkan stood over the injured vermin with a cold look in his eyes, and with one slash, finished him off. Everybeast watched in shocked silence as the Darkblade slid calmly back to his group. Borskan bit his lip, these creatures were good fighters sure enough! But he feigned boredom, "Huh! I've seen babes fight better than that! Show me more!" Bloodskull knew that the fox was really impressed and simply wanted some entertainment. He said, "Alright, you shall see more!"
Bulgor, the huge beast that carried no weapon, came out and flexed his muscles under his dark cloak. Two more vermin came up. A strong-looking fox with a spiked mace, and a weasel with a long sword. The fox swung his mace, and Bulgor caught it in his paw and twisted it from out of the fox's grasp. The weasel slashed out with his sword, ducking instictivly for a blow from the mace, but none came. Instead the fox's carcass crashed down on top of him. Bulgor smashed the struggling weasel's head with the mace and then snapped the weapon like a twig.
Borskan stood open-mouthed, as did everybeast in his horde that had witnessed the short-lived battle. Morfelg Bloodskull still stood leaning against the tree and smiling. The fox warlord played with his cutlass nervously. Never had he seen such skill and brutality before. Bloodskull asked, "Now what do you think?" Borskan growled and glanced at the carcases of the two vermin, "I've seen enough. I know that you're probably all powerful fighters. Give me until tomorrow morning to decide." Bloodskull nodded, "Fine. But just keep in mind that I will always be watching your horde from the woods. A good day to you." And as quickly as they had come, the Darkblades were gone.
Borskan the Ruthless still stood staring at the spot where the Darkblades had been a moment before. He sighed and turned to the speechless crowd of vermin behind him. "Well?" he growled, "Don't just stand there gawking, you stupid toadbrains! Give me room to think!" He turned and swept back to his tent.
The vermin had all gone off, muttering about the events that had just taken place. Gurry, the little rat, stood staring in horror at the spot where the two bloody battles had taken place. If Borskan was going to allow such violent and evil creatures into the horde, then he would not stay here any longer. He turned and made sure that nobeast was looking in his direction, then sped off into the woods, the opposite way that the Darkblades had went. But there was one beast that saw him leave. The sadistic fox captain Vagar watched as the rat scurried off into Mossflower. He picked up his spear and smiled wickedly. Now was the time when he could get rid of that little goody-goody rat forever! He licked the edge of his spear-blade and went into the woods after Gurry.
Spruce Longbrush came out of the Abbey to see his daughter Oakflower, Rockshaft, and about two dozen Longbrush squirrels out on the Abbey grounds. He went over to them, “Rockshaft, I'm glad you came!” The hefty squirrel shook his leader's paw, “Did you find any of those beasts that you were looking for?” Spruce sighed, 'Unfortunatly, no. But I know for certain that the Pineshadows have returned to Mossflower. Wengle, Corkly and a friend of their's ran into them on their way back here.” Rockshaft frowned, “Those vermin must be stopped! They'll try to take back Mossflower!” Spruce nodded sadly, “Aye, and we also found out a few other things....”
Riddy had come down out of the Abbey and he ran over to where the squirrels stood. He shook paws with Oakflower, “Hello there miss! It's good to see you again!” She smiled, “Yes it is! Where's Wengle and Mr. Corkly? I want to ask them about their adventure.” The shrew bit his lip and said, “Well, er, Wengle's up in the infirmary, and Corkly is, er...” He stopped as he overheard Spruce talking about the same subject with Rockshaft. “And Corkly was either killed or captured by those savages. He told Wengle and his friend to run back here while he fought them off. We're not sure what happened to him.” Oakflower looked at Riddy in horror, “You mean...” The young shrew nodded, “Aye, it's true.” Then he glanced around ad whispered, “But I've been planning on going and rescuing him! Would you like to help me?” The squirrelmaid drew an arrow from her quiver, “Sure thing, mate! But my father wouldn't like the idea of us going out alone, so we need to sneak away quietly.” Riddy looked over at the squirrels, who were busy talking and planning. He nodded, “Aye, let's leave now!” They readied their weapons and slid quietly out the main door and into Mossflower.
Skipper Roral had been wandering through Mossflower Woods for some time. He was an excellent pathfinder, but he had rarely come this south before. His left paw, which had been wounded in a recent battle, sent fiery pains up his leg, but he still kept on going. His wife had pleaded with him to not go, but he was determined to get back his daughter; especially with all of the savage vermin abroad in Mossflower. He stumbled on a small log and muttered, “Got to find someplace to rest soon! Oh Rodala where are you?” Suddenly he heard noises coming from a little ways in front of him. He crept over behind a tree and peered around it at the strange scene....
Corkly groaned and tried to clear his dry throat, but he couldn't seem to swallow. He opened his swollen eyes to see the world upside-down. He hung from a tree branch by his foot-paws and all around him pine martens watched his every move. A tall, female marten, sat on a throne on a platform in front of him. She was a powerful-looking beast, and was quite beautiful for a barbarian vermin. She held a scepter made of bone, on top of which was mounted a crow's skull. She smiled evilly when she saw the hare moan and move about. Corkly looked over at her and muttered, “Oh my bloomin' head! What's the matter, what are you bounders staring at?” The female Pineshadow nodded, and the marten who had first halted Wengle and his companions, came forward. He pointed his club at the hare and growled, “You have been brought here before ze mighty Queen Zaravral for fighting againzt her armiez. You are to be given a death which zhe zinkz fit for zuch az you!” Corkly, ever the optimist, replied, “Very well then, does old age seem like a good enough death for a brave warrior such as meself?” The Chief Guard marten turned to his queen. Zaravral gave a wicked smile and said, “You zhall die ze death of a zouzand clubz for your dizrezpect of ze ruler of ze Pinezhadowz! I, Queen Zaravral, daughter of ze mighty Lord Valkarano, have zpoken!” Dozens of Pineshadows dropped down in front of Corkly, all screeching and waving their weapons. Clubs, spears, and daggers were pointed at the hare and Zaravral raised her bone scepter. Corkly shut his eyes tight and struggled in the ropes that bound him, yelling, “I'll go down fighting, you flippin' cads! Eeulaaaaliiiiiaaaaaa!” The scepter came down and all of the Pineshadows rushed forward, swinging their weapons. Suddenly something crashed into them, roaring, “Whupperyhoo! Ssss death!” Skipper Roral battled through the hordes of surprised vermin, with a javelin in one paw and a loaded sling in the other. Queen Zaravral stood and screamed, “Kill zat creature!” The Pineshadows leaped on top of the big otter, trying to bring him down. But he batted them aside and rushed over to the struggling hare. A few clubs and spears had already hit Corkly, and he swayed back and forth on his branch. Grabbing a dagger from a dead pine marten, Skipper sliced the ropes that bound the hare. He fell in heap on the ground and shook himself, muttering, “Thanks a ton old chap! Although you didn't have to make me land on me blinkin' head! It hurts bad enough!” The otter handed him a dagger and spear, shouting, “Don't just stand there yakking! Fight and find a way out o' here!” They battled through the masses of Pineshadows, receiving many injuries. Suddenly Corkly grabbed Skipper's paw and pulled him over behind a large branch. The vermin ran at them, and Corkly dropped his weapons and grabbed onto the branch. Skipper stared in shock at the hare, after smacking a pine marten with his sling, “What are ye doing?” The hare started pulling back on the branch, ducking a flying spear at the same time, “Using a bit of strategy! Fling the blighters back on their flea-bitten tails, wot!” Skipper caught on to the plan and grabbed the branch. They pulled it back, and although several vermin got past them, they let it go and it sweeped into the Pineshadows, knocking them a down like bowling pins. Corkly kicked down a marten that got behind him and sped off, followed by Skipper Roral. Queen Zaravral leaped on top of the branch and screamed at her vermin, “Do not let zem ezcape!” But Skipper knocked her off of the branch with a slingstone.
The two warriors leaped down to the forest floor below, seeing as how they were not far up in the trees. They landed with a thud on the ground and Corkly shook himself, “Whew! Thanks again, old chap! I thought that those blighters were going to fix me hash then, wot wot!” Skipper stared at him, “What did you say?” The hare muttered, “You streamwallopers are all the same! Can't understand a chap when he's say things flippin' well clear!” The otter sighed and held out his paw, “I'm Roral, Skipper o' the North Stream Otters.” Corkly's ears shot up, “Did you say, 'North Stream Otters'?” Skipper nodded, “Aye, but what of it?” The hare scratched his chin, “Hmm.... I seem to have heard that name before. But all that banging to me head must have jolly well blotted it out, wot!” Then he tried to bow, but winced and stood up straight, “Me name is Corkly G. Battlescut, at your service! Defender of the weak and saver of maids and young 'uns, that's me!” Skipper chuckled, “Defender of the weak an' saver of maids and young 'uns, eh? Looks like you were the one that needed the saving back there!” Corkly winced and rubbed a wound on his arm, “Aye, but I did it in defending some young beasts. Otters like yourself.” Skipper grabbed him by the shoulders, “Otters? Was one of 'em a young maid named Rodala?” The hare pushed him back and thought for a moment, “Yes I believe that there was a young 'un that me an' Wengle rescued from some blinkin' vermin by that name. Why?” Skipper smiled “Cause she's me daughter! Oh seasons be thanked, she's alive!” Corkly nodded, “And hopefuly back at the Abbey by now, wot!” Skipper's smile widened, “You mean Redwall Abbey? My Rodala, there?!” The hare nodded again, “Of course! I come from there meself!” Skipper started off through the woodlands, “Would you be so kind as to show me the way there?” The hare saluted and then winced and stumbled over, “Of course! And the food there is absolutaly top-hole too! Perfect for a couple of wounded warriors like us, wot!”
Riddy and Oakflower crept through Mossflower Woods. They both now regretted not taking Wengle or Rodala with them to show them where the Pineshadows had been. And although Oakflower knew Mossflower like the back of her paw, she was somewhat lost. Riddy slashed at some ferns with his short, curved sword, muttering, “It's no use, we have no idea where those vermin are or even where we are. We might as well go back to Redwall.” Oakflower sighed and nodded, “Aye, we should have told my father about it and asked Wengle where they were.” Suddenly Riddy stood stock still, “Wait! Did you hear that?” The squirrelmaid froze, an arrow notched in her bow, “Yes I did! It sounds like somebeast running through the bushes.” She gave a nod to Riddy and leaped up into a nearby oak. The shrew held his sword ready and hid behind another tree across from the oak.
Gurry panted hard as he ran through Mossflower. The little rat was very tired, but he knew that he had to get as far away from the camp of Borskan as possible. He leaned against a big log and gasped for breath. He hoped that some kind beast would find him and give him some food and water. He took a deep breath and kept on jogging through the woods.
Vagar was hot on his quarry's trail. The rat had left a clear path of bent branches and flattened ferns, and his paw-marks were unmistakable. The fox's tongue hung out of his mouth and he wiped sweat from his eyes. He was beginning to wonder if he should just let Gurry go, when he spotted the little rat leaning against the log a little ways off. Vagar grinned evilly and held ready his spear. He slowed to a walk and crept silently towards his prey.
Up in her tree, Oakflower had seen both hunter and hunted. She was not sure what to do about the situation, though. A vermin following another vermin was none of her business and who cared if they killed each other. But there was something about this little rat that seemed odd. There was a strange, fearful look in his eyes, and his face was not cruel and sneering like most vermin. She looked up at the fox and instantly knew that that one was a real evil vermin. She looked back at the rat and she knew what to do. She held her bow ready and aimed her arrow a few feet in front of Vagar.
Riddy had also seen Gurry, but he did not notice Vagar. The shrew frowned and kept still as the little rat ran by him. Riddy looked up into the tree that Oakflower was in and gave a soft bird-call. She looked down and he pointed at Gurry. The squirrelmaid nodded and motioned toward the fox coming closer. Riddy peered around the tree and his eyes widened. He looked back up at Oakflower, who pointed at Vagar, then herself, and moved a paw across her throat. Riddy nodded and followed after Gurry, keeping to the shadows.
Vagar growled softly to himself and smiled. Gurry had stopped again with fatigue, and now had sat down on a stump. The fox crept forward a little bit and raised his spear back. It was a throw he could not miss.
As soon as Oakflower saw the fox raise back his spear, she went into action. She wrapped her legs around the branch she was on, just in front of Vagar, and pulled back her bowstring, hoping that Riddy would do the right thing.
Riddy stood watching Gurry sitting on the stump, panting. He too had a feeling that this rat was not a normal vermin. He glanced back and jumped when he saw Vagar standing with his spear drawn back. The shrew sheathed his sword and, glancing back at the fox just as he flung the spear, burst out of the bushes and slammed into Gurry, knocking them both over the stump and into the brush. The spear thudded into the stump just moments after.
Vagar gritted his teeth and cursed. Then drawing a dagger from his belt, he ran towards Gurry and Riddy, who were on the ground. Suddenly Oakflower swung upside-down in front of him, her legs wrapped around the branch and an arrow in her bow. Vagar growled, “What in the name of Hellgat-” But he got no further as the squirrelmaid let fly, and the arrow went right down his open mouth.
Gurry stared in shock at Riddy, and struggled to get away, “W-what happened? Who are you?” The shrew was not sure whether to be friendly or gruff with the rat, so he said, “I just saved you from that fox back there.” They looked back and saw the carcass of Vagar on the ground, the arrow sticking out of his skull. Gurry gasped and stood up. He went over to his former tormentor's body and stuttered, 'B-but why?” Oakflower had dropped from the tree and she placed a comforting paw on the little rat's shoulder. “Why did we save you or why was this fox trying to kill you?” Gurry turned to them, “Why did you save me?” Riddy had come over and he sighed, “I'm not really sure. Just something told me that you were not like other vermin.” Oakflower nodded, “I felt the same thing. What's your name and where are you from?” The rat hesitated, “Er, you're not going to take me back are you?” The squirrelmaid stared at him, “Take you back where?” Gurry sighed and explained, “My name is Gurry and I have an older brother named Bilur. When we were younger we lived with our mother and father in the southwest lands. We lived a good, honest life, and we didn't harm anybeast. My father used to be a searat, but he gave it up and went to farming. He was gruff and sometimes beat us, but I think that it was because he saw many terrible things while at sea. Anyway, me and my brother were out in the fields picking some vegetables, when some creatures came up. They were lead by that fox over there,” He pointed to Vagar's carcass. “His name is Vagar. Well, he came over and held a dagger to my throat and asked us where our parents were. We showed him our cottage, and he went in there with some more vermin. They left us outside with some guards. Then sounds of screaming and fighting came from within the cottage and Vagar came out soon after with a blood-stained spear. He smiled evilly at us and said, 'Your parents were kind enough to give permission for you to join the horde of Borskan the Ruthless!' Well, we knew what that meant, and I started to cry at the thought of our poor parents dead, but Vagar knocked me out with his spear and they dragged us away. I don't know if Bilur put up a fight, as he had always hated farm life and wanted to join some searat ship or vermin band. Well, we were brought to the horde and have lived in it ever since. I tried to run away several times, but they always caught me and beat me.” He pointed to several scars and bruises on his body. “And after those black beasts offered to join the horde, I had had enough and I ran away.”
Riddy and Oakflower had stood with rapt attention, listening to every word in the rat's story. But at the mention of the words, 'black beasts', Riddy nearly jumped. He grabbed Gurry by the arm and asked him, “Were those black beasts called, 'the Darkblades'?” Gurry thought for a moment and then nodded, “Aye, they were. And they were the most evil and powerful creatures I have ever seen!” The shrew let him go and slapped a paw to his forehead, “Oh, no!” he moaned. Oakflower asked him, “What's wrong?” He shook his head sadly, “Remember those dark creatures that you and you dad saw in the woods?” She nodded, “Yes I do! Are they....” Riddy sighed, “Yes. Those are the Darkblades, and they are going to join a vermin horde to attack Redwall!” Gurry's mouth dropped, “You mean the famous Redwall Abbey? Where the great warriors live?” Riddy nodded, “Aye, that's where I live too. And those evil Darkblades are going to attack it!” Oakflower gasped, “Then we had better get to the Abbey fast and tell them!” Gurry asked, “Can, can I go to?” They both nodded, “Of course!” He smiled and wiped a tear from his eye, “I've always dreamed of seeing Redwall! Don't they have a magic sword? And walls as high as the sky?” Riddy chuckled, “It looks like you've been hearing too many vermin stories! Come on, let's go back!”
Borskan the Ruthless paced about his camp, muttering darkly to himself and glancing at the surrounding woods every now and then. The vermin in his horde stayed well away from him, knowing what sort of moods the fox could get in. The skinny ferret lookout came up to him, and asked timidly, “Er, Chief?” Borskan turned to him and growled, “What?” The ferret gulped and shuffled his footpaws, “Did you send for me?” The fox nodded, “Aye, I did. Find all of my captains and tell them to meet me in my tent. I need to discuss this problem with 'em.” The ferret nodded and left to do his chieftain's bidding.
A little while later, the captains of the horde of Borskan the Ruthless met in their leader's tent. They were all fox's, as Borskan knew his species to be more intelligent and dependable than other vermin. The warlord sat on a chair, drinking a beaker of blackberry ale. His four captains came in, followed by the ferret lookout. Borskan poured each of them a mug of ale and then looked around as he prepared a fifth. “Where in the name of the fang is Vagar?” he asked the ferret. The vermin shrugged, “Don't know Chief. Nobeast's seen him since those Darkblade creatures came.” Borskan sighed and leaned back in his chair, “Well, who cares where that moron is anyway.” Then he addressed his captains, “So, as the trusted captains in my horde, what do you four think that I should do about these Darkblades?” One of the foxes, a tall, thin one named Darang, answered, “I think that you should let 'em join, Chief. You heard what they said about that Abbey. In a couple o' days we could be sittin' in there like kings!” Another fox, a hefty vermin with an eyepatch, named Varlod, snarled, “I don't trust 'em! How do we know that they won't take over the horde once they get the chance? And who says that we can't take over the Redwall place by ourselves, eh?” Darang replied, “You idiot! Don't you know that the bones of many warlords rot at Redwall's gates? The Chief himself said so today! And these Darkblades are different. They could give those warriors in there a hard time!” Another captain, named Grevrun, spoke, “I think that we should get some more information from these beasts before we join with 'em.” Varlod growled, “We shouldn't join 'em at all!” Soon it broke out into a heated argument, and captains with opposing viewpoints started to draw their blades on each other. Finally Borskan drew one of his cutlasses, and shouted, “Shut up! All of ye! The next one that speaks will find himself spitted on my cutlass! Now shut up and give me some peace!” They all fell silent, although they still glared at one another. Borskan pointed his blade at Grevrun, “You had a good point there, Grevrun. I'll ask Bloodskull or whatever his name is to show us what he and his warriors really are. It'll give me some peace of mind, knowing that I haven't made a deal with ghosts or something. Now get out o' here and somebeast go find that moron Vagar!” They all beat a hasty retreat and Borskan sighed and leaned back in his chair, toying with his cutlass. He knew that all of his captains had good points, and he still did not know what decision he would make until he found out what the Darkblades really were.
On the edge of Mossflower, just near the horde's camp, the Darkblades themselves were having their own problems about the pact. Morfelg Bloodskull stood leaning against a tree with his eyes closed. But it was impossible to tell at a glance if he was awake or asleep. His sister Skarva sat nearby, sharpening her round paw-blades and listening in on her fellow warrior's conversation.
The other five Darkblades stood around, discussing the recent events. Torkan ran a paw down the sawed edge of one of his swords, “I hope that that fox will ask for more duels. That was great fun!” Zelkor sneered, “Even if he does, you won't be doing it, because you already had your chance!” Torkan snarled and slammed his blade into the ground, “Aye, but I just love the sound of my blades ripping through flesh!” Vandak nodded, “Indeed those battles are good practice, but I think that this alliance is not necessary. After all, we are the Darkblades, and we can take that Abbey easily!” Zelkor looked at her, “Of course we can! But Bloodskull has his ways of doing things. I'm sure that he's up to something.” Vandak glanced over at their leader, “But does he have all of our interests in it, or is he just doing it for himself?” At this last remark, Skarva stood and came over to them. She glared at Vandak, “Is this mutiny?” Vandak shook her head, “Of course not! I'm just saying that Bloodskull isn't making a very good decision.” Suddenly Skarva's round paw-blades were at Vandak's throat. The sister of Bloodskull hissed up into her face, “So you think that my brother is an incapable leader?” Vandak pushed the blades down with her spear-like weapon, “No. I just don't think that he really cares about us. But you don't have to worry, after all, your his sister, and you'll get most of the glory!” Skarva snarled and was about to attack the other female Darkblade, when a voice was heard from behind them, “Enough.” They all turned to see Morfelg Bloodskull still leaning against the tree with his eyes still closed. He spoke again, “It is of no use to fight amongst ourselves. Indeed, Vandak is right, we can with just our force attack and conquer the Abbey. But how many of you would be slain? I try to take the easy way into it. Let the creatures in this horde get slain for us. Then we alone shall have the glory and power inside Redwall.” he opened his eyes and strode over to Vandak, throwing a paw over her shoulder. He whispered, “So I do have all of your interests in mind. For I am Morfelg Bloodskull, and I never let my warriors down!” He turned and smiled, “And do not worry, Torkan, for your blades shall rip through much flesh in the coming days. As shall all of ours.” He strode back over to his tree and leaned against it. “For the Darkblades shall crush all of their enemies!” He closed his eyes, and a red butterfly flitted past him. Quick as lightning, his hook-paw shot out and pinned the insect to the tree. He turned his head and watched as the butterfly wriggled the last bits of it's life away, then he smiled and let it fall to the ground. He crushed it beneath his paw and whispered, “Just like that!”