Dedicated to my family. As many problems as we have, I don't know what I would do without them.
Thanks to Skipper Rorc for betaing.
Prologue ~ A Story that is Not OursEdit
From above, Redwall Abbey looked like a beautiful cake. It was red, with white snow frosting. The snow was piled up in amazingly deep drifts, reflecting the moonlight, made it look almost like midday. Trees in the surrounding woodlands were bare and grey, fast asleep, dreaming of sunny afternoons in the summer. An occasional evergreen bravely held up its branches, laden with snow. Small animals took shelter from the beast of winter in their warm homes, while those more suited for the time of year remained in their homes anyway because it was cheerier. The River Moss was frozen over, the ice tough enough for a creature to walk on if he was careful. The plains west of the old Abbey resembled a snow-white blanket, spread evenly over the great expanse. On the road there was a thin crust of snow that had been formed the day before by the sun. But every time the three travelers put down their paws, they broke through the surface of the snow and sunk deep down into the drifts. The ancient squirrel paused and looked up at the huge building in front of them. He turned to one of his companions, a squirrel of middle age, and commented, “That must be Redwall Abbey.” The squirrel cheekily grinned. “Well, it’s definitely an abbey, it’s red, and its got walls. It fits the description.” The other traveler, an old mouse, mock slapped the other. “Mind your manners, young ‘un.” The middle aged squirrel took the paw of the first one to speak. “C’mon, Da, it’s cold out here.” The older one laughed. “Yes, it is. You’re right, c’mon!” With that he dashed off with speed belaying his age, dragging his son with him. Abbot Durral was walking along Great Hall on his way to Cavern Hole when the sound of somebeast pounding on the gates reached his ears. Martin, the Abbey Warrior, was also in the room. They looked at each other for a second, then hurried out of the Abbey building and to the gates. Martin heaved them open. He was bowled over by the elderly squirrel, who had been about to give the gates another hard strike when they opened. Martin found himself lying flat on his back with the squirrel on top of him. “Get off him, Da! You’ll crush him!” exclaimed the other. Martin pretended to groan. “Too late.” The younger squirrel helped the old one up and offered Martin his paw. Martin took it and pulled himself to his feet. Durral smiled. “Let’s go inside and get something to eat. Then, if you’re willing, we can hear your story.” The four creatures went inside, and gathered around the fire in Cavern Hole. Many others came to see the new arrivals, who were in awe of the great building and the friendly attitude of its inhabitants. They introduced themselves as Romiedrell Voh, Darryle Treeflash and his son, Flashpaw. There was a magnificent feast, the best Redwall had to offer, that lasted for hours. Finally, Durral called for silence. “Be quiet, please!” Seeing that this did not work, he clapped his paws. That didn’t work either. So he used a tactic that was usually his last resort. Cupping his paws about his mouth, he shouted, “The next creature who moves or speaks goes without supper tomorrow!” There was immediate, deafening silence. Durral smiled sweetly. “Thank you. I was wondering if our guests wanted to tell us their story.” Darryle nodded. “We’ll tell you a story, but it’s not our story. It begins here, in Mossflower Woods, just a few miles south of Redwall…”
It was wintertime. The moon shone on the crusted snow that was spread evenly on the farmland about a day and a half’s journey south of Redwall. It was deeper than anyone could remember, and the little farmhouse was almost buried. Inside, eleven squirrels sat around the fire. The eldest was named Kam Keeneblade, and the one next to him was his son, called Raole Keeneblade. Raole’s wife, Kintail, was nursing their youngest, a small female born only a week ago. Lined up next to her were her seven other children: Kam (the second), Devin, Dinnya, Brouay, Ranore, Gretchen, and Darrire. The children’s father eyed them sternly. “Why are all of you still up?” Kam, the oldest, pointed an accusing paw at his father. “You said you were gonna name the baby today. We wanna see you name him!” “It’s a her, Kam,” his mother gently reminded him. “But he’s right, Raole. We should name her. How about Rhena, after her grandmother?” Kam (the elder) shook his head. “Not Rhena. She hated that name, and this one will too. Perhaps we should name her Kintail, after her mother.” Kintail made a face, causing great merriment among the squirrelbabes. Raole had been staring into space for some time. Now he looked down at his young daughter. “Look at her paw. No, the left one. See, it’s white. We should name her Snowpaw.” “That’s too wild,” Kintail disagreed. “How about Whitepaw?” This time Raole and Kam simultaneously made faces. Kintail laughed. “All right. Snowpaw it is. Now you can go to bed, children.” But the babies still did not go. “An’ we wanna hear a lullbye!” Kintail smiled gently. “That’s not too much to ask,” she agreed. “And I was just going to sing one anyway.”
With that she began an old, beautiful song. She had an excellent voice that went well with the song, and by the time she was finished, all her children were fast asleep.
Build me a boat that can carry two,
And both shall row, my love and I.
I leaned my back on a fine young oak,
I thought it was a trusty tree.
But first it bended and then it broke.
Thus did my love prove false to me.
The water is wide.
The water is wide.
The water is wide.
The water is wide.
Oh, love is fair and love is fine,
Bright as a rose when first it’s new.
But love grows old, and sometimes cold,
And fades away like the morning dew.
Raole snorted. “Where’d you hear that? It definitely doesn’t apply to your life.” “Hush! You’ll wake them,” Kintail whispered. “Although you’re right, it doesn’t. I heard it from an old hedgehog wife. It’s very relaxing. I implore the seasons that it won’t apply to Snowpaw’s.” She smiled at Raole and then looked down at the sleeping babe in her arms. Snowpaw Keeneblade.
Three seasons later…
Kam (the elder), Raole, and Kintail sat around the fire. The children had been sent to bed almost an hour ago, and the elders were sitting around the fire talking. There was no warning offered by the white fox who kicked the door open, nor was there any time for preparation. He immediately raised his sword and charged at Kintail, who was rooted to the spot with fear. Not so for Raole. He flung himself at the fox, arriving right before his wife was cloven in two. Kam grabbed a battleaxe and a sabre off the mantelpiece and tossed the sabre to Raole. Raole caught it in midair and he and the fox engaged in a ferocious battle. Dozens of vermin came piling in after their leader. Kintail began laying about her with a loaded sling, as Kam was doing with his battleaxe. Suddenly, the mother realized that the vermin were piling all over the house. She charged for the bedroom, but too late. Both her husband and the white fox had arrived first. She nearly fainted at the sight before her; but knew that she must not do that. She leapt forward with a shout of “Keeneblaaaaaaade!” Vermin came after her. Several of them grabbed her and the sling was pried from her grasp. Even as she began to struggle, she saw the fox disarm Raole and plunge his blade, a dirk traced with intricate patterns, forward. The squirrel warrior staggered backwards and fell to his knees. What Kintail Keeneblade felt as she saw this cannot be described in words. She had gone through so much with her husband, and he had always been there for her. They had been the only survivors of a slaughter of their tribe; and had grown up together. Her whole world crashed in, falling to pieces. Nothing was left for her. Raole was gone, her children… the world spun without meaning. Kintail had never been apt to bloodwrath. She had experienced it once, but it had been many years ago. On such an occasion as this. She did not know what happened for some time afterward, all she saw was the white fox, and she wanted him dead. When she came to herself, it was to the sound of a small voice. “Mama! Mama!” She opened her eyes and saw Snowpaw. The babe was shaking her. “Mama!” Kintail was lying on the floor. The white fox was standing over her, raising his blade. Snowpaw must have been hiding, but crept to her mother’s side when she saw her fall. The mother squirrel could not speak for a moment; her lungs must have been damaged. Finally, she managed to choke out, “Run, Snowpaw.” The babe’s eyes widened. She realized every implication of the statement, and hated it. Her mother was going to sacrifice herself to try to give her a chance to escape. She stared into Kintail’s eyes, then bowed her head. With a quick whisk, she jumped up and headed for the window. “Stop that squirrel!” roared the fox. Several vermin lunged at her, but she dodged them and leapt out onto the windowsill. There, she paused and looked back. The fox stared at her, sensing wrath and an oath for vengeance behind her eyes. He raised his blade, but before it struck, the squirrelmaid grabbed a dagger that she had picked up and hidden and flung it at him. It struck him in the shoulder. “Snowpaw, run!” her mother screamed as she staggered to her feet and lunged at the fox. Snowpaw turned and leapt from the window onto the ground outside and vanished into the night. She choked back tears as she ran, the memory of her family’s last stand burning itself into her memory. She would remember that face. And one day, she would see it again. As she reached the edge of the forest, she paused, and looked back at her birthplace one last time before leaving, never again to return.
And they think I don’t remember.
That I believe I’ve always lived
Behind these walls that, like a father,
Protect those within from the outside.
Though I’ve never told a soul
The memory is there.
It has taken its deadly toll;
A toll that I can hardly bear.
Book 1 ~ DawnEdit
It was late afternoon. Sunlight lanced through the stained glass windows and created beautiful designs on the floor and walls of Great Hall. Though it was midwinter, it was quite warm in the Hall and there was hardly a cloud in the sky.
A young squirrelmaid stood looking at the great Tapestry depicting Martin the Warrior. She had been staring at it for a long time, with a thoughtful expression on her face. Presently, she reached out with her left paw and laid it against the right paw of the Warrior. An observer would have been surprised; her left paw was as white as snow. Suddenly, she took her paw back and her expression changed to one of incorrigible stubbornness.
“Do you know, that brat Mattimeo is actually going to inherit your Sword? They’re not even going to give anybeast else a chance! It wouldn’t bother me so much, except Mattimeo is such a brat! He’ll be the death of us all with a decent sword!” she blurted loudly.
At that moment, her one-sided conversation was interrupted by a paw on her shoulder. The squirrelmaid was horrified to find that it was Matthias the Warrior, Mattimeo’s father. She hoped he hadn’t heard what she’d been saying.
“Dawn, I can understand why you don’t want Matti to be the next Warrior, but he will change, you’ll see. I was rather a young rip at his age myself. It just takes the right series of events to make a scoundrel into a warrior,” the mouse told her.
“But Mattimeo used my extra habit for a sail for some kind of wind powered sled! Then he wrecked it, as well as Friar Hugo’s kitchen table, when he crashed into the side of the abbey!” wailed Dawn.
“So that’s where he got that limp. I was wondering. Have I ever told you about the time I snuck out of the Abbey to find an owl who could take me to a snake?”
“Why on earth did you want to find a snake?” asked Dawn, unable to hide her astonishment.
Matthias took the Sword of Martin the Warrior down from its hooks above the tapestry.
“For this,” he told Dawn as he showed it to her. “The snake was Asmodeous and he had this. I had to get it from him.”
“But you succeeded, and you had a good reason! All Mattimeo succeeded in was ruining my habit and Friar’s table. And if you can find any good reason-”
“I’m not saying that what Mattimeo did was right. All I’m saying is that he inherited my recklessness and determination. Don’t be too hard on him; it’s in his nature.”
Dawn flopped down onto the stones of the floor and leaned against the wall. “Still not fair.”
Matthias knelt so he could look her in the eye. “Why do you want to be the Warrior?”
“So I can do a lot of great things and stand for good and right.”
Matthias actually laughed. “It doesn’t take a sword, or even for other creatures to acknowledge you as a warrior to do that. I can tell that the day will come when you are considered to be a great warrior, given the chance. But I doubt Matti or you will ever have to fight or harm others. Ever since the Great Wars, the tale of the defeat of Cluny the Scourge has spread far and wide. We at Redwall will not be bothered for seasons upon seasons. None of us will be likely to ever have to fight again.”
“Thank you, Matthias. I think I understand a little better now. When I think about it, I probably won’t be given the chance.”
Matthias smiled at the would-be warrior. “Run along now. Your help will be wanted in the kitchens and cellars. Remember, the Mid-Winter Feast is tomorrow.”
The squirrel waved at him as she ran off. Matthias hung the Sword back up, content that he had settled any anger or doubt in the mind of the young one. He smiled to himself as he thought that. She had always been obstinate, from the first moment he had met her. “Well,” he thought, “she never did stop screaming and pounding on chests. Not mine in particular, but she is stubborn. I have a hard time deciding who gets it worst. Never mind. I hope I can talk some sense into her.”
But as soon as Dawn was out of sight, her expression changed from humble and corrected to even more stubborn. “Heh,” she thought. “He’s got a way with words, but I don’t care. He can’t change my mind. Mattimeo will just never change.”
Nearby, a young mouse crept down the stairs into Cavern Hole from his hiding place. He was, of course, Mattimeo, and he had witnessed the entire exchange between his father and the maid. “She’s too big for her boots. She couldn’t lift that sword if she tried, which she won’t, ‘cause she’s too ‘good-mannered.’ All the grown-ups think worlds of her. I don’t know what’s with her, but she is the most controversial squirrel born. She didn’t need to rat on me, she already got back by ripping my tunic up.”
Dawn fell asleep thinking about what Matthias had told her, and came to several conclusions: first, he was right, she could be a warrior without being the Champion of Redwall; second, Mattimeo may not always be a brat but he was a brat now; and third, there may be no pain in Redwall, Redwall may never be attacked again, but there was pain elsewhere and she would never be able to rest easy knowing that other good creatures were in pain.
After she fell asleep she had a dream. She knew instinctively that she saw something in the far east. She saw flames, heard screams, and saw poor creatures being beaten and bullied unmercifully, but it was all very vague, as if she was looking through water. Then she saw one face clearly. A rat was the instigator of all this pain and cruelty. It was small, cringing and crippled, but strong and wily. She heard a confident voice in her mind.
“All the pain that you see here
You are fated to forbear.
Do not give in to pain or fear
For a twisted course is the one you steer.
Live forever by warriors’ ways;
Never forget this single phrase;
‘Protect others; stand for right and good;
Defend the weak like a warrior should.’
This home of red walls you must leave
Tomorrow night on the feasting eve.
Find the ice-cold, stone-hard place;
Not even your name must you take.
Follow the babe by going east
And remember to think about what you see.
On to where you will be great,
Go forth now to meet your fate.”
Dawn awoke with a start. She remembered her dream like it was still happening and she knew exactly what she must do.
The Midwinter Feast was held in Cavern Hole. Friar Hugo and all of his kitchen helpers had really outdone themselves. There was a large cake that was made to look like the Sword of Redwall in the center of the great table, surrounded by “snowballs,” balls of sweet bread coated in coconut and baked to a turn. Three woodland salads were placed in strategic positions along the festive board, laden with cheese, cress, and various other woodland delicacies. Hidden behind a veritable wall of creatures was a cauldron of watershrimp, bulrush, and hotroot soup, a great favorite among otters, despite its spicy taste. The moles had created a deeper ‘n ever pie of record-breaking size, so large, in fact, that it would not fit on the table, but was set on the floor within easy paw reach. Ambrose Spike had rolled a barrel of a special mix he often made up out of the cellars. Often being just a combination of various other drinks, it was a favorite among the dibbuns, who loved to mix it with something that made it taste awful and then give it to the grown creatures, who would not be able to tell that it was a prank and would blame the cellar keeper for mixing a bad drink.
The bankvole Rollo, who was hardly over a season old, giggled madly as Matthias sprayed a drink made especially for him across the table: elderberry wine mixed with nutbrown beer, strawberry cordial, and hotroot soup with coconut flakes in it. While the Warrior was otherwise occupied, the infant unobtrusively removed a snowball from his plate and hurled it at Mattimeo. Mattimeo thought that Sam had thrown it and hurled one at him. Despite the objection of the elders, an all-out snowball fight was soon in order.
In the confusion and merrymaking, the absence of one particular young squirrelmaid went unnoticed.
That squirrelmaid, Dawn, was at that moment slipping out the doors of Great Hall into the Abbey Grounds. The moon would have been high at that time of night, but the sky was obscured by clouds and a new snow had begun to fall. That was all the better for Dawn. Yesterday’s sun had formed a crust on the old snow sturdy enough for her to walk on and leave no mark, but the new snow would cover any traces she did leave. A bag at her side was full of food, snowballs, a small piece of the sword cake, and several small loaves of bread. A water flask that she had purloined from the kitchens contained dandelion cordial. She had an extra warm habit with her, and was wearing a shawl that almost completely covered her Redwall garb. A small kitchen knife was tucked into her habit cord. She slipped out the east wallgate and shut it behind her. As she looked back, memories flooded her mind, and she thought of how she was leaving Redwall. Behind her was the old life which she was used to. Before her was an entirely new existence.
Soon the snow fell on an empty clearing in the woods next to the old Abbey, devoid of pawprints or any other sign of life.
Great Hall was dark, except for the lamp that illuminated the Tapestry of Martin the Warrior and the lights from Cavern Hole. Matthias and his wife, Cornflower, walked through the pool of light in front of Redwall’s masterpiece. Cornflower looked around. “Where’s Mattimeo?”
Matthias sighed. “He’s either fighting it out with somebeast else or hiding with Tim, Tess, and Sam. I’ll go find him."
Cornflower laid a paw on his arm. “No, I’ll get him. Why don’t you go warm up the Gatehouse Cottage?”
Matthias nodded in agreement. He planted a kiss on his pretty wife’s cheek and headed toward the main door, while Cornflower headed toward Cavern Hole.
Matthias pushed the door to Great Hall. It swung loosely on its hinges. That was odd. It was unlocked. He pushed it open against the drift of snow that had piled up against it. The Warrior Mouse was about to step over the threshold onto the snow when a small piece of paper caught his attention. It had been jammed in the crack between the door and the doorframe. He picked it up. It was soaking wet, of course. He carried the paper down to Cavern Hole.
Basil Stag Hare was sitting in Cavern Hole, still going strong at the food. The last of the other feasters had drifted off, slackening their belts, but Basil was still there. “Hmm. Imagine leavin’ the table when there’s still good scoff to be had. Unthinkable! What do they do, dance?”
Matthias entered the room. He immediately headed for the fireplace. Basil waved a spoon at him. “What ho, Matthias old thing! Your pretty Cornflower just came through here, said she was lookin’ for Mattimeo. Just after she left, Mattimeo came in, said he was lookin’ for Cornflower! Neither of ‘em’d stay for more scoff. All right, more for me, wotwot!”
Matthias laughed. “Basil, you’re going to explode one of these days. Come look at what I found in the door!”
Basil came over, carrying two pasties and a scone, but was extremely disappointed. “A wet piece of paper. What for?”
Matthias smiled at his gluttonous friend’s mannerism, but was careful not to let Basil see. He began to stir up the embers of the fire and set the paper on the hearth to dry.
Basil wolfed the scone down. “That’s going to take a while. Come and have more scoff, wot!”
Soon afterwards, Matthias sat with Basil Stag Hare, Abbot Mordalfus, Constance, Winifred, and Foremole around the fire. The Warrior had refused Basil’s offer of more food and gone to get the leaders of Redwall instead. Matthias picked up the paper and unfolded it. He read the contents to his audience, his face going grim as he read.
“I am sorry I had to sneak off like this, but I know that if I told you and asked permission, you wouldn’t believe me and wouldn’t let me go.
“I dreamed about Martin the Warrior last night. He said a lot of things, but it was clear that he wanted me to leave Redwall. I can’t tell you where I’m going because I don’t know myself and you would follow me and take me back to Redwall.
“I have thought long and hard about what you told me, and am sure that what I now do is right. I will never forget what you told me, and will always do what is honorable and right. As Martin the Warrior told me,
“’Protect others, stand for right and good,
Defend the weak like a warrior should.’
“Be assured that I always will.
“In hope that I will someday return to Redwall,
There was stunned silence. Finally, Winifred spoke. “She’s gone and put her footpaw in it now.”
There were murmurs of agreement. Basil volunteered, “I’ll get to tracking her first thing tomorrow.”
Abbot Mordalfus shook his head. “She is only seven seasons old, not yet old enough to take care of herself. The first trouble she runs into will overcome her. She still needs to learn a lot and here is the place she must learn it.”
Matthias stood up, folding the paper. “First thing tomorrow, then.”
Basil stuffed his face with the last of the food on his plate. “I gergh I’ww go abed noow so Aw cin gerrup earwy.”
Cornflower had found Mattimeo. She hurried down the Dormitory stairs and stopped at the bottom. “Mattimeo, stop playing around and come out! It’s far past your bedtime.”
Mattimeo was tired, and slowly came down the stairs. He took his mother’s paw and followed her into Cavern Hole. They nearly crashed into Matthias. The Warrior took Cornflower’s paw in his right and Mattimeo’s in his left. The family swept through Cavern Hole and Great Hall, across the Abbey Grounds, and into their Gatehouse Cottage. Mattimeo was put to bed, but Matthias and Cornflower stayed up a long time afterward. Cornflower was sitting next to the fire when she felt a blast of cold air. Matthias was standing in the door, which was open. Cornflower walked over to him.
“What’s wrong, Matthias?”
Matthias sighed. “That young squirrelmaid Dawn ran off during the Feast. She left me a note. Here it is.”
Matthias was silent as Cornflower read the letter. Cornflower smiled as she folded it up. “Do you remember when she appeared at our gates one morning at dawn? Remember what you said?”
Matthias nodded. “I said she was destined for more than Abbey life. I was right. She is a warrior.”
The snowstorm raged on as the Warrior of Redwall and his wife stood in the open door, watching the east, where Dawn was destined to go.
It was almost sunrise, but Dawn knew she needed to keep going while the snow was still falling to cover her trail. She was weary, but determined that she would not be caught, on her guard every second. At the sound of a movement nearby, she scampered up an evergreen tree and hid in the foliage. A band of shrews wearing colored headbands and short rapiers at their sides passed through, chatting amiably with each other. Dawn couldn’t hear what they were saying, but she didn’t think it mattered. She waited a substantial amount of time after they were gone and then descended the tree. In an instant she was surrounded by rapier-wielding shrews.
Their leader stepped forward and held up a smooth, black stone. “Who are you, and what are you doing on Guosim land?”
He handed the stone to Dawn. The squirrelmaid did her best to be polite. “My name is Dawn. I didn’t know it was your land. Will you show me the way around it? I’m trying to get to the River Moss.”
This comment caused argument from every member of the Guerilla Union of Shrews in Mossflower. Some seemed to think she was lying, some wanted to help her, some wanted to take her to Redwall, and some just wanted to throw her off their land and be done with it. Dawn didn’t know what she had expected. She had heard stories of the argumentative nature of shrews, and the Guosim in particular. She looked despairingly at the only creature present who wasn’t shouting his opinion out loudly: the Log-a-log.
The shrew took the stone from her and held it up. “Logalogalogalogalog!” There was immediate silence. All the shrews looked at their leader. Log-a-log glared at them, then spoke. “You all know very well how our system works. If you want to talk, hold the Blackstone. Now, all those in favor of not believing Dawn, say ‘Aye’ and raise your paw.” A large number of paws went up. Log-a-log counted them. “All those in favor of taking her to Redwall, say ‘Aye’ and raise your paw.” More paws went up. Log-a-log glared. “Only one paw, Mort, and you only get one vote, Gaff.” He counted the legal votes and then continued, “All those in favor of throwing her off our land, say ‘Aye’ and…”
He was rudely cut off by a voice calling out, “We know what you mean so you can stop saying that!”
After glaring around unsuccessfully to detect the culprit, Log-a-log pulled himself up and announced, “Say ‘Aye’ and raise your paw!” Most of the remaining paws went up. The shrew leader glared pointedly at Mort, who had both his paws up. He counted the other paws and finished, “And all those in favor of helping her, say ‘Aye’ and raise your paw.”
“Aye and raise your paw!” shouted out a cheeky young shrew in the back.
Log-a-log indicated that the young one should come forward. The young shrew stopped as close to the elder as was good for his health. The shrew chieftain indicated that he should come closer. This continued until the young prankster was almost touching him. Log-a-log leaned over until his mouth was close to the other’s ear and hollered, “Will you not use your sense, Audd, or must I say everything twice?!”
Audd covered his mouth with his paw and shook his head. Log-a-log sighed and shoved the Blackstone in his direction. The young one took it and cleared his throat. “Ahem. Log-a-log, I heard you tell us to say ‘Aye and raise your paw’, so I did.”
Log-a-log snatched the Blackstone back and snapped, “Raise your paw and say ‘Aye’! Clear enough, boatbottom?” Audd nodded vigorously and dashed back to his place.
Log-a-log counted the votes. “We have a tie between taking her to Redwall and helping her. We’re going to have to vote again. All those in favor of…”
Dawn snatched the Blackstone from Log-a-log. “I really don’t have time for this. Will you just point me in the direction of the River Moss please?”
Log-a-log took the Stone back. “You must understand, Dawn, that while you are on our land, you must obey our customs.”
Dawn took several paces backwards until she was past a certain point. “There! I’m not on your land anymore! Now where is the river?”
“How can you tell you’re not on our land?”
“The signs gave me a big hint!”
Log-a-log sighed, recalling that the tribe had unanimously elected to set up signs marking the boundaries of their territory. The youngster had won. “That way, due north.”
Dawn set off in the indicated direction in high bad humor.
The snow had stopped falling and the sun was out. The young squirrel pranced forward, singing,
“Find the ice-cold, stone-hard place,
Not even my name must I take!”
Suddenly, she pranced out of the forest right onto the frozen surface of the River Moss. The ice-cold, stone-hard surface. Dawn was so excited that she got up and did a small jig on the ice. “I knew it, I knew it! The river is frozen over in the winter! I knew it!”
The next part of the riddle was harder though. The squirrelmaid pranced about on the ice, singing,
“Follow the babe by going east,
And remember to think about what I see!”
“Hmm…Follow the babe? What babe? I don’t see a babe. Hmm… And east? To the east? I’ll just go east.” With that, she headed east.
Unfortunately, the river soon ceased to go east, but took a curve north. To say that Dawn was frustrated would be a massive understatement. She sat down on the surface of the ice and thought. Soon her tail began to get cold, so she got up again. As she wandered about on the ice, she lost all sense of direction at all, and then lost her purpose and began to scrounge around on the bank. Suddenly, she found a small tributary. She didn’t know it, but it was leading due east. Absently, she wandered down it.
Dawn did not stop until high noon, when she paused on the bank and had a little food and a think. Her purpose came back to her, but it didn’t bother her much. The rest of the poem didn’t seem to be a clue, just… well, a finishing touch.
“On to where you will be great,
Go forth now to meet your fate.”
She continued to follow the river, which, as she followed it, got bigger and bigger until it was almost as big as the River Moss. Around mid-afternoon of the next day, the young squirrel found herself at the top of a gigantic waterfall. Being little more than a dibbun, she decided that it would be fun to climb down it. Since she was a squirrel, she thought, she should be able to do it easily. So she began the descent.
At first she was very sensible and took it one step at a time. But then she decided to look down. It was a dizzying drop, even for a born climber. The squirrelmaid closed her eyes and forced herself to continue. One step. One more step. Yet another step. She began to wish she was doing anything except scaling a frozen waterfall.
Then she slipped.
She never knew how she did it, but when Dawn opened her eyes, she was hanging by her right paw from a small projection. No time for relief though. She could practically feel the ice melting under her paw. Acting quickly, she pulled the kitchen knife from her habit cord and stabbed it into the ice. It was a mistake.
Dawn heard the ice crack, but before she recognized the sound, she was falling, down, down, down to the frozen river below.
All was dark. Dawn saw a familiar figure approaching, but couldn’t place him. It was a mouse wearing amour and bearing a sword. His voice also sounded familiar.
"You are strong, defeat the pain,
And earn for yourself a great name.
What is wrong and what is right?
How shall we know what fight to fight?
Don't forget, O young one, please,
What you've promised to remember for me."