Some called her the Vicious One. Others called her The Lady of Death. But to all she was known as Skarvanda the Brutal. The huge wolverine ruled the far northlands known as the Land of Ice and Snow, and her heart reflected her kingdom. Cold, dark, and cruel. With her army of gray rats, white foxes, and ermine, she oppressed the creatures who lived in The Land of Eternal Ice. Her castle was massive and made of thick, solid ice. She had slaves to wait on her night and day, and if any of them disobeyed or fainted from hunger or cold, it would be fed to her flesh-eating army. The vermin who served her were ruthless, barbaric, and terrified of their ruler. Skarvanda the Brutal! She sat on her huge ice throne, her long, razor-sharp claws dug into it's arms, and her cold, evil eyes seemed to be watching everything at once. A fox captain by the name of Kandrol (Khan-droll), came into the throne-room and bowed, "You summoned me Mistress?" The wolverine's voice was low and grating, "Yes. Has the Hellfang returned?" The fox remained bowed as he replied, "Nay Mistress. I have had solders watching the sea both night and day and they have not seen anything as of yet." Skarvanda growled and said, "That searat must be back in three days or when he does return, he will suffer a long death." Kandrol shuddered as he saluted and then hurriedly left the room. The Lady of Death sighed and sat back on her throne. Sellikro the searat captain of the Hellfang, was her slaver and treasure-gatherer. He sailed across the western ocean to distant lands and stole loot from other ships and from the land. In return, he would get one-third of all the slaves and loot he gathered on his murderous voyages. Skarvanda had sent him out again and he had not returned. Suddenly a mouse slave who was carrying a pitcher of water, tripped and sent the water spilling everywhere. He looked up fearfully at the wolverine. She smiled evilly and called to her guards. Two ermine came in and dragged the mouse off. The other slaves looked on helplessly, knowing what the fate of the unfortunate mouse would be. Skarvanda the Brutal rose out of her ice throne and stalked over to the fallen pitcher. She drank the last of the water from it, and then smashed it in her huge claw. So would she crush any who dared to oppose her. The Vicious One, Skarvanda the Brutal!
Up on a high cliff overlooking the ice castle, a lone figure sat. Its hooded cloak blew in the chilling breeze. A gray rat came up behind it and spoke, "Um, Lord Lukros..." The creature did not move, "What is it Gallwort?" His voice was smooth as silk, but deeply menacing. The rat shuffled his footpaws, "Well, I was just wondering if you would like a fire to, er, keep you warm?" The creature turned and looked at Gallwort, his dark, mysterious eyes watching the rat's every move. Then he threw his hood back and Gallwort saw Urgan Lukros. The huge wolf had silvery fur and a long bushy tail. His only clothing besides the cloak was a thick sharkskin belt. In it was thrust a long sabre. He bared his fangs at the rat as he replied, "I do not need a fire, rat! Remember that I, unlike you, was built for this weather, so get out of my sight!" Gallwort scurried off, and Lukros turned back to watch the castle with his dark eyes. One day he would rule it just as his ancestor, the great wolf Urgan had in the far past. But Urgan had froze to death in a great blizzard and his skin was taken by some lowly fox. His family had hid in the mountains and never reclaimed the throne. Then the wolverines had come! They came from the east, and being the strongest creatures in the Land of Eternal Ice, took the throne. Soon the wolves were almost extinct, but a small group had stayed in the mountains, waiting until the time was right to take back the Land of Ice and Snow. Now was the time! Lukros smiled wickedly to himself as he thought of the coming day when he would bring back the dynasty of the wolves and he would rule the frozen northland. He looked over at his army of vermin who were loyal to him. He was getting stronger every day, and soon he would attack the ice castle and restore his rightful place as king of the Land of Ice and Snow!
Another pair of eyes watched the castle as well. But they did not wish to conquer it, only to take revenge on that wolverine who had ruthlessly murdered his family when they refused to be her slaves. He stood over the bodies of three dead vermin and sheathed his axe. The creature watched and waited for the right moment when his revenge would be complete.
Lord Lonna Bowstripe watched from his chamber window, seven creatures playing by the shore near Salamandastron mountain. The badger sighed as he looked down at his young daughter Melesme splashing in the waves with the young hares from the mountain. It had been fourteen seasons since Lonna had come to the mountain fortress of Salamandastron. In that time, he had met and married his wife, Cellindra, and they had a daughter. But Cellindra had died giving birth to Melesme, and Lonna was heartbroken. So far his reign had been a peaceful one- no vermin raiders, not one corsair ships sighted, and the toads that lived further south had never dared to attack them. He heard a sound at the door and turned to see who it was. A tall hare stood there a rapier at his side and sporting a green velvet coat. Lonna spoke to him, "What is it Sergent Gorsefield?" Sergeant Danielo Gorsefield of the Long Patrol, saluted and said, "Captain Braebuck has returned sir." The big badger went passed him and down the stair, "Really? Why didn't you tell me before?" The hare followed him down as he replied, "Because he just came now sir." They went down into the mess hall and meeting room. There they saw about two score of Long Patrol hares talking, laughing, and shaking paws. Lonna Bowstripe went over to a tall hare with a big mustache. Lonna patted him on the back as he said, "Hortwill Braebuck, you've returned! How was your stay at Redwall?" The hare shook the badger's massive paw as he said, "Excellent! Absoballalutly top hole! But it's good to be back at the jolly old mountain, wot!" Then he turned to three other creatures who were standing behind him. "These are my good old sis and me best chums from my younger days. Meet, once more, my sister Martha Braebuck and me pals Abbess Fenna and Springald, Recorder of Redwall Abbey, wot!" The big badger shook the paws of Fenna, a squirrel, Springald, a mouse, and Horty's sister, Martha. Lonna smiled as he said, "I believe I have met you before. Welcome to Salamandastron." Martha looked around at the huge cavern, "Thank you sir. My, this is as big as Horty told us." They all sat down at the table and Lonna asked, "So, why did you come to Salamandastron?" Springald took a knapsack off her back as she replied, "Well, we've never seen the inside of this mountain before, so we decided to come and visit. If that's alright with you sir." Lonna Bowstripe smiled, "Yes it's perfectly alright. Though you may want to eat in a different room at meal time." Abbess Fenna was about to ask him why, when she figured it out. She grinned at Lonna and said, "I guess that eating in the same room with more than fifty hares would be just a bit chaotic, right?" The badger groaned, "You don't know the half of it!" Just then, a fat hare-nurse came in, followed by a group of young hares and Melesme. She ran over to Lonna, "Daddy lookit what I found!" In her paw she reveled a small conch-shell. Lonna picked it up and looked at it, "Yes, this is a nice find, Melesme. I wonder if I could blow in it to keep these crazy hares in order?" Horty chuckled, "I doubt that anybeast could keep these rascally new recruits in order, wot!" Springald nudged him, "Just like we were eh?"
Some time later supper was served. It was indeed chaos in the mess hall as the hares of Salamandastron took to doing their favorite thing. Eating. They passed around the food and called to each other. "I say there Flemmo old lad, would you be so kind as to pass me that leek and carrot stew?" "Humph! Pass you the stew! You'd just scoff it all down before anybeast else could get a bite!" "Hand over that pie once your through, but don't take to much you robber!" "Robber yourself! You've taken half of the chestnut salad, and the flan too!" Lonna Bowstripe, Martha, Fenna, Springald, and Melesme sat outside, enjoying their supper in peace. Fenna took a bite of nutbread and asked Lonna, "So have you had any trouble with vermin or anything?" The badger sighed, "Fortunately no. Times have been peaceful lately. I don't want Melesme to grow up in a war-torn environment and become like I once was." They all sat silently for a moment, then Martha said, "Well this is a fortress and there is sure to be some kind of invaders that will come. So she can't stay away from it forever." None of them knew how close that time really was.
Captain Sellikro of The Hellfang was not a happy rat as he stood on the deck of his ship and looked out at Salamandastron. His first mate, a fat ferret named Deadlug, came over to him and asked, "Why aren't we goin' back to that wolverine's land yet Cap'n?" The searat bit his lip, "Because that old tyrant's minions want us to get a personal slave for her, and none of the slaves we've already got are suited to their likin'!" The ferret glanced over at a group of white vermin patrolling the deck. "So why are we goin' to that mountain then Cap'n?" Sellikro placed his paw on the cutlass at his side, "Cause those white scum told me to at the point of a spear. I told them about the great warriors that live there, but they didn't listen." A tall, somber-faced ermine came over and placed the tip of his spear at the searat's neck, "Well now searat, when art thou going to raid yonder mountain?" Sellikro sneered, "I'll do it in me own time, Vargo, so leave me alone or I'll gut you." Vargo sniffed, "Thou knows that her majesty will not be pleased if we are not back soon." The searat did not reply. The ermine strode away, calling back, "So it would be in thy own best interest if thou captured a personal slave for her majesty very soon." Sellikro sighed and turned back to Salamandastron. Deadlug ventured a question, "So when are we gonna raid the mountain Cap'n?" The searat ground his teeth together, "We'll do it early tomorrow mornin'. There's sure to be somebeast about." Then he shuddered, "But I still don't like the idea of attacking that badger mountain."
"Daddy Daddy, can I go down to the shore now?" Lonna Bowstripe awoke the next morning to the sound of Melesme leaping up and down and shouting. "Miss Fenna and Miss Martha an going down with me. Please Daddy can I?" The big badger sat up on his huge bed and yawned. "Have you eaten breakfast yet?" The young badger nodded, "Yes Daddy I have. Can I go?" Lonna smiled, "Of course you can my little one." Melesme gave a whoop of joy and darted out of the room. Lonna got up and looked out of his window at the morning sunlight lightly sparkling on the ocean waves. The badger touched the long scar running down his face. He sighed as he thought of his little daughter untouched by the cruel claw of war and suffering. He did not see the corsair ship drawn up near the shore.
Down on the beach, Melesme raced about, gathering seashells and playing in the surf. Martha Braebuck and Fenna sat on a rock watching her. The squirrel yawned and fluffed up her tail, "It's too bad that Springald and Horty were still asleep, they would have liked it down here." Martha smiled and felt the sand beneath her paws, "Yes, but even when he's in the Long Patrol my brother always sleeps in late." They both giggled at this. Then Melesme came running up. "Miss Martha! Miss Fenna! There's a big ship over there, come see!" They got up hurriedly and went over to where the badgermaid pointed. Fenna gasped when she saw the ship. Then she turned and said to Martha, "Go back to the mountain and tell Lord Lonna about this!" Martha nodded and raced off. The squirrel grabbed Melesme and ducked down behind a rock. "We need to go back to your home now, there's bad creatures on that ship." Melesme peeked over the rock and screamed. Fenna looked up to see a skinny weasel standing over them and pointing at them with a dagger. "Hoi Cap'n!" he yelled. "I found something over 'ere!" Fenna leaped up and pushed Melesme towards Salamandastron, "Hurry get back to the mountain!" "I am afraid that thou art too late for that squirrel!" Vargo the ermine leader of the white vermin stood in front of them, with a dozen vermin behind him. He brandished his double-pointed spear and smiled, "Queen Skarvanda will be pleased with this catch." Captain Sellikro came over and whispered to the ermine, "Okay, you got what you want, now can we get away from this cursed place?!" Vargo gave a nod and the white vermin surrounded Fenna and Melesme. The squirrel bared her teeth, "Stay back you scum! I've faced better fighters than you!" Vargo grinned evilly, "Thou art mistaken. For the beasts of the Land of Eternal Ice are greater fighters than any." He leaned down close to Fenna and whispered, "We eat the flesh of our enemies!" Then he stood and called to his vermin, "Bind them and take them back to the ship!"
The door of Lonna Bowstripe's room burst open and Martha came panting in, followed by Horty and Springald. Lonna saw that something was wrong. "What is it Martha?" The haremaid gasped as she said, "A vermin ship sir! Fenna told me to come back and tell you about it. I don't know what happened to her and Melesme." Lonna Bowstripe leaped up and grabbed his huge bow and his quiver of arrows. He raced out the door with Horty and Springald running after him. Sergent Gorsefield leaped out of the way as the big badger came running by him. When Horty and Springald came down he asked them, "What's the blinkin matter with him?" Hortwill Braebuck had drawn his scimitar and called back as he ran past, "There's some flippin vermin out there with Abbess Fenna and Melesme!" The Sergent followed after them, his rapier in his paw.
Lonna Bowstripe was pounding his way across the beach, an arrow already loaded in his bow. The last of the vermin were boarding the ship, dragging Fenna and Melesme along with them. Captain Sellikro saw the huge badger racing along the shore and screamed, "See, I told ya! There's mighty warrior badgers in that mountain! Now we're gonna all be slain!" Vargo smacked him across the face, "We shall not be slain if we cast off now!" He roared to the vermin, "Put the prisoners down in the hold! Hoist the anchor and set sail!"
Lonna roared in fury when he saw the Hellfang's anchor being drawn up and the sails furled. Even as he ran, he sighted at the ship and fired an arrow. The shaft buried in the side of the ship and Lonna ran faster. Sellikro had taken control of the ship now and Vargo called the archers. The vermin archers fired at the badger but the shafts fell short. Another huge arrow flew up from the beach, impaling two vermin on it. Lonna just got to the waters edge, when the ship cast off and went out to sea.
Lonna Bowstripe stood in the shallow water, tears of rage coursing down his face. Horty, Springald and Gorsefield came running up and watched as the Hellfang sailed further out to sea. Horty sheathed his blade and asked sadly, "Did the scum take Fenna and Melesme with them?" Lonna's breath rasped through his clenched teeth, "Yes! And they will pay dearly for it! I will get them back, even if I have to go to the ends of the earth I will get back my daughter!" Springald wept quietly, and Sergent Gorsefield and Horty looked at each other. They knew that Lonna Bowstripe meant every word he said.
Fenna struggled wildly against the ropes that bound her and Melesme. A gray rat that was holding the rope kicked at her, "Be still squirrel, or I'll slit thy throat!" Fenna bit the rat's footpaw, and he screamed and fell to the deck. Vargo came hurrying over, "What is going on over here?" Fenna glared at him, "Let us go right now scumface!" Vargo held the point of his spear against her neck, "Very well, but be warned, if I were to let thee free, thou would have to swim for the shore. And it's a long way." He led them over to the ship's rail. Fenna gasped and Melesme started crying. The shores of Mossflower faded far off onto the horizon. Vargo smiled, "So make thy choice. Wilt thou go into the sea, or will thee stay safe on this ship?" The squirrel sighed and lowered her head. The ermine laughed and waved his paw, then the white vermin dragged the two prisoners down into the hold. A white fox guard chained them to a rail on the wall. Fenna kicked out at him and the fox snarled, "Cease struggling, thou will get used to it down here." Melesme whispered to Fenna, "Where are they taking us?" The squirrel shook her head sadly, "I don't know Melesme. But we'll soon find out." They looked around at the other captives. There were mostly woodlanders, mice, squirrels, otters, shrews, and hedgehogs. But Fenna was surprised to see a small group of vermin huddled in a corner. They did not look like corsairs or like any of the strange white vermin neither, and they too were chained. She overheard one of them, a stoat, talking to another stoat, "Ah sure now, ain't this a grand spot of trouble we've got ourselves in. We had a good life down in the southlands. But then we had to go to the shore, and what do we find? A whole lot o'those white critters and pirates just a waitin' there. And no sooner do we meet 'em when pore old Halfchop had to talk." The other stoat, a female, nodded sadly, "Aye, that's when they said we wouldn't be good at any kind of sailin' or fightin'." The other stoat sighed, "And now Crinktail me old mate, we're stuck here in this ol' ship just wait'n to go who knows where!" Fenna was amazed, why would vermin capture other vermin as slaves and prisoners? She whispered to the male stoat, "Excuse me, but what are you doing down here?" The stoat turned to her, "Ah sure, we're goin' off to be slaves in some faraway place sure enough. Me name is Flinky, and this is me mate Crinktail." The squirrel wasn't sure whether or not she should tell them her name, but they seemed harmless enough so she said, "My name is Fenna, and this young badger is Melesme. We were captured too." She looked at the other vermin in the corner, "And are they with you?" Flinky nodded, "Aye, Those two weasels over there are Slipback and Juppa. The ferret with the big hooter is good old Plumnose. The rat is Halfchop, he ain't in his right mind ya see..." Halfchop turned and smiled at them, "Kachunk!" Flinky sighed, "Ya see? Now then, those other two weasels are brothers, Rogg an' Floggo. They're archers you see, but they just got their bows taken away by those scummy white critters." Fenna could tell that Flinky loved to talk. The stoat then pointed to a small fox sitting by himself, "And that is, er, Badredd." Flinky quickly changed the subject, "Aye, and where are you from?" Fenna hesitated, then she said, "Er, Mossflower area." Flinky nodded, "Aye, so are we. But we had a little run in with a place called Redw- Ouch!" Crinktail had kicked him in the leg and whispered to him, "Don't mention that place, remember?" Flinky nodded. Everybeast was silent for a moment, then Melesme said, "Are you sure you don't know where we're going Mr. Flinky?" The stoat shrugged, "Sure as ever. But I could ask the guards." He called to the white fox guard, "Ah sure yer honor, would you be so kind as to tell us where we're goin'?" The fox drew his sword and placed the tip of it on the stoat's nose, smiling wickedly, "Thou art all going to be slaves for Queen Skarvanda the Brutal, Great Wolverine Lady of Death, in The Land of Eternal Ice!"
Just then, in that land spoken of, Urgan Lukros was planning his first move. He sat on the cliff, conversing with his three captains. Two gray rats, Gallwort and Zegg, and an ermine named Swelk. Lukros had decided to first make a "peaceful" attempt for the surrender of the Ice Castle. Gallwort and Swelk both agreed on this, but Zegg was not satisfied, "Why don't we attack them when their not ready, instead of asking them to peacefully surrender?" The wolf stared hard at him, "So, you think that your plan will be better eh?" The rat nodded, "Aye, the only language wolverines know is one of violence. She'd never surrender that easily." Lukros smiled at Zegg and said in a calm voice, "So you are saying that you are more clever than I?" Zegg hesitated, "Well, not exactly. But I think that your plan has no strategy in it." The wolf stood, his paw on his sabre hilt, "My plan has plenty of strategy in it, rat! By making a peaceful move first, I will get to see the castle up close, I will not loose any soldiers, I can spot every weakness in it's walls, and..." He smiled wickedly, "They may even let us in!" Gallwort and Swelk stared in awe at their leader, but Zegg was still adamant. "Fighting our way in is the only way to victory I say!" Lukros drew his sabre, "So you think that violence will solve everything?" The rat thought a moment, "Yes. It will solve this problem." "Indeed it will!" With one swing of his long sabre, the wolf slew Zegg on the spot. He took a cloth from his belt and gently wiped his blade. Then he sat down and spoke to his remaining captains, "He is right you know. Violence will solve some problems." The vermin stared at him, puzzled. He smiled, "Like rebellion and disobedience!" He stood and motioned to them, "Come, get a score of soldiers and let us go to the Ice Castle."
A white fox up on the wall above the entrance to the Ice Castle, saw Urgan Lukros and his followers coming. He called down to them, "What art thou doing here?" The wolf looked up and shouted back, "I wish to speak to your mistress, Skarvanda the Brutal!" The fox came down from the wall and went to get Commander Kandrol. The big fox came up to the wall and called down, "Why do you wish to speak to her majesty the Queen?" Urgan Lukros called up, "It is none of your business, fox!" Kandrol growled, "Thou may come in, but do not bring any of your creatures with thee!" Lukros nodded, "That is fine." The gates swung open and Urgan Lukros walked into the Ice Castle. The wolf smiled as he gazed around at the castle. One day this would all be his! Four guards escorted him into the throne room. Queen Skarvanda the Brutal sat upon her throne. She looked up and narrowed her eyes when she saw the wolf. She growled to Kandrol, "What does this creature want?" The fox bowed, "He wishes to speak to you, Mistress." Lukros stepped forward, "O great wolverine ruler, I come before you to give you some important information." Skarvanda stared intently at him, "And what is this information?" The wolf bowed, "I came to humbly tell you..." He suddenly stood and drew his sabre, "That this land and this castle are rightfully mine!" The wolverine stood up, "What didst thou say?" The wolf pointed his sabre at her, "I am Urgan Lukros, the last descendant of the great wolf Urgan, who ruled The Land of Eternal Ice for many seasons! You wolverines stole the throne from my ancestors, and now I am going to take it back!" Skarvanda laughed, "Ha! Thou art only one beast. Thou will never be able to defeat me. Guards! Take this insane creature away and execute him." The guards came forward, but Lukros bowled into them and slew them all with a few swings of his blade. More guards came charging up, but the wolf was unstoppable. Skarvanda watched as Lukros slew every guard that came near him. Finally, no more of the vermin dared to go near the vicious wolf. Lukros laughed and wiped his blade, "Even though I alone could defeat your whole army, I have more than two hundred creatures with me. And they all want me as ruler!" With that, he stalked out of the throne room. Kandrol yelled, "Close the gates!" But none of the vermin guards wanted to get in the wolf's way. Urgan Lukros walked out of the castle and back to his army. Gallwort asked him, "So did you find out anything?" The wolf kept walking, "I found that the buffoons who follow that wolverine are weak. If we have good strategy, I will succeed! It is now war!" His army followed after him up into the snow covered hills and forests.
Kandrol kicked a dead rat as he spoke to Skarvanda, "That wolf will not win, your majesty. For thou art too strong." The wolverine queen sat on the throne, her evil eyes staring straight ahead. The fox commander repeated, "I said, your majesty..." The wolverine glared at him, "Silence fool! Thou thinks that this will be an easy task, defending this fortress. It will not be. That creature is powerful, more powerful than thou wilt ever be." She looked down at the carcasses strewn about the floor. She smiled, "At least he provided some food for my army." Kandrol nodded then he called some guards who came and dragged away the bodies. Kandrol was about to leave the room too, when the Lady of Death spoke to him, "Place guards on the walls day and night, and..." She narrowed her eyes, "Keep watching for the ship." Kandrol bowed and left the room. The wolverine sat, thinking. This was now war, and she had to win.
Lonna Bowstripe had locked himself in his chamber-room and had not come out for almost a whole day. He was deeply troubled by the fact that he had no ship to sail after the vermin who took his daughter. He sat on his great bed, fletching an arrow, when he heard a knock at the door. He got up and opened it to find Martha standing there. "May I come in?" she asked. Lonna nodded and then went back to fletching his arrow. Martha watched him for awhile, then said, "You probably miss Melesme, don't you?" The badger sighed and picked up another shaft. The haremaid looked down at the floor, "Me and Horty and Springald miss Fenna too." She looked up at him, "Is there any way we can buy or find a ship, sir?" Lonna put down the arrow and gazed out of the window, "I don't know of anybeast around here that owns any kind of ship, and we've never really had a need for one in the past." Just then a voice came from the door, "Well I happen to know just the very chap who can help us, wot!" They both looked up to see Sergeant Danielo Gorsefield standing in the doorway. Lonna was surprised, "Who? And why didn't you tell me before?" The hare bowed, "So sorry sir, but I didn't think that you wanted any visitors at the moment, so I decided to wait until you came out." The badger lord stood up, "But who is it, Sergeant?" Gorsefield smiled, "Why it's an old mate of mine, a sea otter and a jolly good sailor. He owns a ship, the Pearl Queen. Best ship on the blinkin seas, wot!" Martha and Lonna spoke together, "But what's his name?" The Sergeant straightened his coat, "His name is Nauruto Galedeep."
Lonna Bowstripe, Martha, Horty and Springald followed Sergeant Gorsefield down the beach and south-west slightly inland. They came to a small inlet where a ship was anchored. A big, jolly-looking sea otter was sitting on the bow, playing a stange looking musical instrument and singing a raucus sea song. Sergent Gorsefield called up to him, "What ho! Are you still trying to imitate seagulls with that flippin voice of yours? You old sea dog!" The otter looked over the ship's rail and laughed, "Haharr! Danielo me old mate, the last time I clapped eyes on you, ye could barely wield a blade!" Then he lowered the gangplank and they all climbed aboard. Nauruto Galedeep was a big, strong-looking sea otter, with an eye-patch over his right eye and a whiskery beard. Across his back was strapped two curved blades in their sheathes. He and Gorsefield embraced and shook paws. Then he turned to the others, "Well now, who are yer friends, and what do ye want with an old sea dog like me, eh?" Each of them introduced themselves, last being Lonna. Nauruto grinned uneasily when he shook the badger's massive paw, "Stap me, I'd hate to be the creature that messes with you, yer honor!" Lonna Bowstripe sighed and shuddered, "It's good to meet you Nauruto. But the reason that we came was to see if you could take us out to sea on your ship. Yesterday my daughter and the Abbess of Redwall, were kidnapped by searats and some white vermin, and I need to follow the vermin ship to get them back." The sea otter ground his teeth, "Rotten, murderin' scum! Fancy them daring to even try and take the daughter of a badger lord. I'll help ye in any way that I can." Horty asked him, "So when do we start old lad?" Nauruto chuckled, "Well, I've just been sittin' here for the past week, so I'm all ready to leave right now. But it all depends on you yer honor." He nodded to Lonna Bowstripe. The big badger thought for a moment, "Well, we'll need to stock up for the voyage. I'll be taking most of the Long Patrol hares with me." The sea otter groaned, "More hares that's all I'll need seein' as though I'll be cooking for everybeast." Horty patted him on the back, "Don't worry old lad, I'll help you down in the jolly old galley. I'm very well known to be an expert cook, doncha know!" Springald giggled, "That is if you like fried fruit salad!" Horty sniffed, "Humph! I should think that you would be over that by now. Though I promise not to make anything "inedible" for those touchy beasts!" Nauruto licked his lips, "Fried fruit salad eh? That sounds good to a beast that's been eatin' skilly n' duff for all his life." Lonna cleared his throat. The sea otter turned to him, "Beg pardon, sir. So when would you like to set sail?" The badger answered, "First thing tomorrow morning."
Early the next morning, the soon-to-be travelers set off. Lonna Bowstripe had sent a few of his Long Patrol runners back to Redwall Abbey to let the Abbeybeasts know of what was happening. The Pearl Queen had been anchored just off the coast of Salamandastron. There were forty Long Patrol hares going on the voyage, along with Lonna, Captain Horty, Springald, Martha, and of course, Nauruto Galedeep. The sea otter stood at the ship's wheel, bellowing out orders, "Alright you lazy landlubbers, hoist the main-sail and draw anchor! We're putting out to sea!" The hares, who knew very little about sailing, ran about not sure what to do. Nauruto sighed and showed them what everything was called and what it did. Soon the hares of the Long Patrol were as fit of sailors as anybeast. Even Horty and Springald learned how to sail a ship. Then they were off to sea. Nauruto Galedeep gave a whoop and set the ship's course for north, then he came down and sat on the deck with Lonna, Martha, Horty and Springald. He sighed as he sat on a bench, "Ahh, it's good to be back at sea. I haven't been on a real voyage since me daddy was still around." Springald had been thinking for awhile and then something came to her, "You said that your name was Galedeep, right?" The sea otter nodded, "Aye that's me name all right. Why'd ye ask?" The mouse pursed her lips, "Well, in my studies as Recorder at Redwall Abbey, I came across the name of a sea otter from long ago in the days of Abbot Saxtus and Warriormouse Mariel." Nauruto smiled, "And what was his name?" Springald thought for a moment, "I think it was Finnbarr Galedeep as I recall. Do you know of him?" Nauruto's grin widened, "Aye, I do sure enough. He was my great, great, great, great grandsire, or something like that. In fact, this ship, the Pearl Queen, and these blades..." He drew the twin swords from off of his back, "belonged to him." Springald interrupted, "But I thought that after Finnbarr died his blades were kept at Redwall?" Nauruto watched the sun rays glint off of his swords, "Aye, so they were. But a long while ago, my great grandsire went to Redwall. He told them that he was the descendant of the owner of those blades. They weren't sure at first, but then they gave him the swords. He passed them down to my grandsire, and he passed them down to my father, who passed them down to me. This ship as well." Horty stared at the twin blades, "My word! Those are two of the most deadly blades I ever saw. Wouldn't want to be the blighter who crosses paths with you, wot!" "And hopefully we will cross paths with them soon!" They all turned to look at Lonna, who had spoken. Horty asked him, "Indeed sah, but what if the cads are too far away to catch. Or they go a different way than we do?" The badger stared straight ahead, "They won't. I know they won't." There was silence for a moment, then Martha asked, "How do you know sir?" Lonna closed his eyes, "It was said that I was born with the gift of being a seer. I can see the near future or far away present things. And now I just have the feeling that we are going in the right direction and that my daughter and Fenna are safe." Everybeast was quiet for a few minutes, then Nauruto leaped up, "Well, I best be getting breakfast ready. Come on Horty, let's go make some breaky." The hare followed after him, "Right away sah! And by the way, did you know that we're both captains? I'm a captain in the Long Patrol, and your the captain of this jolly, old ship. Strange, wot!" Before Nauruto could reply, a shout was heard from the lookout hare, "Land ahoy!"
Captain Sellikro strode the deck of The Hellfang and breathed in the sea air. He was in a good mood today. The weather had been perfect and he had got all the slaves he needed. Not only that, but Vargo, the ermine leader, had not been pestering and threatening him. The searat knew that he would be punished when he got back, for being late, but he had been thinking of a plan. He would let Vargo, his vermin, and some of the slaves go to shore in the life-boat. Then he would be free to sail off to sea and never answer to anybeast again. He chuckled at his scheme. The only other creature whom he told was his first-mate, the ferret Deadlug. Deadlug didn't like to be bossed around by the white vermin either, so he agreed fully to the plan. The ferret could only think of one problem, "But Cap'n, what if Vargo asks why we aren't goin' ashore too?" Sellikro tapped his head, "I've already thought of a plan for that, Deadlug. I'll tell him that I need to make some repairs on me ship. When he asks why I can't let my crew do it, I'll tell him that they don't know exactly where it is, or how to fix the problem. Then he'll probably say that I could fix it and then come to shore. If'n he leaves some of his soldiers with us, we'll just kill'em right easily." Deadlug thought for a moment the chuckled, "Heeheehee! That sure is a clever plan Cap'n." The searat stroked his cutlass, "That's why I'm the Captain." Just then Vargo came striding up, "Fine weather we have had isn't it?" Sellikro nodded. The ermine twitched his tail, "We shall be coming into the cold seas soon. What do you suppose we do?" Sellikro loved it when they got to this part of the voyage. This was the only time that Vargo actually put him in charge. He straightened up and tried to look important, "Well, if'n those icebergs are comin' up soon, than we'll have to keep a sharp lookout." Suddenly, Deadlug pointed and said, "Aren't those storm-clouds Cap'n?" The searat looked over at the dark shapes on the horizon and sighed, "So they are, but..." He leaped up, "Stormclouds! It'll be hard enough sailing in these already rough seas, but a storm!" He roared out to his crew, "Batten down the hatches! Hoist all sails! Get ready for a storm mates!" Vargo smiled at him as raindrops already started to spatter on the deck. "It looks as if thou are not in complete control of everything." The searat sneered at him, "Not like you can control the weather either, ermine!"
Down in the prisoners hold, everybeast (except the guards) had fallen asleep. Flinky and his gang lay snoring in a heap, while Melesme and Fenna slept huddled next to each other. Fenna was sleeping fitfully, tossing and turning. Then she had the dream. In it, she saw two figures. They walked up to her and she recognized them. It was Bragoon and Saro! She was about to say something to them, when they held up a paw for silence. Bragoon and Saro stepped forward, and spoke together, "Do not worry, for those who love you are coming to rescue you, you will find help in the unexpected, and the speckled one will save you from the Vicious One." And with that, they disappeared. Suddenly Fenna woke up to the wild movement of the ship. Everybeast else had woken up as well. Melesme shivered, "What's happening?" The ship rocked again and Flinky almost rolled across the floor, but his chain held him. He shrugged, "Well now, I'm not really sure, but it could be a storm." His theory was confirmed when a call was heard from the upperdeck, "It's a storm mates! Get ready, it's a big'un!"
Nauruto Galedeep rushed over to the side of the ship, "Where? Where's the land?" The lookout hare pointed, "Out there, see? It's that flippin dark shape." The sea otter peered out and then smiled grimly, "That ain't no land. Tis storm clouds that are out there. They can often be mistaken for land though." Lonna rushed over, "Storm clouds?" Nauruto nodded and ran over to the ship's wheel, "Aye, and it looks as if it's gonna be a big'un as well." He roared out at the hares, "Alright buckos! We're gonna have a tough battle coming up but it ain't with vermin, it's with the weather. And the storms out here at sea are stronger than on dry land, so get ready!" Springald glanced out at the approaching storm as she asked, "Is there anything that we can do to help?" Nauruto gritted his teeth, "Well, you can help the crew to keep Pearl Queen steady. I'll tell you what you need to know." He looked over at Lonna Bowstripe, who was staring out at the dark clouds. "What's the matter your honor?" he asked. The badger sighed and kept staring out, "I don't know, but I have the feeling that we're closer to that vermin ship than we think." The sea otter looked out where Lonna was pointing. "It's that seer-sense of yours?" The badger nodded. Nauruto sighed and held the wheel fast as the wind began to pick up, "Well, if'n your daughter and the Abbess are on there, than we'd better hope that it doesn't sink yet." Suddenly the storm clouds came moving in faster, the wind howled around the ship, and raindrops spattered on the deck. The hares ran about, raising the sails and holding the rigging tight. Nauruto roared out above the howling wind, "Get ready mates! We're gonna have a rough time of it!"
A crack of lightning split the air. Sellikro the searat screamed to his crew above the noise of the wind and waves, "Hold it fast buckos! We have to keep going northward!" The lookout rat held on for dear life to the crows nest. He looked out at sea and then called down, "Ahoy, Cap'n! There's a ship out there!" Sellikro pushed against the wind to get to the railing, "Blood an' thunder, You're right! I wonder who's on it?" The lookout peered through the rain with a spy glass, "I can't tell Cap'n, but we're getting closer to it all the time. It looks like there's some rabbit creatures aboard." Sellikro roared at him, "Rabbit creatures? Since when have you seen rabbits at sea? Anyway, they're probably not..." Suddenly a thought struck him, "It's the badgers from the mountain! They've got rabbit fighters, and they're great warriors too! I knew that raiding the badger mountain wasn't a good idea!" He ground his teeth together, "Well lets hope that they sink. I don't want to face no warrior badgers and rabbit fighters."
Thunder rumbled and the ship tossed and turned, causing everybeast in the prisoners hold to fall over. Flinky spat out water, "Oi, we're in a big old storm alright, and there's nothin' we can do about it." Fenna held tight to Melesme as a flash of lightning lit up the sky. Suddenly she remembered the dream. "Those who love you are coming to rescue you." Melesme looked at her, "Does that mean that father is coming to save us?" Fenna did not realize that she had spoken out loud. She stroked the young badger's head as she said in a shaky voice, "Well, I certainly hope so, Melesme."
Springald pointed out at sea, "Captain Nauruto, is that another ship?" The sea otter glanced up from the wheel, "Aye, it is! That's probably the vermin vessel we was looking for." Lonna Bowstripe held some barrels up to keep them from falling. He let them go and ran to the ship's rail. When he saw the Hellfang, he roared in anger and strung an arrow in his bow. He kept it sighted on the ship ahead and yelled aloud, "Bring this ship closer in! I will get my daughter back, storm or no storm!" The two ships drew closer together and the storm blew on.
It was early evening when the two ships finally met. The storm kept going but with less intensity. Lonna Bowstripe stood on the deck of the Pearl Queen, the arrow in his bow still sighted on the ship. Captain Sellikro saw him and hid behind the mast. The searat called out in a shaky voice, "What do ye want?" The badger roared back at him, "Give me back my daughter and the squirrel named Fenna! Now, or die!" Before Sellikro could reply, Vargo the ermine leader came up to the deck and leaned on his spear. Lonna pointed the arrow at him and Vargo smiled evilly, "Go ahead and shoot, stripedog. But if thou does, than the squirrel that thou speaks of will die!" He pointed over to his left and the crew of the Pearl Queen saw Fenna, tied up and with two spears at her throat. Springald gasped and Horty drew his scimitar. The ermine chuckled wickedly, "So it is as the searat asked you, what do you want?" Lonna gave a roar and let the shaft go. It thudded into the mainmast, just as Sellikro peered around. He gave a yelp and dropped to the deck. Vargo still stood, staring at Lonna. The badgers breath came out in rasps, and his eyes started to mist over red. Horty knew what was going to happen and called across to Vargo, "Well, if you blinkin cads don't let them go, than Lord Lonna Bowstripe will make your lives flippin miserable! At least what left of your life, wot!' Now Sellikro was completely terrified. He whispered shakily to Vargo, "Can't you just let 'em go, we don't want that badger comin' here and ripping us to shreds. Come on, they're not that much of a loss." Vargo had been silent for awhile, but he suddenly turned to the searat, and grabbed his ear, twisting it cruelly, "I will not give in to them, rat! The creatures from the Land of Eternal Ice are strong, and those prisoners are valuable! So no, we shall not give them up, sail away, now!" Sellikro held his wounded ear and glared at the ermine. But before he could give any orders to set sail, another arrow sped through the air and went into the mast. But this time there was a rope tied to it. Lonna had hold of the other end of it, and he started to pull, his eyes blazing madly. Vargo raced over and was about to cut the rope, when he heard Horty's voice, "I suggest you don't do that old lad. Cause if you do, you and all your vermin will be pincushions!" Vargo looked and saw that the archer hares of the Long Patrol had all of their shafts pointed at him and all of the vermin on deck. Vargo gritted his teeth, he had a feeling that the hares were expert archers and could pick off the vermin holding Fenna without harming her. Suddenly Vargo ran up to the ships wheel and turned it away from the Pearl Queen. Lonna held onto the rope, struggling to keep the ships together. The Long Patrol archers took out the two vermin that were holding Fenna. She stumbled over to the ships edge and looked for a place to leap across, but more vermin grabbed her and the hares shot them down. Lonna grasped the ropes and pulled with all of his might. The rain had made the rope slippery, but when a badger is in Bloodwrath, there's no stopping him. He heaved with all of his might, and Vargo grappled with the wheel. Sellikro ran over and sliced the rope with a few wild chops. He ducked down just in time as four arrows shot over him. Lonna fell back, but leaped up in an instant, roaring. The Hellfang sailed off, and Nauruto Galedeep turned his ship after it. The two ships streaked across the rough seas, cutting their way through the waves and wind. Nauruto gritted his teeth against the biting wind, and Lonna and the hares fired arrow after arrow at the enemy ship. Sellikro had taken over the wheel now, and Vargo was gathering the vermin archers and spear throwers. The Pearl Queen sometimes came close enough to the Hellfang for somebeast to leap across, but the corsair ship always managed to get away.
Fenna had struggled out of her bonds, and was looking for a chance to escape, when Vargo grabbed her by the neck and dragged her down to the prisoners hold. He threw her roughly to the floor and chained her to the wall next to Melesme. The ermine sneered at the squirrel, "Thou wilt never escape thy bonds again, squirrel, until we reach the Land of Ice and Snow! And your friends will never be able to save you for..." He smiled cruelly, "They will not survive the Sea of Ice!" He swept out of the hold, with Fenna glaring at him. Melesme looked in surprise at Fenna, "You mean that...?" The Abbess nodded, "Yes, your father, Horty, Springald, Martha, and a group of hares from the Long Patrol are in a ship right now, trying to rescue us." Melesme smiled hopefully, "My father will save us, won't he?" Fenna recalled the dream she had, 'Those who love you are coming to rescue you'. She sighed, "Yes, I think that he will. Somehow." A sudden thought struck her, "I wonder what the Sea of Ice is?" Little did they know that they were not very far from finding out.
On board the Pearl Queen, the lookout hare called out, "There seems to be some sort of strange floating mountains out on horizon!" Horty called up to him as he threw a javelin, "I say, Wantro old lad, are you sure it's not just stormclouds again? Floating mountains, who ever heard of such a thing!" Wantro called down again, "But I see them, they're right flippin well in plain sight!" Nauturo saw them too, "Aye, they look like great mounds of ice on the sea. Huh, never seen that before." Over on the Hellfang, Captain Sellikro saw them. He then laughed, "Hah! Those fools don't know how to steer around icebergs, and I've had lot's of experience. They'll smash up on one of 'em soon enough." The Hellfang steered around a smaller one that was already coming up. He winked down at Vargo, "We don't need to worry about them any more, eh." The ermine smiled flatly as he watched a piece of an iceberg break off and splash into the waves. He called over to their pursuers, "Welcome to the Sea of Ice! Thy stay here will be very short indeed!" The only answer that he got was an arrow from Lonna's bow that went whizzing by him, and a loud, "Eeeuuulaaaliiaaaaa!"
Nauruto Galedeep whistled softly when he saw the vast icebergs looming in around them, "Boil me bilges, that's the biggest chunk of ice I've ever seen!" Lonna growled as he saw the enemy ship disappear around a clump of icebergs. The Bloodwrath had subsided and he brushed away the tears of rage that coursed down his face. Horty gulped as he watched a huge chunk of ice slide off of one of the nearby icebergs. A big wave splashed around the ship. He smiled nervously, "Well, forward the buffs and all that, wot!" Nauruto sighed, "Right. Well mates, get ready 'cause here we go!" He steered the ship carefully forward and the Pearl Queen sailed into the Sea of Ice.
Skarvanda the Brutal had been thinking. She had dismissed all of the guards and slaves, and sat silent upon her throne. She had not had a rebellion since her sister and her sister's mate had tried to steal the throne. Skarvanda had easily defeated them, as they had a very small force. Her sister had fled into the mountains, and her mate was personally slain by The Lady of Death. Now this wolf was threatening her power. But unlike previous rebellions, this one had been carefully planned out, and the wolf was a highly trained fighter. Suddenly there was a knock at the door. The wolverine growled, "What does thou want?" Kandrol, the white fox commander, came in. He bowed and said, "Mistress, five more slaves have died from starvation. We did not eat their flesh because they were so ragged and thin." Skarvanda stared at him, "So why did thou come to me to tell me this?" Kandrol replied rather uneasily, "Well, because Mistress, I just wanted to let thee know of the low amount of slaves." The wolverine sighed and stood up, "Then go send raiding parties for more slaves, addlebrain!" The fox bit his lip, "Well, er, I have, Mistress, but when I did only two came back alive, and I sent out a dozen soldiers. Now the soldiers are afraid to go out of the castle, they said that it is some sort of speckled creature with a battle-axe." Skarvanda waved a huge paw, "It is probably one of that wolf's followers trying to scare them and make them afraid to fight him. Besides, my fighters are strong and vicious enough to deal with a lone enemy." Kandrol was a about to give a rebuttal, but thought better of it. He bowed and left the room. Skarvanda grabbed the arm of her throne and crushed the end of it in her claw. Secretly she suspected that this new enemy was not the work of Urgan Lukros, this was another foe that came for a different reason. Then she remembered the slave problem. The slaves were dying every day, and their puny carcasses were not enough to feed her army. She had to think of something, that wolf would most likely put a siege on the Ice Castle, cutting off all supplies. But there was the searat's ship coming with more slaves and probably....more provisions! She smiled wickedly to herself, yes she would kill the searat and make his crew as slaves. Then she would give the ship to Vargo, he had enough sailing experience, and use the ship's provisions to feed her army. She would not lose, not to Lukros, or the mystery enemy, or anybeast! She would keep her iron claw on the Land of Eternal Ice!
The bodies of ten white vermin lay on the blood-stained snow. A figure stood over them, his eyes glinting vengefully. He sheathed his battle-axe and looked across the hilly, snow-covered plain at the Ice Castle. If only he could get inside there, then the vermin scum would all pay dearly for what they did to his family. But he needed help to get into the castle. The small clans of squirrels, mice, and lemmings had fled into the mountains and were too afraid of the white army to fight back. But he was not. Yes, it was only a matter of time when help would come and his vengeance would be satisfied.
A huge chunk of ice crashed down into the sea, a few yards away from the Pearl Queen. Nauruto Galedeep gritted his teeth as he kept hold of the tiller and tried to keep his ship away from the dangerous masses of ice. Horty and Martha were on the bow of the ship, warning the sea otter of any upcoming icebergs. Horty called out, "There's a blinkin' big one coming up on the laft, better steer clear of it!" Nauruto saw it and turned the ship starboard, but a chunk of a nearby iceberg suddenly smashed onto the ship, right near Springald. She screamed and tried to get out of the way, but the ice block rolled straight at her. Lonna Bowstripe rushed over and heaved the ice chunk up and off of the ship. Springald was shaking all over as she smiled at the huge badger, "Thank you sir!" Lonna nodded and rubbed his cold paws together, "Your welcome miss. By the fur that ice is cold!" Suddenly Wantro, the lookout hare, called out, "I see the flippin vermin ship, dead ahead!" Lonna raced over to the bow, "What? Where?" Martha pointed, "I see it sir, it just went behind that ice-island over there." Lonna strung his bow as he called to Nauruto, "Do you think that you can reach it?" The sea otter peered ahead, "Aye, sir, if I keep a steady course I think I can get to 'em."
Deadlug, the first mate ferret of the Hellfang, came racing over to Sellikro, "Cap'n, we've spotted that other ship just a few knots behind us! What do we do?" The searat looked back and saw the bow of the Pearl Queen coming around an iceberg. His jaw dropped, "Hell's teeth! How did they get past all of the icebergs? Well, we'll get 'em off our tail soon enough." Vargo came running over, "That other ship is right behind us? How did they get through there?" Sellikro sneered at him, "I don't know, but it doesn't matter now. The question is how we stop 'em for good." The ermine thought for a moment, then grinned evilly, "Dost thou remember the ice bridge spanning those two icebergs?" The searat nodded, "Aye, but what's that got to do with it?" Vargo looked up ahead, "We are almost to it. If we shoot enough arrows and spears at it, it will collapse!" The searat scratched his chin, "So we bring it down, after we go through the pass, right?" The ermine leader smiled, "Yes! And we'll do it so that it will fall on the other ship!" Sellikro giggled wickedly, "Heeheehee! They can't follow us when they're on the bottom of the sea!" Vargo suddenly roared out, "Dragfang! Get the archers and spear throwers. After we pass the ice bridge yonder, fire every projectile we have at it. Bring it down so that it smashes the ship behind us!" Deadlug pointed, "Look! There it is!" Vargo smiled as he looked at the strange formation. It was a narrow passage of icebergs, with the last two forming a narrow bridge over the sea. Every vermin archer and spear-thrower was on deck, getting ready to fire at the bridge. The Hellfang passed under it, into the open sea, and Vargo looked back to see the Pearl Queen coming down the passage. He raised a paw, "One...two...NOW!"
Everybeast on board the Pearl Queen, gasped in awe when they saw the strange ice formations floating on the water. Lonna roared with rage as he saw the Hellfang, going out of the passageway. Nauruto steered the ship carefully between the walls of ice on either side. Horty drew his scimitar, "We'll give them a right good drumming when we catch the scurvy scum! Trying to get us wrecked in that great icy forest, quite caddish, wot!" Nauruto pointed at the corsair ship, "Look, their gonna fire arrows at us. Do those scumbags think that they can hit us from there?" Martha looked up worriedly, "No, they're firing at that strange ice bridge thing." The Pearl Queen had just got under the ice bridge, when a hail of arrows, spears, and javelins thudded into the ice structure. It cracked and then collapsed around the ship with a huge crash and a spray of icy water.
A giant clump of ice smashed into the tiller of the Pearl Queen. Nauruto leaped out of the way just in time, as the iceberg chunk blocked his way to the ship's wheel. Pieces of ice shattered everywhere on the ship, and some hares were crushed by the larger ones. Lonna Bowstripe smashed up the ice chunks and heaved them overboard, but they kept falling. Suddenly part of one of the icebergs on the side, cracked and fell. Lonna roared up to Nauruto, "You need to get the ship moving!" The sea otter dodged a piece of the frozen debris, "There's a big hunk o' ice blocking me way to the tiller! I can't steer the ship!" Horty grabbed Martha and jumped out of the way as clump of ice rolled towards them. A piece of sharp ice pierced Horty's paw, and he winced. Lonna grabbed the runaway ice chunk, and threw it overboard. He picked up the two hares as another huge ice shard smashed down. "We need to get down below-deck, everybeast!" He set them down and Horty called out, "You heard what he said! Everybeast go down!" A hare came running up from the below-deck, "We're sinking! We've sprung a flippin' leak!"
Vargo gave a satisfied smile as he watched the iceberg crumble down on top of the Pearl Queen. Without turning, he spoke to Sellikro, "Well, they are finished now." The searat glanced back at the wrecking ship, "Aye. But they have a badger with 'em, and badgers are mighty beasts. He might survive." The ermine turned and curled his lip, "Thou fool! What creature can live through that? Besides, even if they do, they will not survive the territory of the great killer fish of the north!" Sellikro shuddered, "Don't talk about those things! The last time we came this way, they ate old Grubtooth and Fladdle. That's dangerous waters there!" Vargo looked back at the iceberg-canyon, "Well, I think that I will go and speak to the squirrel and badgermaid. To tell them..." He grinned cruelly, "that their 'rescuers' were smashed into pieces!"
Nauruto raced downstairs. The hare pointed at a big crack in the side of the ship. A large piece of ice had smashed its way into the side, and water came slowly trickling in. Nauruto ran over and plugged up the small opening. He roared out, "Go get Sir Lonna! I think that we've crashed on the iceberg!" Lonna Bowstripe was trying to heave the ice block off of the wheel, when the hare told him of the leak. The big badger pounded down below-deck and gasped when he saw the hole. Nauruto was trying to hold the water in as he said, "We've smashed up on an iceberg! Can you tell some of the crew to get some resin? I have a big barrel of it in the hold. But it probably won't do much good." Lonna ordered Springald and some hares to find the barrel. Suddenly there was a crack and a scream from above deck. Lonna raced up and saw that the top of the iceberg had cracked off and had collided into the main mast. The top half of it lay on the deck, with the body of the lookout hare, Wantro underneath it. The ice chunk had crushed at least four other hares too. Lonna's eyes blazed as he looked at the horrible scene. Then he looked out at the Hellfang, sailing off faraway, and his eyes became red. The thought of his captive daughter and of the dead hares on the deck, sent him into the Bloodwrath. With a roar, he dashed up to the tiller and lifted the huge ice boulder from off of it, threw it off of the ship, and grabbed the broken wheel. He screamed his battlecry as he turned the wheel and the ship started to move out of the Sea of Ice. "Eeeeuuuulllaaaaallliiiiaaaaa!!!" The Pearl Queen groaned and struggled to get away from the iceberg piercing its hull.
Below-deck, Nauruto felt the ship moving, "What in the name of barnacles is going on?" Just then, Springald and some of the hares came running up with the barrel of resin. The ship jolted and one of the hares slipped. The barrel went sailing through the air, and the sea otter had to dodge out of the way to avoid the flying barrel. It jammed into the hole almost perfectly and the resin spilled slowly out. The ship suddenly broke loose of the iceberg and the chunk of ice penetrating the hull, came out. Lonna Bowstripe gave one last heave on the wheel, and the Pearl Queen finally escaped from the dreaded Sea of Ice.
In the prisoner's hold of the Hellfang, Fenna was lying down to sleep. Vargo came striding down into the hold, and poked Fenna in the tail with his spear, "Wake up, squirrel, and let me tell thee the sad news of the deaths of thy friends." Fenna kicked at him, but the ermine stayed just out of reach. He smiled sadistically, "Those creatures who were coming to save you, are now smashed carcasses at the bottom of the sea! I made sure of that." She screamed and threw herself at him, but he was just out of reach. Vargo laughed, "So much for thy friends! Hahahahaha!" The squirrel glared hatred at him as he walked victoriously up-deck. The sound of Melesme crying broke Fenna out of her vengeful trance. She went over to her and hugged her. Melesme sobbed fearfully, "Did they really kill daddy and Mr. Horty and everybeast else?" Fenna did not know what to reply. Bragoon and Saro had said in the dream that their friends would be coming to save them. But would they actually succeed? The vermin could be lying, just to scare them, but they could very well have done it. Fenna stroked the young badger's head, "Your father and Horty and the rest are great warriors. They will find us, I have no doubt."
Nauruto Galedeep had gotten hold of the ship's wheel now, and the sea otter was steering it straight ahead. Horty and Sergent Gorsefield were taking care of the icy debris and the dead hares. They buried the fallen hares out into the sea, and held a moment of silence for them. Lonna Bowstripe sat on the bow of the ship, staring at the Hellfang far in the distance. Suddenly he stood and raised his huge bow, roaring, "I will get you back, my daughter! And nothing in the world will stop me! Eeeuuulaaalliiiaaaa!"
Gallwort the rat huddled up close to the wall of the Ice Castle. He and five other vermin had been sent by Urgan Lukros to scout out the walls and see if there were any weaknesses. Gallwort motioned for his small group to be silent. A white fox guard patrolled the wall, looking down every so often just to check. When the fox had passed, Gallwort gave a sigh of relief and continued to search the wall. It was made of what appeared to be completely solid ice, but underneath was the real structure. Hard granite stone. The rat sniggered with delight, this was just what Lukros was looking for! If they could somehow melt the ice off of the wall, then climbing it would be much easier. Suddenly, an ermine whispered to him, "Hide, the guard's coming back!" They all ducked up against the wall as the fox patrolled along the ramparts. After he had left, Gallwort scurried back off into the brushy hills, with his scouting group following. When they got back to the Urgan's camp, Gallwort made his report. Lukros was silent through the whole summary of the wall. When the rat was done, he spoke, "Hmmmm, it looks as if this is going to be easier than I thought." "What do you mean, lord?" Gallwort asked. The wolf sat, tapping his claws against a snow-covered rock, "What I mean is that we're not going to melt the ice away, it would be nigh impossible in this weather. No, we're going to drive spikes into the wall and climb up it. The stone underneath can support the spikes better than just solid ice could. It would be more slippery too, with only ice blocks. Also it would be a disadvantage to them if there was a warm summer and the walls melted into thin ice slivers. So the granite walls are helpful to both us and them." Gallwort stared at him and scratched his chin. Lukros sighed and shook his head, "Of course an idiot like you wouldn't understand. That is why I'm the leader." Then he stood up, "Get the soldiers ready and have them make some climbing spikes out of some weapons, we're going to attack the castle tonight!"
The army of Skarvanda the Brutal was lined on the grounds. The huge wolverine paced in front of them, her evil eyes inspecting each one. If she was in a battle for her kingdom, than she could not be unprepared. Every fox, ermine, and gray rat in her horde, stood saluting as she stalked by. Suddenly, a rat dropped the pike he was holding. The wolverine glared over at him and in a few strides, was in front of him. The rat stood trembling, "I am sorry Mistress, I..." With one swing of her huge claw, the rat fell dead to the ground. She picked up the body and threw it across the grounds, roaring, "Thou art a great horde, and it is known throughout the land of thy viciousness in battle. I will not have any bumblers or fools in my army! Is that understood?" Every one of the vermin answered in unison, "Aye, it is understood O Vicious One!" Just then, an ermine captain named Bullak came up, "Mistress, the guards on the ramparts have reported some enemy scouts seen by the wall just recently. What do you command?" The wolverine growled at him, "Tell them to slay the spies next time if they value their lives!" Bullak bowed and left. Skarvanda turned back to her army and motioned for Kandrol. The fox commander bowed and asked, "What do you wish, Mistress?" The Lady of Death pointed at her horde, "I want thee to have them all ready for battle, there is no way of knowing when the wolf will attack." Kandrol turned to the vermin, "At thy positions, everybeast! We shall fight like the creatures from the Land of Ice and Snow. Her majesty will deal death to any creature who does not obey or is a bumbling fool like that one." He pointed at the unfortunate rat's carcass. "Now thee will fight for the Land of Eternal Ice!" Suddenly, a rat guard came running up, "Mistress! The ship Hellfang has been spotted on the far horizon."
Captain Sellikro was very nervous. Not only was he sailing into the territory of the giant killer fish of the north, but Skarvanda the Brutal would not be happy with him for returning so late. Vargo, the ermine leader, was completely indifferent to the problems the searat faced. There was no love lost between them, and Vargo knew that he would take very little blame for them returning late. Sellikro gulped and watched the sea around his ship, "I don't like this. Those big fish could come from anywhere and they could smash a whole ship to splinters." Vargo smiled cruelly at him, "Thou art afraid of nothing. Thy ship is in good condition now, and we have never been severely attacked by them before." The searat sneered at him, "Of course you have nothin' to fear, you won't get punished for being back late like I will. Your lucky." The ermine sniffed and said, "I think that I shall go down and converse with the prisoners."
Fenna was very nervous as well, but for different reasons. For one, she and Melesme had no idea if Lonna and his companions were still alive. She had been wondering about her dream and what Vargo had said about the iceberg and the Pearl Queen. Another was that they seemed to be almost to their destination, The Land of Eternal Ice. Fenna shuddered. The prisoner's hold of the Hellfang was cold enough, but the land they were going to be slaves in seemed even more cold and cruel. Another problem was that Melesme was making 'friends' with Flinky and his gang. They weren't bad as far as vermin go, but they were still vermin. Then Vargo came strutting down the stairs, and walked over to Fenna. He seemed to enjoy baiting her, and the squirrel absolutely hated him. He prodded her leg with his spear, "So, how does thou like it down here with the new knowledge that thy friends are all dead?" She grinned sarcastically at him, "Oh I'm very grateful for the news, and I'm so glad that we are almost to our destination." The ermine returned her smile, "Well, I suggest that thou spend as much time with thy badger friend as possible now, for thou will not be seeing her for very much longer!" Fenna's smile disappeared, "Why? What are you going to do with her?" Vargo glanced over at the young badger, who was sitting across the room talking with Flinky and Crinktail. "She will be the personal slave for her majesty, Queen Skarvanda the Brutal. And thou wilt be just a regular slave in the compounds!" He turned and walked back up deck, leaving Fenna behind, speechless. What more could go wrong?
When Vargo got back up on deck, he saw that all of the vermin were in a tizzy. Sellikro was just standing on the bow and staring out at sea. Vargo stormed over to him, and grabbed him back the back of his neck, "What in the name of Hellfire is happening, rat?!" Sellikro pointed out to sea and Vargo looked. The ermine's mouth dropped open when he saw the Pearl Queen, gliding along after them. The searat captain was completely terrified, "Ya see? What did I tell ya! Those badgers are powerful creatures. We were fools to think that we could stop 'em!" Vargo was just as surprised and nervous as Sellikro was, but he didn't show it. He stood staring at the oncoming ship, then he shook the searat and roared at him, "Well don't just stand there, thou fool! Get the ship moving faster!" Sellikro broke out of his frightened trance and started issuing orders to his crew, "Deadlug! Get all sails up! Jurgg! Get the archers ready in case they attack. Now hurry, or we'll be fishbait!"
Nauruto Galedeep threw back his head and laughed, "Hahaharr! Can you imagine the looks on their ugly faces right now! Those vermin are probably scared out of their boots!" Lonna Bowstripe stood on the bowsprit, smiling slightly. Not because of what the sea otter said, but because he would soon get his revenge and have his daughter back. Captain Hortwill Longblade Braebuck had every Long Patrol hare available, on deck, with arms at the ready. The Pearl Queen was slowly catching up with the vermin vessel, and the Hellfang was getting closer and closer to The Land of Eternal Ice. But nobeast from either ship knew of the coming danger that was swimming in their direction.
It was night in The Land of Ice and Snow, Urgan Lukros made his first attack on the Ice Castle. A score of climbing ropes had been made, and ice spikes had been beaten and forged out of weapon blades. The first wave of vermin made their way silently across the hilly plain, their white and gray coats blending in with the snow and rock of the ground. Swelk, the ermine captain, took the group up by the side of the wall. Each vermin had a set of spikes tied to their paws, which could be used not only as climbing implements, but as deadly weapons too. So far they had not been spotted by the sentries on the wall, and that was all thanks to the work of a group of vermin, led by Gallwort, who had silently shot every guard on the walls with small, poisoned arrows. Swelk motioned for them to start climbing, and the first few vermin started up. They had practiced with the spikes for awhile, and were trained at useing them. Skarvanda had thought rightly when she figured that Urgan Lukros was not another ordinary enemy. The vermin climbed up the wall, driving the sharp spikes into the ice wall, and holding their blades between their teeth. The first group of invaders made their way to the top. But just as the next group was coming up, a hail of arrows rained down on them. Kandrol stood over on the other end of the ramparts, with two score of archers with him. The vermin invaders fell screaming from the top of the wall, knocking down other vermin that were climbing up. Swelk watched as the body of a rat came hurdling down, taking three other vermin with it. The ermine looked up on the ramparts and saw the archers. This wasn't supposed to happen! Suddenly, it was the archers who were attacked. A wave of vermin invaders came on top of them, slashing and stabbing with their climbing spikes. Gallwort had led a group up the other wall, behind the archers. The ice wall and the snow below were stained red with blood, as vermin from both sides fell off of the ramparts. Kandrol didn't know what to do. The attacking horde was coming from both sides of him, and all that his vermin had were bows, daggers, and a few spears. Kandrol slashed about desperately with his sword. Where was the invader's leader? He hoped that the wolf was not leading this attack. Then he saw Gallwort, who was standing on the wall and urging the vermin forward. The fox sneaked through the crowd of battling vermin and got close to the gray rat captain. He slashed out with his sword, but Gallwort had seen him, and blocked it with his blade. They parried and slashed back and forth, then Kandrol realized that he was stronger and more well trained than his opponent. He ran forward and bowled into Gallwort. The rat went flying off of the wall, screaming, until he hit the snow below with a thud. He might have survived had it not been for the sharp rock that his back landed on. The battle raged on until another defending vermin force came and the invaders were completely vanquished.
Only a few of Urgan Lukros' army came back to the camp. The wolf had been watching the battle from the hills, with more of his army behind him. Swelk came limping over to him, and sat down. Urgan Lukros looked at the small group of vermin that had returned, "Where is Gallwort?" Swelk rubbed an injured footpaw, "He got killed when he fell off the wall. We were winning there for awhile, why didn't you come and help us?" Lukros smiled down at him, "Because my impetuous friend, I saw that this battle could not be won right now. I did not expect them to be ready for an attack like that, or if they were, not to come with such force. I misjudged that wolverine's cunning." He glanced over at his army. They were all ermine and gray rats, not a single fox was among them. Lukros did not trust foxes, seeing as they were his closest relations, and that wolves were the most intelligent creatures of all. But if he had just one fox with him, he could get it to infiltrate the castle and open up the gates. Yes, they would not be expecting that! He motioned for his horde to follow him and he went back to his camp, to plan more.
Skarvanda sat on her throne, listening to Kandrol relate the battle. After he had finished, the wolverine did not reply. She sat staring at the fox commander, her evil eyes boring into him. Kandrol gulped and shuffled about uneasily. Then Skarvanda spoke, "I want thee to go and get the report from the lookouts, ask them about the position of the ship." Kandrol had not expected this answer, but he bowed and left the room to do his queen's bidding.
The mysterious creature had watched the battle from a brushy hillock. Typical vermin, fighting amongst themselves. But he had often overheard Lukros' conversations with his captains, and he now knew that the wolf wanted to conquer the Ice Castle. The creature didn't think that the wolf would be any different than his predecessor, but so far he had done nothing against the peaceful creatures of the Land of Ice and Snow. Since they both had a common enemy, then... The strange creature shouldered his battle-ax and went towards the camp of Urgan Lukros.
It was morning when the Pearl Queen and the Hellfang met for the last time. The choppy waters had prevented the Hellfang from getting to the Land of Ice and Snow quicker, and the Pearl Queen had caught up with it. Lonna Bowstripe roared across to the vermin vessel, "So scum, are you going to let the prisoners go, or are you going to choose death?!" Vargo stood on the deck of the Hellfang, next to Captain Sellikro. He called back across in a bored sounding voice, "We are not going to surrender, stripedog. So you might as well give up and depart or thy lives shall be made short." Lonna notched an arrow to his bow, "It is your lives that will be made short, cowards. My whole army is here on the deck ready to slay every last one of you. Now give me back my daughter and the squirrel Fenna, and I may make your deaths quicker!" At this, Sellikro started to get scared. He whispered to Vargo, "Come on, just give 'em back those creatures, please, or they'll kill us all!" Vargo stood silently glaring at Lonna. The big badger glared back at him, and the ermine had to avert his gaze. He looked out at sea and then smiled. Vargo stood up straight, grinning victoriously. He called over to Lonna, "Very well, we will give thee the prisoners. But thou must come over here in thy life-boat." Nauruto Galedeep snorted, "You really think that we would fall for that? I'll bet that the moment we got the life-boat into the water, your vermin would sink us down in it like you tried to do back at the floating ice-mountains. We ain't stupid like you scum are!" Vargo tapped his spear, "Then the prisoners shall not be released." Horty motioned for the Long Patrol archers. They aimed their shafts at Vargo and the ermine laughed, "Hah! We went through this before. It would be of no use to do it again."
Springald tapped Nauruto on the shoulder, "Excuse me sir, but what are those black things out there?" The sea otter looked and saw four tall, black dorsal fins, streaking through the water towards them. Nauruto scratched his head, "I don't know missy, they look to me like shark dorsal fins. But I didn't know that sharks were this far north." Everybeast else on both ships had seen them too. Sellikro screamed in terror, "Aaugh! It's the giant, killer fish of the north! We need to get out of here!" Vargo smiled evilly, "Yes, it is them indeed." He yelled over to the crew of the Pearl Queen, "They are not sharks as thee may think, but the giant fish of the north. The killer orca whales!" Suddenly one of the whales leaped out of the water and everybeast saw the huge monster. It was black all over with white markings on it's body, and a tall, straight dorsal fin that rose out of it's back. It opened it's mouth and everybeast saw the rows of sharp, white teeth that lined it's cavernous mouth. It splashed back into the water and the other three orcas went under as well. Everybeast (except Vargo) stood in shocked silence. Nauruto stared at the spot where the whales went under, his mouth open, "Well blow down me rudder! That's the biggest fish I've ever seen in all me born days!" Sellikro said shakily, "W-where d-did they go?" Vargo grinned evilly, "Shall we find out?" Suddenly he grabbed the searat and lifted him bodily. Sellikro was thrown over the edge of the ship, screaming. But the searat's screams were cut short when one of Lonna's arrows took him before he hit the water. When he did, a huge mouth came up and swallowed the searat's carcass whole. The killer whale gave a squeaking roar, and leaped clear out of the water, over the corsair ship, and grabbed the lookout in it's vicious jaws. It landed with a splash on the other side of the Hellfang, and everything was chaos. The creatures on both ships started to panic and ran about, trying to get below the deck. Deadlug, the first-mate ferret of the Hellfang, realized what had just happened and ran at Vargo, shouting, "He killed Cap'n Sellikro, get 'im mates!" The ferret charged towards him, and Vargo held out his spear, impaling Deadlug on it. Throwing the slain ferret off of his spear, the ermine roared out, "Any creature that dares to rebel against me will be slain! Now, get all sails up and go out towards land! Now!" The vermin ran to do his bidding, and another killer whale leaped out of the water, snapping at the vermin on deck.
Over on the Pearl Queen, Lonna Bowstripe fired off arrows into the water. The other two orcas were circling the ship, and sometimes leaping out of the water to snap at the hares. The Long Patrol stayed in the center of the ship, firing arrows and throwing spears at the attacking sea beasts. Nauruto saw the vermin ship sailing further towards land and steered the Pearl Queen after it. But one of the killer whales was blocking his path. It slammed into the side of the ship, causing two hares to stumble overboard. Horty grabbed the paw of one of them just in time, but the other was snapped up by the other whale. Lonna Bowstripe roared with fury. He fired arrow after arrow at the huge creatures, and he scored several direct hits. One of the creatures leaped up out of the water, right in front of the badger. He aimed directly at it's throat and fired. The huge arrow coursed through the whale's throat and out the other side of it's head. It fell dead into the water and the other whale screeched and went over to it. Nauruto saw his chance. He directed the ship straight after the Hellfang, which had not gotten very far, due to the other two killer whales.
Vargo had taken control of the ship. He picked up the fallen cutlass of the late Captain Sellikro and thrust it through his belt. Then he jumped back as one of the orcas snapped at him. He smiled and walked calmly up to the ships wheel. The vermin on deck ran about, hoisting the sails and tying down the rigging. Vargo could see the pier at the edge of the land and the huge silhouette of the Ice Castle far off in the distance. The ermine steered the ship straight for it, acting as if the huge attacking sea mammals were not there. The vermin screamed as the orcas grabbed them from off of the rigging and deck, but Vargo paid no attention. The impassive ermine was concerned with only one thing- getting back to the Land of Ice and Snow.
Down below in the prisoners hold of the Hellfang, everybeast was jolted as one of the orcas smashed into the side of the ship. The white fox guard stumbled and dropped his sword. Slipback the weasel, reached over and grabbed it, but before he could even draw it back, the fox sank his teeth into Slipback's arm. The weasel screamed and dropped the sword. The fox, whose name was Vydrik, picked the sword up and licked the blood off of his teeth, "If any of thee even thinks about doing that again, I'll gut him and roast his carcass for my supper!" Before anybeast could reply, the ship rocked again as the killer whales slammed into it. Melesme hugged Fenna tight and said, "What's happening Miss Fenna?" The squirrel winced as she heard the last screams of a ferret that had fallen overboard, "I don't know Melesme, but whatever it is, we're safe from it down here." Just as she spoke these words, there was a cracking sound, and the side of the hold burst open as the huge head of a killer whale smashed through it.
Urgan Lukros looked up from his bark map that he had been studying, as Swelk came walking up, followed by a creature in a hooded gray robe. The ermine pointed to the strange visitor, "He wanted to see you, lord." The wolf looked the hooded figure up and down, "What does he want?" The mysterious creature replied, "I wish to speak with you about your battle with the wolverine. Alone." Lukros nodded, and Swelk left. The wolf tapped his sabre, "So, who are you and what do you care about my war?" The creature sat down on a rock and drew forth out of it's cloak, a small battle-ax, "Who I am does not matter. But I am an enemy of the wolverine and all her kind. They oppress the good creatures of this land and take them for slaves and for food. I wanted to know if you did the same." Lukros drew his sabre and leaned on it, "No of course not. I do not let my soldiers give into that barbaric custom. They only eat off of the land." Then he paused, "But I sense that you came here not for the sole reason of learning our dietary customs. What else do you want?" The strange figure smiled underneath his cloak, "Yes, I came because I wanted to make a deal with you. I saw your creatures fighting on the wall yesterday, and I also saw the way that they got up there. If you let me borrow some of your rope and climbing spikes, I will sneak in and open the gates for you." Urgan Lukros stood staring at the creature and thinking. Then he spoke, "Yes, I will lend you the climbing spikes and ropes. But only if you promise to open the door for us, understand?" The cloaked figure sharpened his ax against the rock, "Aye. But you must promise one thing or I will not ever help you again." He stared straight into the wolf's eyes. "That you will not take any of the creatures of this land as your slaves when you are in power. You must not harm a single one of them, or..." He leaped up and swung the ax a hairsbreadth away from the wolf's head. He landed on all fours and climbed back onto the rock. Lukros had not even flinched. He sat smiling slightly and stroking his sabre, "I understand. You absolutely hate injustice and slavery, well so do I. When it is done to me." Then he sheathed his blade, "I do not know what I will do when I get onto the throne. But I tell you this, if you ever play me false or take the things that I gave you and do not use them to open the gates for my army to get in..." He drew his sabre and held it up to the creature's throat, "Then you will die a long, slow death at my paw!" The creature sat silently and then pushed the blade aside and slide off the rock. He strode over to the edge of the camp and then turned. "I will not play you false if you do not do the same to me, agreed?" The wolf sheathed his blade, "Agreed." He called Swelk over, "Give this creature some rope and a set of climbing spikes. He is now one of our alies." After the strange creature had left, Urgan Lukros went back over to his bark planning-map. He smiled to himself and stabbed his claw into the sketch of the Ice Castle. Another plan of attack was now available and he took advantage of every opportunity for victory.
Kandrol stood on the pier, drawing a cloak around him for warmth. He and a dozen other vermin sat watching the two ships in the distance and were wondering what was going on. The fox commander spat into the icy water, "It appears as though there is a battle going on between the Hellfang and that other ship." A rat pointed, "Look! There are some of the giant killer fish attacking them! What should we do?" Kandrol shrugged, "There is nothing that we can do against those monsters. Let them be attacked, they will come out of it unharmed enough to bring the new slaves here. After all, that is what her majesty wants, correct?" The rat looked at him, "But what about Vargo and that searat captain. Are not they valuable creatures?" Kandrol hated Vargo and couldn't care less about Sellikro. He sneered, "Let them die, we can always replace them. But very soon, I will send some of you out to the ship to get the remaining slaves." The vermin all looked out at the scene nervously. The rat gulped, "Y-you mean that we are to go out there in only a small boat? Why, we shall all be slain by those killer fish!" The fox commander drew his sword and placed the tip between the rat's eyes. "I will slay thee if thou does not do what I tell thee to! So get out there, now!"
Fenna and Melesme both screamed at the same time. The huge whale's head was sticking through the wall and snapping at them. Badredd just happened to be a little too close. The whale's jaws bit onto his tail and he screamed at his companions, "Help me mates! Help!" But the other vermin were far too scared to go over towards the huge creature. Suddenly, Melesme stretched over and grabbed hold of the little fox's paws. She heaved with all her might and Badredd yelped in pain. Even though she was young, she was still a badger and her strength is what saved them both. She pulled with all her might and Badredd screamed. They went tumbling over, leaving the killer whale with half of Badredd's tail in it's mouth. Despite the dire situation, Slipback the weasel, whose own tail had been chopped off by Badredd a while back, sniggered, "Heeheehee! Now you know what I feel like!" The little fox glared at him and then the whole ship started to tilt over. The orca was stuck in the side of the hull, and was struggling to get free. The room was tilted towards the whale and the only reason that everybeast stayed out of it's jaws was because of their chains. The cruel white fox guard, Vydrik, was not so lucky. He slid across the floor, screaming, and then grabbed onto a chain, that just so happened to be Slipback's . The weasel grinned wickedly and bit down on Vydrik's arm. The fox roared in pain and let go, then he slid down the slanted floor and right into the killer whale's open mouth. Badredd looked strangely at Melesme, "Why did ye save me?" The badgermaid shivered and held onto her chain, "You needed help and nobeast else was helping you, so I did." Fenna tried to smile at the young badger's kindness, but it was hard to think of that when one of the huge orca whales had it's head in the wall and was trying to eat them.
Vargo was at the wheel when the ship started to tilt. He stumbled over and looked around, "What in the name of the claw happened?" A searat slid by him and grabbed onto the wheel, "I think that one of those monsters has slammed a hole into the ship!" The ermine stabbed his spear into the deck and got up, "Where is the hole?" The searat pointed over to the side that the ship was slanting to and Vargo pulled himself along over to it. He saw the whale's body sticking out of the hull, and thrashing about. When he looked up, he saw three small boats coming out towards them. On board them were Kandrol and a dozen other vermin. Vargo smiled and pulled himself up the deck and called out to a passing ermine, "Dragfang! Go get Vydrik and tell him to get the slaves from below deck, we are going to get them back to her majesty no matter what!" Suddenly, the killer whale that was trapped in the hull, gave one last heave, and it broke free. The ship went up straight and the water came rushing into the prisoners hold.
The Pearl Queen was right behind the Hellfang and everybeast was ready to leap aboard the vermin ship. Lonna Bowstripe had an arrow notched to his bow and let it fly at a searat on the other ship. That was when the Hellfang started to tilt over, and the Pearl Queen's crew stared in amazement at the scene. "What's happening over there?" Springald asked. Nauruto leaped down from the tiller and drew his twin swords, "I don't know, but whatever it is, we'll take care of it." Suddenly, the Hellfang righted itself and rapidly started to sink. Horty roared, "Melesme and Fenna are down in that blinkin ship! We have to save them!" Before anybeast could do anything, Nauruto Galedeep leaped over the edge of the ship and into the sea, completely ignoring the one remaining orca. He swam over to the sinking ship, and stabbed his blades into the side. He heaved himself up the hull of the ship, using the swords like climbing spikes. Then he charged into the crew of surprised vermin, roaring, "Galedeeeeeeep!" He slashed at the vermin and raced over to the below-deck hatch and got there just at the same time that Dragfang did. He slew the ermine with one swing of his swords and ran down the stairs that lead to the prisoners hold.
The water level in the hold was rising quickly. Everybeast was screaming for help and trying to get above water. Fenna spluttered and gagged as the water rose around her. To make matters worse, the killer whale was slamming into the side of the sinking vessel and grabbing any creature that came to close. Nauruto came bounding down the stairs and leaped into the water. He swam over to where Melesme was and snapped her chain with a blow from both of his swords. He swam over to Fenna next and chopped her chains in half as well. Fenna started to ask him, "Who are y-" But he shushed her, "No time missy. I'm with Lord Lonna and I've come to rescue you both. Come on!" Melesme looked over at Flinky and his gang, who were floundering about and trying to stay afloat. She said to Nauruto, "Couldn't we help them?" The sea otter glanced at them and snorted, "Why, they're vermin missy. Why would ye want to help them?" Before she could reply, Vargo came down the steps, followed by Kandrol, who had gotten aboard. The ermine stopped in shock for a moment when he saw Nauruto, but then he snarled and drew his cutlass, "Thou hast gone to great lengths to try and save thy friends. But this time, thou hast gone too far for thy own good!" Everybeast was jolted as the orca smashed into the ship again. Nauruto whispered to Fenna and Melesme, "Hold onto me good and tight now." When they did he charged into Vargo and Kandrol, yelling, "Galedeeeeep!" He bulled over Kandrol, but Vargo stepped aside and slammed the haft of his spear on the back of the sea otter's head. Nauruto slumped senseless to the water on the floor and Vargo grabbed Melesme by the arm. Fenna leaped on him and bit his ear. The ermine screamed and fell over as the killer whale slammed into the ship again. Kandrol pulled the furious squirrel off of Vargo and knocked her out with his sword hilt. The fox commander looked around at the rest of the spluttering prisoners, "What about those?" Vargo kicked Fenna's still form spitefully, "I don't care if thou takes them or not. It's these two that took the roughest time to get and the young stripedog is to be her majesty's personal slave." Kandrol nodded to some of his vermin and they sloshed in through the water and unlocked the chains of Flinky and his gang. They waded through the water and went up the stairs, breathing heavily and being dragged along by the white vermin. Everybeast had soon gotten into the three small boats that Kandrol had brought. Vargo stood on the end of the one that held Fenna and Melesme, leaning on his spear and smiling as he watched the Hellfang sink down into the icy depths.
It was the icy cold water and the sound of a screeching killer whale that woke Nauruto Galedeep. When he opened his eyes he found that he was floating on the surface of the water that had flooded the prisoners hold. There was only a fraction of an inch of air left in the room, it was almost filled with freezing water. The sea otter sheathed his twin swords which he was still holding, and swam over towards the opening where the stairs lead up to the upper-deck. A wave of water came pouring in, and Nauruto gasped as he felt the blast of icy water. Something floated by him, and he grabbed onto it. He recoiled in horror when he saw what it was. It was the limp body of a mouse prisoner that had been left behind. With a roar of anger, Nauruto half swam-half ran up the stairs and leaped up onto the upper-deck of the sinking ship. He raced over to the last bit of deck was still above water. The corsair vermin were crowding the deck and screaming for help from the three retreating boats, but none came. Nauruto ignored them, pounding across the deck and up to the bow of the ship. He leaped off and dove into the sea, swimming after the boat that contained Fenna and Melesme.
Vargo had tired of watching the Hellfang sink, so he turned towards the prisoners. He poked the still unconscious Fenna's body with his spear, hissing, "I will enjoy eating thy flesh when we get back to the Land of Eternal Ice, thou trouble-making squirrel!" Melesme growled at him and smacked his face with her blunt claws. The ermine screamed and drew his cutlass, "If thou were not to be the personal slave of her majesty, then I would kill thee right now, stripedog!" A voice sounded from behind him, "So, you like attacking unconscious and chained up maids, eh? Then come and try me for size, vermin. You'll find that I'm no chained prisoner!" Vargo turned to see Nauruto Galedeep standing on the end of the boat, his blades drawn and with two dead vermin next to him. The ermine smiled wickedly, "Thou art a determined but foolish creature, and thou wilt pay for thy foolishness with thy life!" He charged at the sea otter, swinging both cutlass and double-ended spear. Steel clashed on steel as they fought on the end of the small boat. Fenna woke up, groaning, and Melesme pulled her out of the way as the battle came closer. Vargo's cutlass blade was locked with one of Nauruto's, and he stabbed out with his spear. The sea otter blocked it and drew back his sword that was locked against the cutlass to strike again. The ermine slashed with the cutlass and Nauruto brought his other sword around to block it. That was just what Vargo needed. He thrust his spear forward, stabbing it into Nauruto's shoulder, and kicked him off of the boat. The sea otter roared in pain and slashed out with his blades as he was falling overboard. The twin swords drove into the ermine's body, and Vargo gave a dying gurgle as he fell on top of Nauruto, knocking them both into the sea. Melesme and Fenna ran forward to try and grab Nauruto's paw, but the vermin pulled them back. The sea otter thrashed around as he pulled his twin blades out of his enemy's carcass, and started to swim after the boat, with Vargo's spear still stuck in his shoulder. Melesme screamed, "Look out behind you!" But it was too late. The huge killer whale had come up behind Nauruto and clamped it's jaws on him. The spear in his shoulder was what saved him. It lodged in between the whale's jaws, preventing it from closing it's mouth. Nauruto winced as the spear ripped through his shoulder. He twisted around and stabbed his swords up into the roof of the orca's mouth, yelling, "Galedeeeeeep!" The whale leaped out of the water, screeching, and closed it's jaws. The spear snapped, leaving half of it still embedded in the sea otter's shoulder. Nauruto yanked his swords out, and went flying through the air, landing in the water next to the dead orca. Fenna and Melesme had watched the whole thing in silent shock. The scene of the battle faded away as the three vermin boats sailed on towards the Land of Eternal Ice.
Nauruto Galedeep floated on the water. The loss of blood and the hard fighting was too much for him. He swam as best he could over to the floating carcass of the killer whale that he had just slain. He pulled himself up on top of it and sighed. The last thing that he saw before the dark mists of unconsciousness overtook him, was the lifeless carcass of Vargo, floating by. The once cruel and impassive face twisted in death as it stared up at the graying sky through sightless eyes.
Fenna and Melesme shivered at the chilling wind that whipped around them. They stared up in awe at the huge Ice Castle further inland. The three boats came to the pier and everybeast got out. Kandrol stood on the pier, making sure that the prisoners were kept in line. Suddenly, Juppa, the weasel, tripped, causing everybeast to stumble over. A rat guard whacked her with his spear butt, "Get up thou stupid creature!" She smacked him across the legs, and the rat fell over. Juppa picked up the fallen spear, and slid the blade in between her manacle and her wrist. The chain came off! She handed the spear to Slipback and he did the same. It all went so fast that Kandrol did not know what happened. The two weasels took off running, now free of their chains. Flinky called after them, "Hoi, mates! Why didn't yew let us go too?" But they were gone. Some of the vermin guards started to chase them, but Kandrol snorted, "Let them go. They are not a great loss. Besides, they will not survive the harsh weather out there!" The vermin marched the prisoners along, over hills and through snow, until they reached the Ice Castle.
Melesme hugged Fenna tight as they walked through the gates into the castle. Kandrol halted them, "Now, all of thee shall go to the slave compounds. Except..." He grinned wickedly at Melesme, "except thee, young stripedog. Thou wilt come to meet Queen Skarvanda the Brutal!" He grabbed her roughly and Fenna bared her teeth at him. She struggled to hold the badgermaid back, but the fox commander pulled her away, and the line of prisoners was driven on into the slave compound. Fenna looked back to see Melesme one last time, before Kandrol lead the young badger away and into the throne-room of Skarvanda the Brutal.
The Pearl Queen drifted around the wreckage of the long battle. The remaining two killer whales had swam away after they had eaten their fill of drowned bodies. The crew of the Pearl Queen, looked down into the water, hoping to find Nauruto Galedeep. Seabirds had started to come, attracted by the two carcasses of the dead orcas. Martha pointed over to the body of the killer whale that Nauruto had slain, "Look! I think that's him, over there!" Horty steered the ship over to where his sister pointed.
A curious gull landed on the orca carcass next to Nauruto. It pecked at his arm, but the sea otter did not stir. It pecked at him again, this time at his face. Suddenly he leaped up, blades slashing the air. The sea birds flew off, screeching and screaming. Nauruto proped himself up on the whale's body, and looked around. He saw the Pearl Queen coming towards him and waved. He winced and looked down at his left arm. The spear half was still embedded in it, and it hung limply by his side. He sighed and stood up, then he called to his ship, "Ahoy! I'm down here! Would you be so kind as to help a wounded warrior?" Lonna threw a rope over the side and the sea otter grabbed it with his good arm. The big badger pulled him up and Nauruto landed on the deck of his ship. Horty, Martha and Springald raced over to him and helped him up. Springald winced, "Oh my, it looks like you got a bad wound. We need to take care of that!" Nauruto smiled, "Not now missy, I've got to tell you all what happened." Lonna clenched his paws, "Did Melesme and Fenna survive?" The sea otter sighed, "Aye they did, but they got taken by those vermin scum. I did manage to slay the one that tried to sink us. But I'm sorry, I just couldn't get 'em back." Lonna closed his eyes and sighed, "You did your best friend, that's all that matters." He opened his eyes, and they were burning with vengeance, "But I will get them back, I promise!" Horty pointed to the land, "Well it looks like we're gonna have to do it on the jolly old solid ground, wot!" The ship sailed on, closer to the Land of Eternal Ice.
Fenna gasped when she saw the slave compound. Thin bedraggled creatures hacked and chipped at huge blocks of ice and stone, while vermin slave drivers whipped out with their lashes. The slaves were mostly mice, squirrels, and small, vole-like creatures with stubby tails. A fox guard brought her and the other prisoners over to a burly rat that carried a long, vicious-looking whip, studded with sharp, needle-like spines. The fox pointed at the prisoners, "These are the new slaves, Zardak." The big rat looked scornfully at the small group, "Are those all that thee has, Graytooth?" The fox shrugged, "Aye, these were all that Vargo and Kandrol wanted, so don't complain to me!" Zardak looked them over, "Hmmm. They look strong enough. But these two weasels, they look like soldiers. Why doesn't thee take them to Commander Kandrol and put them in the army?" Graytooth thought for a moment, "Aye, I will suggest it to Commander Kandrol." He unchained the two weasels Rogg and Floggo, and lead them off. The weasel brothers smiled haughtily at the rest of the gang as they stalked off. Zardak the slavemaster grinned evilly at the other prisoners, "Thy friends got off lucky. Now then, squirrel, thou wilt go over to the ice block chipping. And the rest of thee shall go and carve the stone. Now, go!" He lashed out with his vicious spiked whip, and they stumbled over to their places. Fenna was taken over to a big chunk of ice. An ermine guard handed her a hammer and chisel, "Start working!" She really did not know what to do, so she started to chip at the top of the ice chunk. The ermine whipped her back cruelly, and she arched in pain. "Not there, thou scum! On the side!" Fenna chipped on the side of the ice block, her tears melting the snow on the ground. The Abbess of Redwall was now a slave in the Land of Ice and Snow.
Skarvanda the Brutal sat on her ice throne, thinking. If there was only some way of showing Urgan Lukros proof that she had the rightful place on the throne, than the wolf might give up the attack. The she thought of it. The wolverine stood and walked over to the ice wall behind her throne. She pushed a small lever in the wall, and a door opened. She walked in and closed the door behind her. It was a small chamber, just barely big enough for the wolverine to stand in. She went over to a small cage in one corner of the room. There was a heating stove by the cage, and the surrounding wall and floor were made of stone rather than ice. Skarvanda peered down into the cage and then picked something up from inside. At first glance it looked like a colorful rock, but if you looked closer it was obvious that it was a living creature. The wolverine peered inside of a crack in the hard outer shell, and whispered, "O Walking Stone, come out for thy master." A small reptilian head poked out, and when it saw the wolverine, darted back in. Skarvanda smiled and set it down. Soon enough it poked out it's head and four legs. This was the amazing Walking Stone! It had been brought to Skarvanda's grandsire long ago by a searat who happened to be Sellikro's grandfather. The searat said that it came from a far away island called Sampetra, and that it was a very exotic creature. The wolverines had since then always revered it as magical, and it was the only creature that the vicious wolverines were ever known to care for. Skarvanda sat stroking the reptile's shell and whispering, "Yes. Thou art the proof that I alone hold right to the throne." Suddenly there was a knock at the throne-room door, and Skarvanda swiftly put the Walking Stone back into it's cage. She came out of the door and sat on her throne, then growled, "Thou may come in!"
Kandrol the fox commander came in, followed by Melesme. The wolverine queen rolled her eyes, "What is it now, Kandrol?" The fox bowed, and he tugged on the chains that held Melesme, forcing her to bow as well, "Mistress," he began "the ship Hellfang, has returned." The Lady of Death was suddenly interested, "Where is Vargo and that searat captain? Bring them to me!" Kandrol gulped, "Well, Mistress. They were both killed on the way here when they were attacked by the great killer whales of the north. But I went out to the ship and got some of the slaves for thee, Mistress." Skarvanda sighed and then looked at Melesme as if first noticing her, "And whom is this creature?" Kandrol pulled the badgermaid forward, "She is one of the slaves that I have brought for thee Mistress. Vargo said that this one was to be thy own personal slave." The wolverine stared at Melesme, her evil eyes looking her over. The young badger could not help herself from trembling all over, but she still stood and stared back. Skarvanda laughed and said, "Thou art a brave creature. Not many beasts can overpower my gaze. Now, thou shalt be a slave for me. Thou shalt do whatever I ask of thee, and whatever I say shall be done. If thou does not do what I say, than thou shalt be cast into my prison cells until thou is willing to comply with me. Is this all understood?" Melesme stood silently staring at the wolverine. Skarvanda growled dangerously, "I said, is this understood?!" The badgermaid stood trembling, a tear coursed down her cheek. Then she said, "Never! I will never serve a wicked ruler like you!" The Vicious One smiled savagely and bent down to stare at Melesme, "Then thou wilt have a visit to my dungeons!" She stood and said to Kandrol , "Lock this creature up in the prison cells. She shall not be given any food or water until she agrees to serve me!" Kandrol dragged Melesme away, and the badgermaid kept staring at the wolverine, hatred burning in her eyes. Skarvanda sighed and sat down. It was hard to think of a good way to defend her castle, and she did not want a slave to be listening in on her plans. You never might know if secrets would get leaked out.
Out in the brushy hills, the hooded figure sat. He had been thinking hard about were he would scale the walls, and there was only one place that he thought would be safe- The slave compounds. He tied the last climbing spike onto the end of one of the ropes, and then tested his climbing apparatus on a firm rock. He had put the two ropes side-by-side and tied the ends together with some tough grasses. He then tied climbing spikes that he had got from Lukros, to the ends, to make sure that there was support on both the top and bottom. He made sure that the rope would hold him, and then sighed and sat on a rock, stroking his battle-ax and waiting for evening to come. Then would his vengeance would be fulfilled. Oh how sweet was the word. Vengeance!
Fenna was chilled to the bone. The slave-driver's lash and the freezing weather had numbed her body. She hardly felt the hammer and chisel in her paw, and she was extremely tired. The coming evening made it even colder. Suddenly she jumped when she heard a scream from across the slave-compound. She looked and saw a young mousemaid and an infant mouse over by a large ice chunk. The mousebabe was lying on the ground, and his older sister was trying to get him up. The other slaves stopped their work to watch, and the vermin slave-drivers gathered around to try and get the slaves to keep working. Zardak, the big rat slavemaster, came over. He cracked his spiked whip in the air for silence, and walked over to were the little mousemaid was. "What in the name of the fang is going on here?" The little mousemaid was sobbing, "My little brother fell over and he won't get up. O please little Durly, get up!" Fenna gasped as Zardak raised his whip. The rat brought it down hard on the little mousebabe and gritted his teeth, "So he won't get up, eh? I'll get him up!" He whipped the small form viciously, and the mousemaid threw herself on the the mousebabe, trying to protect her little brother. Fenna gritted her teeth at a the vile cruelty of the slavemaster, but she was chained and there was nothing that she could do about it. The squirrel had to close her eyes at the brutal scene. Zardak had whipped until he was breathing heavily. The rat kicked at the lifeless bodies of the young mousemaid and her already dead brother. He spat on the blood-stained snow, "Take these carcasses away. They might be of some food value, but not much." A little while later, everything went on as if nothing had happened. Fenna trembled all over at what she had just seen, hot tears fell from her face as she thought of the evilness of the deed. Then she felt a rough paw on her shoulder. She turned to see an older one of the vole-like creatures that she had seen in the slave yard. The old creature smiled at her, "I know that it is a hard thing to watch, lassie. But that is what happens in these slave yards." She smiled back at him, "Excuses me for asking, but who and what are you?" The old creature chuckled as he chipped at the ice, "Woi, my name is Summel (Soo-mul), and I'm a lemming. Woi, I've been in this here compound since I can't remember when. And who might you be?" Fenna watched a guard out of the corner of her eye as she chipped, "My name is Fenna. I come from Mossflower Woods, across the sea. I was captured by these white vermin and taken here. Also with me was a young badgermaid, though I don't know where she is right now." Summel sighed as he worked, "Oi tis a hard life being a slave. I just keep hoping that someday somebeast will rescue us all." Then Fenna remembered her dream, 'The speckled one will save you from the Vicious One.' The squirrel sighed and looked up at the evening sky, wondering who the speckled one was, and if Lonna Bowstripe and the Long Patrol were coming to save them.
At that moment, the Pearl Queen came up to the pier, several vermin were guarding it. A fox stepped forward and called up, "Halt! Who art thou and why is thee coming to the land of-" Lonna Bowstripe silenced him with an arrow. The rest of the vermin were brought down by the Long Patrol archers. The gangplank was lowered, and Horty, Lonna, Nauruto, and Sergent Gorsefield crept down it. Nauruto had recovered from his wound, but his left shoulder had a permanent scar of which he said, "Would make the scummy villains that we fight even more afeared of me!" They all gazed over at the Ice Castle away in the distance. Lonna whispered to Horty, "Take six hares and go scout out a good camp spot. I will stay here with the rest of the Patrol. Sergent, you get them ready. Nauruto, you hide the ship in a secluded spot." The sea otter saluted and strode up the gangplank. Horty picked six hares and went off. Lonna Bowstripe notched an arrow in his bow and sighted at the castle in the distance. His eyes blazed as he whispered, "Beware, evil vermin! For I am coming to get my daughter back and nothing will stop me!"
It was finally evening. The strange, hooded creature shouldered his battle-ax, picked up his climbing rope, and started off for the wall of the slave compound.
Kandrol strode out to the slave compound. It was that time again, the time when the slaves would be culled. Every slave that was too weak or just looked weak, would be taken and killed for food. The fox commander walked out onto the slave compound, and went up to Zardak the slavemaster rat. Kandrol surveyed the grounds, "It is time for the culling, Zardak." The burly rat looked around, "Well, earlier I did give thee those two mice that I killed. And yesterday it was two lemmings and a squirrel, why do we need more?" The fox stared hard at the rat, his paw on his sword hilt, "Because her majesty has ordered it, scumhead! Now show me any that are suitable."
Fenna wanted desperately to sleep. The only other time that she had felt like this, was in the great southern desert many seasons ago; except this time the weather was the opposite. She laid her head down on the block of ice, and started to close her eyes, when Summel prodded her gently, "Now lassie, you don't want to be doing that now. If the guards find ye sleeping, woi, who knows what they'll do to ye. Now try to stay awake." She smiled half-heartedly at the kind lemming, and kept chipping away. Then she heard a scream and looked up. She saw Zardak, Kandrol, and some guards beating through a small group of slaves. The fox commander slashed a mouse's neck with his sword and reached over to grab the arm of a young lemming that was struggling to get away. Fenna ground her teeth. She would not let them do the same thing to these creatures what they did to the mousemaid and her infant brother. The squirrel stood up and yelled out, "Hey there, Mudbrain! Why don't you pick on someone your own size?" Kandrol turned and smiled. Then he slew an ermine guard that was next to him and called to Fenna, "There, now art thou satisfied?" Fenna gritted her teeth and shouted, "The only way that I'll be satisfied is all of you were dead!" She was surprised at her own ferocity. Zardak the slavemaster came over. He grinned evilly and raised his spiked whip, "It looks like we'll have another one for the culling, eh?" The whip came down and Fenna dodged out of the way. The big rat snarled, "A rebellious one eh? I'll teach thee to not be so bold!" A ring of vermin guards surrounded Fenna, with their weapons pointing at her. She started shaking and said, "I'll never feed you or any of your scum!" The whip came down again, and this time it struck her of the shoulder. The spikes ripped into her flesh and she screamed. Zardak raised the whip again, his eyes blazing cruelly. But before he could strike, something charged into the ring of vermin. It was Summel. He came running in, his hammer and chisel in each paw. He smashed and sliced the vermin guards, and ran in front of the whip as it came down. The brave lemming grunted in pain and threw his chisel at Zardak. It struck the rat on the arm and he screamed. The slavemaster lashed out again, and the whip wrapped around Summel's throat. Fenna gasped and Zardak pulled the whip tight. Summel gave one final struggle, and then went limp. Zardak ripped the spiked lash from off of the lemming's body and raised it again. Suddenly something sped down from above and collided with the slavemaster. The rat struck out again, but a battle-ax slashed through the air and sliced the whip in half. Zardak drew a dagger from his belt and was about to charge the creature, when it jumped over him and landed behind him. The ax flashed downward through the air, and Zardak the slavemaster was cloven in two from the top down.
Everything was silent as both slaves and guards stared in shock at the carnage. But Fenna was staring at the creature before her. It was a young male squirrel in about his early adult seasons. But his fur was different from other squirrels. It was gray with brown and white speckles, and his tail was not as long or bushy as a Mossflower squirrel. But his eyes were what held Fenna's gaze. They were a beautiful, piercing hazel color, and they blazed with bloodlust. Blood and gore dripped from his small double-headed battle-ax, and he looked over at Fenna. At first the Abbess thought that he might kill her, but his eyes softened, and he wiped his ax on the ground. Suddenly, chaos broke loose. The guards all rushed forward, (driven on by Kandrol) and the slaves grabbed any weapons they could find and tried to fight, but they were beaten back by the guards. The strange squirrel turned and stood in front of Fenna, protecting her from the oncoming vermin. Then he was a blur of fur and steel as he battled the vermin guards with intense ferocity. An ermine thrust a pike at him and he leaped into the air, landing on top of the weapon. He swung the ax and decapitated the ermine. He jumped over, slaying two rats while in the air. He landed on all fours, and a fox swung a sword at him. He rolled under, and chopped off the fox's sword-arm. He picked up the fallen blade and ran it through it's owner's body. The vermin halted, and that was all the time he needed. He sliced Fenna's chains off and pointed to the climbing rope ladder on the wall, "Go and climb up that, now!" She raced over and was about to leap onto it, when she looked back and saw Summel's body. She raced over and picked it up. The speckled squirrel pushed her over to the ladder, "Why don't you escape?" She stroked her dead friend's paw, "Because they'll eat pore Summel's body if I don't take him." The squirrel chopped the dead lemming's chains off, and grabbed him. Slaying a rat that came too close, he ran over to the ladder, pushing Fenna in front of him. She climbed up the ropes, with her strange rescuer following, bearing Summel's limp form.
Kandrol had called the archers over, but it was too late. Fenna had reached the top of the wall, and the speckled squirrel grabbed the rope ladder. He heaved it out and up, the climbing spikes smacking some vermin that were trying to climb up it. He pounded it into the other side of the wall, and they both climbed down, and ran off into the surrounding hills.
In the midst of the chaos and confusion, nobeast noticed that five of the slaves were gone. Flinky had realized that this was the perfect time to escape. He tripped a rat guard that was running by and picked up the rat's fallen spear and used the same technique that Slipback and Juppa had. The stoat slid the the blade into the manacle and before long, it came off. He grinned and quickly got the chains off of Crinktail, Halfchop, Plumnose, and Badredd. An ermine guard spotted them, and ran at them, yelling, "The slaves are trying to escape!" But Flinky knocked him down with the spear that he had picked up, and ran towards the gate. Several vermin guards tried to stop them, but they were quickly dispatched by one of the small gang. Plumnose had picked up a hammer and swung it at the guards that blocked their way. Crinktail grabbed the keys from a fallen guard's belt and unlocked the gate. Then they ran out the door and into the grounds of the Ice Castle.
Rogg and Floggo, the two weasel brothers, had been outfitted with bows and arrows and were standing guard on the wall. They saw their former gang members racing across the grounds and heard Flinky call to them, "Hoi, mates! Open up the gates for us so's that we can get out!" The twin weasels looked at each other and smiled. They were not the companions of Flinky and the rest any more. They were in the service of Skarvanda the Brutal, and they were real killers and fighters now. They nodded to each other and aimed their shafts at the five figures.
Lonna Bowstripe stood when he saw Horty and his group of scouting hares, return. And with them were Slipback and Juppa, the two weasels. Horty had Slipback by the scruff of the neck and threw him down in front of Lonna, saying, "We caught these two blighters out in the wilderness, wandering around. So we grabbed 'em for questioning. Funny though, they don't seem to be any type of those white vermin cads that we fought before." Lonna stared hard at the two weasels, his eyes burning bright, "Do you know where my daughter is? And where is she being kept?" Slipback stuttered out, "W-w-we w-were captured by t-the white creatures too. We d-dont' know anythin', honest!" The big badger grabbed them both and lifted them up, he glared at them, "Then where are the white vermin? Speak, weasels! Or I'll crush your skulls!" They struggled out of his grasp and groveled on the ground, sobbing, "We don't know where they went!" "Aye, our mates Flinky and the rest got taken, along with some others!" Lonna barked, "What others? Was there a young badgermaid and a female squirrel?" The weasels nodded. Lonna closed his eyes and sighed, "Fine then, but you must come with us. If we run into any trouble, you will be the first to be slain. Understood?" They both nodded. Horty drew his scimitar and poked their bottoms with it, "Alright, you stinky weasel types. Get up and come with us." He turned to Lonna, "We found the perfect camp spot too, absobalalutaly splendid! It's just over here, by some cliff type things. I say, it's jolly well cold here! Anyhow, let's go, wot" Everybeast followed Horty as he went off towards their new found campsite. Lonna Bowstripe looked over at the Ice Castle in the distance, and growled. He would go there tomorrow, and he would get back Melesme and Fenna at all costs.
Fenna kept on running. She did not know how long they had run, but she did know that she was very tired. The strange squirrel had kept on running for awhile, then he looked back and saw the castle far away. He stopped near a small snow-cave, and sat down, breathing heavily. He set Summel's body down on the ground and looked up at Fenna. She gasped for breath and sat down on a rock. She looked at the limp form of her friend and started to cry. The other squirrel patted her gently and said, "It's okay. He gave his life for you, and he would expect you to be grateful about that, wouldn't he?" She looked up, smiled, and brushed away her tears. Then she said, "Who are you?" The speckled squirrel started to build a small fire, "My name is Danvar the Avenger." Fenna sat, staring at Danvar. Suddenly the words of Bragoon and Saro came back to her, 'The speckled one will save you from the Vicious One.' She said, "Thank you for saving me." He nodded and smiled. She looked at the ground and said rather nervously, "Do you know anybeast by the name of the Vicious One?" Danvar looked up and stared at her. His teeth clenched and he whispered, "Skarvanda the Brutal!" Fenna almost jumped at the hatred in his voice, and she asked, "Who is that?" He struck his flint to steel savagely, as he told her...
"I once lived in the hills of this area with my family. That was when I was just a young one. The wolverines were still ruling at that time, and they had destroyed the small villages and settlements of the fgood creatures of this place, and took most of them as slaves. But my clan had hidden in the hills, and was not found. Until one night when we were suddenly attacked by the white vermin that served the wolverines. I still do not know if they just found us, or if we were betrayed, but they came anyway. Evil, vicious scum, they ravaged my clan's settlement, and took most of the creatures as slaves. I managed to hide, but some..." His eyes glinted off of the firelight and his breath rasped. Fenna was on the edge of the rock. She leaned closer and said, "What happened?" He looked up at her, "Do you really want to know?" She nodded. Danvar sighed and struggled to contain his fury, "Some of the creatures that were too weak or old or the ones that fought back wildly, were slain right then. And the way they were killed will burn in my memory forever. " He swallowed and sighed, "The vermin killed some, but others were eaten alive." He drew his ax and held it high in the air, his voice was tight with rage, "I watched from a my hiding spot, as a fox, Kandrol was his foul name. I watched as he ripped out my mother's throat with his teeth and ate her body, while she was still half-alive!" His voice was almost a scream. Tears ran down Fenna's face as she whispered, "I'm sorry." He turned and looked at her, his eyes burning with vengeance. "I also saw others, friends and family, as they were either killed and eaten, or enslaved." He watched the firelight glint off of his battle-ax, "And I now live with only one purpose. To slay every vermin in that vile castle and to end the rein of the wolverine tyrants!" He shuddered and sat down. They were both silent for awhile until Fenna said, "We should bury Summel." Danvar nodded and dug a small grave. They buried the brave lemming in the cave, and the Danvar said, "Tomorrow I will take you to the secret hiding place of the few clans that have stayed away from the vermin slavers. While they were moving, I helped to defend them. But now they are safe." Fenna nodded and laid down to sleep. The last thing that she saw before sleep came over her, was the strange, speckled squirrel, Danvar the Avenger, standing guard at the entrance of the cave. She smiled and went to sleep.
Flinky had seen the weasel brothers aim at them and he was shocked, "What? Woi mates, tis us! Why would you kill your old pals?" But there was no mercy in the weasel brothers' eyes. Suddenly, a voice was heard, "Stop! Do not kill those creatures yet." It was Kandrol, and behind him were a dozen vermin guards. Flinky gulped. Kandrol came forward and stared at him, "What made thee think that thee could escape?" The stoat was skilled at talking himself out of situations, "Well yer honor, we just thought that we could maybe join yer troops. We could be of some use to you. What do you think about that, sir?" The fox commander smiled wickedly, "No. Thou shalt be put in the dungeons. Take them!"
Melesme sat alone in a cold, damp cell. She deeply missed her father and Fenna, and she was very tired and hungry. Suddenly, the door was flung open, and the five would-be escapers were thrown in the cell. They were chained to the wall, and Kandrol laughed, "Well little stripedog. It looks as if thou art reunited with thy friends!" He slammed the door and stalked off. Melesme smiled for the first time since she had been put in the cell, "Mr. Flinky! Your here!" The stoat sighed, "Aye, so we are. We just seem to go from one chain to another, don't we?"
After the death of Gallwort, Urgan Lukros had promoted two new captains. One was a hefty, wicked-looking rat named Gavar, and the other was a tough, female ermine named Rigza. They, along with Swelk, sat in a circle as they listened to their master relay his plan. The huge wolf pointed to his bark map of the land of Ice and Snow, "That creature that I allied with has not contacted me yet. I still do not know if he is going to keep his side of the bargain." Swelk interrupted, "Lord Lukros, what if he doesn't keep his word? What if he just used the stuff for himself?" Lukros smiled, "Then I'll hunt him down and slay him slowly. If he betrays me than he is just as much of an enemy as the wolverine is." Gavar raised a paw, "How'll you track 'im down, master?" The wolf pointed at his two new captains, "If that creature is not back by tomorrow morning, than I will send out you two, along with some trackers and soldiers, to hunt him down. Meanwhile I will make another attack on the castle. And this time it will be different." He nodded to Swelk, who was the only other creature to know of his plan. The ermine captain went over to a pile of rocks by the cliff face and shoved them out of the way. Behind them was three small battering rams. Rigza rubbed her paws together, "Heeheehee! We're gonna smash our way in, right?" The wolf smiled and patted the battering ram, "Aye, but this is different from other siege weapons. It has a special surprise to it." He picked up a small black rock a pouch next to the battering ram, and unscrewed the sharp, metal point on the end of it. He put the small rock into the metal cap and then screwed it on. He nodded to Swelk and the ermine lifted the end of the battering ram easily. Then he ran forward and smashed the ram into the stone face of the cliff. What resounded made everybeast around cover their ears. The side of the cliff was completely gone. The two new captains stared in awe at the ram. Lukros stroked the undamaged war machine and said, "Yes, we wolves have known about the exploding rock since I don't know when. But this small black stone, when put under much pressure, will cause such a blow, that even stone cannot stand against it for long." He picked up another metal cap and showed it to them, "I will have enough of it to last all day and night. And I only need one or two creatures to carry it, for it is made of hollow wood. As you can see, the handle is far enough away from the front to keep the holders out of harms way." The captains stared at him in awe. He smiled, "Now, go check on the sentries and see if they have seen anything worthy of report. Gavar and Rigza, you will get some trackers and soldiers ready. Now go!" Just then a rat soldier came running up, "Lord Lukros! The sentries have spotted a group of creatures coming this way." The wolf drew his sabre, "What kind of creatures?" The rat shrugged, "I am not sure, master, but they look like a lot of rabbit beasts and one is a huge striped creature." Lukros smiled, "Well then, let us go and see just who these visitors are!"
Horty pointed at the cliffs, "Right there, just under those cliffs seems to be the perfect spot to block out the flippin wind, wot!" Sergent Gorsefield stopped, "Wait a blinkin minute! I thought that I saw some creatures up on the cliff." Springald agreed, "Yes, I saw something too. It was a huge, fox-like creature I think." Nauruto drew his blades, "Well whoever they are, we'll be ready for them." Horty called to them, "It looks like they're flippin well coming to see us!" Nauruto winked at Slipback and Juppa, "Well mateys, you'd better be hoping that they're friendly creatures!'
Urgan Lukros came down the side of the cliff where his camp was, followed by Swelk and a patrol of vermin. Lonna Bowstripe had an arrow in his bow and pointed it at the wolf, "What do you want, vermin?" Lukros drew his sabre and smiled, "That is just what I was going to ask you, stranger. What are you doing here in the Land of Ice and Snow?" The badger kept his arrow pointed at the wolf, "I came to get back my daughter and a squirrelmaid who were taken from us by some vermin. Do you know where they are?" Lukros tapped his sabre, "Whom? The captives or the vermin that took them?" The bow was drawn back tighter, "Either one!" The wolf kept an eye on Lonna's bow as he replied, "I believe that the vermin you are seeking are in the castle over yonder." He pointed to the Ice Castle. "I know that I had no part in the capturing of your friends, and I am sorry to here of it." His voice was almost friendly and sorrowful. Lonna put down his bow, but kept it loaded. Hortwill Braebuck narrowed his eyes at the wolf, "Well you certainly look like one who would do such a dastardly deed. Who are you anyhow?" The wolf raised his sabre, "I am Urgan Lukros, the rightful ruler of the Land of Eternal Ice. And I am fighting against the very creatures that most likely took your friends." Lonna stared at him, "Who?" Lukros motioned over at the Ice Castle, "Just a wolverine and her stupid followers. They are very easy to fight, and they have been known to get slaves." Lonna gritted his teeth as he looked over at the castle. The wolf smiled, "So, would you want to make a deal? We will both attack the castle together, and after we have got in, then I will rule it, and you can have your friends back. What do you think?" The big badger looked at the castle and then looked over at the wolf, "Deal!" Suddenly, Sergent Gorsefield stepped up and whispered to Lonna, "Siding with some blinkin vermin? I should think that you would be wiser in such matters sah!" The badger was drawn between the decision to get back Melseme and Fenna, and the knowledge that vermin could be tricky creatures to ally with. He sighed and said to Lukros, "I will not work with you, vermin. But I will tell you this. Neither of us will attack the other. And if anybeast breaks that pact, than we will then be enemies. Agreed?" Lukros thought for a moment, then he smiled and said, "Agreed. I won't attack you, you won't attack me. Unless one of us breaks the pact." Lonna nodded. The wolf sheathed his blade, "Well then, I should be going back to my camp. I am making an attack on the castle tomorrow. Good evening to you." He turned and stalked off up back to his camp.
Horty snorted, "I don't think that you should have made any kind of deal with that slippery blighter. He seemed rather suspicious to me!" Lonna put the arrow back in his huge quiver, "What other choice choice did I have? I don't want to make another enemy, so I kept it safe." Nauruto sheathed his swords, "I for one agree with Sir Lonna. Even though we could beat them easily, you don't want to have too many enemies." Martha bit her lip, "But what if he is actually the one that took Fenna and Melesme? He could be lying." Lonna sighed, "That's a chance I have to take. Come on, let's go find a place to set up camp." Sergent Gorsefield chuckled, "Well we better not do it under that cliff then. Who knows if that blighter might start chucking rocks down on us!" They set off again, and Horty grinned at the two weasel captives, "Well you two bounders got off lucky today, wot!"
Fenna yawned and stretched when she woke up to the early morning sunlight glinting off of the snow outside the cave. She looked around and saw that Danvar was nowhere in sight! She got up and looked outside the cave. She gasped when she saw the speckled squirrel standing a little ways off with his battle-ax drawn and in a warrior's pose. In front of him was a huge white owl. The bird's sharp talons pushed into the ground, and Fenna heard a muffled squeak from underneath them. She listened as Danvar spoke to the big owl, "Get off of him Icewing. I thought that you agreed to not harm any of my clan and friends!" Icewing's eyes glinted reluctantly, "He was not near your family's caves, Danvar. So how was I supposed to know that he was one of your friends?" Danvar smiled grimly, "Well you know now, so let him up or I'll cut your wing off with my ax!" The snowy owl sighed and lifted his talon. Underneath was a young lemming. The little creature coughed and brushed the snow and blood off of himself, then he ran over behind Danvar and stuck his tongue out at Icewing. Danvar leaned on his ax and patted the young lemming's head as he spoke to Icewing, "So don't come around here again, owl, or I will kill you. Go eat some vermin or something." The big owl snorted and flew off, muttering, "I was just going back to my nest anyway!" Danvar smiled and shook his head. Then he turned and saw Fenna peering around the cave entrance. He called to her, "Come on, there's nothing to worry about!" Fenna went out and smiled at the young lemming, "Hello there! What is your name?" The young lemming wiggled his nose at her, "You're not fwom awound hewe, awe you?" Danvar cleared his throat and cuffed the young lemming's ear playfully, "Now now, Penty, you shouldn't talk like that to your elders!" Penty shuffled his footpaws and said, "Sowwy!" Fenna laughed and kissed him on the top of his head, "My name is Fenna, and yes, I'm not from around here." Danvar frowned at Penty, "What are you doing so far from your home, Penty?" The little lemming ran off into the cave, giggling. The two squirrels followed him and Fenna asked Danvar, "Who was that big owl, Danvar?" The strange squirrel sheathed his ax, "Oh, he's just an old snowy owl that lives up in the mountains. He likes to eat us small creatures, even vermin. So, I made a pact with him that he would not eat any of my friends or clan or I would kill him. And so far he's kept his promise. Until now..." They got back to the cave to see Penty sitting on a rock, munching on some bread. Danvar took the bread away from him and said in a no-nonsense voice, "Now tell me Penty. Why are you all the way down here?" The little lemming tried to grab the bread, "I came down hewe so I could find you, Mr. Danvaw. I missed you!" The squirrel gave him back the bread and sighed, "You shouldn't of come all this way by yourself. You could have been killed by falcons, or vermin or you could have fallen off a cliff. Never do that again, okay?" Penty nodded and continued eating. Danvar sighed and smiled at Fenna, "He's the biggest trouble-maker in the world. And my biggest fan." Fenna stroked Penty's furry head, "Oh you'd be surprised at what trouble the Dibbuns back at Redwall get into!" At the mention of her home , Fenna started to cry. Danvar patted her gently, "It's alright Fenna. You can come and live with me until somebeast comes to take you home." He stood up, "Come on, we've got a long journey ahead of us. Let's go back to my home!" They set off up the mountain, and Danvar looked back at the Ice Castle far off in the distance. He gritted his teeth, he would have his revenge sooner or later. But now he had to get Fenna and Penty up the mountain and back to his home.
Up on the cliff with the morning sun's rays shining on the ice and snow, Urgan Lukros stood with his back to the lookouts as they gave their last report about Danvar. When they had finished, the wolf turned and stared at them, his eyes burning with hatred, "Then go and tell Gavar and Rigza to get their patrols ready and find that creature who lied to me! Nobeast double-crosses Urgan Lukros and lives to tell about it!"
In the prison cells of the Ice Castle, Melesme awoke. At first she did not know where she was, but then she remembered. She sighed and looked around. The only other prisoners in the cell were the vermin gang, and they were all asleep. Except Flinky. The stoat was over by the door, peering at every nook and cranny to try and find a weak spot. Melesme crawled over to him, trying not to let her chain make too much noise. She whispered to Flinky, "What are you doing Mr. Flinky?" The stoat jumped and turned to look at her, "Oi, don't sneak up on me loik that, missie! I'm just tryin' to find a way out." The young badger looked at the door. It was a typical prison door, except that it was made of stone, rather than wood or iron. She peered through the bars and saw two vermin guards outside, a fox and a rat. Flinky sighed, "It's no use! We'll all rot in here for the rest of our lives!" Melesme whispered, "Have you tried talking to the guards?" Flinky nodded, "Aye, but they're stubborn creatures, so they are. Oi even asked 'em if they would let us have a blanket or two, but they just laughed and said that the only blanket we'll be getting is a blanket of snow over our graves! Oi tis a sad life being a prisoner!" Melesme had not heard any of this, for she had been thinking. She smiled and said to Flinky, "I think I have a plan that will get us out of here!" The stoat rubbed his paws together, "Oi, and what is that, missie?" She whispered to him for a moment, then Flinky smiled and said, "That just might work! I'll get these lazy loafers up, and you start talking to the guards." Melesme gulped and went over to the door. She spoke to the vermin guards in a sad voice, "Please sirs, could I speak to Commander eh, Kandrol please?" The rat hit the door with his spear butt, "Thou wilt speak to my spear if thou does not keep quiet!" The fox guard cuffed him, "Thou fool! Let us see what she wants with the Commander. She was the Queen's personal slave." The fox turned to Melesme, "What does thou want to speak to Commander Kandrol for?" The badgermaid answered in a pleading voice, "I would like to see if I could serve her majesty now. I've learned my lesson!" There was silence for a moment, then the fox said, "Alright, I shall go to get the Commander. But no tricks, dost thou understand?" Melesme nodded and the fox went off. The badgermaid sighed happily and crawled over to Flinky and the rest, who were now awake. She whispered, "Everything is going good! They went to go get their captain." Flinky winked at her, "Good. I've already told the rest of the gang here what's up. So they know what to do." He glared at Halfchop, "Now remember, no talkin'!" The rat grinned and whispered, "Kachunk!" They heard pawsteps coming, and Melesme went over to the door. Commander Kandrol spoke to her, "So thou hast changed thy mind?" Melesme nodded, I will serve her and do whatever she says!" The fox commander tapped the hilt of his sword, "Fine. Thou wilt come with me to see her majesty." The door started to open and Melesme whispered to Flinky, "Are you all ready?" The stoat winked at her, "Ready as ever, missie!" The door swung open and Kandrol came in. He unlocked Melesme's chain, and as he did so, Plumnose came up behind him and smacked his head with his chains. The fox slumped to the floor, senseless, and Melesme picked up the fallen keys. She unlocked her chain and handed the keys to Flinky. The two guards had noticed what happened and ran in the cell. Melesme growled and butted the rat in the stomach with her head. She picked up his spear and smacked him in the head with it. The fox thrust a pike at her, and she parried it with her spear. The hook in the pike's hilt caught on the spear-handle and sent it flying. The fox was just about to strike at her again, when a blow from Flinky's chains felled him. Crinktail picked up the rat guard's spear, and Badredd grabbed the pike. The escaped prisoners ran down a hallway and looked about for an exit. Flinky pointed to another hallway that had a stream of light coming down it, and they raced towards it. They stopped short when they bumped right into Bullak the ermine captain, and a score of vermin soldiers, coming down the hallway.
Gavar and Rigza, the newly promoted captains in Urgan Lukros' army, went off to the north with a group of two score trackers and soldiers. The rat and the ermine were not very fond of each other, as they were not sure who was the superior. Gavar hefted a spear and snorted, "I don't see why Lord Lukros wants us to go after that creature. It's not like he is gonna go on the wolverines' side." Rigza drew her sword and pointed it at the big rat's neck, "So, am I going to go back to Lord Lukros and tell him that you don't want to obey him and track down that creature?" Gavar shook his head fearfully, "No of course not! I'll go, but I just don't see the point in it. By the way, which way do you think that he went?" The ermine sneered, "That's for the trackers to figure out, fathead! Now just follow them!" The rat thrust his spear out, tripping Rigza, "Huh, who are you to tell me what to do, ermine? I'm a captain too you know!" Rigza growled and was about to attack him, when a tracker rat came up, "We found some tracks up ahead ma'am." Gavar bared his teeth at the rat, "Ma'am?! What about me you stupid..." Rigza silenced him with a glare. She bent down and studied the tracks, "Aye they look as if it was two creatures running. They look to me like squirrel's." Gavar muttered, "Maybe you should've been a tracker rather than a captain!" The ermine ignored him and went on. The tracker rat pointed, "They go up that hill and over to that cave. After that, they go on up the mountain." Rigza motioned to the soldiers to follow, "Come on! Let's go follow them!" Gavar raced up to the head of the group and ran alongside Rigza, "How do you know that these aren't just the tracks of a regular old pair of squirrels? We could be following the wrong creatures!" The tracker rat, whose name was Fengo, answered, "Well Cap'n, sometimes you just got to take chances when you're tracking." They got to the cave and looked in. Gavar sneered, "There's no one in here! Let's go back!" Fengo went in and inspected the cave floor. He sniffed at the ashes of the fire that Danvar had built the night before, "Hmmmm. Well it looks as if these ashes have been here for at most, two nights." Rigza went out of the cave and looked up the snowy mountain, "Then they couldn't have gone far. Come on!" An ermine soldier pointed, "Look! I can see some creatures up there on that ledge!" Rigza peered up the mountain and smiled wickedly, "Aye, there they are. Well, even if ain't the beast we're looking for, we can at least get some information from them. Now go up there, but quietly!"
Urgan Lukros stood on the cliff, overlooking the Ice Castle. He smiled and called out, "Swelk! Get the battering rams ready! We're going to pay her majesty a visit!" He chuckled evilly, "It will be an 'explosive' time! Hahahahaha!"
Another group was also planning on going to the castle. Lonna Bowstripe sat at their campsite over behind a huge snowdrift that blocked the wind. He was in conference with Captain Horty, Sergeant Gorsefield, and Nauruto Galedeep. Lonna and Nauruto had both wanted to attack the castle without warning, but Horty and the Sergeant were not sure about the plan. Lonna growled, "I know that it's not the best way to do it, but we'll at least take them by surprise." Nauruto nodded, "Aye, and who knows if that wolf is going to attack them at the same time as us? We could sort of blend in with the crowd." Gorsefield chewed on a small piece of grass, "Hmmmm, yes. But an all out attack would mean that some of our creatures would get killed right away. If'n we go at it peacefully first, then we'll be able to save some bloodshed. At least for now." Horty grinned, "And you may get Melesme and Fenna back by just asking nicely, wot!" Nautruo raised an eyebrow at Lonna, "They've got a point there, sir." The badger sighed, "Very well. We can go there and let them know that they've got another enemy. But bring a large force of hares, we don't know if they might attack us." They got up and Horty called out to the Long Patrol hares that were laying about, "Alright you flippin' lot of lazybones! Get your weapons ready! We're going to go and sort things out with these blighters, wot wot!"
Both groups stared at each other in silence for a moment, then Bullak said, "They are escaped prisoners! Get them!" Flinky and his gang turned to run, but Melesme stayed, growling savagely at the vermin guards that came running up. Flinky grabbed her, "Come on, let's get out o' here!" Melesme realized that she had no weapon, so she turned and followed Flinky down the hallway. They bumped right into Kandrol, who had woken up and had realized what had happened. He grabbed Melesme, and drew his sword, "I'll teach thee to try and escape!" She bulled into him and bit onto his arm. The fox screamed and the badgermaid grabbed him and threw him into the oncoming vermin. They stopped momentarily so as not to accidentally slay their Commander, and the escapees took advantage of it. They raced off, with Bullak and Kandrol yelling at the vermin, "Go get them thou fools!" "Their getting away! After them!" The vermin chased them down the corridors and hallways of the Ice Castle, until Halfchop ran into a doorway on the side on the hall. Flinky smiled, "Good thinkin' Halfcop mate! Let's duck in 'ere!" They all went into the room and held their breaths as they heard the vermin guards running past. The sound of pawsteps went off down the hallway until it was a faint sound. Flinky breathed a sigh of relief and said, "Whew! That was a close 'un sure enough!" They looked around at the room they were in. Weapons of all types hung on the walls, and shields hung on racks all around them. Flinky grinned, "Well aren't we lucky today! We've come into an armory!" They gazed around at the swords, spears, pikes, daggers, axes, bows, and maces that were everywhere. They each chose some weapons. Flinky picked out a short sword and a pike. Crinktail got a pair of daggers and a spear. Plumnose grabbed a mace and a spear. Halfchop picked a dagger and a pike. Badredd chose a small, single-headed battle-ax and a cutlass. He waved the cutlass around and grinned, "Harrharr! This un's better than me old one for sure!" Crinktail sniggered, "Just don't go breakin' this one Redd!" The little fox glared at her. Melesme went over to a bow and a quiver of arrows. She picked it up and smiled, it reminded her of her father. Surely he would be coming to rescue her and Fenna. Wherever she was. The young badger sighed and chose a spear and the bow and arrows. They stood around admiring their weapons, when Flinky said, "Oi, we're all fit to load an army! Come on mates, let's go escape from this dreadful place!" They were just about to leave, when they heard voices from outside, and the door started to open.
Danvar sighed and shielded his eyes from the noonday sun. He grabbed Fenna's paw as she slipped, and helped her up. Penty rode on the speckled squirrel's back. Fenna wiped her brow, "Whew, how much farther, Danvar?" He looked up and pointed, "Just up over that ridge there is a valley. That's were my home is." Penty giggled, "We'we a going back 'ome! Back 'ome" He turned around and tapped Danvar on the shoulder, "Mr. Danvaw? Who's that beasts down thewe?" Danvar looked and gasped in horror. He saw the two score soldiers of Urgan Lukros climbing up after them. Fenna looked down and stared in shock, "W-what are they doing here?" The strange squirrel climbed faster, "I don't know, but it may have something to do with my deal with that wolf." He gritted his teeth, "I knew that I never should have made any deals with that sneaky vermin!" Fenna pointed, "They're getting closer!" He glanced down and grunted, then he pointed up at a small, rocky ledge, "See if you can get up there and hide behind those rocks." He handed Penty to her, "I'll try and hold them off as long as I can!" Fenna picked up the lemmingbabe and started to climb up the rock face. She glanced down at Danvar who was down below. The warrior squrrel's hazel eyes had started to mist over red, and he drew his ax. Fenna gulped and looked up to see the ledge a few feet away. She hefted Penty up onto it, then climbed up and hid behind the rock pile. She looked down at Danvar, who stood still on the ledge below, waiting for the vermin to come. She knew that there were too many vermin for him to fight and she yelled down to him, "Danvar get up here! You'll be killed!" The remembrance of his mother's death filled Danvar's mind as he glared with hatred at the oncoming enemy and did not move.
Gavar scratched his head, "Why's that squirrel standing up there and not moving?" Rigza had been studying Danvar and suddenly something came to her, "That is the one that we're after! Lord Lukros said that he had a battle-ax with him, and that he had a dark cloak on. I am sure that is him!" Gavar hit his spear-butt against the ground, "But Lord Lukros gave orders to bring him back alive, and he looks as though he would fight to the death." Rigza had been thinking, "Aye. So I want you to take a small group and go around the side of the hill. Come at him from behind and capture those two creatures up there with him. Then we can ransom his life for theirs!" The rat thought for a moment, then sniggered wickedly, "Heeheehee! We'll have the upper-paw for sure!" Rigza kicked at him, "Well get going then! We don't have all day!" The rat captain ran off, and the ermine smiled up at the scene on the cliff face. She hoped that the squirrel would kill Gavar, for then she would take the full credit for the capture of the betrayer. She may even get promoted higher than Swelk! She sniggered to herself and started climbing the rock-face.
Fenna stared in horror at Danvar. She had called and called to him, but he stood still as a statue. She bit her lip until blood showed, and groaned, "Oh it's no use, he's going to stay there and be killed!" Suddenly Penty called out, "Come back Mistew Danvaw!" That seemed to snap the squirrel out of his trace. He looked up at them and started climbing up the mountain.
Gavar took eight vermin with him and snuck around the rocky hill. He looked over at the three creatures on the ledge and grinned. He would stay out of the way and hope that Rigza would get killed in the battle that was sure to ensue. Then after it was over, he would take the squirrel's body and go back to Lukros, saying that Rigza killed him. He would surely be promoted. He got up on top of a large boulder and peered over it. Just then, he heard a scream from over to his right. He looked and saw a rat running for his life across the cliff-face. Right behind him was Icewing, the huge snowy owl. Gavar stared in shock at the giant bird. Icewing gulped down the last of an ermine that he had just eaten and stared hungrily at Gavar. What little courage the rat captain had, failed him. He stood trembling and tried to strike out with his spear. The owl came down on him like lightning. Gavar was dead before he knew it.
Rigza got up on a small ledge and looked around. Where was Gavar and his group? They should have been up behind the squirrel by now. But that did not matter. She looked up at the three creatures on the rocky ledge, and smiled. They were trapped against the steep rock face with nowhere to go. She roared out, "Archers! Get ready!"
Fenna grabbed Danvar's paw and helped him up on the ledge. She shook her head at him and said, "What did you stop for?" He peered over a boulder as he replied, "I don't know. The thought of what those evil scum did to my family just made me go crazy with hatred for a moment. I should have come up here earlier to protect you." Penty stuck his head around a rock and stuck his tongue out at the vermin, "Stinky old vewimy wowmies!" Danvar pulled him back as three arrows hissed overhead. Fenna looked at him in fear, "Why do they want to kill us?" He did not answer, only gripped his ax-handle tighter and stood up. Fenna tried to pull him down, but it was to late. An arrow went straight at his chest, but he blocked it with his ax blade. He yelled down to the vermin, "What do you want, scum?!" Rigza called up, "We have orders from Lord Urgan Lukros to take you to him! He says that you betrayed him!" Danvar clenched his paws, "Well if you want me, then come and get me, vermin! But just don't harm the maid or the young one!" Rigza grinned evilly, "Oh we weren't gonna harm them anyway! So just give yourself up now and I'll make things easy on you!" Danvar roared out, "Like I said, come and get me you lily-livered, spineless scum!!" Rigza gave a scream of rage and charged up the mountain side, all of the vermin following her lead.
Danvar smiled, "They're taking the bait!" Fenna looked at him strangely, "What do you mean?" He stuck his ax-head into the pile of rocks in front of them, "We're going to win this battle by a landslide!" Fenna smiled and grabbed the ax handle. Penty grabbed it too, and Danvar said, "Now when I give the signal, heave with all your might, got it?" They both nodded, and Danvar looked over the edge of the rock, "Ready...steady...."
The vermin came racing up the cliff-side, with Rigza in the lead. The ermine could not stand being insulted, especially by an enemy that she could not get to. Saliva flecked off her mouth as she pounded up the mountain side. Several archers had gotten ahead of her, and shot off arrows every now and then to keep their enemies down.
Danvar watched as the vermin came closer, "Ready...and, NOW!" But just as he said this, Fenna screamed, "Duck!" They all ducked as an arrow hissed overhead. They looked over at the ermine archer that had fired the shaft. Fenna picked up a small rock and hurled it at the archer. Before he could load another arrow, the rock caught him in the throat and he went tumbling down. Danvar screamed, "NOW!" They heaved on the ax handle, just as Rigza leaped up in front of them. She slashed down with her sword and it sliced off the tip of Fenna's ear. The squirrel screamed and let go of the handle. Danvar pushed with all his might as more vermin started to climb up closer. Rigza was about to slash out again, when the boulder that she stood on gave way, and with a scream of despair, she went tumbling down the cliff side followed by a huge load of boulders, rocks, snow, and ice. The vermin watched her carcass go hurdling down the mountain and then looked up. The last thing that most of them saw was the avalanche of rocks rolling and smashing down on them.
Danvar threw himself on top of Fenna and Penty, as the ledge that they were on, shook and crumbled. The screams of the vermin and the crash of stone on stone filled their ears. Then the ledge started to give way. Penty screamed and slipped down the side of the ledge. Danvar tried to grab him, but it was too late. Suddenly, a huge, white shape shot up and grabbed the little lemming. Icewing dropped him into Fenna's arms and hooted to them, "Grab onto my legs!" They leaped up and grabbed onto the owl's legs just as the ledge crumbled away. Icewing carried them up to the top of the ridge and set them down. He started to fly off, when Danvar called to him, "Thanks! But why did you do that?" The owl belched and called down, "You provided me with a good meal, so I decided to repay you!" And with that, he flew off. Danvar chuckled and Fenna sighed. Then Penty pointed down the other side of the ridge and said, "Thewe's home!"
Melesme and the vermin gang all stood stock still, holding their new weapons at the ready. The door opened and two rat guards came in. They stared in shock at the six creatures that stood in front of them, armed to the teeth. Then they turned to run, screaming, "Alert! Alert! Strangebeasts in the armory!" Crinktail took one of them out with a thrown dagger, but the other rat ran down the hallway, shouting, "Alert! Alert!" Flinky raced to the door, "Come on mates! We need to get out of here!" They raced down the hallway, in the opposite direction that the rat had taken. They heard the sound of running pawsteps behind them and Melesme looked back to see Bullak and the group of vermin chasing after them. The young badger bumped into Plumnose and they both went sprawling on the ground. Flinky and the rest halted and tried to help them up, but the vermin guards were suddenly upon them.
Urgan Lukros stood on a snowy hillock in front of the Ice Castle, surveying his attack force. He had only brought two dozen or so creatures with him, as well as the three battering rams. He stroked one of the rams gently and called to his ermine captain, "Swelk! Get the ramming groups ready. I am going to converse with our enemies!" He strode up to the main gate of the Ice Castle, and roared up to them, "I'll give you one last chance to surrender! And if you don't, then I will blast away your gates!" The guards on top of the ramparts did not know want to say, but then Kandrol the fox Commander came up to the battlements. He had given up on chasing the escaped prisoners, they were not that much of a loss. Besides, Bullak would take care of them. The fox called down to the wolf, "I do not even need to ask her majesty about her answer, for I already know what it is!" Lukros shrugged, "Then so be it! But you brought this upon yourselves!" He stepped back and motioned to Swelk. The ermine captain came forward, with the three explosive-headed battering rams behind him. Each was carried by two vermin, and another two held replacement caps full of the black rocks. Lukros nodded and Swelk roared out, "Ready...attack!" The first ram came charging up to the gate. Kandrol yelled to his archers (which included Rogg and Floggo), "Fire!" The arrows hailed down, but the vermin that carried the rams held shields above their heads. Lukros called to his own archers, "Return fire!" The shafts hissed back and forth between the two armies. Suddenly, the ram reached the solid-stone door to the castle. The explosion shook everybeast, and some of the defending vermin even fell off of the wall. After the smoke and snow settled, everybeast stared in amazement at the gates. A huge indent had been blown in the door, and the vermin that held the ram had been thrown back. Lukros smiled and whispered to Swelk, "Just two or three more of those, and I'll be in there!" The next battering ram came up and Kandrol looked about nervously. He knew that there was no was that they could quickly defend themselves from the exploding rams, and that his side was the only one that suffered any major damage in this battle. The other ram smashed into the gate, and Kandrol stumbled. More vermin fell screaming off of the wall, and Swelk roared, "Next ram ready!"
The group of Long Patrol hares led by Lonna Bowstripe, came closer to the Ice Castle. They all stopped short when they saw the battle that was raging between the two vermin groups. Nauruto drew his twin swords, "Stripe me! Didn't that wolf feller say that he was gonna attack the castle today?" Lonna gritted his teeth, If their battling right now then it would be a perfect time to attack!" Sergent Danielo Gorsefield stayed him, "Getting into a battle between vermin? How will we know which side is which? Remember that we made a pact with that wolf." Lonna sighed and watched as the arrows went back and forth. He only wished that some of those shafts could be his. Horty saw the red mist starting to came over the big badger's eyes, and whispered to Sergent Gorsefield, "I suggest that Lord Lonna go back to the jolly old camp for now. We don't want him to get the blinkin Bloodwrath right now!" The Sergent nodded and said to Lonna, "Well sah, I think that we should be getting back to Martha, Springald and the rest. We dont' want to be caught up in this flippin battle, wot!" The badger shuddered as if to relieve himself of the Bloodwrath and said, "You're right Sergeant. But we will come back here later. That is a promise!" Suddenly the whole ground shook as the first battering ram hit the gates of the Ice Castle. Everybeast fell to the ground and Horty gasped, "What in the name of stoats and salads was that!?" Nauruto picked up one of his swords a that he had dropped and peered over at the castle, "I don't know, but it looks like they blasted a hole in the door to that castle!" Lonna got up and looked out at it, "Aye, so now would be a perfect time to attack them!" Horty quickly said, "Well, we need to go back and check on me sis and Springald! Don't want those two weasel chappies to start causing trouble, wot!" The badger sighed and turned to leave, "I will go back there though, as soon as that battle is over!" Gorsefield followed him back to the camp with the rest of the Long Patrol, who were talking excitedly about the explosion, "I say, I never felt a rumble like that since me old grandpa fell off his chair at the mid-summers feast, wot!" "Golly! The whole blinkin earth must have shook with that boom!" The other ram hit the door, and the ground shook again, causing the hares to get even more excited, "Yikes! Those vermin cads out there mean business!" Horty and Nauruto had stayed behind to watch the outcome of the battle. The sea otter and the hare stared in shock at what came next.
Kandrol was a very intelligent leader, and he had been studying the battering rams and how they were used. He watched as some vermin put small, black rocks into the head-cap of one of the rams and then screwed it on. There seemed to be no indication that fire was used at all, so... Then the fox knew what to do. He called over Rogg and Floggo and told them his plan. They both nodded and did as they were told. Kandrol smiled down at the vermin below. He would prove that he was smarter than that wolf would ever be! The two weasel brothers came up, with small chunks of ice attached firmly to the ends of their arrows. Kandrol pointed his sword down at the two battering rams that the enemy was filling up, and said, "Shoot directly at the heads of those rams after they have been filled with that black rock." The weasels sighted on the each of the two battering rams and waited for the vermin to be done filling them. The cap of one was screwed on, and Rogg fired at it. The arrow zoomed down and hit the head of the ram directly. A huge explosion shook the ground as the head of the ram blew up on contact with the weighted arrow. The force of the explosion triggered off the other ram, and it was a double blast. Every vermin within ten feet of the rams were thrown into the air and killed instantly. Urgan Lukros leaped out of the way, as a chunk of one of the rams flew past him, followed by a rat's body. The wolf stared in shock at the small crater that the explosion had made. Now he had only one ram left, and he did not want to risk the same thing happening to that one. He howled, "Retreat! Go back to the camp!" Several vermin tried to drag the remaining battering ram along with them, but Floggo's arrow quickly destroyed it. Kandrol waved his sword in the air in victory, yelling, "Long live Queen Skarvanda the Brutal of the Ice Castle!"
Horty and Nauruto had watched the whole thing from a hiding spot. They both sat, speechless at the ingeniousness of both sides. Nauruto stabbed the ground with his swordblade, "Should we go and see if'n we can get in there?" Horty looked back at the Long Patrol and the Badger Lord off in the distance, "Hmmm. Lord Lonna might not like it, but I suppose that we could spy out on the bloomin' castle. And who flippin' well knows if we'll find Fenna and Melesme, wot!" The sea otter nodded. They both got their weapons ready, and went towards the Ice Castle.
Melesme bulled into the group of vermin that had surrounded them, and the vermin gang slashed out desperately with their new weapons. Bullak came forward and grabbed Halfchop. He held his sword to the rat's neck and said, "Throw down thy weapons or this one is dead!" The vermin gang threw down their weapons right away, but Melesme charged forward and collided with Bullak. The ermine captain yelled and fell over. The gang then picked up their weapons and continued to fight. A fox stabbed Flinky in the arm with his spear, but Crinktail slew the fox with her daggers. Melesme was on top of Bullak, and had him by the throat. He struggled wildly and tried to call to his guards, "Gaugg! Get...augh...get 'er oooff!" The vermin tried to help their captain, but Flinky and his group were now in the rage of battle. They slashed and stabbed out with their weapons as they fought for their escape. Bullak suddenly grabbed his sword and smacked it across Melesme's head. She rolled off of him and growled.Then she grabbed the sword blade in her bare paws. The ermine stared in surprise as the daughter of Lonna Bowstripe snapped the blade with ease. The young badger was going into a form of the Bloodwrath. Bullak scrabbled away into the pack of vermin and ran off. Soon the remaining white vermin fled the scene, for the small group had fought with a will to escape from slavery and imprisonment. None of the vermin gang had been slain, although every one of them had been injured badly. Melesme sat on the ground, her bloodied paws scrubbing at her tear-stained face. Flinky limped up, "Oi, we sure showed those scummy idjits a thing or two, eh?" Melesme continued weeping. The stoat looked at her quizzically, "Now why are you crying missie?" The badgermaid looked at her blood-stained paws and Salamandastron smock that she wore, "I just killed some beasts! I killed them!" The vermin gang looked at each other in puzzlement. They did not know why she hated to fight and kill. Badredd grinned, and then winced as he slashed the air with his cutlass, "We're real fighters now!" Flinky started off down the hallway, "Come on, let's get out o' here!" Crinktail licked a wounded paw and looked around, "But which way is that?" Her mate shrugged, "I don't know! So let's go and try to find a way out." After they had taken care of their wounds as best they could, they all got up and limped down the hallway and into the castle grounds. They went flat against the wall as a patrol of white vermin went by. Flinky motioned for them to stay in the shadows and they followed his instruction. Then they saw the main gates. They all stared at the huge holes in the door that the rams had made. Plumnose said, "Why did dey do dat to der gates?" Flinky gulped, "I don't think that they did that, Plummy!" Badredd raced out, "Come on! Let's get out that way!" Flinky pulled him back in as Graytooth, the fox that had taken them to the slave compound, came walking by, but he had spotted them, "Hey! I've seen thee before! Thou art the escaped slaves!" But before anybeast could move, an arrow suddenly appeared in his head, and he slumped dead to the ground. The vermin gang looked at Melesme, who had fired the shaft. "I thought that ye didn't like killin'?" Flinky asked her. The badgermaid sighed and looked at her bow, "Sometimes you just have to do what is needed." They looked about for any more vermin patroling, and then ran across the grounds towards the door. Flinky boosted up Crinktail and she grabbed onto the hole in the gate. Melesme shot down any vermin that seemed to notice them. Soon all of the gang were over the wall and Melesme was the only one left. Flinky reached down to grab her paw, but an arrow came out of nowhere and thudded right next to his paw. The stoat gave a yelp and fell back on the other side of the stone door. Melesme turned to see Kandrol, along with Rogg and Floggo, standing in behind her. The fox Commander gave a nod, "Fire." The two weasels aimed their shafts at her, and fired.
Melesme ducked and one of the arrows hit the stone gates above her, but the other thudded into her shoulder. She cried out and fell to the ground. Rogg and Floggo were about to load and fire again, when a voice was heard from behind them. "Stop thou fools, or thou shalt be like this one!" They turned and saw Skarvanda the Brutal standing behind them with the mangled carcass of Bullak in her claws. Throwing the slain ermine from her, The Vicious One strode up to Kandrol and growled, "That fool let some slaves escape, so of what use is he? Now, what do we have here?" She stared at Melesme who still sat on the ground, softly crying. The wolverine went over to her and yanked the arrow from out of her shoulder and smiled at the badgermaid, "Now, thou tried to escape from here, and thou failed. So what should I do with thee?" Melesme did not answer. Instead she bolted upright and raced up the stairway to the ramparts. Skarvanda roared, "Guards! Get her!" Several vermin guards ran after her as she ran along the wall. Then she saw Nauruto and Horty sneaking along the ground down below. She screamed to them, "Mr. Braebuck! Help me!" The otter and the hare looked up and saw Melesme on the ramparts with the vermin coming after her. Horty called to her, "Jump Melesme! Jump!" She was about to leap from the wall, when the vermin came upon her. They dragged her back and Nauruto and Horty watched helplessly as they started to take her down the other side. Suddenly out of the blue, a huge arrow sped up and slew three of the vermin, knocking them down the other side of the wall. Everybeast looked and saw Lonna Bowstripe standing behind Nauruto and Horty, with another arrow already loaded in his bow. He ran forward and shouted, "Melesme my daughter, jump!" Some more vermin tried to pull her back, but another huge arrow impaled them. Melesme was about to leap into her father's arms down below, when a huge claw grabbed her by the back of the neck and pulled her back. Skarvanda the Brutal held the badgermaid back and smiled evilly down at Lonna. The big badger aimed his shaft at her, but the wolverine's razor-sharp claws shot up and stopped right underneath Melesme's throat. The Lady of Death roared down, "If thou fires that arrow, then thy daughter wilt be slain!" Suddenly Kandrol, Rogg, and Floggo appeared right next to her. The weasel brothers aimed their shafts at Nauruto and Horty, and the fox Commander held his sword at Melesme's head. Lonna relaxed his grip, but still kept the bow loaded, "Give me back my daughter, scum!" Skarvanda grinned, "Or thou wilt do what?" The badger did not know what to answer, but Horty called out, "Then we'll give you scummy cads a good helping of blood an' vinegar, wot!" An arrow thudded between his footpaws and Skarvanda growled at them, "We will never give in to thy threats and pleadings, fools! They are as snowflakes in a gale." Lonna Bowstripe roared out, "Then you have just made the worst mistake of your evil lives! For from now on, I will attack your wicked fortress and get my daughter back or die trying!" The wolverine laughed, "Then die! For thou wilt never come in to my castle! Now depart from here or be slain!" His only answer was a loud, "Eulaaallliiiiaaaaaaa!"
Skarvanda the Brutal dragged Melesme back to her throne-room, with Kandrol following. The wolverine put a ball and chain around Melesme's waist and growled at her, "Now thou wilt never escape! For thou wilt be in my sight constantly!" She attached the chain to the wall and then stalked over to her throne. She could feel Melesme's eyes boring into her from behind, and she quickly sat down and motioned for Kandrol. The fox came over and the wolverine whispered to him, "Double the guards and get that main-gate fixed. I want every creature in my army on the alert." Kandrol bowed and said, "Yes Mistress. But do you not think that it was a bad idea to not give the young stripedog to her father? Thou hast made yet another enemy." Skarvanda gave him a blow to the face that sent him spinning. She screamed at him, "I am Skarvanda the Vicious One! Ruler of the Land of Eternal Ice, and my word is final! Do not tell me what to think, fox!" Kandrol rubbed his head, bowed, and quickly left the room. The wolverine sat down and glared at Melesme, who was still staring at her. She smiled, "Thou thinks that thou wilt kill me just by a look? If that were true, than everybeast in the world would be dead. Now, when I tell thee what to do, then thou wilt do it without question. If not, then I will personally slay thee. And thou would not like that!" Melesme remembered the fate of Bullak. The badgermaid looked down and wept. Skarvanda sat back in her huge ice throne and closed her eyes. She knew that Kandrol was right. She had made another enemy, and only because she had refused to give up her personal slave. No matter though, this foe would be just as easy to repel as the wolf was.
Fenna, Danvar and Penty finally got to the bottom on the ridge and into the snowy meadow. Fenna looked around and smiled. It was no wonder the vermin could not find this place! It was a small valley that was completely surrounded by steep cliffs and ridges. Some caves and hills dotted the perimiter, and creatures roamed about, gathering wood, food, and water. They were mostly mice, lemmings, and squirrels that looked exactly like Danvar. He spread his paws wide, "Fenna, welcome to Snowdrift Valley!" She smiled and looked around at the beautiful valley. It seemed a nice place to live. Penty ran over to a motherly-looking lemming and leaped into her arms. The mother lemming gasped in shock and hugged Penty tight, "Oi, never run off like that again, young scallawag! You had me frightened near to death!" Danvar went over to her and bowed, "Excuse me, Mrs. Tufto, but that young scallawag saved my life!" Mrs. Tufto shook Danvar's paw and stared in disbelief at her young son, "Woi, thankee Mr. Danvar for taking my baby back to me! My Penty saved you?! Woi, just a while back it was you that was saving us from those dreadful vermin!" Danvar smiled and turned to Fenna, "This is Fenna. She was taken from across the sea by those vermin and made a slave. But I reascued her from them and brought her back here." Mrs. Tufto gave Fenna a kiss on her cheek and said, "Woi, thankee too miss for taking my baby back to me! Woi you're a lucky lady to have Mr. Danvar to look after you!" Danvar blushed and cleared his throat, "Ahem! Well, I best be getting back to my cave. Probably hasn't been cleaned in a long time!" Mrs. Tufto patted Penty's head, "Oi cleaned it for ye while you were away, Mr. Danvar. So don't you worry about that!" The speckled squirrel sighed and grinned at Fenna. They all went over to a small cave in a hill and sat down at a table. Mrs. Tufto bustled about, tidying up the small room. Penty sat on Fenna's lap and Danvar set his battle-ax by the door. The good lemmingwife served them warm soup made from some sweet grasses and roots. She also served bread and warm cider. As they ate, Mrs. Tufto asked Fenna, "So in the slave compunds ye were?" Fenna took a bite of bread and nodded. The lemming poured herself a cup of cider, "Did ye ever meet an old lemming named Summel?" Fenna nearly choked on her bread and took a drink of cider, "What? Er, yes I did. Did you know him?" Mrs. Tufto wiped a tear from her eye, "Aye, he was me brother and liddle Penty's uncle. He was taken by those verminbeasts awhile back, and I never knew what became of him. He was such a kind soul, always going out of his way to help others." Fenna stared at her plate, her eyes brimming with tears as she remembered how Summel had given his life for her. Mrs. Tufto wiped the squirrel's tears with her apron, "Woi missie, what's the matter?" Fenna dried her eyes and gulped. Then she said, "Summel was a slave in the same area that I was in. He did help me alot and he even gave his life for me." Mrs. Tufto stared at Fenna in shock, then burst into tears. Danvar was silent. Fenna patted the lemmingwife and said, "I saw some of the vermin attacking some other slaves and I stood up to them. Then one of them attacked me with a whip, but Summel ran in front of it and it wrapped around his neck. Shortly after, Danvar saved me and slew the scum that murdered Summel." Mrs. Tufto wiped her eys and tried to smile at Fenna, "I'm glad that my brother did that for ye. He always was one to stand up to villains." Danvar had gotten up and went over to the door. He picked up his axe and stared at the ridge that they had just come over. Fenna got up and followed him. She stared at the ridge and saw rising moon above it. She looked at Danvar and as soon as she saw his eyes, she knew what he was thinking. He would avenge the death of Summel, his mother, and everybeast that had been cruelly slain by the white vermin of Skarvanda the Brutal. And the day that he would do it was drawing nearer.
Urgan Lukros was furious. Not only had his plan of attack not worked, but it had back-fired on him. The huge wolf sstormed around his camp, kicking at the snow and any unfortunate vermin that got in his way. He finally calmed down and went over to his fire. He sat down and drew his sabre, testing the edge. Just then, Swelk came up and said timidly, "Um, Lord?" He glared at the ermine, "What?" Swelk moved to the side, "The trackers have returned." Lukros stood, expecting to see Gavar and Rigza, draging along the hooded creature that had betrayed him. But instead, he saw the tracker rat, Fengo and the only other five vermin to survive the rockslide. He ground his teeth together and pointed his sabre at Fengo, "Where is the prisoner?" The rat sat down, breathing heavily, "We almost got him Lord, but he caused an avalanche on us, and it killed most of the soldiers. Including captain Rigza." The wolf was so furious, that he swung his blade and slew Fengo on the spot. He glared at the other five survivors and growled, "What was this creature and how many were with him?" He pointed to a rat that was licking a wound. The rat saluted and stuttered, "W-well, we th-thought that it was a squirrel, Lord. A-and there were two other creatures with him. We don't know what they were though." Lukros sighed angrily and sheathed his blade, muttering, "Two score of my fighters killed by three creatures who were probably only some squirrels or something!" He turned on them and hissed, "You said that Rigza was slain. So where is Gavar?" The vermin looked at each other and shrugged, "We don't know. He was sent out to come behind the three creatures but then he just disappeared." The wolf nodded sarcastically, "Aye, rat captains do have the habit of just disappearing into thin air." Then he roared at them, "Get out of here or I'll slay you all!" They scurried off and Lukros rubbed his temples. His captains seemed to be dying off quickly. Oh well, at least he had plenty of reliable vermin to replace them. He looked over at the Ice Castle and bared his teeth. He had to think of some fool-proof plan to get in. But what?
When Lonna, Horty, and Nauruto got back to their camp, they saw Sergent Gorsefield kneeling over Martha's limp form. Horty raced over and grabbed his sister's paw, "Martha! Me old sis, what happened?" A hare named Leanscut said, "Well, it was those two weasel cads that we captured. They threw a rock at her and then took off." Lonna grit his teeth, "But they were chained to a rock! How could they escape?" Leanscut shrugged, "I think that they took the rock with 'em! The bounders!" Horty felt his sister's pulse, "Oh thank seasons she's alive! Just got a little conked out, wot!" Springald cuffed him, "You make a joke of everything, Hortwill Braebuck!" Nauruto sighed, "Not everything!" The mouse looked at him, "What do you mean?" The sea otter glanced at Lonna, who told them about the incident at the castle. When he had finished he said, "Now I know that Melesme is in there!" Springald asked rather timidly, "What about Fenna?" Horty shrugged and rubbed Martha's paw, "Don't know old thing. She could be in there or she could flippin well be getting an army ready to fight old Crazynose Queen over there, wot!" Suddenly Martha awoke and said, "Yes, that's what she is doing! She is with the speckled one!" Horty stared at her, "What are you talking about, sis? Who is the blinkin' speckled one?" Martha looked up at him and then smiled, "Oh Horty! I saw Bragoon and Saro! They told me that Fenna was safe, and that she was with the speckled one!" Nauruto scratched his rudder, "Who are Bragoon and Saro?" Martha rubbed her head and explained, "They were a brave otter and squirrel that lived some seasons back. They gave their lives to save Horty, Springald, and Fenna. And they came to me in a dream when I was unconcious!" Nauruto sighed, "Well then. We know that Fenna is safe, so all's that we need to do is find 'er and get back Melesme." Lonna stared at the Ice Castle in the distance and said, "Hortwill, Gorsefield, Nauruto, you all come with me. We're going to plan our next move."
Far out in the west, the vermin gang ran on. Flinky panted along and shivered. He sat down on a rock and said, "Whew! I think that we're finally away from those maniac creatures!" The rest of them sat down too, and Crinktail said, "Yea, and now Rogg an' Floggo are those maniac creatures." Flinky shrugged, "Let 'em do what they want. All that matters is that we're free, we have a ton o' weapons and we're all in one piece." Plumnose pointed behind the stoat, "Uh, Flink. Dere's somebeasts behind you!" Flinky turned around slowly and saw Slipback and Juppa, both of them carrying the rock that they were tied to. They dropped it and sat down, panting. Crinktail sneered, "Well look who came back! You deserters!" Juppa wiped sweat from her brow, "It's not my fault! Slipback's the one that got us captured when 'e stepped on the pebbles!" Flinky smirked at them, "Oi, but ye still left us behind when you could 'ave helped us! Cowards!" Slipback was about to reply, when he saw all of the weapons that his five companions had, "By the claw! Where did you get all that?" Badredd waved his cutlass, "We got this stuff because we proved that we were real fighters!" Juppa looked around, "Where's Rogg and Floggo?" Flinky waved a paw, "Who them? They just got put into the castle's army. They were the only ones that looked good enough to fight I guess." Then he grinned, "Well, it's like I always say, weasels are the worst vermin ever!" The two weasels stared at the ground. Slipback muttered, "So could you at least take our chains off?" The other five vermin looked at each other, then they smiled wickedly and Flinky said, "No. You'll have those on for as long as we did. Now you'll know not to desert your old mates!" The two weasels sighed and Badredd looked around, "Where do we go now?" Flinky thought for a moment, "I don't know. But we'll find a liddle cave or somethin' sooner or later." They all got up and went off in search of some shelter with the two weasels Slipback and Juppa, limping in the back and dragging their chains behind them.
Far off behind the mountains, Danvar was showing Fenna around Snowdrift Valley. All of the mice, squirrels, and lemmings that dwelt there were very interested in Fenna as they had never seen a red squirrel before. Penty followed along behind them for awhile before going off to play with some of his friends. Fenna smiled as she looked around at the beautiful valley, "My, this is a wonderful place isn't it?" Danvar nodded but said nothing. Fenna peered at him curiously and asked, "What's the matter Danvar?" The speckled squirrel sighed and looked around at the families of creatures that lived in the valley, going peacefully about their daily lives, "It's just that, in a few days or maybe less, I'm going to go back to the Ice castle and fulfill my quest of vengeance. And I don't think that I should go alone." Fenna smiled and patted his shoulder, "Don't worry, I'll go with you." Danvar smiled back at her and said, "Thank you, but I really need an army to be able to defeat the vermin, and I can't bring myself to call away these kind and peaceful creatures from their home to go to battle and die just for my sake. It just doesn't seem right, and yet..." Fenna looked thoughtful, "Is that the only reason that you are going back to the castle. Revenge?" Danvar sighed again, "No. The freedom of the slaves and of my friends and family is another reason." "Then I see no reason in not raising an army here." Fenna said firmly, "If they are fighting to protect the lives and freedoms of their homes and families, then let whoever is willing join your army." Danvar stared in awe at Fenna, "H-how did you..." She winked, "I'm not the Abbess of Redwall for nothing! Now, let's go and gather our army!"
Swelk, Urgan Lukros' ermine captain, sat away from the wolf's camp and near the Ice Castle, thinking. Every plan to get in the Ice Castle had failed, and some had even backfired. Was it really wise to follow this wolf and die in a conquest for nothing? The ermine sighed and looked up at the Ice Castle looming above him. He was not afraid of being seen by the guards on the wall, as they were all busy repairing the main gate and not expecting another attack. Suddenly he had it. They were not expecting an attack this soon so why not? But this plan would have to be done quickly to surprise the enemy. Swelk smiled to himself at what he had thought of. But if this strategy did not work, then he would desert Lukros and run off away from all of this battling. It was a risky plan, but it might work. He got up and stared off to his master's camp.
Kandrol surveyed the work being done on the main door. Every now and then he would glance up at the empty ramparts uneasily. Skarvanda had ordered that every available soldier be working on the gates, for she did not want any other slaves escaping or an open entrance to her castle. But the fox commander knew that he should put some guards on the wall just in case. He looked around, where were those two weasel archers? They had really been the only good thing that had come out of Sellikro's latest and last voyage. Kandrol saw the weasel brothers lounging around by the gates. He went over to them and said, "I want thee both to go up onto the walls and report any movement that thee sees." They nodded and went up on the walls with Kandrol following. The fox had been wondering about something. Were the two groups that were attacking the castle working together? If so, why had they come at different times? He glanced down into the grounds and saw some vermin carrying away the bodies of the vermin that had been slain by Lonna's arrows. That was it! If these two groups were together, and if the wolf found one of his creatures killed by the badger's arrow, then... An army split against itself would not win! He grinned evilly but then wondered, what creature could fire an arrow that big? Skarvanda most definentaly could, but Kandrol did not wish for the wolverine to know of this plan. He looked over at the two weasels up on the wall and back at the huge shafts. If Rogg and Floggo attached both of their bows together, then they could most likely fire that arrow. The fox smiled and went down to get the shafts.
Swelk walked briskly along, he was not in any hurry. He glanced over at the Long Patrol camp just a few hundred yards away. He didn't like the idea of fighting alongside the hares, but that seemed to be better than fighting against them. Suddenly he stumbled and twisted his footpaw on a rock. The ermine winced and sat down. Now he surely would have to walk back slowly. Maybe if he went to the hares camp and he told them who he was, then they may help him. He got up, winced, and limped slowly towards the camp of Lonna Bowstripe.
Rogg and Floggo had seen the ermine far off, but they both knew that he was too far away to be hit by a normal arrow. It was a good thing that Commander Kandrol had provided them with these two big ones! They had tied their bows firmly together and placed the huge shaft on it. Rogg held the front of the bow and sighted on the retreating figure of Swelk as Floggo pulled back on the bowstring. Rogg aimed directly at the ermine and said, "Ready...One...two...fire!"
Swelk stumbled along, he was almost there, almost to the hares camp... Suddenly he heard a strange whistling from behind him and half turned. He never knew what it was that snuffed out his life!
The weasel brothers watched Swelk fall dead to the ground and smiled at each other. This life as a soldier was far better than going around with their old gang. They went down to report the victory to Commander Kandrol.
It was late at night and everybeast in the camp of Lonna Bowstripe was asleep except for some sentries. Two hares leaned against a large rock, trying not to fall asleep. One of the hares, Leanscut, poked the other hare's bottom with his pike, "I say there Baggs old lad, don't be shutting those eyelids just yet, we'll be replaced soon enough." Baggs yawned and kicked a small pile of snow, grumbling, "Humph! I don't see any flippin' reason why we need to be on sentry duty!" Leanscut rolled his eyes, "Because we may get attacked by those vermin blighters in the night, puddingbrain!" Baggs kept grumbling and toyed with his pike. Suddenly Leanscut's ears shot up, "Did you hear that, Baggs old chap?" The other hare listened, "Yes I think I did. It sounds like pawsteps. I'll go see what it is." Hefting his pike, Baggs carefully stepped around the large rock. Leanscut waited nervously, his pike at the ready. Suddenly there was a anguished scream and Leanscut raced around the boulder to see what had happened. He stared in horror at what he saw. Urgan Lukros stood in front of him, backed by at least thirty vermin. The body of Baggs was impaled on the wolf's sabre, his face frozen in surprise. Leanscut swung out with his pike, but Lukros threw the carcass off of his blade and blocked the blow. The pike and the sabre were locked together, and the wolf brought his face close to the hare's, their noses almost touching. Two ermine came behind Leanscut and held daggers to his neck. Lukros whispered to the hare, his voice barley controlling the rage that was inside of him, "Now, rabbit, take me to your master, the big badger. Or I will spit you on my blade like I did your friend." Leanscut's teeth chattered together as he nodded, "Y-yes s-sir! I-I'll take you t-to him!" Lukros smiled, "Good! Now drop your weapon and lead me to him, but don't make any noise or I'll slay you." The hare dropped his pike and lead the wolf towards the camp, with the ermine's daggers still pricking his throat.
Nauruto Galedeep had heard the scream and woke up suddenly. He reached for his swords, but they were not there. He looked up and saw a tall, strong-looking rat holding them and grinning, "Nice blades, waterdog!" Nauruto gave a roar of rage and smacked the rat across his legs. The rat fell down and the sea otter leaped on him, and wrestled the swords away. With one swift stab, he slew the rat. Nauruto jumped up and stared in shock at the scene. Everybeast in the camp had a vermin weapon pointed at their throats.
Lonna Bowstripe had also awakened to Baggs' last scream and he too reached for his bow, but he felt a sabre blade at his neck and looked up. Urgan Lukros stood above him, his eyes glinting madly and his voice in a furious rage, "Why did you break our pact?!" The badger swung out with his heavy paw, but the wolf slashed out with his sabre, slicing Lonna's arm. Lukros pointed over to Springald and Martha who both had spears at their chests and necks. Lonna growled savagely, "What are you talking about? I never slew one of your creatures!" Lukros gave a nod and two vermin came forward and threw the carcass of Swelk in front of the badger. Lukros pointed at the huge arrow sticking out of the ermine's chest and hissed, "You slew my head captain, badger! You broke the pact that we made to never attack each other!" Lonna stared at the carcass and then glared up at the wolf, "I never killed any of your creatures on purpose! I would never break a promise!" Lukros licked his blade, "But yet it seems as if you have. I found this huge shaft in my captain's body and he was very near your camp. Besides, what other creature could have fired that arrow? Tell me, and I may let you go!" Lonna gritted his teeth, "That wolverine creature that you hate so much could have!" Lukros nodded, "Aye, I have thought of that, but it is the same kind of arrow that is in your quiver, is it not?" An ermine came forward, holding one of the arrows from the badger's quiver. It matched perfectly with the one in Swelk's carcass. Lukros sneered, "You see? That is your shaft, and I don't care if you killed Swelk on accident or not, you broke our pact, and I will not allow that!" Sergent Gorsefield growled, "I knew that we never should have made a deal with these cads!" A rat whacked the back of his head with a spear and Gorsefield slumped unconscious to the ground. Martha kicked out at the vermin that held her, yelling, "You cruel beasts! Sir Lonna would never break a promise!" Lukros waved his sabre in the air, "Silence!" Then he turned back to Lonna, "I will let you go with your lives, but remember this. If any of you get in my way of conquest, then I won't be so merciful!" He nodded to his vermin and they let the prisoners free. Then as soon as they had come, they were gone. Horty went around to check if any of the hares were injured, and Lonna stared in silence at the body of Swelk, when Nauruto and Springald came up to him. The sea otter sheathed his swords, "Hmmmm, I knew that somethin' like this would happen sooner or later. You can't trust vermin." The big badger yanked the shaft out of Swelk and hurled the carcass off into the night. He stared at the arrow, studying it closely. Springald asked, "What is it that you're looking for sir?" Lonna replied, "I know that I did not kill any of the wolf's vermin, so this one could be one of the vermin that I shot on the wall yesterday and it fell off on the outside. Then Lukros took the body and made it seem as if it was one of his creatures." Nauruto scratched his chin, "But why would the wolf want to accuse us of breaking our pact? What use would that be?" Lonna sighed, "You're right. I guess that Lukros got confused or something and thought that I killed this one. But I don't remember ever shooting any vermin that came around here..." Springald suggested, "Maybe it was a trick by the vermin in the castle. They just used your arrow. Maybe they figured out that we were 'allies' with the wolf and thought that they could break us apart. Then fighting us off would be easier." Horty had been listening in, and he questioned, "But what about the flippin fact that nobeast except Lord Lonna could have fired that arrow with such blinkin accuracy, wot?" Lonna sighed and stood up, "Well, it's all over now and nobeast was slain, so we might as well get some sleep and post more sentries." A voice interrupted him, "I wouldn't say that nobeast was slain, Lord." It was the hare Leanscut. He came limping forward, with tears in his eyes. The badger stared at him, "What do you mean?" Leanscut hung his head as he spoke to Lonna, "The evil villains slew pore old Baggs, sah. We heard a noise behind that big boulder and he went to see what it was. Well, the vermin were behind it and, and they..." He threw himself on the ground and sobbed. Lonna's eyes started to mist over red, and his paws clenched tight. Horty had gone over to the rock and he came back, his eyes hard and sad, "Tis true sah. They ran 'im through." Lonna threw back his head and roared, "This is war, Lukros! War against all vermin! You attacked my loyal soldiers, so I will not spare yours in battle! This is war! Eulaaaliiiiaaaaaaaa!"He turned to Nauruto and Horty, "Prepare for battle. In the morning we will go to the castle and rescue my daughter!"
Up on his cliff, Urgan Lukros heard Lonna Bowstripe's challenge. The wolf smiled and looked over at the Ice Castle. He would use no more captains and strategies. This was all-out war, and he, Urgan Lukros, would defeat every one of his enemies!
In the early morning Fenna and Danvar went to every dwelling in Snowdrift Valley to recruit creatures for their army. So far, they only had twelve beasts with them and Danvar was getting upset. He kicked the snowy earth and sighed. Fenna took hold of his paw and squeezed it, "We have to keep trying Danvar. Maybe they just don't understand what this battle is for. They're too scared to die in a fight for your revenge." Danvar smiled at her and growled, "Aye, but like I said, this is not just about my revenge. It's about the freedom of my homeland and the destruction of evil." A young male mouse who was among the recruits spoke up, "Don't worry Dan. We'll just tell them about the truth in this battle. Get everybeast together and tell them. Then we'll have more to fight." The speckled squirrel grinned at him, "Thanks Falgo. That's a great idea!" He turned to his small group, "Go and tell everybeast to get together at the big boulder in the middle of the valley. I'll tell them the truth of this war!" They all ran off to do his bidding and Danvar winked at Fenna, "Maybe I could be an Abbess to!" They both laughed and went off to gather the creatures of Snowdrift Valley.
Later that day, everybeast in the valley was assembled in the center of Snowdrift Valley to listen to Danvar give his proclamation. Fenna stood to the side with Mrs. Tufto and Penty, while Danvar, Falgo and some of the other creatures in the small army went up on top of the boulder. Danvar stood tall, looking out at the waiting faces. He drew his battle-ax and roared out, "This day I have asked some of you to join my army in a battle against the vermin of Skarvanda the Brutal! Many of you are afraid to leave your homes and families to fight for what you think is my battle, but it is not! This battle is for all of us, for our young ones to grow up in a land frre from oppressing vermin. Ina land where you are not afraid to go out of your homes. So I ask you again to join my army and to fight against these wrongdoers." An old mouse raised a paw, "But Snowdrift Valley is safe from any vermin attacks, so why should we go out and fight?" There were murmers of agreement in the crowd, and Danvar said, "Because there are creatures like you and me that are slaves in that evil tyrant's castle. Creatures that have no freedom and are suffering even as we speak. We fight for their sakes and for the sakes of the next generation that will be raised in the evils of tyranny and slavery. So I ask you again, who will join my army to fight against the forces of evil?" The paws of every able-bodied creature in Snowdrift Valley shot up. Penty raised his little paws and yelled, "Wet's fight the vewminy wowimies!" Fenna smiled as she stared in awe and admiration at Danvar, with tears running down her face. The speckled squirrel stood high on the boulder, the sun glinting off of both his battle-ax and his beautiful hazel eyes. Danvar shouted out to the noon-day sky, "We will fight for freedom!!" Fenna heard her own voice shouting out with the crowd of excited creatures as they roared, "We will fight!"
Urgan Lukros stood on the cliff, facing his horde of two-hundred vermin fighters. He paced in front of them, his dark, evil eyes watching them. Suddenly he leaped up on top of a rock, drew his sabre and howled out, "I am Lukros, the last descendant of the great Urgan, and you are my mighty army!" The vermin raised their weapons and roared, "Aye, Lord Urgan Lukros!" He gazed down at them and shouted, "I am the rightful ruler of the Land of Eternal Ice, the land that the wolverines took from my kin! But today I am going to take it back!" The vermin cheered and screamed, waving their weapons in the air and chanting, "Urgan, Urgan, Urgan!" The wolf pointed his blade at the Ice Castle below, "You, my great horde, will take back the throne for me! And anybeast that helps to capture the castle will have great reward in my reign!" The vermin screamed louder and stomped the ground. Lukros threw back his head and howled, "Owroooooooooooo! We will fight!" His army roared after him, "We will fight!"
Lonna Bowstripe stood in front of the hares of the Long Patrol with Captain Hortwill Longblade Braebuck, Sergent Danielo Gorsefield, and Nauruto Galedeep by his side. The big badger surveyed his force and then said, "Tonight we will make our first and hopefully our last attack on the scum that took my daughter. They will pay dearly for what they have done!" He picked up his huge bow and roared, "Tonight we fight against evil! We will take back my daughter Melesme from the vermin and return safely to Salamandastron! But this battle is not soley about the rescue of Melesme, but about the destruction or wicked creatures from this land!" The Long Patrol hares shouted, "Eulaaaaliiiaaaaaaaa!" Lonna raised a paw for silence and spoke, "We fight for loyalty to our companions and for freedom! The Long Patrol has never backed down and we will not start today! Today we will start the freedom of good creatures and send the evil ones to Hellgates!" He loaded his great bow and fired the arrow off into the direction of the Ice Castle roaring, "We will fight! Eeeuuulllaaaalllliiiiiiiiiaaaaaaaaa!" The hares of the Long Patrol along with Nauruto and Springald shouted in reply, "We will fight! Eeeuuuullllaaaaaallllliiiiaaaaaaaaaaaa!"
Kandrol had the whole army of Skarvanda the Brutal on the castle grounds in line for battle. The fox commander strode the ranks of rats, foxes, and ermine inspecting each one and preparing them for battle. A rat captain named Graku came running up, shouting, "All hail the mighty Queen Skarvanda the Brutal, Lady of Death!" All of the vermin saluted as the wolverine came out of her throne-room and stalked towards them. She was the very picture of savagery and evil. She wore a large, many-spiked helmet on her head, and her insane, evil eyes glared out from under it. Her claws were stained with blood, and her long, black cape swirled in the wind. She waked slowly through her ranks of vermin, watching every move. They stood rigid at attention and the wolverine went a small distance away, her back turned to them. Suddenly she whirled around and screamed out, "Thou art my army! The mighty army from the Land of Ice and Snow! And I am Skarvanda the Brutal, Queen of this land and Lady of Death! This day my enemies are coming to my gates to attack, and all of thee are going to defend this castle with thy lives! Thou wilt fight and die for me, and thou wilt do it or die by my claw!" She grabbed a spear from a nearby ermine and raised it in the air, foam flecking her mouth as she roared, "Thou wilt fight for me! Thou wilt fight for thy lives and for the sake of my kingdom! We will fight!" Every vermin raised their weapons and screamed, "We will fight!"
Four creatures shouted the same words, and four armies repeated them. But they were all for different reasons. Two for savagery and conquest, and two for justice and freedom.
Danvar the Avenger stood on the ridge that overlooked Snowdrift Valley. He could see the Ice Castle off in the distance and he gritted his teeth. He looked down at the valley and smiled. The mice, squirrels, and lemmings that lived there were preparing for battle, making weapons out of farming tools, getting provisions, and training to fight. The speckled squirrel saw Fenna climbing up the ridge. He reached over and helped her up. She smiled at him and said, "Mrs. Tufto told me that you came up here." Danvar smiled and looked out at the sun setting over the snowy mountains. "I was surprised at how many creatures joined my army." he said. Fenna sat down and nodded, "Yes, when creatures know that there is a just cause to fight for, then they will give their very lives for it." Danvar sighed, "That is what I'm afraid of. The creatures of the valley are peaceful and most of them have never fought before except to ward off the occasional falcon or two, but they really don't know what war is like. I will gladly give my life for freedom, but I don't want other creatures to die as well." They were both silent for awhile and Fenna stared at Danvar. His eyes were hard and fierce, but underneath she knew that he cared deeply for the creatures of Snowdrift Valley. She looked out across the snow-covered hills below and asked, "When are we going to go out and fight?" Danvar closed his eyes, "That is something that I have been thinking a lot about. I really want to go now, but is my army ready?" Suddenly they heard a voice from behind them, "We sure are, Dan! We're ready to fight!" They both turned and saw the mouse Falgo with a few dozen creatures behind him. Danvar was shocked, "But how did you get ready so fast?" Falgo grinned, "With a whole afternoon and a lot of help! But we're ready to go tonight if you wish." Danvar looked at Fenna and she smiled, "Why not?" she said "After all, this is a fight for freedom!" The squirrel warrior stood and drew his ax. He raised it and shouted, "Then we will attack the Ice Castle tonight!"
Urgan Lukros had planned out his whole attack. He would use a mixture of the different strategies that he had used before. He would have sling throwers toss the remaining exploding black rocks over the wall while a score of vermin would go up the opposite wall with the climbing spikes. He would also have archers to keep down the guards on the ramparts and the rest of his fighters would wait by the main gate ready to enter with shields raised above their heads. This plan must work! And the badger might be attacking as well, so even though they were not together anymore, the badger's forces would help to break into the castle. But once they got in... The wolf chuckled evilly to himself. He would slay every last one of them! He watched his vermin preparing to attack and drew his sabre. He would reign once again on the throne of the Land of Ice and Snow!
The Long Patrol stared up at the Ice Castle that was looming in front of them. Lonna Bowstripe's eyes started to mist over red, and he notched an arrow to his bow. Horty halted the Patrol and looked nervously at the badger, "When should we attack sah?" Lonna ground his teeth together as he replied, "Now!" Horty saluted and called out, "Attention you blighters, we are about to fight. You all know your duties. First rank of archers get ready to fire. Second rank load." Nauruto Galedeep drew his twin blades and winked at Sergeant Gorsefield, "Well, matey. This is what we came for so get ready!" The Sergeant nodded and felt the edge of his rapier, "Aye, mate. But just make sure that you don't get in Lord Lonna's way when he gets the flippin' Bloodwrath." Suddenly he stopped talking and pointed out across the plain on the other side of the castle, "Well, well. Look who else came to join the party, wot!" Nauruto looked and saw the horde of Urgan Lukros coming across the hills. The sea otter sighed, "We'll just have to deal with 'em too. But right know we need to get into the castle." Lonna fired his arrow at the head of a vermin that peered over the battlements, and roared, "Attack!"
Lukros had seen the Lonna and Long Patrol but he didn't care. He turned to his vermin, "Slingthrowers, fire your rocks over the main wall. Archers get ready as well. Climbers follow me over to the other side of the wall." He raised his sabre and glanced upward at the vermin that were gathering on the ramparts and said, "Archers, ready..." But before he could say another word, an ermine fell transfixed by an arrow. The wolf glared up at the vermin archers on the wall-top and roared, "Fire!"
Kandrol raced about on the battlements, issuing orders to his vermin and ducking arrows. The fox ran over to Rogg and Floggo, and said, "Try and take out as many of them as you can. They're starting to come up to the front gate." Suddenly Graku, the rat captain ran over shouting, "We're under attack from the other side!" Kandrol ducked as three arrows shot over his head and raced over to the other side of the wall. He stared in surprise at the Long Patrol hares wondering. Where did they come from? Why weren't they and the wolf's forces attacking each other? His scheme had failed! He looked about frantically for Skarvanda. Where was she?
Lukros had come around the other side of the wall with a score of his horde. They all had on the sharp climbing spikes and ropes and they were only waiting for the explosive rocks to smash against the front walls. Suddenly it sounded. The echoing crash of the black rocks as they collided with the wall. The wolf pointed up to the wall, "That's the signal. Now follow up after me." He strapped spikes to his own paws and started to climb up the wall-face with his army following. A few guards that were running by noticed them and shouted, "Diversion! We're being attacked from behind! Then Lukros leaped onto the top of the wall and with a few swings of his spikes, slew the guards. He took the off and drew his sabre as the rest of his group came up the wall. Then he smiled. He had finally come into the Ice Castle.
On the other side of the wall, the Long Patrol traded arrows back and forth with the vermin. Lonna was almost right underneath the wall. He pounded at the ice wall, and fired his huge shafts up at the vermin on the ramparts. Horty spoke to Nauruto as he dodged an enemy arrow, "We have to start the second part of the attack jolly well soon. This is really a blinkin' standoff!" The sea otter nodded, "Aye, we're getting nowhere right now." Springald suddenly came running up, panting, "Me and Martha found a rope over there! It has some spikes tied to the ends of it and it looks strong." Martha came up, holding the climbing rope that Danvar had left on the wall when he had helped Fenna to escape from the slave compound. Horty looked at the rope and grinned, "That's just the ticket to get in. Top hole discovery me old sis!" Suddenly there was a loud bang as one of the exploding rocks blew up the side of the wall. Nauruto glanced over at the horde of Lukros, "And another way is to wait for them to blast a hole in the gate! Remember the holes in the door when we tried to rescue Melesme? That might be another way in!" Horty nodded, "Sure thing old chap. You go over behind those boulders and wait for the blinkin vermin to make a right big hole in the gate. Sergeant, you take two score of hares and go along to the other side with the climbing rope." Lonna Bowstripe came over to them, "How are we going to get in there?" He asked. Horty told him of their plan and the badger nodded, "Yes, a few ways that we can get in. But remember when we do, the wolverine is all mine!" After he left, Horty chuckled nervously, "Wasn't thinking of fighting her anyway, old chap!" Nauruto licked the edge one of his swords, "Now let's go!"
Melesme sat by the wall of the throne-room, wondering if her father was attacking the fortress at that very moment. She glanced up at Skarvanda, who was pacing back and forth in front of her throne as if she was not under attack at all. The wolverine kept glancing over at the young badger and muttering to herself. Melesme sighed and buried her face in her paws, when suddenly the door swung open, and Urgan Lukros stood in the doorway, his sabre drawn and an evil smile of victory on his face.
Nauruto Galedeep and about a score of hares watched and waited from behind a boulder as the horde of Urgan Lukros fired arrows and threw the black stones up at the wall. The sea otter bit his lip, "Now, mateys, all that we need to do is wait for those vermin to blast a hole in the main gate. Then we just follows them in there." The ground shook as one of the exploding, black rocks smashed against the gate. Nauturo Nauruto winked at the hares, "It won't be long now!"
An ermine in Lukros' army named Riltak was in charge of the rock-throwers. He knew that there was a limited supply of the powerful stones so he kept their use at a minimum. But they were doing little damage against the walls, and Riltak had started a different strategy. He only had five of the stones left, and he had to use them wisely. He told his throwers to start attacking the door. The last five stones smashed against the gate and a huge hole was blasted through, right where the previous hole had been. Riltak grinned triumphantly and yelled, “We did it! Charge!” The waiting vermin ran through the rain of arrows and sling-stones and raced into the Ice Castle. They were met by the defending vermin force and the battle was on.
Nauruto leaped up and said, “Now follow me mates!” The Long Patrol hare ran forward, shouting, “Eulaaaliiiiaaaaa! Give 'em blood and vinegar!” The horde of Lukros did not know what had happened. The hares came up from behind them and went slashing through their midst. Nauruto's blades whipped through the masses of battling vermin as he roared, “Somebeast go and tell Lonna that we got in!” The hare Leanscut kicked aside a rat, and raced out through the smashed door, and ran across the snowy plain to tell Lonna and his group of the entry into the castle.
Skarvanda the Brutal stared in shock at Lukros and growled, “What art thou doing here?!!” The wolf stepped closer and his smiled broadened, “I have come for my right! You see, I have gained entrance to your castle, and all that remains for my complete victory is the throne....” He pointed his blade at the solid ice throne behind Skarvanda. “I will give you one more chance to give up your throne without any trouble. If you do, I may spare you!” The wolverine flexed her sharp claws, “If thou wants it, then come and get it!” Lukros charged at her, his sabre held high. But at the last second, he spun around to the side and slashed his blade across the wolverine's side. Skarvanda roared and ripped her claws into the wolf's chest. Lukros slashed his sabre down and the wolverine grabbed it in her huge paw. The wolf ducked his head down and bit at Skarvanda's neck. She turned around to avoid the attack, and threw the blade across the room. Melesme stared in horror at the two huge creatures as they ripped, clawed, bit, and slashed at each other on the floor. Lukros had regained his sabre and he hacked at Skarvanda's head with it. The wolverine lunged forward and collided with him, sending them both crashing through the door of the throne-room and out into the main battle.
Melesme knew that this was her chance to try and escape. She pulled as hard as she could at the chain that bound her to the wall, but it was stuck fast. She clawed and pounded on the thick ice of the wall and a few cracks were formed. She smiled grimly and continued to slowly break the chain out of the wall.
Sergeant Gorsefield lead the way up the rope-ladder and onto the wall. He fought off the few vermin archers that were up on the battlements and called down to the hares waiting below, “Come on up, chaps. The coast is clear up here. It seems as if the wolf's vermin have got in and there's a flippin' big battle down there!" Just as he said this, Leanscut came running up, panting. He saluted to Horty and said, "The vermin have broken into the castle, Captain. Nauruto asked me to came and get you." Horty pointed his blade at a group of hares, "You chaps come with me. The rest of you, stay with the Sergeant and Lonna..." But the badger was gone. As soon as he had heard that entry was gained at the front gate, he was off like a shot. Horty grinned, "Never blinkin' well mind. Just follow Lord Lonna, but stay out of his way while he's battling. Now then, you there! Take a squad up after Sergeant Gorsefield. The rest, come with me. Let's go!"
Vermin dodged out of the way as Skarvanda and Lukros rolled by. The wolf's sabre was embedded in the wolverine's leg, and her claws ripped apart his back. Lukros smiled savagely at her, "You might as well give up! I was always destined to be on the throne and I will!" The Vicious One grabbed him by the neck and threw him across the ground, taking out several vermin on the way and hitting the stairway up to the wall. Skarvanda pulled the sabre out of her leg, tossed it aside, and ran at him, roaring, "You will only take the throne if you kill me for it!" Lukros had already pulled himself up and he snarled at the charging wolverine, "That's a pretty easy deal!" He kicked up with both footpaws and sent her flying up onto the wall. He grabbed his sabre and leaped up the stairs, but Skarvanda was waiting for him. She slashed out with her claws and the wolf ducked just in time. He stabbed and ripped out with his blade and bulled into the wolverine. She grabbed him by the back and threw him to the ground, but he leaped up again and kept on fighting. Skarvanda was amazed at the strength and endurance of this beast. He seemed to be able to fight for hours! They slashed back and forth for awhile, until Lukros had the wolverine pinned against the battlements, his sabre at her throat. He grinned victoriously and wiped blood from his face, "Give me the throne now, scum!" Skarvanda did not reply. Instead she yelled, "Archers!" Lukros turned to see five vermin archers on the other wall, with arrows aimed directly at him. Before the wolf could move, the shafts hissed through the air, four of them making direct hits. Two went into his arm, one in his side, and one in his leg. Lukros howled in pain and rage and turned to charge at the archers. But Skarvanda smashed out with her paw and knocked the wolf's sabre out of his paw and over the wall. Another powerful swipe, and Urgan Lukros went flying over the edge of the battlements.
The horde of Lukros did not know who was friend and who was foe, so they slashed and stabbed out at every creature in reach. Nauruto Galedeep fought savagely, his twin swords reaping death on both sides of vermin. The sea otter saw that his small force of hares was shrinking. He now had only about eight of them left, and he hoped that Lonna had got the message. Then as if to answer his questions, Lonna Bowstripe appeared on the scene, followed by a large group of Long Patrol hares, lead by Hortwill Braebuck. Lonna ripped through the crowd of vermin, the Bloodwrath was upon him. Vermin went flying through the air and the huge badger roared his fearsome warcry, "Eulaaaaalllliiiiiiaaaaaaaaaa!" His bow was forgotten as he slashed through the enemy with one of his giant arrows in each paw. He looked about for Skarvanda, but she was nowhere in sight. Then he saw the door to the castle throne-room open, and he pounded towards it.
Skarvanda threw back her head and laughed insanely. She had won! The wolf was dead! She looked down at the battle that raged below and immediataly she saw the huge badger, heaping destruction on the vermin forces. She growled, they had come in behind Lukros' horde! Then she saw Lonna racing towards the castle throne-room door and she screamed in fury. She would not let the badger get his daughter back! She jumped off of the ramparts, into the grounds, landing on top of a hare and an ermine that were locked in combat. Tossing aside the broken carcases, she ran through the battle killing everybeast in her path, be it friend or foe. She would keep her prize that Vargo had taken for her! She burst through the door just a few seconds after Lonna went in.
Melesme stared in shock and joy as Lonna Bowstripe smashed through the door into the room. Tears poured down the young badger's face as she said, "Oh father, you did come for me!" Lonna went over and ripped the chains from the wall and embraced his daughter, tears falling from his fading red eyes, "Of course my child! I would come for you no matter what!" Suddenly a harsh voice came from behind them, "Give her to me, stripedog!" Lonna turned and faced Skarvanda the Brutal, "You have to get through me first!" The wolverine screamed in fury and ran at the badger. Lonna was ready and they collided in the center of the room.
Martha and Springald climbed up the rope-ladder along with the hares. They had both been given a sling and some stones, but neither of them wanted to fight. Gorsefield helped them up onto the wall as he ducked an arrow that wizzed by. Springald came up first and when she saw the battle below, she averted her eyes and shuddered, "Oh battles are just so horri-" She stopped speaking and stared across the plains to the north. Martha looked at her strangely, "What is it Springald?" The mouse pointed out, "D-do you see? There's a large group of creatures out there! And in the lead is..." They both shouted together, "Fenna!"
Danvar the Avenger pounded along the ground with Fenna at his side. The Ice Castle was not very far away. Fenna looked back at their army. Mice, lemmings, and squirrels, carrying weapons of all kinds. Mostly farming tools, but also a few spears and knives. They charged along, yelling, "Freeeeedoooooommmmmm!" Fenna could see that a battle was already taking place. She turned to Danvar as they ran along, but she did not speak when she saw his eyes. They were blood-red and they blazed with hatred. She knew that when they got to the castle, the vermin would pay a big toll for what they did to Danvar's family. Fenna smiled and roared along with the crowd of creatures as she ran, "Freeeeeedoooooommmmmm!"
Springald climbed down the rope-ladder as fast as she could, followed by Martha. They leaped down, ran over to a large mound of snow and hide behind a rock. Martha waved both of her paws in the air, "Fenna! Over here!"
Fenna ran as fast as she could go, even passing up Danvar. They were almost there. The Abbess raced over to the mouse and the haremaid and embraced them saying, "Oh, Springald! Martha! You did come! Where's Horty and the rest?" Martha pointed over to the castle entrance. "There's a big battle going on in there." Fenna stood up and raced over towards the castle, "Then let's go fight for freedom!" Martha and Springald glanced at each other and then took off after her, their loaded slings whirling.
The army from Snowdrift Valley hit the vermin like a thunderbolt. They slashed out with their weapons, taking down surprised vermin left and right. But none so much as Danvar the Avenger. The speckled squirrel carved his battle-axe through the enemy like butter, and his hazel eyes blazed red as he wrecked vengeance on the vermin that had cruelly slain his family.
As soon as Fenna, Martha and Springald charged into the battle, they were seperated. Springald tripped and fell face down in front of a big, hulking rat. She looked up in horror as the rat held high a long cutlass and sneared evilly at her. She closed her eyes, ready to feel the blow, but it never came. The mousemaid opened her eyes to see a strong-looking young mouse standing over the rat's dead body. The mouse yanked his long dagger out of the vermin's side and helped her up smiling, "Falgo the Fighter at your service ma'm!" Springald smiled back at him and suddenly slung a rock from her sling at a fox that was sneaking up behind Falgo. She winked, "Now we're even, Falgo the Fighter!"
Nauruto Galedeep and Sergeant Danielo Gorsefield fought back-to-back, their blades whipping into the vermin viciously. The sea otter ducked a pike that was thrust towards him and then slew it's owner, remarking, "These vermin are coming in thick as ants." The Sergeant pulled a spear from out of his leg and winced, "Right! But they're also fighting each other so the going is a little bit easier." SuddenlyGorsefield saw three young Long Patrol hares that were being pressed down vermin. One of them fell dead and the Sergeant said, "Come on, let's go and help those young fighters over there!" They fought their way over to the two young hares and Nauruto slashed down two ermine that were closing in on the young hares. The two friends placed themselves in front of the hares, holding their blades out. Several arrows suddenly came out of nowhere and two thudded into Gorsefield's leg. He winced and spoke to Nauruto, "You get these young 'uns out of here. Leave me to fend of the vermin!" The sea otter looked at him in surprise, "Leave you to fight alone? Never matey! I'll fight with you to the death!" The Sergeant leaped in front of Nauruto taking an arrow that was meant for the sea otter. He roared, "You get the young 'uns out of here, now! Their bad hurt and they need help! Go!" Nauruto saw that it was no use arguing, so he picked up the two young hares and fought his way across the battlefield. He glanced back to see the brave hare leap into the crowd of vermin shouting a last warcry, "Eeuuuulaaaaaallliiiiiaaaaaa!" Nauruto wiped a tear from his eye and battled through the masses of creatures. So passed Sergeant Danielo Gorsefield of the Long Patrol.
Martha thwacked about with her sling, trying to find her brother. The castle grounds were littered with the bodies of dead creatures and she carefully stepped over them. Then she noticed two weasels over in the shadows of the wall. They were firing off arrows into the crowds of battling creatures, out of harms way. Martha stared at the weasels, something in the back of her mind was trying to remember were she had seen them before. Then she knew. Ever since they had captured Slipback and Juppa, she had been trying to figure out were she had seen these vermin. But now she knew. They were the ones that had attacked Redwall Abbey and killed Junty Cellarhog! The haremaid grit her teeth and loaded her sling. These cowards were hiding by the wall, out of the way of the main battle and sniping off any unfortunate creature that came by. She snuck around behind them and started whirling her sling. But Floggo had noticed her and he turned with an arrow in his bow and aimed at her. But he never released it, because Martha had released her's first. The stone flew through the air and struck the weasel right between the eyes. He swayed for a moment, and then fell dead to the ground. Martha stared in shock at the creature that she had just slain, then she looked up. Rogg had his bow loaded and his shaft aimed right at her. Before Martha could leap out of the way, he let fly. The haremaid closed her eyes, expecting to feel the arrow strike her chest...But something leaped in front of her. It was Horty. The gallant hare winced as the arrow hit him in the side, but he kept on running, his scimitar raised high. Rogg tried to load another arrow but it was too late. The blade flashed down, and the weasel was hewn lifeless to the ground next to his dead brother.
Horty slumped to the ground and Martha raced over and held up her brother's head. Tears fell down her face as she whispered, "Horty! You saved me! Oh please tell me your all right?!" The hare grinned up at her, "Of course I'm all right. I wouldn't go dying on you before I've eaten supper!" She smiled at him and helped him up. He pulled the arrow out and winced, "That blinkin' shaft nearly hit me vital organs and such! Can't have some vermin blighter ruining my jolly old stomach, wot!"
Kandrol, the white fox commander slashed about with his sword. He was in a frenzy. Everything had gone wrong. First the vermin of Lukros had gotten in to the castle, followed by those pesky hares and that badger. Then these other beasts had come and they seemed to be attacking his force especially. He knew that he had to find the leaders of the enemy and kill them, then the attacking forces would be without any leaders and would be easy to pick off. Then he saw two hares sitting off to the side, next to the bodies of the two weasel archers. They had killed his best archers! And one of the hares he recognized was the one of the leaders of those hares! And he was wounded! Kandrol smiled evilly to himself and went stealthily over towards the wounded Horty.
Danvar the Avenger slashed his ax through the crowds of vermin like a scythe in a wheat-field. He was looking for two creatures. The wolverine and the fox, Kandrol. He didn't care which one he found first, they would wish they were never born when he did find them. Then he saw the fox. Kandrol was creeping up behind two hares. The speckled squirrel roared in fury and pounded over towards his enemy. Martha saw Kandrol too late. The fox leaped out from behind a pillar and stabbed out with his sword. Both of the hares ducked and Horty reached for his blade. Kandrol was about to strike again, when he heard a scream of rage from behind him and turned. His eyes widened in terror when he saw the strong squirrel with the battle-axe rushing towards him like a whirlwind. The fox tried to block Danvar's first blow, but his sword shattered under the force of Danvar's ax. Then Kandrol turned and ran as fast as he could run, with Danvar right on his heels. The fox pushed through a crowd of creatures as he tried to reach the stairs leading to the ramparts. He leaped through the air and grabbed onto the lower steps. But the squirrel was right behind him. Kandrol stumbled up the stairway, trying to keep out of the way of the swinging ax-blade. They finally reached the ramparts and the fox knocked down an ermine that was next to him and took his spear. He tried to block the blows again, but Danvar launched into him, sending them both sprawling on the battlements. Danvar the Avenger stood over the quivering fox, and held the ax-blade to his head. The squirrel's eyes burned bright as he raised the ax and whispered, "Remember my mother, scum?" Kandrol screamed once, then the ax came down.
Melesme screamed as Lonna Bowstripe and Skarvanda the Brutal battled in the center of the throne-room. The wolverine's claws ripped and slashed at the badger, but Lonna hardly felt it. The Bloodwrath was fully upon him and he threw himself on the Skarvanda, clawing and pounding at her. Skarvanda was surprised at the vicious attack, but she was a wolverine. The most feared fighter in all of the land, and she would win! They rolled on the ground, ripping and biting at each other's bodies. Melesme ran to the back of the room, behind the ice throne and watched the fight in horror. Skarvanda had Lonna up against the wall, and her teeth bit at his chest. The badger kicked out, knocking her down, and then slashed at her with his blunt claws. The wolverine glanced over at Melesme hiding behind the throne and she leaped up, pushing Lonna out of the way and pounded across the room to lunge at Melesme. The young badger tried to get out of the way, but the Vicious One grabbed hold of her by the back of the neck and hit her against the back of the throne. Then Lonna came running up and leaped on Skarvanda and roared, "Give my daughter back to me, vermin!" Skarvanda laughed and her insane, evil eyes glittered, "Never! She is my prize, and I will not give in to a lowly stripedog!" Suddenly the big badger collided into her like a rocket, sending all three of them skidding in different directions. Lonna was behind the throne, and Skarvanda was across the room. Melesme lay next to the wall in between them. And they both ran for her. Lonna got to her first and with a powerful swing of his paw, knocked Skarvanda to the ground. Lonna and Melesme started to race for the door, when the wolverine tripped them up and threw herself on Lonna. Melesme saw that the battle outside was still fierce, so she looked for another door. She saw a carefully concealed door in the back of the room, near the throne, and she raced towards it. Skarvanda was already tired and wounded from her battle with Lukros, and that was what drove her to defeat. Lonna grabbed the wolverine and threw her down to the ground, then he placed a foot-paw hard on her body and growled, "Give me back my daughter and I may let you live!" Skarvanda smiled to herself. This was what the wolf had said! The wolverine lay on the ground and nodded, faking like she was submissive, "Aye, thou hast won! Go and take thy daughter back!" Lonna stared hard at her a moment, then the redness faded from his eyes and he went over to Melesme. The young badger was trying to open the door that she had found in the back of the room, and Lonna limped over to her saying, "There's no need to hide anymore my dear. You are safe!" "Not for long she isn't!" Lonna turned to see Skarvanda the Brutal standing up, her eyes shining savagely and foam flecking her jaws. Then she laughed evilly and charged at the badgers. Lonna knew that he had to end this battle. He grabbed Melesme and pulled her behind him. Then he gripped the solid ice throne and with every muscle in his huge body, lifted the throne off the floor and held it high above his head. Then just as the charging wolverine was a few feet away, he threw the huge throne, roaring, "Eulaaaliiiaaaaaaaa!" Melesme winced at the sound of Skarvanda's skull being crushed under the heavy weight of the solid-ice throne. The wolverine lay on the ground, her body rigid and her throne, a symbol of power, on top of her smashed head. Thus ended the reign of Skarvanda the Brutal, the Vicious One, Ruler of the Land of Eternal Ice! Lonna Bowstripe groaned and collapsed to the ground. Melesme went over to him and held his head up. He smiled at her and said, "I came for you, my daughter. And I fulfilled my vow to rescue you from evil. Now we can go home!" Tears poured down Melesme's face as she said, "Thank you, father! Thank you for saving me!" The battle outside was almost completely over. It was hard to tell who had the victory between the two vermin armies, as the remainders of both hordes were chased out of the Ice Castle by the army of Snowdrift Valley. But as many losses that the enemy had, the Long Patrol and Danvar's army suffered many as well. Horty, Martha, Nauruto, Springald, Fenna and the rest gathered to bind up wounds. Horty winced as his sister wound a cloth around his side and said, "I wonder where Lord Lonna has gotten to. After all, he's the whole reason we came to this flippin' place, wot!" Just then, Lonna and Melesme came out of the inner-castle, and went over to the group. Everybeast shouted for joy when they saw Melesme unharmed and Lonna told them what had happened. Fenna ran over and hugged Melesme, tears of joy pouring down both of their faces. Lonna looked around, "Where's Sergeant Gorsefield?" Nauruto sighed and related the story of the death of the brave Sergeant to them all. The Badger Lord sighed and wiped a tear from his eye, "He went down like a true hero. Protecting the young ones and giving his life for his friends." The sea otter nodded, "Aye, and we won't forget 'im." Fenna looked over at the gateway to the castle and saw Danvar coming through. He had chased after the vermin along with the rest of his army. He smiled weakly at her, then he stumbled in the gateway and Fenna ran to him. She held up his head and asked, "Are you all right? Are you hurt?" He shook his head and smiled, "No, I'll be all right. I just got a little banged up in the battle, that's all." Fenna looked down and saw a deep gash on his leg. She gasped, "You are wounded! Let me go and get some bandages." She got up, but Danvar grabbed her paw. He winced and pulled her down close to him, "Fenna, there's something that I've been wanting to tell you..." But she was adamant, "Not right now! I need to patch up that wound!" She got up and took off for the healing supplies. Danvar watched her go and he sighed. Should he really tell her? Or would what he was thinking be impossible? After all, she was the Abbess of Redwall Abbey. He groaned and lay down, pondering his decision.
Outside of the castle, the bodies of many creatures, mostly vermin littered the cold ground. New snow had started to fall, and it covered the carcasses of the slain. But over by the walls, a body moved. It shuddered and slowly raised it's head out of the blood-stained snow. It growled in pain and reached over for a sabre that lay on the ground near it. Then it pushed itself up and raised it's dark, mysterious eyes towards the main gateway. Urgan Lukros was still alive! The wolf pulled himself up against the wall and looked about. He winced and yanked out the arrows that were stuck in his arm, then he stood and listened. The sound of battle was gone, and all that he could hear was the sounds of creatures laughing and crying. Who had won the battle? He was almost sure that his forces had not been the victors, as they had no leader, but what was the outcome of the other two armies? He limped closer to the gate and then stopped. He heard voices coming from there! The wolf held his sabre tight and crept over towards the voices.
Fenna came over to Danvar, with bandages stacked up in her arms. The speckled squirrel gasped painfully as she wrapped the cloths around his injury. They were both silent for a moment, then Fenna asked, "What was it that you were going to tell me?" Danvar gulped nervously and stammered, "W-well I wanted t-to tell you..."
Lukros stood up against the wall next to the doorway, listening intently. That voice! He had heard it before! It belonged to that squirrel that had betrayed him and stolen his attacking equipment! The wolf seethed to himself and felt the edge of his blood-stained blade. That squirrel's blood would be on his sabre next! He didn't want to attract attention from the other creatures in there, so he held his sabre high and reached around the broken doorway.
Fenna stared at Danvar, waiting for him to finish what he was about to say, when suddenly a long arm reached around the edge of the doorway and grabbed him. Fenna leaped up and ran around the doorway, only to come face-to-face with Urgan Lukros. The wolf held his sabre at Danvar's throat, smiling wickedly. He was about to slide the blade across Danvar's neck when he saw Fenna. Lukros snarled, "Who are you?" Fenna did not answer. She threw herself on the wolf, kicking, punching and biting him. Lukros growled savagely and dropped Danvar. The moment the squirrel hit the ground his ax was out of it's sheath. Fenna grabbed Lukros by the throat and screamed, "You will never kill him!" The wolf stabbed out with his blade, sneering, "Then I'll kill you!" His blade drove into Fenna's body and she gave a scream and went limp. The wolf yanked his sabre out of her and as soon as he did, Danvar hit him like a thunderbolt. The squirrel hacked and slashed with his battle-ax, and the wolf blocked and stabbed with his sabre. Danvar was screaming like a madbeast as he attacked his enemy insanely. The ax sliced into the wolf's sword-paw, and he dropped the sabre. Lukros growled and kicked Danvar to the ground. The wolf grabbed the squirrel by the neck, pinning the ax back and snarled, "I said that I would kill you! Nobeast double-crosses Urgan Lukros and lives to tell about it!" Danvar screamed at him, "And nobeast murders Danvar the Avenger's love and lives to tell about it!" Then he stabbed out with the top of the ax and it plunged into the wolf's body. Lukros lay staring in pain and shock at the squirrel, then with his last strength, he leaned over and bit deep into Danvar's back. The squirrel screamed and pushed his ax upward. The wolf shuddered and went limp, his body falling across Danvar. Lukros, the last descendant of Urgan the wolf, was finally dead. Danvar the Avenger heaved the wolf's carcass off of him, leaving his ax still embedded in his chest. Then he dragged himself over to were Fenna lay still on the ground and putting his arm around her he kissed her forehead and whispered, "I love you Fenna of Mossflower. I always did." Then he shuddered and lay still, the fresh snow falling gently on them.
Inside the castle, Lonna Bowstripe and the Long Patrol had discovered the slave compound. He charged into it, battering down any of the vermin that had been left in charge of the slaves. Nauruto grabbed an ermine that was trying to run past, them, and asked, “Where are the keys to all o' these chains?” The ermine fell to the ground and handed a ring of keys to the otter. Nauruto raced inside of the slave compound, ready to unlock any chains. But he found that every single slave had no chains on them, for Lonna had gotten to them. The big badger gently ripped the chains from a lemming's paws and stood up. The slaves ran about, laughing, weeping and hugging each other. Nauruto Galedeep threw the keys away and went over to Lonna, “Well, sir” the otter said, “we did it. We won.” The badger watched as his hares lined up the remaining vermin, “Yes, it is finally over. We can go home knowing that the good creatures that live here will never be harmed.” Just then Springald and Falgo came walking up. The mousemaid asked urgently, “Has anybeast seen Fenna?”
Martha went around the grounds, checking on the wounded and helping in any way that she could. Horty limped along beside her and Martha said, "Aren't you going to sit down and rest, Hortwill Braebuck? You're wounded!" The brave hare snorted and winced, "Sorry sis, got to attend to me duties. Check on my troops and all that wot!" Springald came running over to them, "Have either of you seen Fenna?" Horty thought for a moment, "Yes I believe I have. She was over that way with another squirrel chap." He pointed towards the main gate. Springald rushed over and looked around the gateway. When she went around the corner, she stood stock still, her mouth wide open and a tear starting to fall down her face. Martha and Horty noticed and they went as fast as they could over to where Springald stood speechless. When they saw the three bodies laying in the snow, they too were struck dumb with shock. Martha ran over and knelt by Fenna's still form. Tears poured down her face as she held the squirrel's head up. Horty and Springald came over. The mouse was sobbing openly and Horty tried to swallow his tears but he couldn't stop them from flowing. He asked shakily, "I-is she..." Martha felt Fenna's pulse and bit her lip, "I-I don't feel anything." Springald knelt down and sobbed, "What did she do to deserve this!" Horty went over to Danvar and held his limp body up. The hare winced when he saw the bite wound on the squirrel's back, "This chap looks like a brave fighter. I think that he slew that wolf! Perilous, simply perilous!" Suddenly Martha nearly yelled, "I-I feel something! Yes, she's not dead! I feel her pulse!" Springald leaped up and went over to hold Fenna's paw, "Yes, I feel it too! Oh we need to go tell Lonna about all this!" Martha gently put Fenna into Springald's lap and raced off, shouting, "I'll go tell him!" Springald rubbed Fenna's paws and face, as she said, "Oh Horty do you think that we can save her?" The hare started doing the same to Danvar's still body, "There is a glimmer of hope I suppose. I'm not too sure about this one though."
Just then, Martha came running back, followed by Lonna, Melesme, and Nauruto. Melesme gave a cry of horror when she saw Fenna and she buried her face in her father's arm. Lonna stared in shock at the scene, "What happened? Are they alive?" Horty gulped, "We sure hope so, sire! Fenna has a jolly good pulse it seems but this fellow looks as if he's gone to Dark Forest I'm afraid." Springald held up a paw, "Wait! I think that Fenna is coming to!" The squirrelmaid groaned and rolled over and for the first time, They all saw the wound caused by Lukros' sabre. Martha took off for some bandages and Nauruto came over. He knelt by Fenna, ripped off a piece of his tattered tunic, and tied it onto the wound. Suddenly Fenna's eyes snapped open and she moaned, "Danvar...wolf...blood...help Danvar....Springald?" The mousemaid smiled at her friend and said, "Yes, it's me! Fenna you're alright!" The squirrel smiled weakly and said, "Yes, I'm alrig-" Suddenly she sat up, her eyes wide with fright, "Danvar! Where is he?!" Lonna helped Horty to carry Danvar over and said, "Here he is." Fenna stared at Danvar and started to reach towards him, but she screamed in pain and fell back. Nauruto stroked her head, "It's okay. You need to rest." Fenna winced and her eyes started to close, "Danvar...alright...he..loves me." Then she fainted into blackness.
Martha came hurrying back with the bandages, "Am I too late?" she asked breathlessly. Horty shook his head, "No sis, you're not too late for Fenna. She woke up but then jolly well blacked out." Nauruto had to nearly leap out of the way to keep from getting run over by Martha, "We need to bandage her up! Hurry! We can't waste time!"
Chapter 39 Edit
Blackness. Blackness. All that the squirrel saw was blackness. Thick, deathly darkness that enveloped it. Suddenly a blast of light appeared and formed a window into time. The squirrel stared in horror at the scenes that played out before it's eyes. Kandrol ripping apart Danvar's mother; Zardak's whip snaking through the air and lashing around Summel's neck; Skarvanda the Brutal urging her vermin onward to death and slavery; And finally, Urgan Lukros stabbing his blade into Fenna's body and biting hard on Danvar's back. The squirrel cried out as these scenes of evil flashed in front of it's eyes. Then a huge, bright sword came out of nowhere and ripped through the window of carnage. The squirrel fell to it's knees and sobbed, "What did I do to deserve this? Why do I have to stay in this horrible world?" A tall, bold-looking mouse in armor strode through the darkness, holding the magnificent sword. He pointed the blade at the squirrel and said, "You must go back. Your time has not yet come. Go back to the one who loves you. Go back, for you have lived up to your name. You have avenged the deaths of innocent creatures. Your time has not yet come, Danvar."
Springald, Martha and Horty sat by Fenna's makshift bed in the castle grounds. Martha sighed, "Do you think that she's alright?" Springald put another blanket on the sleeping squirrel, "I hope so. But she seems to be doing better than her friend over there." Horty went over to the flat rock that Danvar's limp form lay on. The hare felt the squirrel's brow and shook his head, "Afraid your right Spring. I suppose that we should-" He was cut off when Martha said, "Wait! I heard something!" Horty stared at her strangely, "Of course you did sis, it was me flippin well taking!" Martha shook her head, "No, it was like a sighing noise. And it came from that squirrel!" They all looked closely at Danvar's still form. Then Springald gasped, "He's breathing! Look!" Horty felt Danvar's chest as it rose and fell shakily. The speckled squirrel gave a sighing moan and his eyes slowly opened. Horty's ears shot up, "Why he's alive! He's blinkin' well alive!" Danvar groaned and tried to roll over, but he winced and stared up at Horty, "Who...are you?" The hare nearly leaped into the air, "He's alive! Jolly well alive! Wot wot!" Danvar looked over at Springald and Martha, "Who is this crazy hare?" They both grinned at Horty, with tears of joy falling down their faces. Nauruto came over, "Well well! It looks as though our warrior is alive and kicking!" Martha went over and put a wet cloth on Danvar's forehead, "Yes, but let's just hope that we don't get kicked by Horty!" Danvar glanced over at the bed that Fenna lay on. His eyes widened, "Fenna! Is she..." Nauruto held him back as he tried to get over to her, "Not now, mate. She's asleep right now and you need to rest. That wolf did some pretty bad damage to yer back there." Danvar struggled a little less, "But I need to..tell her that I-" He winced and fell back. Nauruto caught him and laid him down gently, "It's okay matey, she's fine." Danvar nodded as he drifted off to sleep, "She's fine..."
Horty had finally calmed down. He sat on a rock and grinned, "Golly, I'm blinkin' well famished! When do we eat?" Martha gave him a mock glare, "Hortwill Braebuck, you're always thinking of food!" Nauruto chuckled as he put a blanket on Danvar, "And he's got a right to be! Fighting all day does bring up and appetite in a beast, I can tell you that!"
Lonna Bowstripe had the Long Patrol line up all of the remaining vermin. The vermin stood sullenly staring at the ground. The former slaves stood behind the hares of the Long Patrol, glaring at their enemies. Some of them even struggled to get at them, but the hares held them back. Lonna roared out, "Attention all vermin! Your miserable lives have been spared! I will let you all go, but you must promise to never kill and eat another creature! You must leave these goodbeasts alone and live your lives in peace!" He turned to the Long Patrol, "Leanscut, take them out and lead them away." The hare Leanscut saluted and with a column of hares marched the vermin out of the castle and out into the snow covered lands.
Fenna had awakened and she sat up on her bed, sipping some water. Springald, Martha, Horty and Nauruto told her what had happened and that Danvar was alive. Fenna looked over at him sleeping on the rock and she tried to get up, but her wound hindered her. She winced and lay back down, saying, "He was going to tell me something, when that wolf grabbed him. Oh I do wish that I knew what is what that he was going to say!" Nauruto motioned over to Danvar, "Why don't you ask him now. He's waking up." Fenna sat straight up and Horty and Nauruto helped her off of the rock and over to Danvar. The speckled squirrel groaned and opened his eyes. The first thing that he saw was Fenna's worried face hovering over him. He blinked, "Fenna?" She smiled at him, "Oh Danvar, I'm so glad that you're alright! You were so brave! Now, what was it that you were going to tell me?"
Nauruto cleared his throat and Springald grinned awkwardly at Horty and Martha. Horty said, "Well, we've best be scootin' out and getting some tucker, wot!" They all left and Danvar glanced nervously at the ground. Fenna asked again, "What was it that you wanted to tell me?" Danvar looke dover his shoulder, "There's no wolves behind me are there?" Fenna laughed, "No, silly! Now tell me!" Danvar took a deep breath and said, "Well, er, I've always admired you, Fenna, and I, um, wanted to say that..." He blushed and watched his tail twitch nervously, "I...love you, Fenna. From the first moment that I saw you in the slave compound, I loved you." Fenna stared at him for a moment, and then she smiled and said, "I already knew that, Danvar!" He stared in surprise at her, "You did!?" She nodded, "Of course I did. And..." She leaned close and whispered, "I love you too." Danvar felt himself moving forward slightly, then he winced, "Ow!" Fenna drew back and stumbled to the ground, gritting her teeth in pain. She grinned up at him, "I don't think that we're in any condition to do that right now!"
Danvar smiled and called out, "Ahoy! Will anybeast be kind enough to bring a couple of starving, wounded soldiers some vittles?" Horty came over, a large hunk of bread in one paw and a big bowl of stew in the other. He took a bite of the bread and chewed it thoughtfuly, "Hmmm. Should we give the blighters any food for giving us a jolly big scare earlier, eh?" Springald grinned mischeviously, "Yes, we all thought that you were dead, so why should we give you any food for doing that to us?" Danvar winked at Fenna, "Well we'll really die if'n you don't feed us, so..." Horty was off like a shot. He came back with an arm-load of bread, vegetables and fish. He piled them up in front of the two squirrels and took a piece of celery as he sniffed, "Bounders! Scaring us again just to get some flippin tucker, wot!"
Nauruto had brought the Pearl Queen around and the hares had loaded it with provisions and patched up the hole in it's side. They were all set to sail. Lonna Bowstripe stood on a big boulder near the sea, with every freed slave, Long Patrol hare and creature from Snowdrift Valley below, watching him. Beside him stood Melesme, Captain Hortwill Braebuck, Nauruto Galedeep, Martha Braebuck, Springald, Fenna and Danvar. The big badger roared out, "We are now going to return to Mossflower, our home. Our mission has been fulfilled and you will never have to worry about slavery or vermin hordes again!" He was interrupted by cheers and applause. He waved a paw for silence and continued, "Each of you may chose to either stay here in your home, or come back with us to live at Redwall Abbey or Salamandastron mountain. Everybeast that wishes to come with us, step forward." Many creatures came forward, including Mrs. Tufto and her son Penty. The little lemming cheered, "Hooway fow Mistew Danvaw!" Danvar grinned and waved back at them. Lonna smiled down at the crowd below and said, "If you wish, I can have a patrol of my hares here to protect you in case of further danger." The mouse Falgo came up and spoke, "I think that we will be alright. We are now ready to fight and can train an army. Besides, our cooks would appreciate it if they didn't have to feed a hundred hares every day!" Everybeast (including most of the hares) roared with laughter. Horty snorted, "What's wrong with having a good appetite, wot?"
Back at the abandoned Ice Castle, a lone gray rat scurried around, peering into every nook and cranny. He carefully stepped into the throne-room and gasped when he saw Skarvanda's carcass on the floor. When he realized that she was dead, he breathed sigh of relief. Then he noticed the small door in the back of the room that Melesme had opened but never went into. The rat crept over to it and peered inside. There he saw it. The Walking Stone! It lay near the nearly burned out furnace, trying to get the last bit of heat. He went over and reverently wrapped it in a blanket and ran out of the hidden chamber. The rat glanced at the wolverine's body to make sure that she was dead, and kept running. He ran out of the throne-room, out of the castle, and off into the snowy hills beyond.
Fenna and Danvar stood on the deck of the Pearl Queen, waving good-bye to the friends that they had known from Snowdrift Valley. Nauruto stood at the repaired tiller and roared out, "All aboard who's going aboard! We're ready to set sail!" Creatures hugged each other through tears and waved good-bye to their home as the ship set off. Martha came over to Fenna and Danvar, 'I just still can't believe that Springald is going to stay here!" Fenna wiped a tear from her eye and said, "I know, but she found what she wanted and that was were she stayed." They all waved good-bye one last time before the Pearl Queen set off into the open sea and back to Mossflower country. That evening, Fenna and Danvar again stood on the ship's deck, watching the sun set against the waves. Danvar gulped and said, "Um, Fenna, there was something else that I wanted to ask you." She instantly knew what it was before he even said it. "When we get back to Mossflower, will you...marry me?" Fenna bit her lip and said, "Uh... can you excuse me for a moment?" She took off, leaving the puzzled Danvar standing alone on the deck.
Horty lay on his bunk, munching on a biscuit and talking with Lonna, Martha and Melesme. Fenna burst in, "What do I do?!" Horty swallowed a large chunk and looked up at her, "What do you do about what?" She wrung her paws, "Danvar asked me to marry him!" They all stared at her, and Melesme asked, "So?" Martha explained, "She's the Abbess of Redwall, and traditionally Abbots and Abbesses are not supposed to get married!" Melesme shrugged, "Then why doesn't Miss Fenna just stop being Abbess?" Horty asked, "Then who would jolly well take her place?" Fenna sighed, "Yes, who would I choose?" Lonna spoke, "You know, the thing that I learned about making decisions is that it's always a good idea to talk to somebeast with experience in that area. When I first went to Salamandastron, old Lord Sagaxus told me about how to make good choices. Do what your heart tells you and listen to those with experience." Fenna thought for a moment, then she sighed, "You're all right. I know what I'm going to do."
Danvar stood on the deck, waiting for Fenna to return. Nauruto Galedeep came over to him and sighed, "Ah, a nice cool breeze and smooth sailin'. That's every sea captain's dream! Have you ever been on a ship afore Dan?" The squirrel had hardly heard the sea otter. he stood staring out into the wide ocean. Nauruto cleared his throat and asked, "Is everything alright, mate?" Danvar blinked and acted like he had just awakened from a trace, "What? Oh, uh, yea. Everything's shipshape!" But Nauruto knew that it was not. He leaned on the railing and asked, "What seems to be troubling you?" Danvar sighed and turned to him, "A few minutes ago, I...I asked Fenna, to...marry me when we got back to Mossflower." Nauruto raised his eyebrows, "Well good for you matey! What did she say?" The squirrel shrugged, "Nothing. She just asked to be excused and ran off. I don't know what happened." The sea otter scratched his chin, "Well, Fenna's the leader o' Redwall. The Abbess or something like that." Danvar asked, "So does that change anything?" Nauruto shrugged, "Not sure. But as far as I can recall, the leaders of Redwall aren't supposed to get wed. Not sure if I'm right about that though." Danvar stared at him in shock, "Then if I married her, I would be breaking one of Redwall's laws?" The sea otter shrugged again and pointed across the deck, "Not sure. But you can ask her yourself." Danvar turned and saw Fenna coming across the deck towards him. Nauruto muttered something about needing to check the rigging and left, as Fenna walked up to Danvar. The speckled squirrel gulped and said, "S-so is it true that you can't..." Fenna interrupted him, "Yes I'm afraid that as Abbess of Redwall Abbey, I can't marry you." Danvar's face fell and Fenna said quickly, "But as your friend, I can!" He stared at her, "What do you mean?" She sighed, "I'm going to resign from being Abbess. I love my duties as leader of the Abbey, but...I love you more."
Extract from the writings of Martha, Recorder of Redwall Abbey
It has been four seasons since that fateful day on which Fenna and Melesme were captured by the vermin from the Land of Ice and Snow. Fenna resigned from being Abbess, passing it on to a wise young mousemaid named Furtila. Soon after, Fenna and the squirrel from Snowdrift Valley, Danvar, were wed. Some of the slaves that had been freed from the evil clutches of the white vermin, stayed at the mountain fortress of Salamandastron with Lord Lonna Bowstripe and my brother Horty. But most of them came to live here at Redwall. These included Mrs. Tufto, a charming and kindly soul, and her young son, Penty. Such a rascal! He kept telling the Abbey Dibbuns about how he saved 'Mistew Danvaw and Miss Fenna' from thousands of 'verwimy wowmies'. I have taken over as Recorder from Springald, who chose to stay in Snowdrift Vallry with Falgo. We miss her greatly, but I have just heard some wonderful news. Nauruto Galedeep is going to take his ship, Pearl Queen , up north and pick up Springald and Falgo for a visit to Redwall! We are very excited. Well I must be going. I have volunteered to help Toran Ottercook and his assistant Mrs. Tufto in the kitchens to prepare a feast for Springald's visit. May the seasons always smile on you and may you come and visit us soon here at Redwall Abbey.
Far up north in the Land of Ice and Snow, the rat carried his bundle up towards a cave in the cliffs. Two fox guards at the entrance stopped him, "What is your business here?" The rat did not answer. He just opened the blanket slightly and the two foxes eyes grew wide. They let him in and he scurried past a few vermin sitting around small fires and to the back of the cave. There sat three figures. A female wolverine lay gasping on the ground and an old vixen gave her herbs to eat. The wolverine was small for her species, yet still menacing. The rat scuttled up to her and her wicked yet cloudy eyes watched him, "Hast thou brought it?" The rat nodded and bowed, "Aye, Milady. I have in my unworthy paws the symbol of complete power." He lifted the cloth to reveal the Walking Stone. It poked it's small, reptilian head out and stretched towards the fire. The wolverine's eyes brightened momentarily, "You have it! the Walking Stone!" The rat replied, "I have also seen with my own eyes that thy sister, Skarvanda the Brutal, lies slain, as does her army." The wolverine nodded to the vixen, "Zangra, bring me my son." The vixen went over a little ways and picked up a young wolverine that was chewing ravenously on a bone nearby, and brought him over to her. The sister of Skarvanda picked up the Walking Stone in her claw and held it out to her son, "This, my little one, is the way that thou wilt rise up and take back the throne." The three creatures watched as the baby wolverine clawed and batted at the hard shell of the Walking Stone. His mother gave a harsh, raspy laugh, "Ha! See, the mighty Walking Stone can even withstand the power of a wolverine! Aye, when I have gone to Hellgates, thou wilt become king of this land." She gave a sudden shudder and grit her fangs. Zangra the vixen tried to give her more herbs, but she knocked them away, "No more! My time had come. I have lived to see my son inherit the throne and I am ready to die. Indeed, I will laugh in the face of my sister when I go down to Hellgates, for I have won the throne!" And with that, the sister of Skarvanda the Brutal gave a final shudder, and went limp with a long, rasping sigh. The rat and the vixen stared at the dead wolverine, then Zangra picked up the young prince and held him up for all of the vermin in the cave to see, "This is to be thy new ruler! All hail the mighty prince, who shall someday rule this land!" Every vermin bowed down and said in one voice, "Hail to the mighty prince! Ruler of this land!" She brought the baby wolverine down and, while watching both he and the strange creature known as the Walking Stone, whispered, "Aye, thou shalt be a strong and mighty ruler some day. Thou shalt be, Dramz, King of the Land of Eternal Ice!"