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THE EMPEROR OF FIRE

A TALE OF REDWALL

1

Far away, on the calm Western sea, a fleet of five ships sailed on the tepid waters. A ship which was bigger and in the middle of the fleet led the way. On board the leading ship stood a barbaric wildcat, who had a scarred face, mottled fur, razor-sharp teeth, sinewy arms and deadly claws. He wore a regal red cape, a steel breastplate and thrust through his sharkskin belt was a formidable cutlass, which looked as dangerous as its wielder. Monarch Valur was his name, and the wildcat commanded an army of 500 strong, 100 on each ship. He had four captains: Bluddgut, captain of the Pikefin, Salrigg, captain of the Windsail, Ghara, captain of the Blademast and Wortar, captain of the Fangrope. Monarch himself captained his own ship,Slashclaw. On board each ship there was a murderous looking crew, armed with scimitars, daggers, cutlasses, sabres, curved blades, hooks and all manner of weapons. There was a steersrat, a lookout and bosun on every ship.

Monarch Valur was also known as the Emperor of Fire, due to his fire-swingers and blazing arrows. Now, when he conquered Redwall Abbey, the wildcat would finally be deserving of that title, and his name would be known far and wide. Monarch Valur, the Emperor of Fire, leader of 500 bloodthirsty vermin and commander of a fleet of five ships! A shout came from above Monarch's head. 'Uh, some sort o' mountin up front on da shores, Cap'n!' yelled Drujk, the searat lookout. The captain smiled. The mountain would be Salamandastron, home of Badger Lords and fighting hares. Currently, most of the hares were away on a trip visiting Redwall. After Salamandastron fell to him, Monarch would consider attacking the abbey.

'Haul the ropes, make fast the sails! We set out at speed tonight! Set the pace correct, Karjo!' the wildcat ordered. Karjo the steersrat whirled the ship's wheel, saluting his captain. Monarch sent for his first mate, a female ferret named Raskon. 'Make sure you watch the other captains. If they decide to start a mutiny, report back to me, or else! Oh, and tell Droglaw I've got an appointment with her next dawn,' he instructed. Droglaw was the vixen seer. Raskon nodded and scampered off. The Emperor of Fire stood on the bow and yelled out to all the other ships, 'Ready your weapons and sharpen your blades! There will be plenny o' battle awaitin' us when we land on the shores of Mossflower Country!' Every single vermin cheered the wildcat's name, brandishing their weapons. Monarch drew his large cutlass and gazed at the blade. Oh yes, there will be a great battle when the ships anchor at Mossflower, a great battle indeed.

2

REDWALL ABBEY

There was hustle and bustle inside Redwall Abbey. Abbot Tabbir had ordered Friar Hullba the fat, cantankerous vole to set up a great feast in honour of the visiting hares, and every Redwaller either helped in the kitchens or set up the tables. The Dibbuns were so excited that they ran around madly outside. A hedgehog named Baby Spikky acted as Friar Hullba and a mouse named Frojal was the Hullba's mole assistant. The Dibbuns set up their own little feast, except they didn't have any tables, so they plumped themselves down in the strawberry patch. Some even gulped down a strawberry when no-one was looking!

Matheophil, the mouse Champion of Redwall, also know as Math by the Redwallers, helped Sister Malla carry a very fat and ill Frijal into her Dormitories. The poor mole Dibbun was laid down on a bed and fed the much feared nettle soup of Sister Malla. Matheophil left after Malla said quick thanks and resumed scolding Frijal. The mouse warrior chuckled when he saw Friar Hullba getting his paws full trying to cook and watch over the hungry Dibbuns at the same time.

'Hey, Golma, stop eating that cheese, and Tyler, the vegetable pasty is supposed to go on the windowsill to cool, not go in your stomach!

'Grrmmff, muunchfm, sorry, grmmff, Friar, I could not resist!'

'Don't eat that meadowcream! Oh, here, chop those carrots and onions!'

'Ooh, look at these blueberry scones!'

'Golma, I won't tell you again! Wha…! Tyler, those scones were made for the Abbot himself!'

'Er, I'm sorry?'

'Ohh, just…alright, it doesn't matter. There's enough berries left to make another batch. Get those bl– Golma, you ate all the blueberries! Ohhh, Math, help please!'

Shaking his mirth off, Matheophil hauled the merciless Dibbuns off of Friar Hullba and cried out, 'Oh, look! Brother Garry is not outside tending to his plants! Quickly, go, all of you to the strawberry patch while Garry isn't outside! Come on, go!' The Dibbuns squealed excitedly and stampeded onto poor Brother Garry's strawberry patch. Hullba slapped a paw to his forehead. 'Oh, thank you, thank you, Math! Well, let's be grateful you didn't herd the Dibbuns into the blueberry patch. That troublesome Golma! Soilstone, my faithful assistant, will you please pick some more blueberries for me?' The mole scampered off.

Matheophil walked up the battlements where Abbot Tabbir and Foremole Grubber sat. 'Is everything alright, Father Abbot?' the mouse questioned. 'Oh, yes, going fine indeed. Foremole Grubber and I were discussing the Belltower. It seems that the floor of the Belltower is weak and crumbling. Brother Norg nearly tumbled down the floorstones!' Math nodded. 'Maybe I could be of some assistance? I could help with removing and bringing floorstones for the moles.' Foremole Grubber stood up. 'Hurr, yes, zurr, oi bee's needin' much help naow, those floorstones cood be quoite heavy sometoimes, hurr! Ah well, oi bee's gettin' down noaw, an' inform moi moles. You know how usn's molers hate ee hoights, hurr hurr!' Foremole scurried down the stairs leading to the battlements.

Suddenly, a gruff shout rang out in the air. 'Ahoy, mates, think ye could come down an' help me with the fishin'? The watershrimp had been getting' low on sources, so I thought maybe we could net some now, eh? Friar Hullba is cookin' the hotroot soup!' It was Skipper Streamrush. Math bounded down the stairs. 'Sure, Skip, you get the boat, I'll get the nets.'

3

INTO SALAMANDASTRON

Salamandastron! The colossal mountain loomed large as waves goaded its thick, black base. It stood without moving, guarding the Western sea and its shores. The hares inside were as busy as the Redwallers. They had also organised a huge feast in honour of a new summer. It was not surprising, as they set up at least a score of feasts every season. Sergeant Woodblade carried a large tray of food to the Badger Lord of Salamandastron, the mighty Lord Jetstripe. The hare warrior found it hard to knock on Jetstripe's door with one paw while carrying a heavy tray with the other.

'Come in!'

Woodblade entered. Inside the room there was a massive forge, with an even more massive badger sitting at it. On the wall, there were scores of weapons: swords with blades shining, sabres with beautiful hilts, rapiers with razor-sharp tips, and arrows as big and thick as spears, battleaxes with jewel-studded handles and powerful, crushing maces, all badger-made. The sergeant placed the food on a table. 'Here is your breakfast, sah. Hope ye like it! The bally chef made it for you himself, wot!' Lord Jetstripe turned and spoke. 'Thank you, sergeant, and send my compliments to the chef.' Woodblade saluted and walked out smartly.

Captain Marigold and Captain Jabsway were training new recruits outside on the shores. Captain Marigold was a deadly warrior, her mind faster than her rapier, which could move in eye-blurring speed. Captain Jabsway was from up in the Highlands, and he had that Highland accent. His claymore wasn't the strongest blade, but it was lighter than a feather and could be swung easily. The two hares were instructing their recruits.

'Durgow, keep that scimitar balanced! You need to have your blade ready!'

'Faylay, lass, feint an' bring yer axe oop! Bondef, try tae block her weapon!'

'Block the lance between your scimitar, Durgow, and pull!'

'Like that?'

'Yes, like that. Oh, quick, dodge that thrust! Nice surprise attack, Harday!'

'Bondef, ye need tae poise! Go aroond and watch oot for Faylay's axe! Remember tae keep yer sword oop!'

Brigadier Leafpaw, an old hare warrior with countless medals on his tunic, shuffled up next to Jabsway and Marigold. 'Good day to ye,Jabsway. How are those bloomin' recruits shaping up, Marigold, m' gel?' The hare captain saluted. 'Faylay, Bondef and Harday are doing well, although I don't know about Durgow, wot! He needs to be lighter on his paws and more fluent with his blade. Watch out for Harday's parry, Durgow!' Captain Jabsway shook his head. 'Och, they're all doing well, even the lad Durgow! Although ah dinnae know why we're allus trainin' the lads and lassies so hard, ye ken!' Marigold stepped forward. 'We need the best of the best for the Long Patrol. Some clumsy, untrained hare cannot just join. Right now, Durgow is well on the path to be a member of the Long Patrol. He just needs a few tweaks on the correct spot.' Brigadier Leafpaw scratched his head. 'Ah, well, I'll leave all this to you, captains. Hope ye train those young cads good n' well. The Long Patrol needs as many warriors as it can get, now that half of it is away.'

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