I’m gonna begin at the beginning. Let’s put the credit where the credit belongs. I’d like to thank my brother for supporting my opinion that Martin should have told Gonff about Noonvale, my mom and dad for supplying me with a computer (and a typewriter) to write it on, and my grandma for giving us a reason for a road trip so I had so much time to write it.
Random: this was my first Redwall fanfiction idea.
I’m dedicating this to Lyth Streambattle. I don’t know if you meant to tell me what you did, Lyth, but I think that now I understand you better. I can only hope that one day you will read this and discover that though you have lost, and will lose again, you can also gain.
And as for the rest of you, no I’m not telling you what that was all about, so don’t bother asking.
As always, this is copywrited, the canon characters, events, places, and things belong to Brian Jacques, and I take full responsibility for the made-up ones.
Now, without further ado, this is my latest fanfiction. On my user page, I call it Ruined Life, but I sorta changed the name.
“Matthias, what are you doing in all these musty old records?”
Matthias leapt up, exclaiming, “Oh! Father Abbot! I was looking for records of my family, who they were, and so forth, and records of Martin the Warrior. I still never get tired of hearing about the Warrior Mouse’s exploits.”
Abbot Mordalfus, or Alf, as he preferred to be called, came over to the young, newly-appointed Abbey Warrior and picked up a scroll. “What say I help you? I would like to hear about that myself. C’mon, keep up!”
“Look, Abbot Alf! Look at this!” Matthias held up a scroll entitled, ‘’The Last Quest of Martin the Warrior’’.
The Abbot took the scroll and examined it closely, opening it and reading the first few words. “This is amazing. According to our official records, Martin never went on another quest after he went to the North Shores to discover the fate of his father. But this isn’t about that. Listen to this;
"'Tis said his father’s fate drove Martin from the warrior’s way,
Or the fate of his beloved, at least, that is what some say.
But I know the truth, and here will tell, what really changed his thought;
And why he hid his wondrous sword, left to be forgot.”
Matthias was awestruck. “Why wouldn’t they tell the truth in the records?”
“Perhaps it tells us in this tale,” commented Mordalfus. “We can only read it to find out.” He sat down and unrolled the scroll a little bit. “’’We know the tale of Martin the Warrior, before he arrived in Mossflower and freed us from the reign of Kotir…’’”
Part 1 ~ A Journey I Have Made BeforeEdit
Duck, slash, jump, dodge, retreat, stab, slash, parry, dodge, duck. Martin continued the routine, his blade hissing like a snake every time he swung it. As he felt himself beginning to tire, he knew he had to finish the fight or face defeat. Now came the most difficult part. As he backed away, lowering his blade, his opponent seemed to think he was surrendering. But suddenly, he dashed forward, planting his sword in the dirt, and did a double flip over the rat’s head and landed behind him. He saw his opponent reel around as the warrior mouse cleanly disarmed him.
Martin came back to reality when he heard applauding behind him. He turned to see his best friend, Gonff the Mousethief, and three hares.
“I say, matey, that was fantastic!”
“Not a single mistake, wot?”
“What an idea!”
“Our Martin never makes mistakes!”
Martin smiled at his friends. “Harebell, Honeydew, and Willow. You’re just a few flatterers. Save it for Trubbs and Co. Why did you come out here anyway? I’m sure it wasn’t to stand there and compliment me for swinging a sword around at nothing for a while.”
Gonff laughed, “We came to warn you that dinner is starting and if you don’t hurry up before Trubbs and Co. and Beau get there, it will be all gone.”
Martin sheathed his sword and started back to the Abbey. “No hungry hare’s eatin’ my dinner! C’mon!”
The two mice and three hares walked back to their home, Redwall Abbey.
“Wot are we doin’ so far south, is wot I wanna know!”
“Yeah! That blasted stoat hired us to get prisoners from his enemies, not the south woods!”
“Because, ya maggots, it’s warm down this way! Would ya rather be freezin’ yer tail off in da north, tryin’ ta capture those mices, or take easy meat down ‘ere? I don’t think our friend stoaty could tell the difference if we dragged a couple south mice at ‘im instead o’ dose warriors. Now, any more whining?”
The band of foxes looked at their leader, saying nothing. Rotbreath nodded in a businesslike manner and shouted, “Good! Now, everyone up and move out! We’s getting ourselves some easy meat!”
The band packed up their motley belongings and began to move off. The leader’s mate strolled up to him. “So,” she commented off-handedly, “You think you’re doing a fine job of fooling our client by getting southern mice. Did it ever occur to you that he may have seen them close up once? We know nothing about his past, and he may even have a rivalry. In which case it would be extremely stupid to try to fool him.”
Her husband reeled on her. “You think you’s so smart, eh? I been doin’ this before you were past tryin’ ta imitate yer brother! Ha! Lookit ‘im now, dead meat! I know what I’s doin’. If they’re beat up an’ bloodied enough, ya can’t tell one mouse from anudder. By the time he knows it ain’t what ‘e wants, we’ll be long gone. Don’t fret yer ‘ead.”
Rotbreath had touched a special soft spot for his wife. Crosstpaw grabbed his collar and pulled him close, hissing, “I never tried to imitate the fool! Maybe he’s dead, but I’ll avenge him someday. Aye, I remember the face that killed him like I saw it yesterday. Someday I’ll see it again, and then it will drown in its own blood! But as for your plan, you actually think he’ll let us go until he knows he has the ones he wants? Idjit!” She stalked off, too frustrated to argue.
Rotbreath was about to call something rather nasty after her, when a younger fox called Banty ran up and whispered in his ear, “Chief, there’s a mouse an’ a few rabbets up ahead!”
The fox chief smiled. Finally, fruit was coming from his plan! “Take four archers and follow them. See where they’re going, and if you can do it without the others noticing, try to pick one off,” he instructed the soldier.
Banty ran back to the group of three he had been a part of. He hadn’t even seen the quarry, but the others had feared their chief’s temper, so they had elected an annoying young one to tell him. They were furious when they discovered that he would have the honor of following the creatures. The elders calmed down a bit when the younger fox asked them to go with him, but were still angry.
Crosstpaw followed at her own pace behind the fox band. They were headed farther south, and had turned their course a little east as well. She was still simmering in her anger when she though she heard something behind her. She ducked into the bushes, and just in time. No sooner had she stopped moving than a mouse came into view. He was shouting at the top of his lungs, “Gonff! That was not funny, Gonff, trying to get me lost!” Crosstpaw cast a weather eye over the magnificent sword at his side, and as she looked up again, the mouse turned so that she saw him from a completely different angle. With a low gasp, she began unwinding the sling from around her wrist as she felt around on the ground for a pebble.
Martin turned around in a circle in the middle of the clearing. Maybe Gonff’s plan to get him lost had worked. No matter, he could track. But something didn’t feel right… something besides the fact that he was lost in the woods. On instinct, he turned around and drew his sword, but too late. By the time he saw the female fox boldly standing up and whirling a sling, the stone had already hit him on the head.
Crosstpaw ran forward to the unconscious mouse, hoping she hadn’t hit him too hard. His head was bleeding profusely, but she soon analyzed that he was still breathing and his pulse was fairly regular. She ripped a strip off his habit and bandaged the wound so he wouldn’t die of blood loss, as she whistled like a chickadee. Soon after, two foxes appeared from the direction the entire band had gone.
“Has Rotbreath set up camp yet? Yes? Good. Tie this mouse up and take him back to camp.”
The foxes nodded and complied. Crosstpaw picked up Martin’s sword from the ground where it had fallen. “Interesting,” she murmured as she examined it. She placed it in her belt and ran off toward the camp.
Banty was not having fun with his four companions. It continually surprised him how the mouse and two hares didn’t hear them, but they didn’t. The truth of the matter was that they were making enough noise themselves, but the young fox didn’t know it. All he knew was that the other foxes were bullies, and had threatened him multiple times.
“Look guys, they’re headed for that big red building. Maybe we should…”
“Do what I say? Excellent idea, young un’! I couldn’t have thought of a better meself. Anyone to disobey dies!”
Gonff looked around. “Did you hear that, mateys? It sounded like a… threat.”
Harebell laughed. “Hahahahaha! Oh, Gonff, it’s just Martin, trying to scare us! Don’t pay him any mind.”
Gonff shook his head as he knocked on the wallgate. “Open up, it’s me, Gonff!” As the door was opened, the mousethief turned to the woods. “C’mon, Martin! Dinner’s waiting!” There was no answer. Willow shook her head.
“He’s still playing games. He’ll come in when he’s hungry enough.”
Gonff watched the forest, not quite convinced. Columbine, who had opened the gate, came up behind him and looked over his shoulder. “He’s been out for a few days before, Gonff,” she reassured him. “Sometimes he just needs to be alone.”
Gonff nodded silently and followed the three hares into the Abbey. Columbine paused a moment, looking back. She was about to follow her husband into the safety of the walls when a paw went over her mouth and stifled the airflow. A voice whispered in her ear,
“Now, pretty, we can do this the easy way, or the hard way. You can not struggle, not scream, not put up a problem, and we can just take you along nicely to our camp, or you can struggle, scream, be a problem, and we can knock you unconscious and give you a reason to scream. Which is it?”
Columbine held still and quiet, then muttered around the stifling paw, “I won’t stuggle.”
Banty, for it was he, understood it perfectly. He released his hold on her mouth, though he kept her arms pinned behind her back, and as the others came out of hiding he marched her in the direction of their camp.
Martin came back to reality slowly and reluctantly. He had a throbbing headache, and for some reason he couldn’t see. Through sense of touch, though, he determined that he was bound to a tree by the ankles, legs, waist, stomach, chest, and neck, with his arms pinned to his sides. A gag was in his mouth, but above that he could determine little. He forced his eyes open only to see a rough cloth pattern. So he was blindfolded too. Last of all, Martin felt around on his hip with his left paw. He determined that his sword was gone, but the sheath was still there.
A voice interrupted his thoughts as he finished analyzing his position. “Hey, the pris’ner’s awake! ‘E’s movin’!”
Another voice cut in, “Ya know, dat’n looks jus’ like one o’ da ones we’s s’posed ta get in da north. I think I’ll use ‘im.”
“Oh, no you don’t!” cried another voice, female this time. “He’s mine! I found him, and caught him myself! And I have plans for him.” The voice was coming closer, and before he knew it the blindfold had been ripped off. The light flooded into his eyes and he blinked, wondering why something in the way she’d said “plans” unnerved him. When the warrior’s eyes adjusted, he saw standing in front of him the female fox who had knocked him unconscious. She looked vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t place her. Her mate’s voice interrupted her thoughts.
“Fine, Crosstpaw, I won’t bargain ‘im, but I need ‘im ta get inside tha’ red place!”
“Really? What do I get out of it? I ain’t sharin’ for nothing, you know, Rotbreath.”
“Heh. Whaddaya want?”
“I want you to stop cheating at these deals! I want you to get the creature you promised to get, not some bloody decoy!”
“I said, ‘Done.’ Idjit.”
Crosstpaw spat on her paw and extended it to her mate. “Done.”
Rotbreath did likewise, then turned to Martin. He ripped the gag off and hissed, “Here’s da plan, mousey…”
Martin glared balefully at him. “Save your breath, vermin. I would die before I helped any creature with evil intent in any way.”
Much to the warrior’s surprise, Rotbreath simply walked away, commenting off-handedly, “Oh. I guess we’s gonna have ta move on to Plan B, then. Banty, get dat mousemaid you finded.”
Banty grinned triumphantly as he pushed Columbine into Martin’s view. Martin paused in shock, wondering what the fox had in mind. He soon found out when the sadistic creature turned on the mousemaid.
“How’d ya like a demonstration of me torturin’ skill? I cin use yer useless little friend here. Ya know, I cin keep a creature alive for days after skinnin’ ‘im, an’ when ‘e starts ta die I chop his body ta pieces, keepin’ ‘im alive through the whole process, ‘till I…”
Columbine shut her ears to the list of disgusting, brutal, and nightmarish torments. When Rotbreath finished up with “An’ it’ll ‘appen to ‘im if ya don’t get me inside yer fancy fort,” she looked up to see Martin looking sadly at her. He shook his head a little, as if to say “No, don’t do it,” but then she looked at Rotbreath and saw that he meant every word he said. “Fine. I’ll do it, just don’t hurt him or anyone else.”
Rotbreath laughed. “Anyone else? You ain’t in da position ta make demands, liddle mousey. I won’t. I jus’ want food an’ any vallables ya may have in dere. But remember, I’s gonna ‘ave ‘im wi’ me all da time, an’ if I ‘ear ya double crossed me, ‘e’s dead as a doornail. Now, ‘ear’s da plan…”
“Gonff! It’s Columbine! Let me in!”
Gonff looked down from the wall to see his wife outside in the woodlands. “Columbine!” he hissed. “Where have you been?”
“Time for that later!” called the mousemaid. “Let me in!”
Gonff hurried down to the wallgate and opened it, allowing Columbine in. He soon assessed that she was tired and aching, but not seriously hurt. They headed to the dormitories so she could have a rest.
Columbine went along with the plan suggested by Rotbreath. But not all were sleeping in the dead of night. Gonflet was awake, swiping pies from the kitchen. He sounded the alarm, and in no time Gonff and Bella had assembled a rough few to defend the Abbey. When Rotbreath told them to surrender, they refused. A battle ensued, but the defenders were too few and the foxes won.
”Don’t ya wonder how I got in at all?” roared the fox. He grabbed Columbine and shoved her to the ground in front of Gonff, Bella, and Abbess Germaine. “She betrayed you! She let me in ta save ‘er own skin!”
”That’s not true…” began Columbine, but Rotbreath put his foot on the mousemaid’s head and forced it into the dirt.
”Now, let them die,” hissed the fox. He grabbed Columbine by the scruff of her neck and dragged her out of Great Hall onto the lawn. Others slammed the doors shut, while archers lit arrows on fire.
Realizing their purpose, Columbine struggled, and called out to Rotbreath, reminding him of his promise not to hurt anyone. The fox laughed and ordered the archers to fire. The foxes moved away, but Columbine could not bring herself to move, and she stared in wide-eyed horror as the Abbey building went up in flames with her friends inside. In the morning, as ashes fell and the last of the flames went out, she finally fell to her knees and a single tear found its way down her face and dripped silently into the dust.
Suddenly, she was surrounded by foxes again. “Still here, are ya?” snapped Rotbreath. “I’da thought you’d’ve been off long ‘go. No matter. Here’s yer liddle warrior.” He shoved Martin forward. “’E’s free. I’ve no use fer ‘im.”
Martin seemed not to see Columbine, or anyone else for that matter. He stumbled forward to the ruined Abbey building, a look of shock on his face. Rotbreath laughed. “Dey were all inside when it burned!” he called to him. “Dey’re all dead!”
The mouse fell to his knees, ignoring the heat of the ashes, and looked at the pain and death all around. Then he stood again, and looked over her shoulder at Columbine. Their eyes met, then Martin gave a strangled cry and ran to the dead body of Gonflet, a blade still clutched in his paws. With a final glance at what had once been his home, he flung himself down onto the blade. “No! Martin!” shouted Columbine, but too late.
She turned to Rotbreath, wanting to stab the fox through the heart, but she had no weapon. Her enemy laughed, then signaled several other foxes. The maid was roughly turned around and forced to look upon all the destruction of what had once been her home. She heard behind her the ring of steel and Rotbreath’s voice.
”Know, traitor, that all this is your doing.”
Columbine came awake screaming. “Nnnnnooooo! Gonff! Martin! Bella! Abbess! Trimp! Gonflet! Nnnnnooooo!”
As the realization that it was only a dream sunk in, Columbine calmed down, trying to breath slower and deeper. She reached up and wiped the perspiration out of her eyes, just as the door burst open and Gonff ran in, followed by everybeast she had named (except Martin, of course) and then some.
“Columbine, are you alright?”
“What happened, Columbine?”
“Did you have a bad dream, Mummy?”
Columbine was still filled with the horror of the dream. “It was only a bad dream. Uhh, can I talk to Gonff in private for a while?”
Abbess Germaine nodded solemnly. “Yes, Columbine. Everybeast, out of the infirmary except Gonff, Martin, and Columbine, if that’s alright.”
“Well,” began Columbine awkwardly, “I-uhh-I-well, that’s one of the things I want to talk to Gonff about. Martin isn’t here.”
“Oh. Of course.”
When they were alone, Columbine looked at Gonff with a frightened look in her eyes for a long time. Finally, she began. “I don’t really know how to start, but… well, Martin’s being held hostage by a band of foxes who want me to betray Redwall.”
Here, Gonff interrupted. “Whoah. This is gonna take some explaining. Martin being held hostage? How did they capture him, how did they capture you, and…”
“All that’s irrelevant!” Columbine in her turn interrupted. “What matters is that they captured both of us, and threatened to do horrible things to Martin if I didn’t do what they said. They said they wouldn’t hurt anyone if they got in, but…”
Gonff was silent too. It was rather a lot to take in. Finally, he said, “But what?”
Columbine sighed. “But I just had a dream. I did what he asked, but everyone died. Even Martin.”
Gonff shook his head. “So, what do you plan to do?”
“He expects me to open the east wallgate to let him in at midnight tonight. If I don’t, he’ll kill Martin.”
“Wait, matey. I have an idea. I’m a prince of making plans, you know.”
Rotbreath waited, silently and carefully, for the stroke of midnight. As he waited impatiently, a thud sounded out in the night. The stroke of twelve was being beaten out on the hollow log. He pulled a tightly bound Martin up next to him and chuckled into his ear, “Yer liddle friend’ll be lettin’ us in shortly.”
Martin pulled away from the aptly-named fox and muttered something insulting to him around his gag. “Now, none of dat. We be goin’ in.”
At that moment, Columbine opened the door. Before the fox could enter, however, the mouse put her paw to her lips in a gesture of silence. “I think they suspect something,” she whispered. “They’ve been patrolling the grounds all day, so be careful. Also, there are a lot of young un’s sleeping in the orchard, so tread lightly. They wake up at the snap of a twig. And don’t go near the pond, there are some hedgehogs fishing on it. The kitchens are astutely to be avoided until 3:00, you’re doomed if you go near the belltower, stay away from the main gate, don’t go anywhere near the infirmary or dormitories, if you w…”
“Shut up ‘bout where I can’t go, mousey! Where can I go?”
Columbine paused. Banty tapped his leader on the shoulder. “Uh, Chief?”
“Shut up, can’t ya see I’s busy?”
The fox nodded and retreated, knowing that his chief’s temper was dangerous.
Columbine finally thought of her reply. “The cellars and the attics.” Rotbreath pushed past her with an exasperated sigh, intent on going wherever he wanted. Before he passed through the gate, however, he turned and issued last minute orders.
“Tie dat pris’ner to a tree. Two of ya, stay an’ guard ‘im. If ya hear me holler ‘double-crosser,’ kill ‘im.”
Rotbreath snuck in and headed toward the orchard. Martin bit into the gag nervously; there probably were dibbuns sleeping there. But the fox didn’t have to go far before he did step on a twig, and every dibbun in the place was charging in that direction. There were only two who would understand what was going on, and they were a few seasons out of Dibbunhood already. Indeed, Gonflet and Chugger recognized the situation as dangerous, but there was nothing they could do to stop the entire horde of infants. The fox stopped as Columbine wildly hollered, “Stop the Dibbuns! Someone stop the Dibbuns!”
Shortly after, he heard Gonff’s voice. “Dibbuns! Goody is giving out candied nuts in the kitchens!” Judging by the sounds, Martin decided that they had all stampeded in the direction of the kitchens. More shouts and screams ensued, and Martin decided that he had to get out of there and inside to help his friends. He assessed the way he was tied; not very securely, his footpaws were bound together and his forepaws were bound to an overhanging branch above his head. Of course the first thing to do was take out the guards, otherwise any escape attempt would be useless. Grabbing the ropes that bound his paws, he swung up and kicked the first guard in the back of the head. He slumped to the ground, unconscious. Quickly, he did the same for the other guard, and part one was finished. His first idea was to reach the guards’ weapons, but he soon gave that up. It was just too far. He paused to get his breath. ”What would Gonff do?” he thought. ”Gonff would try to get up on the branch where he could work at the ropes on his forepaws,” he decided. It was difficult, but somehow he managed to get onto the branch. The knots, however, were too tight. Frustrated, he bit at them, and was surprised to find himself with one paw free. The warrior mentally told himself to hurry up as a scream issued from the Abbey. With one paw free it wasn’t hard to free the other, and then he rolled off the branch onto the ground. As he removed the gag and bonds on his footpaws, he heard an anguished screech.
Martin grabbed a weapon from one of the unconscious guards, a cutlass, and ran through the gate into the Abbey. A horrifying scene met his eyes. There were otters, squirrels, mice, and the badger Bella of Brockhall fighting madly against the foxes, who were winning. He spotted Crosstpaw threatening Columbine, obviously intending to kill her, and charged. The female fox had Martin’s sword, and as the warrior crashed into her he grabbed it. Columbine stood and ran, straight into Banty. “Hello, pretty,” he sneered before snatching her off the ground and running.
Crosstpaw wheeled on Martin, grabbing at the sword, but she was too late. The warrior dodged and slashed, scoring across her paw. Then, something unexpected happened. Crosstpaw suffered what could only be described as bloodwrath. She ignored the pain, as well as any further injuries Martin inflicted on her, and went straight for him. The fight instantaneously became one-sided, and the fox grabbed hold of the mouse, strangling him as she lifted him high in the air.
Through a mist, Martin saw Abbess Germaine headed somewhere as fast as her legs could carry her, which wasn’t really all that fast. Chugger was fighting with Rotbreath, and as Martin watched, the fox disarmed the squirrel and raised his blade for the killing blow. Abbess Germaine ran between the squirrel and his executioner and raised her arms, shouting something that Martin couldn’t hear. The fox moved forward, towards the two.
Martin’s attention was dragged away from his Abbess and the squirrel when a battle cry rose above all the others. “Eulaliiiiiaaaaaaaa!” The foxes looked at each other in horror and fear for a moment. Then one of them roared, “Retreat! It’s the ghost monster! Run for your lives!” All the foxes did just that. Crosstpaw came out of her rage, suddenly seeming to see a huge monster charging at her. In fear, she flung Martin away from her and ran.
Martin had passed the peak of his flight, and was soon going to land, he was sure, when he felt a searing pain rip through his left shoulder, and he fell limply to the ground. He had struck the Abbey wall, and fallen to the ground. "Just like Rose," was his last thought before darkness took him.
The next day, Trimp the hogmaid and Gonff walked across what had once been the lawn. Since that time, major renovations had been made, and now it was a carnage heap. There was blood everywhere, and it was starting to stink. In a small pile by the main gate, waiting to be thrown out into the ditch, was a pile of fox bodies, but the Redwall casualties had not yet been assessed. No one had seen Columbine, Abbess, Germaine, or Chugger, since the night before, and they hadn’t seen Martin for even longer.
Gonff looked sadly down at the body of a mouse. “His name was Bartall,” he murmured.
“Yes. It’s so sad how some creatures revel in pain and death,” returned Trimp.
Gonff sighed. “You’re right. I hope those foxes don’t have any of our friends, but they probably have Martin at least. I hope he’s alright.”
Trimp didn’t reply at once. She seemed frozen to the spot, her eyes fixed on a prone form lying by the wall in a pool of blood with a sword on the ground nearby. Gonff saw it and gasped in horror, then ran to it.
It was indeed Martin, lying where he had fallen the night before. The mousethief knelt by his friend’s head and lifted it out of the puddle. Then, against all hope, Martin moved! He blinked and murmured something. Opening his eyes all the way, he shrank away from the bright light that the sun was shedding into the Abbey grounds.
“Ugh,” he muttered. “Gonff, they took Columbine. Abbess Germaine and Chugger too, I think. You have to follow them!”
“Matey, are you alright?” Gonff asked.
“I’m fine. You have to go, Gonff!”
The mousethief nodded. Getting up, he called, “Skipper, Lady Amber! We found Martin! He’s alive, but hurt. He says the foxes have Abbess Germaine, Chugger, and Columbine. I’m going to follow them!” Turning back to Martin, Gonff winked cheerily. “Don’t worry, matey. I’ll have them back in a jiffy. I’m a prince of rescuers, you know. You’d better’ve healed when I get back!”
Martin smiled as his friend gathered up some food supplies and set off. “So,” he asked Trimp, “What was the ghost monster that scared them all off?”
Trimp giggled. “It was Gonff’s idea. The legends say that a ghost monster lives in Salamandastron, and all vermin know it well. Well, we know what really lives there; Badgers! So Bella put on a sheet and started running around screaming ‘eulalias’ like the world was at an end, and they all ran. It was almost funny to watch.
Martin laughed a little. “Typical Gonff. Always coming up with great ideas.”
Trimp smiled, but then grew serious again. “You must’ve taken quite a hit. Look at all this blood!”
“It isn’t my blood,” groaned Martin. “It was here when I fell. It’s mostly my left arm; I can hardly move it. I think it took most of the force when I hit the wall.”
“Hit the wall? Goodness me, what happened?”
“I’m not sure. The most I can make out is that one of the foxes got bloodwrath and threw me. I’ve never heard of anything like it before.”
At that moment, a few mice arrived to help Martin to the infirmary. There, a young brother of the order, Brother Francis, analyzed the injury and reported that, miraculously, Martin’s arm was not broken.
“It’s dislocated at the shoulder and sprained at the elbow,” he said. “It will hurt a lot and be very stiff, but it will heal well, though slowly.”
A few hours later, Gonff returned alone. As he talked to Martin, Lady Amber, and Skipper the warrior began to wonder more about these foxes. They were obviously more than mercenaries.
“I was following the trail,” the mousethief said, “when it vanished. It was as if they got that far and then flew away. At the end of the trail I found this.” He held out a roll of bark paper. Martin unrolled it, but it took less than a glance to tell him everything about it. He dropped it on the ground and put his face in his paws, shaking his head slowly.
“Fates, tell me this isn’t happening!”
Gonff picked up the map and looked at it. Redwall Abbey was marked in red ink, and there was a bold black line leading northeast to another fortress marked in black ink. “Marshank? What in the name of mice is that supposed to mean?”
“Death, cruelty, slavery, basically evil,” commented Martin.
“That explanation doesn’t explain.”
“Marshank,” – Martin spat the word as if it had a foul taste – “is a bad place. You don’t want to go there.”
“It seems to me that we don’t want Abbess Germaine, Columbine, and Chugger to go there,” Gonff pointed out. Martin nodded.
“Yes, you’re right. We should follow them. Trimp, Gonff, Skipper, Lady Amber, Dinny, Folgrim, Willow, Harebell, Honeydew, Trubbs, Wother, and Ffring, c’mon. Get packed up, we’re leaving.”
“I’m going too,” another voice shouted into his ear. Martin winced. He turned to Gonflet before replying,
“No. You aren’t.”
“Let him go!” argued Gonff. “He’s the same age you and I were during the war, matey. And it is his mother and best friend that are at jeopardy.”
“Fine, let him go,” muttered Martin. “He’ll really wanna go next time when the blood, gore, killing, and pain get to him.” He turned back to the young one’s father. “Do you have any idea if our friends are still alive?”
“Well, matey, I found mouse and squirrel tracks every now and again in the dirt. That’s as good of assurance as we’re likely to get, so we’ll just have to hope.”
Martin nodded. “Thanks, Gonff. I need to get a new habit, then we’ll be off.”
Goody Stickle was doing laundry. She selected a clean habit as she analyzed the damage done to Martin’s robe. “The entire hem’s torn off, there’s a rip down the side, all the way from your knee, it’s covered in blood, mud, and something else, torn in other miscellaneous places, one sleeve is entirely gone, and your hood is in shreds. It’s not even recognizable as a habit anymore! How did you do all that?”
“It just happens when violent things like that happen,” explained Martin.
Gonff examined the mess on the warrior’s habit that Goody had been unable to identify. “Is this what I think it is?” he asked.
“I don’t know, what do you think it is?”
The mousethief sniffed at it, then stood up with a look of disgust on his face. “That’s disgusting! How did that get on your habit?”
Martin examined it. “I don’t know. That is disgusting.” Any further conversation was cut off as he grabbed the fresh habit Goody held out to him, nodded his thanks, and ran off to the Abbey building, holding the clean garment as far away from the old one as possible.
Lady Amber walked up beside Gonff. “What was all that about Marshank being a bad place?” she asked.
“I have no idea,” replied Gonff. “I wonder why he knows.”
Later that day, Bella watched as the fourteen adventurers trekked off through the forest. She had wanted to go with them, but Martin had pointed out that if they were all gone and Redwall was attacked, it would be defenseless. She had seen the sense in that, of course, so she had agreed to stay.
As the old badger watched Martin walk off with his friends, she noted that his usual enthusiasm did not grace his steps. It was more than the pain of his injury; that would be painful but such things did not usually trouble the warrior. It was obvious that he felt an old pang from something else as well. Maybe it had something to do with “Marshank.” Bella watched them until they faded away into the trees. When she could no longer see her friend, she wondered if she had been right about her assessment.
Sighing, the old badger walked back into her home. It couldn’t be right. She was getting more than a little blind.
A few weeks later…
Some said that David the Sting had squirrel blood, but he knew that he was a mouse through and through. Okay, he had been raised by squirrels, but that didn’t make him one. The only reason anyone thought that was that he could climb as well as or better than any squirrel. Force of practice, mostly, he thought, but it was an undeniable fact that he preferred the treetops over the ground and spent most of his time in them. He was like a squirrel in other ways though; his weaponry consisted of a bow and arrows, a weapon with which he was deadly accurate, a tiny knife for miscellaneous purposes, and a short javelin, pointed at both ends, for close range combat. He also sometimes carried a blowpipe and blow darts, but he had recently been surprised by a band of foxes and been forced to flee, leaving the weapon on a rock by the fire. That had been several hours ago, and he was now in the process of following the foxes to retrieve his possession.
He leapt with great agility from tree to tree, noting with a practiced eye all the tell-tale signs on the ground that a large group of beasts had passed that way. Most creatures would have been unable to detect them, but David was a skilled tracker. He had learned from the best, a fox seer. The creature had been the seer in a group of Juska vermin, who had killed his family of squirrels and taken him prisoner. They had tried to make him one of them, and finally he had accepted their way of life, but he didn’t throw himself all the way in, and he was rejected by all, except the seer. She had taken a shine to him, and taught him how to track. Before his training was over, the mouse had been able to track an otter in a river. But when he actually caught an otter in a river, the clan had tried to get him to torture it. He had refused, and run off with the fox, who had removed the tattoos from both their faces. However, before she was finished, a change seemed to come over her and she had attacked him. He had barely escaped with his life, and to this day had never understood what had happened. He was left with a blue lightning bolt on his left cheek, the last bit that had not been removed, along with a nasty scar on his right cheek that was similarly shaped. He gritted his teeth as the memories came back. David had been to gentle a name for the vermin; they had called him Zann Taggerung. The last he had heard of them, they had made a memorial of him. A great warrior had been found in the clan and named Brin Zann Taggerung, and was now their clan warrior. All he could say was that he wondered how long the tradition would last.
As he recalled all those memories, he came suddenly and without warning into the open. The foxes had set up camp right below him. He immediately ducked back behind a branch and peered out from behind it.
“So my blowpipe isn’t the only thing they stole,” he thought as he spied the three prisoners, two mice and a squirrel, tied up at the base of a tree. Of course, the first thought that came to mind was how he could rescue them, and a plan soon presented itself.
“Really, Abbess Germaine, I wasn’t trying to kill her, only get her out of the Abbey,” Columbine explained. It was the three hundredth time she had said that, she was sure.
“And it was a good cause and well done, my dear. But violence is never the answer.”
“Sometimes you have to stop creatures in measures they understand,” the mousemaid replied.
Abbess Germaine never answered, because she was frightened out of her wits by a paw that was placed over her mouth from behind. Columbine opened her mouth to scream, but suddenly a mouse behind Germaine shook his head.
“No! Don’t draw attention to yourself! I’m a friend. Just do as I say and we’ll have you out of here.”
“Martin?” whispered Columbine.
“My name’s David,” he explained, confused. But he swiftly decided that could be sorted out later and began cutting at their bonds with his knife. “Dangit, I need to sharpen this thing more often. When you’re free, wait ‘till you see me start a diversion on the other side of the clearing. Then make a run for it.” As he finished speaking, the last bond was cut and the mouse retreated as quickly as possible.
The three remained perfectly still until the diversion started. David came bounding out of the forest on the ground and bumped into the first fox he came to. The fox fell down, and the mouse rudely strolled across his tail. As the fox squealed loudly, he attracted the wanted attention of every member of the band. They all stood and gawped at him for a moment, then the leader screamed at the top of his voice,
“That’s one o’ da mice Lord Clogg wants! Get ‘im!”
David shot into the forest and up a tree as fast as he could. These foxes were working for Clogg? He had walked into a lot more than he’d expected. He watched as almost every fox in the clearing dashed after him. At least the diversion was working. He dashed back and forth between his tree and the next, avoiding every arrow they shot at him, while calling them names and keeping their attention quite well.
Columbine, Abbess Germaine, and Chugger were doing quite well with their escape for all of twenty seconds. They had swiftly but quietly moved away, as Chugger picked up a coil of rope that some careless fox had left on the ground. He wound it around his waist, thinking that it would be useful. They continued on for a moment, but then Columbine stepped on a twig, which broke with a loud snap. All activity on the other side of the clearing ceased, then half of the foxes came at the three escapees as fast as they possibly could while the other half continued to attack David. They were soon surrounded.
As she looked at the enemies closing in around them, a rage rose in the mousemaid that she did not know she possessed. It wasn’t an angry rage, but more of a determined one. Instead of wanting to kill, she found herself wanting to succeed. So she did the most successful thing she could. She grabbed Chugger and flung him above the foxes’ heads, shouting, “Run, Chugger! Get out of here!” The squirrel, though surprised, managed to catch hold of a low branch and pull himself into the tree. As he turned back, his eyes were caught by the events on the other side of the clearing. He gasped in horror.
David was doing quite well, until the last thing he expected happened. Among the voices screaming different things, he heard one rise up above them all;
“Rotbreath! You idiot, you said…”
“No!” thought David. “It can’t be!” In his astonishment, he stopped, precariously balanced on a branch. Before he remembered to start moving again, he felt an arrow pierce his footpaw. It misbalanced him and he suddenly found himself falling down, down, down, to where his enemies were waiting.
David’s fall was cut short as something whizzed past him and grabbed hold of him. Chugger had not been idle; as soon as he saw David stop he had made a loop in the end of his rope and threw it high into the tree the mouse was in. It had looped over an old dead branch and Chugger had launched himself off. By pure luck, he had managed to catch the mouse in midair as he fell.
David pulled himself up and grabbed the rope. It swung past the tree, narrowly missing it, and the two let go of it. Chugger landed on his footpaws, ready for anything, but as David tried to do the same he fell with a cry of pain. The squirrel tried to lift him, but it was very difficult.
“Get going!” ground out the injured mouse. “I can hold them off!”
Chugger was not about to do that. “No! You’re injured!”
“Just go! I’ll be fine!”
Something in the tone he used told the squirrel to obey him. He got up, slowly backed away, and then all out ran. As he looked back, he saw no sign of David. Some foxes were following him, and some were standing around looking bewildered.
While he was busy looking for David, the squirrel ran slap-bang into Lady Amber. Both sat down and rubbed at the part that had collided hardest for a second. Then Chugger leapt up. “There’s a lot of foxes following me! Quick!”
The squirrels bounded up into the trees and headed in a southwesterly direction, Lady Amber leading. “Chugger! What happened?” she gasped.
“Time later!” gasped the younger squirrel. They ran on in silence for a while, until all sounds of pursuit had faded away. Just in time, too, because they soon emerged into the camp set up by Martin and his companions. Chugger and Lady Amber dropped from the trees and lay on the ground, panting. Trimp came running up to the young squirrel.
“Chugger, are you alright? What happened? How did you get away from those terrible foxes? Did they hurt you? Are you alright?”
The squirrel answered the questions as best he could between breaths. “I’m fine. A mouse named David helped me out. Columbine threw me. No, I’m alright. Yes, I’m fine.”
This, of course, made no sense to the hogmaid, or anyone else for that matter. Martin intervened.
“Trimp, let him get his breath. Then please tell us what happened from the beginning, Chugger.”
When the young squirrel had caught his breath, he explained everything that had happened. There was silence for a while. Martin commented,
“At least we know they’re not far away.”
The others nodded, but they all knew it would be suicide to attempt a rescue now, when the enemy was all stirred up.
Shortly after, Gonflet and Folgrim returned to the camp from another direction. They had been doing the same thing Lady Amber had; scouting. Gonff’s young offspring immediately recognized his friend and plied him with all the same questions Trimp had and then some. Folgrim did likewise, though he was quieter about it. When Chugger described David to him, he looked slightly surprised, but said nothing.
The twelve friends did not go much farther that day, because before they had gotten far they found evidence that the foxes had not moved. The next day the foxes left, though, and their pursuers followed suit. As Gonff passed through the clearing the foxes had been camped in, he scanned the ground. Finally, he found what he was looking for. Stooping, he picked up a ribbon with a small wooden pendant on it. The pendant was carved into the shape of a columbine blossom, and painted blue.
Martin looked over Gonff’s shoulder. “This belonged to Columbine,” explained the mousethief. He dropped the pendant into his pocket and closed it securely.
The fifteen woodlanders continued on for several hours. That evening, they came out onto a plain. It stretched for as far as they could see in every direction except behind them (south) and a little to their right. There, they could see hills of a sort in the distance. When the map was consulted, the line led straight north from there, and so did the tracks, which were increasingly hard to find. However, neither map nor tracks were needed, as the farsighted Lady Amber soon identified a moving blot to the north as their quarry.
Without a word, the twelve broke into a run, hoping that the foxes would not notice them and that if they did that they would not “dispose of” a “certain prisoner” to increase their speed. For a while, they went on quite well, but running for a long time is not easy, and some of the group were not made for it; namely Gonff and Dinny; and finally they began to fall behind. None of the party noticed this until several hours later, when they agreed to stop for a break. The mouse and mole were by this time very far behind, and extremely weary. Martin and Skipper ran back to help them.
“I’m sorry, Gonff! And you too, Dinny. I forgot how hard it is for you to run so fast for so long.”
“Oh, it’s alright, matey. Maybe we’ll catch those foxes when they’ve run all the way around the world and run into our backs.”
“Hurr, doan’t ee worry, zurr Marthen. We’m be fine. You’m better catch them foxers an’ save ee Columbiney an’ H’abbess.”
Martin shook his head at the silliness of Gonff and broad dialect of Dinny as the four creatures approached the main group. They rested for some time, but the foxes did not appear to have rested. So up they had to get again, and up they did get again. But it was not long until the sun set; it set sooner there than at the Abbey because of the mountains to their left. They ran on for a while, but soon it became so dark that they unanimously elected to stop.
The next morning, Folgrim was the first creature to rise. He sat watching the sun rise in the east and thought about what Chugger had told him the day before. Memories piled in, but before he could reminiscence properly, he heard the others awakening behind him. Ah, well. It would be another long day.
David crouched under a bush. It had not been hard for him to evade the foxes, but if his suspicion was correct then every bit of his skill would be useless in the days to come. He refused to think about what he had discovered, refused to accept what he knew was the truth. He didn’t want it to be the truth. It was too horrible.
Turning his mind to more believable subjects, he examined the arrow in his footpaw. It hadn’t pierced anything vital, just skin, though it had bled a lot. The arrowhead had gone all the way through the skin and was sticking out on the other side. David groaned. Despite all his prowess as a warrior, the mouse was about as useful as a sick toad at a music concert when it came to healing. He groaned in pain as he snapped off the arrowhead and pulled the shaft out. The mouse tried to ignore the pain, but it was hard. He tore a strip off his tunic and bound the wound, then, using his javelin as a walking staff, he started in a northerly direction. He had not gone far though, when he heard a voice calling his name.
The other mouse emerged from the bushes at David’s left, being careful to make no sound. “David, what happened to you? The foxes are already back at Marshank.”
David groaned in frustration and pain. “They lost me in the woods. Fortunately, they returned the same way, so we met up again. I followed them a short ways, until I realized that they had prisoners. Two mousewives and a squirrel. I tried to rescue them, but only the squirrel got out. I was injured in the attempt you can see.”
Brome grinned as he caught sight of the rough bandage on the older mouse’s leg. “I can see, and I can also see that you didn’t wash it and have been walking on it. When will you learn?”
“I had to,” David defended himself as Brome sat him down and unwound the bandage. “I stayed put for some time, not far from where the foxes made their camp. The next day, the squirrel came back with a group.” David gritted his teeth momentarily as Brome washed his wound. He then grabbed the younger mouse’s shoulders, staying his work, and looked earnestly into his eyes. “One of them was Martin the Warrior.”
Brome froze. After a moment he let out his breath slowly and stealthily, as if the trees might have ears. Finally, he breathed out the name. “Martin the Warrior? Are you absolutely sure, David?”
The older warrior nodded. “As sure as one can be without actually having seen him. He matched your description perfectly, I’m sure there’s only one sword like the one he was carrying, and I heard the others call him Martin several times.”
There was a short silence as Brome digested this information and David watched him. Finally, the healer shook his head slowly. “This is an interesting development. It has to have something to do with the two mice you mentioned. I wonder…” the last statement didn’t seem to be directed at his companion, and was left unfinished. Brome said nothing more; but finished ministering to David’s injury, after which time the older mouse declared he felt fit enough to go on. So they did.
It was nightfall before they halted, on the bank of a small stream that flowed from the mountains. Any idea of catching up with the foxes had vanished, if indeed it had ever existed, and Brome seemed reluctant to hurry forward anyway. They feared no attack, so they built a huge fire, at least, as huge as they could make it with their limited supply of wood, and had as big of a supper as they could make with their limited food supply. They didn’t set a guard, but Brome was awake the whole night, thinking. Consequently, he was exhausted the next morning. David, on the other paw, was feeling very fresh and insisted that they continue.
They walked along northward at a leisurely pace, but they still covered the distance quickly. In the morning, they were on one side of the mountains, but by the time the shadows fell and darkness took over they were almost all the way past them, and a river was in sight. Beyond it loomed a dark shape; Marshank.
Brome still said nothing as they made another temporary camp and prepared to sleep. He slept that night though, which David viewed was an improvement over last night. The older mouse wondered if he had been wise to tell his friend about Martin.
The next morning dawned bright and beautiful. In good spirits they crossed the river and approached the old fort on the other side. There was no one in sight, and they had to decide what to do. They elected to follow the tracks they found leading northward, but Brome still seemed in no hurry to go onward, so they didn’t get very far that day. It was the next day that the trail led right off the edge of a cliff. The two friends looked over it at the crashing waves below.
“Hm,” Brome summed up both their thoughts. “I wonder why they walked off the edge of the cliff.”
David shrugged. At that moment, both of them were very nearly thrown off the cliff as a roar rose up behind them and before they knew it, was all around them. Nearly fivescore shrews were charging, yelling themselves hoarse. They nearly shot past the two mice, but the leading one tripped, and all the others tripped sequentially like a stack of dominoes. Now the friends got a proper look at them and saw that they were a mixed bunch, some normal stream shrews, and some pygmy shrews, and there were also a few that Brome knew. He looked at his companion, and neither of them needed to speak to inform each other that they were wondering what exactly had sent such a large number of shrews, normally brave and solid creatures, running like babes from bathtime. The answer to their question came slithering out of the woods in the form of nearly threescore, extremely angry-looking adders.
Martin paused to get his breath. A small dot could be seen to the north. Even at that distance, it was all too familiar to Martin. Marshank. He had hoped never to see the awful place again, but now he was headed straight for it. Nothing to be done about it. He ran on.
They had been running almost all day, and the sun was beginning to set, but there was still light enough to go a little further, at least to the river. As they arrived on its shores, the fifteen companions heard voices upstream a bit. Martin silently beckoned for Gonff and Folgrim to follow him and the rest to stay put. They crept along the bank, keeping hidden in cattails and rushes as they approached the source of the voices.
It was a large group of shrews. They were obviously Guosim, or Guerilla Union of Shrews in Mossflower, but it was odd that they were not in Mossflower. Listening to the conversation for a short time answered the companions’ questions.
“An’ I wanna know what we’re a-doin’ so far north!” one shrew was saying. His question was answered as another shrew batted him across the snout.
“’Cause I said to go this far north, ya ninny! I’m the Log-a-log ‘round ‘ere!”
“But why’d ya say to, eh?” shouted several voices at once. Log-a-log whirled around.
“’Cause we need to know what the northern waters are like, an’ I wanna know what the fishin’s like!”
Gonff hollered out in a perfect imitation of the shrew’s voice, “An’ ya need to see how many arguments you can get into with your tribe, Log-a-log Furmo!”
The shrew cocked an ear, chuckled a bit, and called back in a passable imitation of the mousethief’s voice, “Aye, that too, though I was plannin’ on getting’ mixed up in some arguments with somebeasts up to snuff!”
Gonff emerged from hiding and replied in his own voice, “You’ve been practicin’, matey. Hah. Then you’ve come to the right place. We’re on the trail of some foxes. They have Abbess Germaine and Columbine prisoner.”
Furmo grinned. “You don’t mind having me an’ my gang along, do ya, Gonff, Martin?” He nodded to the warrior who had deserted cover when Gonff had. Martin didn’t speak, but shook his head.
“Good, then!” cried Gonff. With no pretense to safety, he shouted at the top of his voice back at the others in their group, “Lady Amber! Skipper! Gonflet! Everybeast! It’s the Guosim! Come on!”
The travelers needed no second bidding, and in no time the shrew camp had a dozen new occupants, six of whom were hares. When the shrewcooks laid out food, they went at it with a will, demolishing the repast like they had lived out a seven-season famine. Martin and the other non-hare members of the company paced themselves, eating slowly and enjoying the food, while the shrews gaped at the hares and betted on which one would finish first, whether they could finish that enormous tankard of shrewbeer between them, and other such things. Eventually the hares did finish, and they all slept.
Before anybeast else awoke next morning, Martin was awake, staring at the tall fort ahead of them. The rays of the rising sun fell upon it from the east, lighting up the sea as it did, but the beauty surrounding it did nothing to diminish the cruel, filthy, barbarian feel to the place. Folgrim wondered if he had slept at all, and Gonff resolved in his mind to ask Martin about his prior knowledge of Marshank. But as he approached his friend, he saw something he had never seen before. Tears were welling up in the warrior’s eyes, and several had already spilled out onto his face, matting his fur down until either they were lost in his fur or fell, shining in the new light to the ground where they soaked into the dust. As the mousetheif’s eyes followed one such tear, he was surprised to see it land on the petals of a wild rosebush at the warrior’s feet. As Gonff watched, Martin turned to him. The other mouse froze, slightly afraid of this new Martin and on the verge of asking who he was and what he had done with his friend. He did not ask this, however, and it was definitely Martin’s voice that spoke, informing Gonff that he thought it high time they were on their way. Gonff nodded and quickly left.
After he left, Martin bent down and plucked a blossom from the wild rose at his feet. He studied it for a long time before he heard someone back at camp call his name. He dropped the flower and ran back to the others. The rose fell to the ground, separating into a thousand pieces on the way.
Back at camp, everyone was ready to leave. Martin picked up the bag of food that was the only thing besides his sword that he had brought, and then he was ready too. They crossed the river in the Guosim’s logboats. On the other side, Log-a-log had a terrific argument with his wife about whether or not the women and children were coming, and for once, Furmo won. Only because his wife’s mother butted in and informed her in no uncertain terms that no one was dragging Guosim maids and infants into any kind of danger. Furmo still called it progress.
Eventually the Guosim warriors headed off toward Marshank and the women and children stayed behind, though, as Furmo’s wife put it, “If’n ye aren’t back by summer’s end, Furmo, we’re ‘eadin’ back to Mossflower an’ ye’ll have to find us!”
With these shrill words ringing in his ears, the shrew chieftan marched overland with the others. As they breasted a low hill, he heaved a sigh of relief, knowing his wife couldn’t see him. Martin, on the other paw, was neither enjoying the walk nor feeling any kind of relief. With each step, he saw ground he had covered before in a wild charge. Looking up, he saw Marshank, and once again he was charging, friends and allies at his back and his most hated enemy in front of him. Glancing over his shoulder briefly, he saw Rose charging with the rest of the army, screaming a battle cry that would have sent the staunchest of foes fleeing. At the time, he had been caught up in so many mixed feelings that he hadn’t thought much of it, but now, knowing her fate, he felt grief and sorrow.
Like a flash, the memory was gone. Martin discovered to his surprise and discomfort that he had tripped over his own footpaws and was laying in the dirt. Gonff was crouching in front of him. “Watch where you’re going, matey,” he said as he offered Martin his paw.
The warrior grunted his thanks as he regained his feet. Slowly and painfully he walked on.
Only a few minutes later they arrived at the high, once-impassable walls. They had fallen into some disrepair, but a fair-sized force could still hold it. There was not a sign of anybeast anywhere near. They paused, rather uncertain about waltzing in the front door of such a large and obviously evil place. Martin wordlessly beckoned for them to follow and circled around the back. Near the wall was an obvious gaping hole. The warrior entered and silently made his way into the place. As Gonff followed, it was confirmed that the place was deserted. Straight in front of him was an old and ruined building, partially burnt, with what had obviously once been furniture and food stores inside. Away to his left was a burnt-out circle of charcoal stubs. Perhaps it had once been a compound of some sort. But the oddest part of this odd place was the neat rows of graves near the front wall. Most of them were marked by a plain stone with a name on it, but one was completely covered with a double layer of stones that had obviously once been part of the wall. The mousethief approached it and read the name carved into the stone at head height. The handwriting was painfully difficult to read, and the spelling was horrendous, but the mousethief at last understood it. When he did, he could not keep back a snort of laughter.
Rest in cayoss
Lady Amber came to see what he was laughing about, followed closely by the rest of the group. While they found it slightly humorous, they could not figure out who would go to the trouble to bury anybeast if they didn’t wish him peace.
“Where’s Martin?” asked Gonff as he looked back at the assembled group.
“Up there,” replied Folgrim as he indicated the top of the wall. Indeed, the figure of the warrior could be seen standing between two old wooden posts that had fallen apart with age. He was leaning on his sword. Presently he came down and wandered over to the back wall. He passed his paw over it and looked around. Gonff didn’t know what he was doing, but he did know that neither the foxes nor their prisoners were in the old fort. He approached his friend.
“Martin, they’re not here. We should try to find out where they are.”
Martin examined the wall in front of him for a second, and then silently pointed out a carving that had been cleverly disguised with dust and mud. It depicted an image with Marshank on it, crossed out, next to a circled valley surrounded by woodlands with a river running through. A crude message was scrawled beneath it: On to Noonvale.
Gonff shook his head sadly. “It appears their headquarters have been moved.”
“It would appear so,” Martin agreed.
“Unfortunately,” came a voice from behind the two mice; Wother’s; “unfortunately we don’t know where Noonvale is.”
Martin sighed. “I know a route,” he admitted, “but it’s difficult. Dangerous too; there are many obstacles along the way.”
“Like what?” asked Gonff. It was clear that his mind was already made up; if it would get him to where his wife was he would do it.
“A swamp full of cannibalistic lizards, a mountain inhabited by idiotic, selfish squirrels, and a good long trip for starters.”
Gonff grinned at his friend. “Then we’d best get busy, eh?”
The others agreed and the companions exited the fort and followed Martin north along the shoreline to where the cliffs began. Martin chose to travel along the tops of the cliffs for safety, and they headed north, the marshes to some distance on their left and the cliffs and sea to their right.
Martin insisted on pushing on late into the evening and even as night fell he continued relentlessly. He knew this was nothing like the direction in which Noonvale lay, but he needed a starting point. They were all beginning to tire though. Gonflet picked up a stone and flung it over the cliff’s edge, listening glumly as it flew through the air and finally splashed into the water. He found this entertaining, so every time he located a stone, he flung it. Sometimes it landed in the water and sometimes it didn’t. The older creatures more or less ignored him, so none of them were paying attention when he wandered too close to the edge in search of stones. Some of the ground crumbled away beneath his paws and he fell with a shout. All the others turned, and then very foolishly ran to the edge to look over after the young mouse. An entire tribe of Guosim, plus six hares, two mice, two otters, a mole, and two squirrels is no light burden, and the entire ledge gave way. With a collective scream, they all fell. Fortunately for them, the water came right up to the cliffs just there, and it broke their fall somewhat; however they all lost consciousness.
Martin awoke in an uncomfortable and rude manner. He quickly realized that he was lying on the sandy beach at the base of the cliff, where the tide must have deposited him, and that it was still night, though it was getting old. He probably would have been out for some time longer if it hadn’t been for the annoying stick that was prodding his side. It was accompanied by a voice.
“Higgig! Higgig! Biggamouse allawet! Higgig!”
Martin closed his eyes in exasperation. He had hoped to skip this part of the journey. His head hurt as he cast about for the appropriate reply. Finally, it came.
“Higgig. Goodagood, pokeymore biggamouse,” he muttered, finding the situation far from funny.
The poking immediately stopped, but the voice did not. “Biggamouse notell Amballa wattado! Badabad!”
Martin groaned out loud. This was the queen of the pygmy shrew tribe? Last time he had met her she had been more mature, if only a little. So that was what she was doing these days, going around poking otherbeasts with sticks. He had often wondered.
Another voice cut in. “Amballa! Nopoke biggamouse! Dinjerking tellyou before.” So this wasn’t the queen. Martin rolled over to see an adult male pygmy shrew approaching. The maid moved away from Martin and looked at the ground shamefaced. This development surprised Martin, especially if the elder was who he thought it was. Martin’s idea was confirmed as the shrew turned to him and said, “I Dinjerking Amballason. What namesay you?”
Martin responded in the pygmy shrew dialect. “I Martinmouse Warriormouse.” He got up as he continued, “Yousee myfriends? Sixbiggahare, twobiggamouse, twobiggotter, lottashrew, pinpiggy, an’ twobiggasquirrel?”
Gonff the amazing mimic came up behind Dinjer and said to Martin, “Higgig! Weallhere, youonlygone. Higgig!”
“Gonff!” Martin exclaimed, and he ran to his friend. Behind him were all the others. Caught up in the spirit of the pygmy shrew dialect, he “higgiged” instead of laughing, to the great amusement of his companions.
The reunion was interrupted as Dinjer hustled them off in a businesslike manner, up a staircase hidden in the cliff face, and into a cave. He clapped his paws and said something so rapidly in the shrew dialect that Martin couldn’t understand it (Gonff probably could), though he caught something about food. The hares apparently caught it too as they immediately began heaping praise on all shrews in the area.
“Oh, spiffin’ chaps, wot?”
“They’re going to feed us!”
“Jolly good form, shrew-types.”
Dinjer took Martin’s paw and led him into the recess of the cave, chattering so fast that Martin wondered if he could understand himself. “Dinjerking talkslow. Martinmouse nohear.” His attempts at informing the shrew of this difficulty were unsuccessful, and if anything Dinjer talked faster.
Gonff had followed them. Seeing that Martin did not know what the shrew was telling him, he explained, “As near as I can figure, he says you’ve been inquired after, matey.”
“Inquired after? By who?”
“Biggabird,” babbled Dinjer. “Biggabird comehere, say Martinmouse comehere. Namesay Boldredbird. Say Martinmouse goNoonvale, bring lottahelp. Nosay why.”
“Boldred?” Martin exclaimed out loud. “What on earth?”
Any further conversation was interrupted by the call to dinner. It was good food; plum pudding, cider, plain bread, and a lot of roast fish. The hares demolished a record amount, claiming that falling off a cliff top and being half-drowned was hungry work. None of the others bothered to disagree; they were too busy eating. All through the meal, Dinjer sat next to Martin and talked at fifty miles per hour without stopping to take a breath. Martin smiled and nodded, though he only really understood about one word in three. He understood enough to know that the shrew was talking about various ways to get to Noonvale, also, the warrior realized about five minutes after the fact that Dinjer had offered a large number of shrew warriors to go with Martin and had taken his incessant nodding as an acceptance. Martin kept on wondering why Boldred wanted help and became rather cross with her for not saying why, and he also wondered why the owl wanted him to collect help; last time she had regarded herself as more suited to the task. All the while he was wondering this, Dinjer was explaining that from where they currently were the shortest route to Noonvale was through the swamps and over the mountain. Martin smiled and nodded. Dinjer saw that he was tired and finished with the comment, “Martinmouse go bedabed now.”
Martin did not disagree, and neither did his companions, so they soon found themselves bedded down on soft old mattresses in the entrance to the cave. Martin puzzled over the mystery of Boldred for some time. If she had known he was coming, why hadn’t she just met him on the way? And if for whatever reason she couldn’t, why hadn’t she waited for him? It was more than he could figure out. He fell asleep puzzling over it.
In the morning, the companions rose early, and after a good breakfast of leftovers from the night before, set out. They made good progress and were in the forest by mid-afternoon. Memories assailed Martin with every step. Finally, he came to a place he recognized clearly. An old dead oak leaned against a rocky outcrop, and a house was built in the upper branches. Martin slowly walked onward, straight towards the trunk. A short distance away, he stopped and looked upward, expecting a homely face to be looking back, but there was nothing. He then noticed that it was deathly silent; not even birds were singing. Fear gripped the warrior, and he swiftly climbed up into the tree and entered the house. No one was there, but the place was a mess, as if someone had gone about with a sword, hacking and slashing indiscriminately. The worst sign of all was all the blood on the floor. Martin stared in silent shock until he heard a sound behind him and whirled around quickly. It was only Gonff, Chugger, and Lady Amber. The other three looked around in astonishment.
“I wonder what happened here,” Chugger commented. The others were silent. Martin shook his head slowly, indicating that he did not know. He walked out in a state of shock. As he exited the house again, another memory overtook him. He heard Rose’s soft voice singing.
“Goodbye, my friend and thank you, thank you, thank you,
It makes me sad to leave you upon this summer day.
Don’t shed a tear or cry now, goodbye now, goodbye now,
I’m sure I’ll see you somehow, if I pass by this way,
For the seasons don’t foretell
Who must stay or say farewell,
And I must find out what lies beyond this place.
But I know deep in my heart
We are never far apart
While I have a mem’ry of your smiling face.
Goodbye, my friend and thank you, thank you, thank you,
Your kindness guides me ever as I go on my way.”
Martin shook himself out of his dream with a jolt, but the song did not end. Someone was actually singing it! He glanced at Gonff, and the mousethief shrugged. The two signaled for all the others to stay where they were as they went to investigate.
Not far away, under a beautiful spreading tree, was a fresh grave. Standing in front of it was a beautiful mousemaid. Both Martin and Gonff immediately knew that it had been her who was singing. There could be no two with such a voice… Or maybe there could, but there definitely wasn’t anybeast in the area with a voice even remotely like hers.
As Martin assessed the mousemaid, he must have made a small sound, because she turned around in a fright. Fresh tears could be seen streaming down her face and her fur was all rumpled, her dress was torn, and a cautious fear could be detected in her every movement. Neither Martin nor Gonff doubted that she could disappear in the blink of an eye if she felt threatened. Accordingly, they were careful to avoid any movement that might be interpreted as a threat. Martin checked to make sure his paw was not too close to his sword, and stood perfectly still. The maid looked them over carefully before voicing an opinion of them.
“You aren’t foxes.” Her simple comment was all she appeared to have to say, as she said no more. Martin nearly fell over in surprise. Her voice was exactly like Rose’s and now he came to think of it, she looked exactly like Rose as well. He would’ve thought her to be Rose if it wasn’t for the obvious age difference. Quietly, so as not to frighten her, he spoke.
“No, we aren’t foxes. We don’t mean to hurt you. Can you tell us what happened here?”
The younger mouse nodded. “I was visiting Polleekin for a while. We were just having a mid-morning snack when she heard something outside. She went to see what it was. When she came back, she just said that there were some foxes outside and I’d have to hide. So I did. I stayed hidden for a long time, and I heard a lot, but I couldn’t understand most of it. When I came out, the foxes were gone, but they’d killed Polleekin. I buried her, of course.” She looked up at Martin as if challenging him to a staring contest.
Martin ignored her challenge and asked a question of practical importance. “How long ago was this?”
The maid looked offended. “Why just this morning. D’you think I’d still be here if it were yesterday?”
“Um, no,” Martin said quickly, trying not to offend her any more. “I’m Martin and this is Gonff –“ (“Prince of Mousethieves,” put in Gonff) “- May I ask your name?”
“You may, but that doesn’t mean I’ll answer,” the young one replied. Without waiting for an answer to this unusual statement, she continued, “It’s Rosalee, but most folks just call me Rose.” Her friendly (or reasonably so) attitude disappeared in a moment and she added, “And I wouldn’t be telling you this if you weren’t my daddy’s friend.”
“Your daddy?” asked Martin blankly.
“Yes, my daddy. You didn’t expect me to have two mums did you?”
Gonff giggled. “I think he meant who is your daddy.”
Rosalee snorted. “Brome, of course!” She continued to herself, “Who’d you expect, Badrang or Uncle Pallum?”
Martin nodded in a very decided I’ll-just-pretend-I-know-what-she’s-talking-about manner. Gonff laughed.
“You know more than you let on about,” he told the maid. “Do you know the names of any of the foxes?”
“Huh, Crosstbreath an’ Rotpaw or summat like that.” Rosalee took the paw that Gonff offered him and strolled off in the direction of the others, her grief momentarily forgotten. Martin watched them go, then turned to the grave. It was unmarked, as Rosalee had neither the tools nor the skill to carve stone. Martin had no such skill either, so he simply knelt by it for a moment and paid his respects to the old molewife. Shortly after, he rose and returned.
Gonff was still chatting with Rosalee, and her fine temper had cooled somewhat, though she was still acting as if they should be well acquainted with everyone in her life. To his great discomfort, Martin discovered that he was acquainted with many of them, but he retained the I’m-going-to-pretend-I-know-what-she’s-talking-about attitude for the benefit of Gonff and the other Redwallers.
“And why did your daddy send you away from Noonvale?” Gonff was asking.
“Well,” replied Rosalee, “He said it was for a holiday, but it was really so I wouldn’t get caught when Noonvale was invaded. I know what you’re going to ask next; who invaded it? Umm…” She paused and scratched her chin as if searching her memory. “Some big, fat stoat named – How did he say it? – Cap’n Tramun Josiah Cuttlefish Clogg, that was it. Awful long name for a blown up, braided, fat stoat, though it matched his stature: too large. And, in answer to your next question, no I don’t know if he succeeded in the invasion.”
Gonff looked slightly surprised at her insight and ability to predict what he was going to say. Upon seeing Martin, he excused himself and went over to the warrior. “Well,” he said, “she says that a stoat was planning to take over Noonvale and her father sent her to Polleekin for safety. As far as I can tell, the stoat’s plan succeeded; there are very few experienced warriors in Noonvale and the defense is a minimum. All this happened a few days ago. Then, seemingly the very foxes we’re pursuing came through today, and… well, you know the rest. Do you think the stoat’s the one in charge of the foxes?”
“More than likely,” replied Martin. “I wonder why the foxes went all this way instead of going straight to their destination. There must be shorter routes.”
Gonff shrugged. “Maybe they went for the scenery.”
“You won’t say that when we get to the marshes,” Martin laughed. Gonff shot him a look that he didn’t quite understand.
“Are we going to get on,” asked Log-a-log, “or are we going to stand here all season shooting each other looks and chatting about the scenery?”
Martin laughed and agreed that they should go on. Rosalee went with them of course. Martin trudged in the front of the group, refusing to look back at the mousemaid lest the memories bring tears to his eyes and pain to his heart; she was the spitting image of Laterose. He thought of Gonff. He wondered if the mousethief had guessed that he was keeping something from him. The warrior wondered if he should tell the mousethief his story, but words from the past entered his mind that banished all such thoughts.
“Have no fear, I will never mention Noonvale or any of you. Noonvale is a secret place untouched by evil. I could not forgive myself if I unknowingly sent trouble there. Nobeast will know from where I came.”
Pallum stared quizzically at his stern-eyed friend. “But what will you say? We had such adventures together, maybe in another time and another place you will tell the tale.”
“Never!” Martin shook his head slowly. “I will only say that I guarded my father’s cave against searats while he was away. When I felt that he would not return, I began my wanderings. How could anybeast understand what we went through together, the freedom we won and the friends we lost?”
Martin sighed unhappily. He had made the promise and could not go back on it. He had often regretted not being able to tell his friends the truth, though never more than now. He wasn’t sure what he would say if Gonff asked for an explanation. They would all find out anyway, he was sure.
Martin was so deep in his thought that he did not notice the evening shadows lengthening. Gonff walked up beside him.
“Are you plannin’ on walkin’ all night, matey?”
Martin laughed. “That depends. Are you?”
The mousethief shook his head. “Nope, I’m going to bed.”
“Then so am I,” agreed Martin.
Martin’s paw shook. He looked down at his blade, covered in blood, and then at the unconscious forms around him, some of them in pools of blood. How could he have done that to his friends? His state of shock was interrupted as one of the forms moved, letting out a groan. Martin’s first instinct was to go and see if the creature was all right, but he couldn’t bring himself to move toward him. How could he face any of them after what he had done? As the warrior stood, undecided, the figure half sat up and looked at him.
“Martin?” Martin could not suppress a gasp. The mud and blood crusted form was Gonff. The horror was more than he could bear and he turned and ran.
Around low hills he ran and over tussocks of solid ground, and he waded through puddles and pools that reeked of rotting plants. He must have dropped his sword at some point, because he did not have it when he tripped and suddenly found himself up to his elbows in mud. Fortunately it was not quicksand and he easily pulled himself out of it and staggered to a hump of solid ground. He was too tired to go on, so he sat there, ruminating on the events of the past few days.
The group slept soundly all that night. The next day, at about noon, they reached a small brook. They elected to rest, but Martin could not seem to relax. Memories came flying at him from every part of the glade and he got up and wandered off. He didn’t know how far, or in what direction he went, but it seemed like hours later (it was really only about ten minutes) that he heard a screech off to his left. He started to dash back to where the others were, but before he’d taken three steps all the noise died away. He continued to run, but shortly after more shouts rose from a little farther away. He changed course to converge with them and burst onto a path.
Gonff stood on the path, his back to a large hollow log. His sling was in his paw, and several foxes were closing in around him. There was more to the scene, but Martin did not wait to see it; he threw himself into the fray, drawing his sword and shouting, “Redwaaaaalll!”
His shout attracted the attention of all the foxes in the area, a considerably larger amount than those who were attacking Gonff. Many of them redirected their attention to him. He battled his way to Gonff’s side.
“Hi, matey. Glad to see you could join us,” grunted the mousethief. Martin did not reply; he was too busy fighting.
A screech sounded at the edge of the fray and several figures that the warrior could not identify came bounding into the fight. More followed; shrews; and the foxes saw that they were outnumbered and fled.
It appeared that there were no losses among the travelers, but they took a head count. Rosalee was missing.
“When was the last time anybeast saw her?” asked Martin.
A Guosim shrew named Firgle scratched his chin. “I saw her running into the fight – she was the one that screeched. Fine imitation of an eagle. But I didn’t see her after that.” Nobeast had seen her more recently than Firgle. Martin looked concerned.
“She must have been captured by the foxes,” he confided in Trimp. Before the hogmaid could answer, he felt a tug on his habit sleeve. He looked at Gonflet.
“What if she’s dead?” asked the younger mouse. Martin recognized the glint that appeared in his eyes at the mention of the mousemaid and smiled sadly. “There’s no body,” he reassured the young one, “So she can’t be dead.”
Gonflet nodded trustingly and walked away. Trimp noticed the warrior looking after him and nudged him playfully. “Remembering when you were that age?”
Martin nodded. “Yes. He’s taller than I was, though. Huh, he’s almost as tall as I am.” Trimp looked at him strangely. Martin caught the silent question and answered it in his next comment. “Unfortunately the way I grew up didn’t allow for things like romance.” Martin added nothing to the comment and Trimp asked no more.
Meanwhile, Gonff and Folgrim had discovered a small cave nearby. It was empty, though there were signs of recent life. They had decided that the foxes who had attacked them were the very foxes they were chasing. By the looks of it the main group had passed through almost half a day ago, but, aware that they were being pursued, had left a fairly large guard just there to ambush and hopefully slow down or even stop the pursuers. It worked, as there were several injuries to see to.
As Gonff and Folgrim turned to exit the house, they found their path blocked by a tall figure, a rabbit in fact.
“What are you doing in our house?” the rabbit asked.
“We were just lookin’ to see if there were foxes in it,” replied the otter. “But we saw there weren’t, so we’ll be out of it now.”
“No, you won’t,” said another voice as another rabbit appeared behind the first. “At least, not until you’ve answered a few questions. We want to know about those foxes.”
“Well, mateys,” retorted Gonff, “we don’t know anything about them, except that they have two of our friends prisoner.”
“Well, Buttercup,” the first rabbit addressed the second, “it appears that we have a leak.”
“Yes, Burnet,” agreed the second, presumably Buttercup, “but don’t blame them. They can’t have seen the place before. Why do-"
Buttercup froze, as rabbits will when something unexpected happens, as Martin’s voice came floating across to the place. “Gonff! Folgrim! Come on! We’re leaving!” The two rabbits looked at each other and then silently moved aside. But as Gonff walked out behind Folgrim, Burnet pulled him aside.
“You tell your friend that if this security leak is his fault, he’ll have a lot more than some big doll to worry about. Am I making myself crystal clear?”
Gonff nodded. “Clear as a bright summer morning, matey.” The rabbit gave him one last look that he couldn’t quite interpret and then went into the burrow with his companion. After they had left, the mousethief looked quizzically at the otter. Fol shrugged, showing that he had no idea what the rabbits were talking about.
Gonff relayed the message to Martin. “I don’t know what ‘security leak’ they’re talking about,” the warrior denied, “and I don’t know if it’s my fault or not. Though I don’t really see how it could be.”
The group trekked onward, and as they did Gonff explained to Martin what had happened back on the path by the Mirdop home. They had heard an angry screech and a series of thuds, as if something was running toward them. Gonff had silently crept forward to see what caused it, and had seen the huge beast. Unperturbed, he had crept up behind it and tried to scare it with some shouting and a quick pounce. But as he grabbed at it, it crumbled and fell to pieces on the ground, and then he was attacked by foxes. Martin knew the rest.
In the late afternoon they came to the edge of the marshes. They stopped a good distance away, none of them too keen on going into the rotting, soggy bog. Chugger summed up what everybeast present was thinking. “It stinks!”
Folgrim laughed lightheartedly. “Stink it does, but I’ve smelled worse,” he assured the squirrel. “Come on, the sooner we start the sooner we’ll be done.”
Behind him, Trimp batted his rudder and laughed. “You took the words right out of my mouth, though I can’t say I’ve ever been in a marsh before. But it’s always been like that everywhere else, so why not here?”
The group walked on in as good of spirits as could be expected, considering the circumstances. Darkness eventually fell and they began to look for a place to make camp. They soon found one, and the Guosim cooks began preparing the evening meal.
Martin wandered off. The mystery of Boldred’s odd actions came back to his mind. Other problems assailed him as well; how had the foxes ‘breached the security’ of Burnet and Buttercup Mirdop? He guessed that meant they had not fallen for the trick of the Mirdop monster. How had they known? Also, he wondered what had possessed Clogg to take over Noonvale and how he had found it. Martin had an uneasy, nagging feeling that it was his fault somehow, but he could not think how.
As all these thoughts passed through the warrior’s mind, he suddenly became aware of the smell of cooking, or lack thereof. This seemed odd at first, but then he realized that he’d been sitting and thinking for hours on end. He wandered back to the camp. It was empty. It appeared as if the group had finished whatever they were doing and gone to sleep. But there were no sleeping forms, though the warrior could see where some of them had lain. Wisps of smoke floated through the air as if large amounts of water had been poured on all the fires, but some time ago. A sudden sound made him turn. It was only Chugger.
“What happened here?” Martin asked.
The young squirrel looked around shakily. “Gonff sent me to find you. I hadn’t gone far when I thought I heard noises behind me, odd ones like low hissing or something. Not like a cookfire, though. More like a snake. I went back to investigate, but I could hardly see anything when I got here; it was all smoke. I heard shouts and grunts though, as if somebeast were fighting in the smoke. I thought I saw a lot of shrews running east with something behind them, but I don’t really know. When the smoke cleared a little I saw that everyone had been scattered, but some lizard-like creatures were going off – I don’t know if they had any prisoners.”
The warrior thought he now knew just what had happened. “Which way did they go?” he demanded. Chugger wordlessly pointed out a direction, and Martin ran that way, occasionally looking for signs of anybeast having passed that way. It wasn’t long before he located a ribbon on the ground. He picked it up and examined it. From the end hung a wooden pendant in the shape of a columbine blossom. Martin knew it immediately and ran on with renewed vigor.
Before long, Martin came to the lizard camp, with Chugger right behind him. The warrior dropped flat in some tall marsh grass and observed the situation.
Several figures (Martin did not take time to count them, though he recognized several of his friends) were bound by their necks to stakes arranged in a circle. Hordes of lizards stood all around, staring at them, and a large pan of something was in the middle of the ring. Martin felt his blood boil as he realized that they were fattening his friends. He slowly drew his sword. Next to him, Chugger sensed both his movement and intent.
“Wait!” hissed the squirrel. “We need a plan. Here’s what I think.”
Chugger outlined his plan to Martin. The warrior added his own modifications, to which Chugger added modifications. They went on like this for some time, until they both realized that the plan as it currently stood was so complicated that they would launch it and then forget most of it, so they went back to Chugger’s original plan.
A little later, Martin lay in a different clump of grass on the other side of the camp, watching the original (at least, he hoped it was. All the clumps of grass were so similar). The signal would come from there, at least, that was what Chugger said. Even at his adolescent age the squirrel would know that this was no time for mad jokes. But Martin watched and watched and watched, and the signal didn’t come. It was becoming hard for him to restrain himself from rushing into the camp, especially when some of his friends began to look pale, and tired of the plain food that the lizards were forcing them to eat.
Things came to a head when the lizards selected a prisoner to constitute their first meal. It was Dinny. Martin lost control and charged.
The lizards turned the scene into a bloody massacre of the prisoners.
Martin was among them soon enough to prevent any immediate killing, but the creatures’ prime objective seemed to be to make all non-lizard occupants of the area dead. In the confusion, some of them killed each other, and Martin seemed to be everywhere at once, swinging his blade and fighting like mad, his eyes glazing over in bloodwrath. In the space of a few minutes, the cannibals of the marshes came to fear the blade of Martin the Warrior almost as much as a flock of gulls. They fled, but the damage had already been done. All of Martin’s companions lay either unconscious or dead.
Martin woke from his memories miserably. He was still in the marshes, and worse, he didn’t know where. He had caused injury or even death on all his friends except perhaps Chugger, and he didn’t even know where the squirrel was. The warrior rolled over onto his side and huddled up in a ball against the cold and damp. He didn’t even have his sword. It was in this state that he fell into a deep sleep.
In his dreams, the Warrior of Redwall saw a mouse approach him. The least he could say about the other mouse was that he was young, but already had the look of a budding warrior. At a second glance, Martin realized that this other mouse bore a strong resemblance to himself, in fact, such a resemblance that they could be mistaken for one another. The warrior felt an immediate kinship with the other mouse, and also a good deal of respect.
“Martin,” the other mouse spoke, “the death of friends is part of life. It will be hard, but you should not let it rule your life. And you should most definitely not blame yourself. You were doing all you could to save their lives, and it is not your fault that the lizards were savage and chose to take that action.”
Martin said nothing; he was wondering who this mouse was. The other looked at him long and hard, then made a parting remark. “Blame is a heavy burden, especially when the crime is death. Be careful of where you put it.” The mouse bowed his head, and spoke one last time before fading away. “It does not belong to you. Be at peace, Martin the Warrior.”
Part 2 ~ Creatures I have Met BeforeEdit
The shrews all leapt up and ran again. David and Brome were rooted to the spot with fear momentarily. Looking down, the younger mouse was struck by a sudden revelation.
“David! Quick, over there!” he yelled as he pointed to a rocky outcrop that jutted from the cliff not too far away. The older mouse trusted him and started for it, but Brome stopped him and led him there by a seemingly unnecessary route that took them far inland.
“Brome, we’re trapped!” exclaimed David as he saw that the outcrop was a dead end.
Brome took no notice of him, but hollered at the adders at the top of his lungs, “Hey, slimies! Scale bottoms! Over here, you ugly reptiles!”
Whatever the mouse’s intention, he succeeded in getting the attention of all the adders, and making them angry. They came slithering over towards the two mice. David glanced at Brome, hoping he knew what he was doing. He looked frightened, but determined. The warrior turned his attention back to the adders, who were coming on quickly. The swiftest of them reached the outcrop, a fairly small viper, but still highly dangerous. David drew his javelin, tuning out distractions as he focused on the snake, avoiding its eyes. He mentally went over weak spots; eyes, mouth, underbelly.
The adder made the first move, striking at his face. David leapt back and tried to put the thing’s eyes out, but it ducked under his stab and butted forward. Fortunately for David, it momentarily forgot that it had to open its mouth for the poison to get into its enemy. He was simply hit hard in the stomach, but his javelin was knocked out of his paw and fell to the ground slightly out of his reach. The mouse fell and looked up just in time to see the creature rear up and strike downward. His lightning reflexes serving him well, he rolled to the side. But then he made his mistake. He looked back at the creature.
And found himself staring into its hypnotic eyes.
He tried to resist the power of the eyes, but a mouse is no match for a snake at hypnosis. Soon he was completely in its power.
“David!” Brome’s voice, as well as his paw, interrupted his trance. He felt himself pulled backwards, and his eyes opened completely. He dived for his javelin, arriving a split second before the adder. He rolled over and blindly thrust upward, just as the snake struck downward with its mouth wide open for the killing blow. Javelin and throat collided and blood spurted in all directions, pouring out of the dead monster’s mouth and soaking David.
The mouse pushed the viper off him and stood wearily, yanking the javelin out of it and trying to wipe the blood off. As he did so, he looked around for the other adders, and was surprised to find that they were all gone. He turned to Brome a little shakily.
“Thanks,” he said. Brome simply nodded; he seemed nauseated from all the blood. It was pretty disgusting, David decided. He was covered in it and it stunk. Just then a group of shrews walked up. One of them glanced at what had appeared to be solid ground between the land and the outcrop that they were now standing on. When the weight of so many adders had descended onto it, it had collapsed, sending all of them except the one David had taken care of to their deaths on the rocks below.
“We owe you one,” commented the shrew. Brome did not recognize it, and it seemed more mature than shrews in those parts were won't to be. “They’d have had us pretty soon. Thanks.”
David nodded his recognition, then turned to Brome, still very shaky. After all, it isn’t every day that one gets into a fight with an adder and survives. The young mouse was staring off the edge of the cliff. The older warrior put his paw on his friend’s shoulder.
“I didn’t expect it to end that way for him,” murmured Brome. David sighed.
“There’s a little chance, you know,” he replied, trying to comfort the other.
Brome turned away from the sheer drop before him. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” he half-laughed, half-sobbed. “I ought to hate him.”
“But you don’t,” David replied. Looking into the younger mouse’s eyes, he asked, “You’ve been discussing it with your father again, haven’t you?”
Brome nodded. “Occasionally we do discuss it.”
“Well, you shouldn’t. At least, not with him. He’s stubborn, and so are you, so it just turns into a screaming match where you both voice your own opinion loudly, both knowing that the other one is never going to change his mind. It gets nobeast anywhere.”
Brome nodded again. “No point in discussing it now anyway. Nobeast could survive that fall.”
“I resent that!” snapped the shrew. “My entire tribe and I did just a few days ago!”
Both mice whirled around simultaneously. “Was anybeast else with you?” Brome blurted.
“Sure there was,” recalled the smaller animal. “Some of our friends from Redwall Abbey were with us; Gonff, Prince of Mousethieves, the squirrelqueen around there, Lady Amber, and Martin the Warrior, to name a few.”
The two mice exchanged glances. Most of the names conveyed nothing to them, but the last one…
“And you’re sure all of you survived?” asked David.
“Sure, I’m sure!” replied the shrew. “Wait… why do you want to know?”
At that moment, a pygmy shrew walked up and began babbling loudly in its dialect to Brome. The young mouse understood it fairly well, and deduced that the other shrew’s story was true; Martin the Warrior had indeed arrived once more in the northlands and was on his way to Noonvale. David looked at Brome, and found the other staring at him.
“What?” he exclaimed.
“Noonvale is under siege,” replied the other.
“Nice to be informed,” the older mouse muttered under his breath. “Well, what do you think needs done about it?”
“We need to stop them before they walk into a trap. It could be conquered by now. I knew it couldn’t hold out for long; that’s why I went looking for you.”
David put his head in his paws. “You think I could have done something about it? I sense a rather long story behind this. Just tell me the whole thing.”
“So, basically, Cap’n Truman Josiah Cuttlefish Clogg decided to invest in the warlording business and chose Noonvale as his first target.” Brome nodded. “Well,” went on David, “I daresay it’s a pretty bad situation, though I’ve heard of worse. Well, first things first; we need to keep Martin the Warrior away from Noonvale, or at least warn him of the danger. Brome nodded again as the other mouse continued, “The shrews tell us they were headed across the marshes. I suppose following them would be the quickest way.” Turning to the nearby shrews (whose names, they had learned, were Raffle and Log-a-Log), he asked, “Could you head up the river toward Noonvale and gather up the Broadstream Shrews and Starwort’s tribe, as well as any other willing groups you run across? We’ll need all the help we can get to free or retake Noonvale.”
Everybeast agreed to the plan. Log-a-Log approached the two mice with a pair of shrews behind him. “Will you take Firgle and Brimm with you?” he asked. “They’re young and wet-behind the ears and need to learn a bit about the world.”
The two mice complied with the Log-a-Log’s request. “Well,” said Brome, “We’d best get started.”
The shrews headed back to the river for their boats, while David, Brome, and the two shrews entered the woods on their left, on their way to the marshes… and Martin the Warrior.
For a long time, they ran as fast as they could pelt through the woods. They went steadily slower and slower as evening set in. The four creatures had made good progress; David had picked up the tracks shortly after Polleekin’s house and they were now almost to the Mirdop home.
They took it at a slightly easier pace from there and Brome asked Firgle what had happened after the group left the pygmy shrew cave. The shrew explained. Chugger had seen correctly when he had seen shrews running east; the adders had effectively surrounded and routed the Guosim and Highbeast tribes. Brome looked grave.
“If that Rosalee isn’t getting herself into one scrape, then she’s getting herself into another,” he muttered. “She’s going to have me grey before long, not to mention her mother.” David managed to disguise a snort of laughter as a sneeze.
They reached the marshes as night fell. Being in a hurry, they made torches and continued, nervously hoping that the lizards were not particularly hungry. Firgle and Brimm especially were frightened of the dark swampland.
They had been walking for some time, and Brome had been just about to suggest they stop for the night, when something suddenly hit his side, and he fell over. The torch he was carrying fell into a puddle nearby and went out with a hiss. David swung around, waving his torch wildly in an attempt to identify the attacker. He caught a brief glimpse of a dark shape hissing at him before his torch was ripped from his paw and joined Brome’s in the puddle. He expected to be attacked immediately, but there was nothing, just dead silence. Finally, he ventured, “Brome?”
“I’m here,” came the younger mouse’s voice. “What was that?”
“I’m not sure,” replied David. “Firgle? Brimm? Are you alright?”
“Yes,” replied Firgle.
“Define ‘all right,’” groused Brimm.
“And Brimm’s all right too,” supplied Firgle.
David shifted, but suddenly found that his paw was sinking into the mud. He quickly shifted back, but his other paw sank into the mud on the other side. Finally, he found a bit of solid ground. He didn’t dare to sit down, for fear that he would sit down in a puddle of quicksand. It was pitch black, and through the darkness the mouse could see nothing. “Well,” he muttered, “it’s going to be a long night.”
This is on hold until I figure out a few minor details that I'm having trouble with. Like, the storyline.