The story of Martin the Warrior's final days. Takes place between The Legend of Luke and Outcast of Redwall.
You should have killed me when you had the chance, because I vow that I will slay you one day!
Martin the Warrior advanced on the wildcat relentlessly, his double-edged sword pointing directly at her. He was heavily injured, but ignored the pain and pushed his tired body onward. Tsarmina must not get away...
Stepping farther towards the lake, he glared into her eyes with hatred. There was an uncharacteristic fear in her eyes, her usual expression of arrogance and condescension replaced by utter terror. He would end it now. He tried to raised his weapon, but he had barely enough strength to take another step forward into the water. No matter, he would follow her to the end of the world if he had to.
Blood from both creatures dripped into the lake and stained the water with crimson. Tsarmina was whimpering softly in fright, twitching erratically. She held out her arms in front of her as she continued to move farther into the lake. Martin realized that she was hardly aware of what she was doing. He tried to follow, even as she moved more quickly away from him, but before he took a single step, she sank into the depths of the lake and was gone.
Martin stared at the spot where Tsarmina had disappeared. I have carried out my task at last...I hope the others can keep the wildcat's horde under control. I don't think I can do much for them...
The warrior mouse stabbed his sword deep into the mud, and moved painfully back to shore, step by step. He collapsed in the shallows, but kept dragging himself towards land. Trying to lift the blade with what was left of his strength, he gasped, "Sleep in peace, Boar...Mossflower is free!"
Martin's fingers released the weapon, and it dropped onto the grass with a dull thump, and he crumpled, falling next to it.
He heard the voice, but it sounded like an echo from the distance. He didn't know where it came from, but was somehow soothed by it. And it sounded familiar.
Martin...come to me.
He was surrounded by darkness, but for some reason, he felt as if he had nothing to fear. That he was impervious to anything. So he moved towards the voice. It was the most curious sensation. Instead of walking, it was more as if he was willing himself to move by though, so it felt vaguely like gliding.
The darkness faded away, a little at a time, and the warrior mouse stopped at a clearing. He was staring directly at a giant gate, jet-black and menacing. It stretched across the clearing, and far into the distance. On the other side, trees almost as black as the gate shrouded everything in darkness. The trees veiled everything beyond the gate and emanated a feeling of power.
Martin took all this in, but was surprised when the gates began to open silently. A light suddenly appeared in the midst of the trees, and two long shadows were cast over him. He realized that there were two creatures walking towards him from the depths of the forest. As they got closer, he noticed that one of them was taller than the other.
The two creatures stopped just outside the gate. The larger one, a muscular male badger, said, "You are a true warrior, Martin."
Awestruck, he said, "Boar?"
"It is I," the badger lord replied. "You have carried out my task. You have freed Mossflower."
Martin looked around him. "Where am I?"
"You are at the gates of the Dark Forest. Your victory over Tsarmina has come at a great cost."
"Are you here to take me into the Forest?"
"That is up to you. And it is why I brought someone with me."
For the first time, Martin looked at the smaller creature. She was a young mousemaid, with an earnest expression that radiated honest joy. Her eyes were gazing into his in a way that said so much, without saying anything at all. Ever since he had left the eastern coast, her face had often frequented his dreams...
"Martin, I have missed you." Her voice was exactly as he remembered...pure and sweet. Hardly believing it, he whispered..."R-Rose?"
The spell broke as soon as he said her name. She rushed forward, and he embraced her. He didn't care if he was going to die, or whether the dead cared for love. She was in his arms again.
But she was different. Rose's body was cold, and he could feel no life from her. Yet she was here. "I'm so sorry, Rose...it was all my fault...I didn't protect you as I said I would..."
She let go, and was looking directly at him again. "Martin, our time together was short. I have always loved you, but I am no longer meant to be part of the living world. But you still have a choice. You can go back."
"I want to be with you, Rose. There has been nothing more I longed for."
"They need you, Martin. It is not your time yet. And there is still danger in Mossflower. There are a lot of things we have not said, but I know now what is inside your heart."
"Your friends are working hard to keep you alive," Boar said. "They have not given up on you. Do not give up on them."
"I know." But he was still not sure.
Boar could obviously tell. "It's your choice. I am simply telling you what the warrior would do."
Martin hesitated. It would be so easy to let go, to leave behind the world that had so much evil, so much pain. But he knew that Rose was right. There were still things he needed to do. Bella had mentioned that Abbess Germaine planned to build an abbey, a shelter that would take the place of Kotir, where so much bitterness had dwelled. He would make sure that it was completed, so that anyone who sought refuge would be taken in.
The mouse looked to Boar. "Very well, I will go."
The badger lord nodded. "Best of luck to you, Martin the Warrior."
Martin turned to Rose once more. "I will see you again. I promise."
She smiled. "I'll be waiting for you, Martin."
"Watch over the creatures of Mossflower," Boar said as he, Rose, and the forest began to disappear. "Fight only to protect, never for revenge. Uphold the way of the warrior, and do not lose humility..." His voice became distant once more, and Martin was standing in the dark again. But this time, he knew what he was supposed to do. Closing his eyes, he took a single step forward...
"Let no foul beast give one command,
I'll say 'O no, not me',
My back bends to no tyrant's rule.
Hey friends, this mouse is free.'
Free has a sound, it rings around,
A lovely way to be.
So dance or sing, do anything,
You're free, free, free, free, freeeeeeeeeee!"
Martin gave a slight smile. That had to be Gonff. That rascal seemed to be exuberant. Had they won?
The warrior mouse opened his eyes. He felt surprisingly comfortable, and realized that he was still lying by the lakeshore. But the scenes of fighting were gone. Instead, lanterns decorated the trees, casting colours across the lake. Fires blazed brightly in the night, and there was laughter everywhere.
Timballisto was the first to notice. Walking over to Martin, he said, "So, you're awake, mate. The Abbess said it'd be sometime today."
Martin felt completely content. "Don't worry, I'm back now."
The others walked over as well, all talking at once, before Bella strode over, smiling broadly and looking happier than he had seen her in a long time. "How do you feel, Champion of Mossflower?"
Tears fell from the warrior mouse's eyes as he returned her smile. "Good to be alive, Bella!"
Everyone cheered, and they began to talk over each other again.
"Guess what, matey? While you were asleep, I wedded Columbine!"
"Hey matey, have you noticed that the lake's gone down a bit? Skipper and Log-a-Log have practically refloated the Wuddshipp."
"Heave you heard? We're going to build a great stone Abbey! A huge place where we can all live together."
Martin leaned back, and closed his eyes, enjoying the peace of the night. After his long trek from the Eastern Coast, and all the hardships at Mossflower, everything was finally made right. He had learned to move on from Rose's death, and realized that he had been the only one who hadn't forgiven himself. That would change now. He had his whole life ahead of him, and if his battle against Tsarmina meant anything, it was that life was something he couldn't take for granted. Now that Kotir was gone, Mossflower would finally be free.