Waves crashed over the deck of the ship as the burly sea otter attempted to keep his vessel on course. There was a crack as the mainmast tore itself away from the ship and fell into the ocean. Then, as if Fortune herself had cursed the ship, a prow sailed out of the rain towards us. It was the dreaded ship, the ‘’Searipper’’, the craft of Zarstan the Cruel. Our steersbeast fought bravely that day, but to no avail. We were captured, all of us. - From the recorded account of Joran, entitled ‘’My life at sea’’.
The old squirrel plummeted from the deck of the corsair ship to the cold dark sea below. The dark waves lapped over him as he tried to swim. He struggled to keep his head above the water, but in his advanced seasons he was fighting a losing battle. His paws churned the water as he went under. The corsair’s ship had long since sailed off into the distance. Suddenly the squirrel was grabbed and pulled out of the water. He lay on the deck of the ship, vomiting water. “Aye matey, the sea’s a cruel one isn’t’t?” a voice asked. The squirrel rolled over to see who was speaking to him. A large sea otter towered above him. The squirrel did not reply, but lapsed into unconsciousness.
Captain Korban Wavedog of Green Isle stood on the prow of his beloved ship, the ‘’Riptide’’. His brother Lethon was missing with his ship, the ‘’Wave Traveler’’, and Korban was getting desperate. Ignoring the advice of his compatriots, he had set out to sea to find his brother. That had been almost a week ago, and there was still no sign of the ‘’Wave Traveler’’ or any of her crewbeasts. Korban could only hope they had come to no harm.
Joran was awakened by water trickling into his mouth. He swallowed unhesitatingly, then sat up and examined his surroundings. He was on an old raft, with a makeshift sail and mast and one tent affixed to the deck. A large sea otter was holding a water cask. “Ahoy there, matey. You’re awake!” he said. Joran sat up and rubbed his skull. “Who-what-where?” he stammered, then took a deep breath and continued. “What happened?” he asked. “Some seascum tossed you overboard, matey. Me name’s Lethon Wavedog, and this here ships the “Traveler II’’. Beyond that, there’s not much.” “My name’s Joran. Pleased to meet you.” The squirrel replied. The squirrel looked again at the surroundings. “Where are the oars? And the other oarslaves?” he asked, confused. “What are you talkin’ bout’ matey?” inquired Lethon “There are no oars or oarslaves on this vessel!” Joran fainted again.
Garad Stickle, the resident Cellarhog of Redwall, was testing his latest barrel of October Ale. He was pleased with the well balanced ingredients, and decided that this batch should be left in the cellars long enough to properly brew. He had just hammered in the bung when there was a huge clatter from up the stairs. It was probably one of the young ones trying to escape Margret, the Bader Mother. Garad clambered up the stairs, and sure enough, there was young Jay, running like the wind to escape the badger’s wrath. “Just let me get my paws on you!” she yelled as she ran after him. Jay had already knocked over several chairs in his run, so the noise had summoned the whole Abbey to the scene. Jay made a spectacular leap over a chair, but failed to clear the top. His footpaw struck the chair and he tumbled to the ground. “Now I’ve got you!” exclaimed Margret. “Help me!” Jay called as he was dragged away. Abbes Sonia approached. “What happened, Margret?” Margret grabbed Jay as he tried to escape again. “This one thought it would be funny to steal Desmol’s quill and ink bottle.” She said, gruffly. “I didn’t steal it!” piped up Jay, indignantly. “You mean to say that even though you were in the gatehouse for hours before Desmol’s quills went missing, you had nothing to do with there disappearance?” Margret replied. “I just organized it!” Jay argued. “That could explain why Desmol never found them. Dear me, he is rather untidy.” Sonia admitted. “He meant well,
After coming round once more, Joran tried to tell his story. “See, I was born on the ship. I think. I don’t really know, I’ll I can remember is pulling at oars all me life.” His face screwed up in concentration. “There musta been something, but I don’t know what!” he gave up and lay back down. “You gave me quite a shock. Think of it! Free beasts!” the idea was obviously preposterous to Joran.
Jay ran out into the orchard, glad to be free of the badger. He saw Ferman and Druband, a mouse and hedgehog respectively, already running a race around the grounds. He ran up to them. “Could I join you?” he asked. Ferman shrugged. “Why not?” Before they could say another word, Jay was at the appointed starting line. He easily outran the two by a long distance. Druband came second, panting. “Great seasons, you’re fast!” he exclaimed. Ferman was last, almost collapsed from the effort. “Maybe... you could… slow down and… give us a chance!” He gasped. Jay was barely gasping. “Oh… that just wouldn’t be fun, now would it?” he asked. Ferman shook his head. “How you got so fast I’ll never know. I doubt there’s a faster beast from here to Salamandastron!”
Far South on the wide plains just east of the great oceans, another beast was also running, but for a very different reason. The searat crew of Zarstan the Cruel perused the young creature as it dashed across the sands. “Come back ere’ you blaggard! Give that back!” they shouted. The otter continued running, knowing that the lives of many beasts depended on him. He charged ahead to escape the masses of rats, and tripped over a stone. He cried out for help as the searats came nearer.
Starbreeze of Salamandastron saluted to the passing Sergeant. He hoped for the best as the officer rattled off the daily tasks and who would perform them. “Starbreeze! Mess officer!” This was an improvement. Usually Starbreeze suffered by being forced to polish the tomb of the late Lord Thunderstripe, many seasons dead. No badger Lord had returned to this mountain. “Oh, and give the tomb a polish after lunch, will you?” the question was merely a polite gesture. Nobeast ignored a request from the Sergeant. Starbreeze sighed. Yet another day with no Badger Lord to conduct the business at the mountain.
In the commotion of the rat’s charge, many beasts were injured as they tripped and fell over their comrades to be the first to draw blood. The confusion was even greater when they found that there was nobeast there. “Where’d he go?” was how one of the rats put it. Many others used much more vulgar expressions to show they were not pleased with the turn of events. Neither would Zarstan, and that meant that they were in for it.
Cabra the Otter was even more surprised than the searats when he was pulled beneath the sand. He looked around in confusion at the beasts who were either his rescuers or his killers.
Joran and Leathon were sailing east. “I reckon it’s our best chance for survival, matey. Thataways is Mossflower country, and there’s plenty food for everybeast there. There’s also Redwall Abbey. Lot’s of peace loving woodlanders, I’m sure they’d help us out.” Little did he know that Zarstan the Cruel had thought almost the same thing. They sailed eastward, oblivious that all was not well in Mossflower Woods, that great warlords and captains would soon pay a visit to the peaceful land.
Also oblivious were the occupants of Redwall Abbey. They had no knowledge of the searats down by the coast. Their busy lives continued uninterrupted. But somewhere in Mossflower, beasts were gathering. Preparations were being made for the attack on Redwall. Jay and Ferman said goodbye to Druband and walked into Great Hall. Before them was the great tapestry, depicting Martin the Warrior in all his glory. Above the tapestry hung Martin’s sword, a great weapon with a deadly beauty. Its razor sharp blade was like cold ice in a winter’s gale, cutting down the enemies of peace like wheat before the scythe. Next to the blade was a plaque, inscribed with the Abbey Charter of Redwall. Jay bumped into Friar Gibbens. “Oof! Sorry, Friar!” Jay continued on his way.
Cabra stood ready to fight, protecting the bamboo container he held. All around him were masked creatures. One of them pulled of their mask. “Ello!” the hedgehog cried. Cabra instantly relaxed. He was among friends. The others soon pulled off their masks as well. Cabra discovered that he had been rescued by the oddest of beasts- an underground colony of hedgehogs! The very thought! Their leader, Drudd Gurbol, had asked Cabra about where he had come from, and the young otter readily related his story.
Cabra heaved in time with the others, pulling the massive oar through the water by himself, due to the fact that his partner at the oar, an old squirrel who had not spoken, could barley pull at all. The slave driver passed the bench were Cabra and the squirrel were chained. “Bend your backs and curse you mother! Pull you scum, pull!” he yelled, cracking his whip. He leaned in close to the squirrel’s face. “Your not pullin’ eh? Well let’s see if your of any use to the fishes!” He swiftly unchained the squirrel and dragged him above onto the top deck. Cabra winced as he heard a splash and laughing from above deck. The slavedriver came back down and sauntered over to Cabra. “Well, seeing as you’ve been pulling that oar by yourself for a while, you can andle pulling it yourself for a while more!” The slavedriver, named Scringetooth, laughed aloud. Cabra gritted his teeth.
The long wood splinter Cabra had pulled from the bench worked well as a lock pick. Cabra was free! He stole silently away from the rest of the sleeping slaves. He looked outwards over the rail. Luckily, the ship was not far from land. He could swim the distance. But he wanted to get a little revenge for what the vermin had done. He stole silently to Zarstan’s cabin, carefully opening the door. He grabbed the first thing he saw, a tube of sealed bamboo. He grabbed it and ran.
“An that’s when you found me.” Cabra concluded. “Hmmm… So you don’t know what’s in that tube?” Cabra shook his head. “Nope.” Drudd grabbed it. “Then let’s find out!” In another moment, the wax seal was off of the container, and several rather large gems rolled out. Cabra gasped. “Wow! Look at the size of them!” Drudd reached further inside. “Wait, tis something else in here…” a parchment came out. Drubb stared at it.
Korban was growing weary of searching, but the thought of his brother in chains drove him onward. He now knew that they must have been attacked. There was no sign of them across the ocean, and now supplies were at a low. Now the easiest course of action was to sail east to recover their supplies. The tiller was tied as the ‘’Riptide’’ drove onward to Mossflower country.
The ‘’Traveler II” hit land later that day. Joran stretched his legs as he bounded onto the sandy beach. Lethon was not far behind him. Joran laughed. “Land! I’d thought I’d never see it again!” he cried. “An I thought you’d never been on land, matey!” said Lethon. Joran paused. “I haven’t, come to think of it. Or I have… I can’t remember!” he cried. Joran shook his head. “For a second, I remembered something… I can’t now… Oh, well, it’s nothing.” He shrugged. “Anyhow, let’s get moving. Redwall can’t be that far!”
Drudd scratched his head. “It says… it says… Oh, what do I know, tis just a bunch of squiggly lines tome. Nobeast in my tribe no ow to read. Can you?” Cabra shook his head. “Never learned, I’ve been an oarslave since my Zarstan attacked my home. Don’t even know me parents.” Drubb’s face lit up. “I know! You can go to Redwall! They’ve got learned beasts there!” he cried. “What’s Redwall?” Cabra asked. “Tis best to show ya. Come on, if we make good time we can be there by tomorrow.”
The huge wildcat tapped his footpaw impatiently. Soon the scouts would report on what lay beyond the woodlands. Kvcar had come to these lands expecting some woodlanders, but there were none so far. Soon the scouts returned. “M’lord, there’s a huge red building over thataway! Gigantic!” The other scout grinned. “Bet’s it’s full o’ innocent woodlander beasts.” Kvcar hit the scout, sending him flying backwards. “Idiot! That place is Redwall Abbey! The bones of over a score of warlords lie there! This will require cunning. Go, leave me!”
The journey to Redwall did not take long. In almost exactly a day, Joran and Lethon were in sight of the great building. “Something about this place… I don’t know…” Joran shook his head for the umpteenth time that day. “I’m getting flashes. Images. Of places and people, names. It’s all so confusing.” Lethon pitied the squirrel. “It will all come back in time. It’s just the shock of hitting the water.” They continued on the way to the Abbey.
Abbes Sonia was enjoying evening tea with Margret on the walltop. She gazed out along the path. “I see two creatures! Let’s open the gate for them.” She hurried down the stairs with Margret to open the gates. Jay came running to see what was going on.
Joran walked through the main gates of Redwall Abbey. “Welcome!” said Abbes Sonia. “You are welcome to stay here!” Joran thanked the Abbes for her kindness. A squirrel came running. Their eyes met and Joran remembered something. “Do you know someone named Maura?” he demanded. The young squirrel looked confused. “No…” he told him slowly. Joran tried to remember what it was about the squirrel that had caught his eye. Then he realized. Those ice blue eyes were familiar. He tried to remember what had prompted him to ask that question, or better yet who Maura was, but he could not.
Cabra set out at the crack of dawn for Redwall, using one of the many exit from the underground tribe’s territory. The kind hedgehogs waved goodbye. “Make sure to visit someday!” cried one. He clutched the bamboo tube, now resealed with wax, as he waved back. Cabra marched onward towards Redwall.
Joran was impressed with the food of Redwall Abbey. He munched away happily at his and that, not really knowing what he was eating besides that it tasted excellent. Occasionally he would hear some phrase like “October Ale” or “Leek Pastie” but really couldn’t discern what was what. Somebeast offered him what appeared to be a scone. He munched on it thoughtfully. It seems everything reminded him of something. He felt that he had tasted something like this before. Once again a name came to his mind. Maura. This time an image came too. A young squirrel, with ice blue eyes. He shook his head and enjoyed the food. Lethon revealed he was from Green Isle, and filled in Abbes Sonia on the latest news. “So what happened?” the Abbes asked. “Why were you on a raft?” Lethon grimaced. “Our ship was attacked, captured by Zarstan the Cruel. I fell into the sea. A stole a little raft from the ship and left. Then I found me matey Joran.” Jay watched the old squirrel. There was something about him that seemed strange. His thoughts were interrupted by a shout from Sister Crista, the resident Infirmary Keeper. “Somebeast is coming up the path!” Sonia stood up. Jay was the first to the gate. He opened the large wood door as an otter approached. The young otter reached the threshold. He looked around him in wonder. “So this is Redwall.” Was all he said. Lethon had come at a leisurely pace. He stopped in his tracks at the sight of someone he thought he would never see again. “Cabra?” he asked. Cabra looked up at him. “Who are you?” “Don’t you recognize your brother?”
Kvcar knew he must be careful if he was to capture the fortress. Redwall Abbey was practically built on the bones of ambitious warlords like him. Cluny the Scourge, Ruggan Bor, and of course Tsarmina, a wildcat like him. If the Redwallers could defeat a cunning wildcat, than perhaps they were fiercer fighters than he assumed. He examined the strategies of the past attackers. Cluny had actually conquered the Abbey, but had become arrogant and not expected reinforcements. So Kvcar would have to act swiftly and secure the Abbey. He could easily defend once it was under his control. Cluny had fought a war of attrition. Kvcar could not afford to do that. He needed one decisive move to win. He had to find an idea! What would catch the Redwallers unawares? A tunnel obviously would not work, after all Redwall had the best diggers in the woods. Moles. How he hated them, with their strange way of talking! They couldn’t even speak properly! He hated all those woodland creatures, acting so noble when they were all simpletons! Of course! A smile crept across the wildcat’s features. He knew just what to do.
Cabra shook his head. “I never knew my family. Zarstan took me when I was a babe.” Lethon’s eyes filled with rage. “He took the Wave Traveler and slaughtered my crew. He kidnapped my brother. I will hunt him down one day." Abbes Sonia interjected “But not today. Redwall is a place of peace. Let us not talk of war and revenge and move on to happier things.” Margret nodded. “Wise words, Sonia. Which reminds me, this summer is yet to be named.” The Dibbuns understood the implications of that statement immediately. “Weeee! We gonna ave a bigga party!” they chorused. Joran scratched his head. “Wot?” Ferman explained. “Here at Redwall we name every season, and we always have a feast to mark the day we name it. We call it the Nameday Feast. After the feast we play lots of games. There’s a wall race and a greased pole contest, its absolute loads of fun!” “A feast you say? With the food I’ve been eating for most of my life, every meal at Redwall is a feast! Why your simplest spread would put Maura to shame!” That name again. Who was she? How did he know her? Cabra seemed to remember something. “Oh yes! This is why I came to Redwall!” He opened the tube, taking out the parchment, old and yellow with age. Abbes Sonia put on her eyeglasses and carefully read:
“Over the dark, unbroken waves,
Lies the island of the knaves,
Where the wild one with iron claw,
Ruled so ruthless over all.
One point twes from thorn you keep,
The treasures of the isle reap,
Ships half sunk beneath the waves
Mark a hundred serat graves
The badger, the father, the maid with rope,
Nephew, swordcarrier, and each had hope
To take revenge on Gabool the Wild
Murderer of creatures, peaceful and mild.
Hurled by Lord Rawnblade to both their fates,
Skrablag the Scorpion, Gabool he hates,
Killed in the melee of cutlass and sting
The scorpion stabs, the serat swings
All had their revenge on vermin cruel
No longer do goodbeasts fear the name Gabool.
Any fool with a wish for gold
Take these directions do exactly as told:
Sail straight on bearings from hermit’s home
Cross the heaving waves and babbling foam,
And head the warning of this poem
If you go there, you might not return home.”
Kvcar hated being dirty. He really did, but it was essential to his plan. He tore his clothes into rags and plastered mud on himself. He shuddered. He marched along the path towards the abbey, mentally rehearsing his story. It was not long before the Abbey was in sight. “Who goes there?” the inquiry rang out clear as a bell. “It’s only I!” Margret was now visible above the walltop. “Who are you?” “I’m Sir Jaquan Gingevere! Descendant of Squire Julian Gingevere! I require aid!” The doors opened. Kvcar knew the kind abbeybeasts would help someone in need. He didn’t want to risk a fight inside the Abbey, though. He would lure them away, and kill them. Simplicity itself. “What is it?” Sonia asked “what’s wrong?” Kvcar acted out of breath for a moment, then explained. “Vermin, attacked the barn, burned it down. Had to run for my life.” Sonia nodded. “Margret, get everybeast and come. We’ve got to stop these vermin.”
The able bodied Redwallers armed themselves however they could. Margret had found a large hammer made of wood in the cellars and used that as her weapon. Kvcar voted to stay behind on the pretense of needing rest. The rest marched towards the barn. They had not even reached it when suddenly, as if from nowhere, vermin soldiers sprang up. They were surrounded. Margret hefted her hammer, calling out the time old battlecry of her beloved abbey. “Redwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal!” She charged the vermin. They hacked at her with various weapons, but she didn’t even flinch. Many vermin were killed by her paw. Jay twirled the sling he had brought, taking out vermin in rapid succession. He grabbed a javelin that stuck point down in the ground next to him, hurling it back at another hapless soldier. He fought with stamina he didn’t know he had. But he still knew they couldn’t beat the vermin.
The otter observed casually. It looked like the Redwallers were losing. Time to intervene. She drew her dual weapons from the sheaths on her back and signaled to her companions. “Mosssflooooooooowerrrr!” The Holt of otters charged forward into the fray.
The lone otter sharpened his javelin as he sat on a small rock. He was on a large hill, with steep cliffs behind him and a long sloping incline before him. A row of double pointed otter javelins faced outward a few feet back from the slope’s edge, facing outward like a palisade. Other javelins were stocked in piles and stuck into the ground inside the makeshift fort for use. Next to the pile of javelins rested a scarred short, heavy, sword. The otter took his carefully carved throwing stick and threw a javelin among the creatures below him, just to remind them that he was there. He waited for the time they would charge him. Then the hill would be stained red with the blood of those that killed his family. He remembered that night so well.
Saylan watched her husband on the hilltop as he gathered the Holt. The otters stood ready, armed with short swords and slings. Concealed behind them were twoscore otters armed with spears. She took her two children away from the warriors. “Now remember,” She instructed, “We mustn’t make any noise during the fight. Daddy will be all right.” She earnestly hoped that she spoke the truth. The young ones nodded. The older male was stupefied with fear at the knowledge of what was about to happen. The younger female, barley a newborn, sucked on her paw as her brother held her. She had no idea of what was going on. Saylan’s husband, Travin, had been an oarslave in his younger seasons. Now leader of the Holt, word had reached him of a corsair crew traveling inland. He knew their captain well. Corvad Skall. He waited for the mob of vermin to come within speaking range. Their captain waited at the bottom of the hill with cutlass drawn. “I am the great Corvad Skall! You are now my slaves. I am your master!” a young hot headed otter drew his sword and raced forward. “Say that to my face, cur!” Travin grabbed him. “Calm down.” He said; Then, in a barley audible whisper, “Not yet.” The otter sheathed his weapon. The corsair captain laughed. “Now yere talkin sense, mateys! Put down them carvers. Unbuckle your swordbelts, quick as ya like now!” To everybeast’s surprise, Travin unbuckled his sheath. Then in one quick motion, he flicked the sword so that the sheath flew off, hitting Corvad squarely in the chest and bowling him over. “Chaaaaaaaaaaaaarge!” Travin bellowed. The otters swarmed down the hill with swords drawn. The frontrunners of the corsair band were killed as their captain retreated. The initial confusion of the charge ended and the pirates pressed their advantage, bringing down the otters with sheer weight of numbers. “Retreat!” Travis called. The otters returned to the hilltop. Travis signaled to the concealed spearbeasts to charge. As the corsairs made their way up the hill, they lost many to flying javelins and slingstones. Suddenly a score of otters armed with spears sprang up, forcing them down the cliff. In seconds more than twice the number of all otters there, combatants or not, had been killed in the ranks of the corsairs. “Part ranks!” Travis ordered. The ranks of spearbeasts separated enough to allow the swordbeasts to charge. “Kneel!” Travis yelled. All the otters dropped to the ground. Arrows whizzed overhead like angry hornets, seeking to end lives among the enemy ranks. The barrage continued for another minute, and then the fighters sprang up and charged. The battle continued this way for hours, attacking and retreating quickly. The corsairs’ ranks were thinned, but still they fought on. Every time they attacked, the otters lost more and more to the swords of the corsairs. It was not long before barley ten otters fought on. Ten soon became eight, and eight four, and four, one. Travis battled to the last. He fought his way through the ranks until he came to face Corvad Skall. “Go to Dark Forest.” He spat, stabbing his hated foe with his last breath. He died from his grievous wounds seconds later. A young rat watched this all, grabbing his cutlass and stabbing the otter before anybeast could see what had happened. “I killed the mad otter!” he announced. “And I am proclaiming myself captain!” A fox stepped forward. “You? You’re a brat, no doubt!” “I killed the beast not even Cap’n Skall could kill! I eat whelps like you for breakfast! Try me, fox!” the fox backed down. Thus did Zarstan gain his captaincy. “Now, let’s find out what treasure those otters had!” he ordered. The corsairs began marching up the hill. Saylan rushed her children away. Climbing paw over paw, she led them safely down the cliff’s edge to a cave in the rock. “Stay here and protect your sister.” She said. “I’ll be back soon.” She turned to leave and ran straight into Zarstan. He slew her where she stood. The corsair came forward slowly. The otterbabe dropped his sister and grabbed a rock, which he threw at the searat. Zarstan dodged nimbly and slashed at the otter’s head with his cutlass. As everything went black, the last thing he saw was his sister, falling off the edge of the cliff.
“I don’t care, I’m killing that madbeast!” The mouse exclaimed. “You’ll die! Nobeast could kill him!” the leader of the town pleaded. “See that?” The mouse pointed. A young mousemaid lay in the dust, a javelin in her. “He killed my daughter. Nothing will stop me from returning the favor!” He began his march up the hill towards the row of wooden palisades. A javelin whizzed by him. “I’m warning you vermin!” cried the otter. Heedless, the mouse continued. He dodged another javelin and leapt over the palisade, sword drawn. Before him was an otter, carrying a short, heavy, sword. “You’re in for it vermin!” He cried. “This is for my family!” He ran at the mouse, who blocked the swing. “I never did anything to you! You killed my daughter!” The otter’s eyes turned blood red. “Can’t even remember your kills, vermin?” The mouse let his guard down. “You’ll be the only beast I’ve killed!” “LIAR!” The otter struck downward, cleaving the mouse’s skull in two.
The Holt of otters was a welcome sight to the Redwallers. With strange, sword like weapons strapped to their arms, they charged into the fray, devastating the vermin. The remainder of the soldiers managed to escape. The leader of the otters, Queen Colein of Mossflower introduced herself to Margret. “I’m Colein, the Queen of the Northern Mossflower otters. What are you doing up here with so few?” Margret nodded. “Pleased to meet you, I’m sure. I’m Margret of Redwall. A friend requested aid, so we came.” “Who?” “Why, Sir Jaquan Gingivere!” The otterqueen frowned. “The last of the Gingivere line died many seasons ago, I was told. There’s a cat named Kvcar about in the woods. He probably was the one that tricked you.” Margret gripped the hammer tighter. “Why that liar! I’ll wring his neck!” “He may have surrounded the Abbey with vermin. We’ll go with you.”
When Kvcar sighted the returning warriors, he knew his plan had failed. He made his escape through a wallgate into Mossflower.