In Memory of Mr. Jacques: The Warriormaids

Fiction By Anna // 2/10/2011

I wasn't planning to post twice this week. Then I found out that the Great Storyteller, Brian Jacques, is dead.
The Redwall books lured me into reading and hooked me forever. Oh, and writing. The first novel I started was a Redwall ripoff. I never finished it, but until this week I cherished the thought of sending him a copy of my first published book and a letter to tell him it was all his fault I started writing in the first place and - thanking him O so much.
So, without further ado,
Thank you, Mr. Jacques. Oh, so much.
Here's the story I never finished, in all its nine-year-old fangirly glory.
*    *    *
The Warriormaids
          (a novel about Warriormaids from the East to the West coming together for an epic adventure)   
        By Anna (Anya Silkfirr)

Dedicated to my co-author, Kyliegh (Kaeli T. Skyspike)

                                                                        Chapter 1

        A  young ottermaid awoke to the sound of a whip cracking and the frightened shrieks of a slave getting whipped.  
        “Git up, slave! I said, Git up!”  The slave driver, a weasel named Slitongue,  snapped at a mousemaid.  
        “Her name isn’t slave, it’s Liatris!” said the ottermaid, standing up.  
        “Why should I  care what her name is, riverdog?” Slitongue replied insultingly.     
        The young otter felt herself boil over with rage.  
        “Don’t you dare call me riverdog!  My name’s Kaolin!”
        “Why should he care about your name either, riverdog?”  The voice of another slave driver, Gripclaw the sea rat, taunted.  
        “You will  call us by our names, or I’ll tear you to shreds!” Kaolin said fiercely.     
        “Ooh, I’m so scared,”  Gripclaw mocked.  
        “Not much you can do chained to that tree,”  Slitongue added.
        Kaolin had had enough.  She lashed out her rudder-like tail at them as hard as she could, knocking them to the ground.  The two surprised vermin scrambled to their feet and tried to find their whips. Liatris had been standing there, watching in fear, but when Kaolin had knocked them over, she had snatched the whips. Now she tossed them to Kaolin, who snapped them as if they were threads.
        The two vermin glared at Kaolin, and Gripclaw said, “We’ll report this to his highness Durmaer the Deadly, then you’ll be sorry!” And with that, the two vermin were off.
        It was a lovely morning at Pebblestone Abbey. The bells had not yet tolled.  Abbot Marcus was watching the sunrise from the battlements that covered the East Wall.  
        “Beautiful sunrise, isn’t it, Father Abbot?”  
        Abbot Marcus turned to see a mousemaid with moonbeam colored fur.
        “Oh, Murial, I didn’t  see you there,” Abbot Marcus replied, a little startled. “Aye, it is a lovely sunrise.  How may I help you?”  
        “Oh, I’m just watching this beautiful sunrise, Abbot Marcus.”
        “And yet you are not happy. There’s something on your mind, I can tell,”  the wise, old Abbot replied.
        “It’s nothing,” Murial said quietly, looking at her foot paws.
    Marcus took her young paw and placed it in his old one.  Then with his other paw he lifted her face so her eyes were looking at his own. He whispered, “Sometimes the biggest problems come because one did not share their knowledge.”  He then looked at her in a way that seemed to say, Just tell me what it is.  
    “I don’t know! I just feel like something terrible’s going to happen, but I don’t know what!”  Murial exclaimed as tears gathered in her eyes. Suddenly she burst out in sobs.
    “Don’t cry- Murial, don’t cry like that.  You’ll bring on the rain.  I wish I knew how to help, but I don’t. Why don’t you see me later? Then we can talk more about this.  For now, let’s see how breakfast is coming along, shall we?” asked Marcus with an outstretched paw.  
    “I suppose, Father,” Murial replied, choking back her relentless tears.
    As the two mice walked down the stairs of the battlements, through the orchard, and around the pond to reach the Abbey, their thoughts were a odd mix of guessing what wonderful food was for breakfast and the horror and dread of what Murial said.
    They stopped at the gatehouse to see if Brother Hubert, the old mouse Gatekeeper, was awake. It turned out he was asleep, and snoring very loudly at that.  Marcus and Murial crept away slowly and silently.  
    Finally they got to the Abbey.  Marcus opened one of the two large wooden doors, and motioned for Murial to step in.  
    She stood in the doorway for a moment, then sighed.  She loved her home, the abbey.  The place where the woodlanders dwelled in peace and harmony.  She couldn’t bear the thought of harm befalling it.  She stepped inside, then turned around.  As she relieved the panting Abbot of the door, her thoughts of trouble vanished, for one can hardly be sad when they smell the aroma of a Pebblestone Abbey breakfast.
    Liatris ran to where Kaolin was standing.  “Thank you, Kaolin! Thank you!” she exclaimed.
    “Don’t rejoice quite yet. You did hear that they’re telling Durmaer, didn’t you? Besides, it’s getting dark,” said Zephyr, a shrew.
    “Yes, Zephyr, my wise friend, I heard.  And you’re right.  We need to work on our plan.  Liatris, do you think you can find Dudley and Dillon?” asked Kaolin.
    “Sure! I’m on my way! Could you help me loosen my chains?” asked Liatris.
    “Of course.  Gritnose, the ferret slave driver, dropped his dagger earlier.   We can use it as a lockpick. It’s right here,” Kaolin said as she produced a small dagger from underneath her tattered shawl.   She then added,  “Remember to drag you chain along behind you as if you still have it on.  Sneak to the tunnel just after the guards  are asleep. We’ll meet you there.”  
    After she had unchained her friend, Kaolin sat next to Zephyr and continued to work.  But her thoughts journeyed far away from that land of tyranny, to a land she could only vaguely remember.  She had been a mere infant when she been captured, so most of her memories were of slavery.  But she had one memory, a memory of great stone walls, bells tolling, and animals laughing.
    She was awakened from her daydream by her Zephyr shaking her, saying, “It’s time to go to the tunnel!”


                                           Chapter 2

     “I‘m coming,” Kaolin replied, getting up. She pulled out the dagger. Handing it to him, she added, “Let’s get ourselves unchained.”  
    They tried to make no noise as they unlocked themselves.  They picked up their chains and carried them to the tunnel, for now that the guards were asleep, they didn’t have to  drag the heavy bondage.  They carried them only because they might need to wield them.  
    Finally they reached the tunnel. A number of slaves were there, but sadly, not all of them.  Zephyr went to where Dudley, the mole, was standing.
    “How’s the tunnel coming?” he asked.  
    Dudley answered cheerfully in his quaint mole dialect, “It’z coimin’ alung groit, zirr Zephoir! ‘E’ll be out o’ ‘ere zoon, me beez a- thoinkin’!”
    “I hope so, I think the guards might be getting suspicious.”  
    “Doin’t ‘ee woirry your purty little ‘ead aboit it, mizz Koilin,” Dillon, another mole, told Kaolin assuringly.
    Kaolin asked, “Has anyone seen Audra?”
    Dudley answered, “The badgermaid? No mizz, oi ain’t seen ‘er since brekkist!”  
    “Kaolin, Zepher! I’m sooo glad you’re here! I was worried you wouldn’t make it! You should see the tunnel’s progress!”  Liatris exclaimed.      
    “Could we take a look? We could help dig a little bit.” Zephyr said hopefully.
    “No, I don’t think so. There might not be enough room.” said a pretty hogmaid named Hedgerose.
    “Hedgerose, I didn’t see you there!” Zephyr exclaimed.
    “That’s because I just got ‘ere. Clingrose wanted me to come. ” Hedgerose explained, motioning to the sqiurrel at her left.
    “How did you get out of your chains?” Kaolin inquired.
    Hedgerose replied, “I was ‘elping Quickfoot apply some ointment to Slitongue’s cut foot-paw when one of Quickfoot’s pots of remedies broke. While she picked up the spices, I  picked up a piece of broken pottery and used it as a lockpick.”
    “There seems to be a lot of that going around.  Lockpicks, I mean.  But, refresh my memory, who is Quickfoot?” Zephyr asked.
    “She’s Durmaer’s seer and healer vixen.” Kaolin broke in.
    “Oh, her.  We’ll have to be careful of her.  If Durmaer gets suspicious, he’ll consult her.  And if she really does have powers as a seer, we’ll be doomed,” Zepher said.
    “Oi uhgree. Shoi’s uh doingorous one, shoi is. We need tuh keep thois as soicret as poissible.” Dillon added.
    Just then Dudley popped out the tunnel entrance and whispered, “Thur beez loight at ‘ee end of ‘ee toinnel!!!”
    Gripclaw nervously led Slitongue through Fortress Morheim’s maze of corridors to the throne room where Durmaer the Deadly was seated. The truth was, although he had sounded so confident about tattling to Durmaer when yelling at Kaolin, he was actually scared of his ‘chief’.  
    Slitongue limped slightly on his leg and wined, “Do we have to? I mean, couldn’t we let it go this one time, Grippy?”
    Gripclaw felt likewise. But he decided to be the model of bravery. He began to brag, “I’ve been in this situation before. We can’t let slaves stand up to us, can we?”  
    Slitongue played with his tail nervously, “W-well, yes-s, j-just th-th-this once-ce.”
    Gripclaw put on a face of shock. “Are you kiddin’?! It could cause an uproar! If the slaves git it inta their heads they can get away with things like that, we’ll be ruined! They’ll stand against us! Listen to me carefully.” Gripclaw continued through clenched teeth, “They outnumber us a thousand to one, and if they ever find that out, we’re toast! Just play cool and do what I do.  I’ll do all the talking.” Gripclaw immediately wished he hadn’t said that.
    “Phew! I thought I’d have to do everything! But Grippy, I thought Durmaer had the biggest horde ever?” Slitongue said.
    Gripclaw corrected, “He does.  But he’s got more slaves than he does horde.  Come on, let’s go.  We’re here.”
    They pushed open the big, marble doors and entered the throne room.         “What do you want?!” boomed the large, deep voice of Durmaer the Deadly, the cougar king of all Durmaer’s Deathland.  
    Gripclaw stood forward and whispered to Slitongue, “Remember, Slitty me mate, I do the talkin’.” Then he turned to Durmaer and said in as calm and regal a voice as he could muster, “Sire, One of the slaves stood up against us.  We request permission to punish it in the way you see fit.”
    “Give it forty lashes with a whip. But wait till the morning. That way the slave can suffer all day without time to recover. It will also wake the slave up. Have all the slaves gathered up to watch what happens to slaves who don’t know their place.  And if anyone stands up for it, punish them as well.” Durmaer commanded.     “Excellent idea, Sire,” said Quickfoot, who had been fanning Durmaer with a wide palm branch.  
    Outside of one of the large windows, Audra gasped. Then she picked up her skirt and ran to warn the other slaves.   
       Murial took a big whiff of the lovely smell. “Smells  like honey porridge with meadow cream for the Pippins, (note: babes are always referred to as Pippins in Echodawn and the surrounding country) and boysenberry cream tarts with candied hazelnuts on top for us,” Murial said as the smell wafted stronger past her nose.
    “Ah, your young nose is much better than mine. Speaking of Pippins, I do hope that their horrible organization doesn’t ruin breakfast again,” Marcus said with a chuckle.
    “You mean the Paw., or Pippins Against Washing? They only attack for washing dishes, clothes, or bodies. I wouldn’t worry about that.” Murial replied with a smile.
    The two mice walked into the kitchens. Friar Benjamen, a mole, and his young assistant mouse, Daylily, walked up to greet them as the bells began to  toll.
    “Good morning Father Abbot; Murial. What a lovely surprise!” Daylily said with a good natured smile.  
    The Friar sighed and smiled, “Oi do love ‘ee sound of ‘ee bells!” Marcus nodded and said, “So do I, so do I.” The Abbot sat down and started to chat with Ben
    “Murial and I were just watching the sunset together on the East Wall when we smelled breakfast. And what a lovely smell it is!” He said, leaving out details.
    “All the way from ‘ee wall?” Ben asked, clearly proud and surprised.
    “Well, not exactly.......”
    The conversation went on like that, with several interuptions concerning breakfast on the part of Ben. “Couild ye ‘and me ‘ee cinneemon, Daylily?” or “‘Ee milk would be awf’ly ‘elpful, Murial. Much ‘bliged.” were happening here and there.
     “We’ll help you set out this delightful breakfast on the table.” Marcus offered.
    “No need for that, Abbot Marcus,” Daylily said, “Murial and I can manage.  You and Friar Benjamen sit down.”
    “What a delight it is to have such good natured micemaids in our beloved Abbey, isn’t it, Ben?” Marcus commented.
    “It surtinly is, Father Abbot.” Ben replied.  
    Once the Friar and Abbot were out of earshot, the two burst into giggles. “Good natured micemaids?” They would giggle.
    Daylily said, “Tee, hee, hee! We better put this meal on the table before the-” A crowd of freshly bathed Pippins in crisp new smocks poured into the room, each fighting for their favorite seats. She sighed, shook her head, and finished her sentence, “-Pippins come.”  
    Murial set the immensely large table while Daylily set the food in the center. Both did these quickly as they could, neither wanting to be mobbed by hungry, angry Pippins. Murial and Daylily sat down as Marcus entered the room. By now every one was seated except him. He went to his place at the head of the table and gave thanks with an old Abbey rhyme,  “We thank the Lord
                                                   For this good food,
                                                   Because he makes it grow.
                                                   For in each straight, neat row
                                                   He sends the rain,
                                                   The sun, and shade!
                                                   Now we give thanks
                                                   For this good food
                                                   That he hath given us.  Amen.”
    “Amen.” everyone echoed.  
    Immediately the Pippins dug into their portion of food and the room was filled with their screaming voices.
    “I want more meadowcream!”
    “I wanna tart!”  
    “He’s got more than me!”
    “She breefed on me brekkist!”
    “Oi want more!” they yelled.
    “QUIET!!!!!!!”  yelled Marcus.  All at once the Pippins were quiet. “I’d like to eat my breakfast in peace, thank you.” He said. The room was silent once more except for the giggling of Pippins.  “That’s better. Now, let’s enjoy our meal, shall we?” Marcus asked.
    “Yes,” The Pippins said, disappointed their fun was ruined.  
    Everyone went back to eating.  Murial raised her hand.
    “Yes Murial?” Marcus asked.
    She asked, “May I take my plate outside?”
    He pondered a moment, then answered, “Yes, as long as you take it to the kitchen to be washed afterwards.”
    “Thank you, Father,” Murial said.
    She picked up her plate and walked out doors to the orchard. As soon as she had sat down,  she heard a knock at the gate so she walked to he gate to see who it was. There was no use in telling the Abbot if it was a friend. Sure enough, outside the gate there were two squirrel brothers, the Abbey warriors. Their names were Caleb and Levi.  
    Levi was slightly older and carried a bow and a quiver full of arrows.  (Murial had always preferred swords herself.) Caleb had a slingshot and was about her age. They were good friends, but she envied him. He was her age and able to roam Mossflower- just becasue he was a boy! It wasn’t fair!  Anyway, it was said they could hit any target, though that was an exaggeration. They had been gone a season scouting Echodawn for vermin.  
    “Caleb, Levi, you’re back!” Murial exclaimed.  “Yes,” Levi said. “And we brought a friend. Meet Helleborious, a badger warrior from the badger lands!” And out from the distance came the biggest beast Murial had ever seen.


                                                   Chapter 3

    “H-h-h-hello.” Murial stammered as she looked at her first badger.  She tried a curtsy on her shaking legs and nearly fell over.  Then she turned to Levi and Caleb and asked, “Sh-sh-should I go get the Abbot?”
    “Yes. We wouldn’t want to waltz right up with our ‘little’ friend here and give everyone a heart attack, would we?” Caleb asked.
    “N-no, we wouldn’t. I’ll go get Abbot Marcus,” Murial said.
    She ran backed inside with her plate and put it in the kitchens.  Almost everyone was finished eating. She walked up to Marcus and whispered, “Levi and Caleb are back.  They have someone you should meet.”
    “Why didn’t you let them in?” Marcus whispered inquiringly.
    “I’m not sure their friend would fit in the Abbey.” she joked.  
    Marcus stood up and announced, “Friends, I must see to something outside.  Please continue eating.”
    “Who is there friend that he might not fit in the Abbey?” Marcus said when they were outdoors.
    “You’ll see.  Brace yourself!” Murial murmured and shaded her eyes.              The two had reached the gate.  Murial exclaimed, “Abbot Marcus, meet Helleborious!”
    “Oh my! This is a surprise!” Marcus exclaimed as he looked upon the badger.  Then he introduced them politely, “Hello, Hell-e-bor-i-ous. Do come in.  I’ll open the gate.  Welcome to Pebblestone Abbey! I’m Abbot Marcus, and you’ve already met Murial.” He said, motioning to Murial. Then he asked, “What brings you so far Northwest?”  
    Then the badger spoke for the first time since coming to the Abbey.  His voice was strong and deep, like that of a badger Lord. “I was getting help.  About five seasons ago, a band of vermin came to our home in the badger lands.”
    “When you say ‘our’, who do you refer to?” Murial interrupted.      Helleborios sighed. “My younger sister and I.  I tried to protect us.  What’s sad, and even embarrassing, is that I failed.  I was knocked out.  While I was unconscious, they destroyed our home.  They stole any valuables we had.  They took our food. But even worse,” Here he looked at his feet and sighed deeply, “My sister was taken as a slave.” His eyes glowed with anger. “I vowed I would find her and take her back some day.  And ever since then, I’ve searched Echodawn, finding beasts to help me.  A shrew band called The River Of Shineronck Shrews, or Tross, told me they sailed into the Black Seas to an island called Durmaer’s Deathland.  They also told me they’d help me when I gathered more animals. The also mentioned something about needing a boat, but let’s not get into that.”
    “Yes.” said Marcus, “We know the Tross well.  Kind, but fierce beasts they are.  Wouldn’t want to come upon one of them on a dark night if I  were a group of vermin!”
    Helleborious chuckled, then asked solemnly, “Are you willing to help me?”
    Abbot Marcus paused and stroked his small beard thoughtfully for a moment.  Then he answered, “Our seasons of peace at this Abbey go far back.  Though their has been no need for it, our animals have learned to wield weapons.  ‘Tis not my decision to say who will come and go.  I will leave it up to the creatures of this Abbey to decide for themselves if they will go off to become warriors, slay vermin, and free slaves.  I will ask them at lunch if they will go.  I don’t promise anything, but if their are volunteers you can take them.  ‘Most everybeast here can wield a weapon of some sort.  I give you permission to take any volunteers you please, but I’ll not force anyone to go.”
    “Thank you, Abbot Marcus.  You’re a great help.  And, oh, you can call me Boar.  It’s easier to say than Helleborious.  It’s what my sister used to call me. Oh, what I’d give to hear her voice.” Helleborious said with a sigh.
    “My pleasure.  I’ll do a summary of your story to explain, or do you want to tell the Abbey creatures yourself?” Marcus asked.
    “I’ll do it.” Boar answered.
    “Oh dear!” exclaimed Marcus, “We seem to have talked the morn’ away! ’Tis almost time for lunch now! I’ll bet Friar Benjamen has cooked up a real storm!”
    Murial commented with a laugh, “Either he’ll cook up one, or the Pippins will act like one!” Everyone laughed at that.  
    The five entered the Abbey.  Boar had to crouch over to avoid a collision with the ceiling! They entered the room where everyone was assembled, ready for lunch.  Murial whispered to Caleb, “I can’t believe it’s lunch already!” Caleb whispered back, “I could use a Pebblestone lunch!” “Shhhh!” Levi whispered, not wanting to break the stunned silence.
     Marcus went to his place at the head of the large table and said, “I have some announcements.  As you can see, our Abbey warriors, Levi and Caleb, have returned to our Abbey.  And they’ve brought a friend.  Everyone, meet Boar!” There were a series of claps and the Pippins said politely, ‘Hello, Boar.  Pleased t’ meet you.” “Shhh!” Marcus said, “He also has a few announcements of his own. Boar.” Boar told his story and asked if anyone would join.  Only Caleb, Levi, and (to everyone’s surprise) Murial raised their hands.  Then added, “I’ll give you time to think, but I should set out on my quest by the next full moon.” Then Sophie, a little mouse Pippin, asked, “What is your sister’s name?” “Yeah, what is it?” repeated several other Pippins.  He answered in one word he hoped would soon address someone once more, “Audra.”
    “Light!” everybeast exclaimed joyously. “Shh!” Zephyr rebuked, “We don’t want anybeast to hear.  Is our secret escape boat tied among the rocks at the exit?” “Yez, zirr Zephoir!” Dudley said. Liatris exclaimed excitedly, “Then what are we waiting for?! To get caught?! Let’s go!” Kaolin scolded her, “Number one, we need vittles, number two, we have to find Audra! The tunnel was her  idea, and she was so looking forward to seeing her brother, Boar.” Scarcely had she spoken when Audra stumbled up and panted, “Gripclaw. . . . Slitongue. . . . . told Dur-. . . .Durmaer . . . . forty lashes. . . . . whip. . . . . Kaolin. . . . any-. . . .  anybeast who tries. . . . . . . . ” with that, she collapsed, exhausted from running so far. “‘Anybeast who tries. . . .’ what?” Kaolin asked, giving her friend water. “To help . . . her.” “Oh no!” Liatris screamed. “We better find vittles fast, or Kaolin will be even more weak than Audra!” Zephyr was good at quick organization. He immediately dished out commands. “Everyone, quietly go look for food! I said, ‘quietly!’ No, no, no.  Dudley, Dillon, stay here! Dillon, you make the tunnel more stable.  Dudley, you know healing! Tend to Audra.  I’ll be right back!” Then he ran off as well.  
    Dudley grunted and murmured, “Shoi’s juhzt worn out.  Thoire’s nothin’ wrong with ‘er.  Oi’ll wrap ‘er in dead loives and put ‘er where shoi won’t be zeen.  Then oi’ll help Dillon with ‘ee toinnel.” he went an did that, then whispered to Dillon, “Oi do wish woi could take more slaves with us’ns.  But woi don’t ‘ave enough toime.” Dillon realized for the first time that he was  there. “Oh, Dudley.  Oi thought you wuz tendin’ to Audra?” “Shoi’s juhzt toired.” Dudley explained. “Oh. So you dezided shoi’d boi alroight an’ left ‘er out there?” Dillon asked sarcastically as he set up a stick to keep the tunnel from collapsing.  Dudley put his grubby little paws on his hips and looked indignant. “Oi did nothin’ of thuh zort. Oi wrapped ‘er in dead loives. Oi would thoink you’d boi glad vor moi ‘elp.  Well guhd boi to you, zirr.” Dudley made like he was climbing out of the tunnel.  Dillon pulled him back in and said sternly, “Now woit a minuht.  Oi could uze your ‘elp.  Az long az mizz Audra’s zafe an’ zound.” Dudley turned around and grinned. “Oh shoi iz!”
    Outside the tunnel Audra had gained her breath and was lying in the leaves with her paws behind her head, watching the stars.  She heard something and sat up.  She listened closer.  She stood up and scanned the horizon.  She saw little figures heading towards her.  As they got closer, she realized they were the other slaves.  The sound was their feet, pounding the ground as they neared.  They were carrying baskets of vittles.  She waved her arms toward them.  Zephyr was at the lead of the small party. “Is the tunnel ready, Audra?” he asked. “I think so.” she leaned in the tunnel entrance and asked, “Is it ready?” Dillon called out his answer, “Yez it iz!”
    Everyone poured into the tunnel.  A medium-sized vessel was hooked up to the rocks. She had more than enough room for the party of slaves and their supplies.  She had originally been a Freebooter ship, but Kaolin had found her and dragged her there.  Her name had been painted on the bow in gold letters that glistened in the sunlight, ‘The Sea Scorpion’. But the slaves had worked together to paint over it in blue-green paint they had made from dried berries, so it wouldn’t be noticed as well.  It was the color of the sea and blended in well.  You could barely see it unless you were looking for it.
    The slaves loaded the vittles on to the ship, then got on as well.  The sun was beginning to rise.
    They heard guards saying, “Where’s that otter we’re s’posed to whip?”
    “Beats me!”
    “Look, a tunnel!”
    Zephyr had no patience for the knot holding the ship in place.  He tugged it loose. The vessel rushed though the rapids, but got pushed against a rock in their path. Kaolin couldn’t take it.  They had worked so hard only to be stuck?! She jumped into the water.
    The guards were getting help fast!  
    It seemed like an eternity to Kaolin before she hit the water.  She pushed the side of the ship as hard as she could.  It wouldn’t budge.  
    Some of the guards were swimming toward the ship, while others went to get a boat.  
    Zephyr jumped in to help her. The two pushed as hard as they could.  The vessel was loose! Liatris threw a life-line.  Kaolin grabbed hold.  
    The guards had placed the boat in the water and were speeding towards them.  
    Zephyr was swept underwater and into the current! Kaolin dived into the water and grabbed her unconscious friend. Then she grabbed the life-line.  The small crew hauled them aboard.
    The vermin were trapped between two rocks. They sweared and cursed, but there was nothing they could do to stop the slaves.  
    Zephyr coughed up water.  
    Even though her friends were thanking and congratulating her, Kaolin was oblivious to all around her. She just couldn’t grasp it! She was free!!!


                                 Chapter 4

    g uards told other guards about what had happened.  Each story was more dramatic than the one before.  It was like playing ‘telephone’.  Everything got mixed up.  
    A small group of guards pushed a peg-legged weasel named Stumpleg through the long, dark hallway of ‘The Forbidden Zone’ of Fortress Morheim. Few beasts besides Durmaer were allowed here.  They were the slaves that attended to Durmaer night and day and Quickfoot.  You had little chance of going in uninvited and coming out alive.
    They stopped at two large, cold, unwelcoming stone doors. They led to the bed chamber of Durmaer the Deadly.  Stumpleg opened them nervously.
    “What do you want?!” boomed Durmaer grumpily, not too pleased at being awakened so early. “I should have your head for this! It’s bad enough you came in, but waking me up?!” Stumpleg tried hard to turn around, but his ‘mates’ pushed him forward and hid behind him.  Then he proceeded to blame everyone but  himself for the slaves’ escape.  He used a run-on sentence that would have crossed an English teacher’s eyes. “Well you see, yer royal ‘Ighness, I got up but no one would ‘elp me, so I ‘ad t’ wake ‘em up and make them ‘elp and they kept on dilly-dallyin’ so I had to push em’ an’ when we got there the slaves were in a Freebooter ship, so I went to git a boat t’ chase ‘em with but only two beasts comed with me so when I got there the slaves were almost gone then he,” Here he pointed to a sea rat in the group, “steered the boat wrong and he gitted us all stucked b’tween two big rocks, so really it wasn’t me fault the slave escaped-” “The slaves escaped?????!!!! Then what  in the name of The Seven Seas are you doing here complaining to me???!!! Get a ship and catch them!!!!!!!!!!!” Durmaer yelled.  A lanky male fox with a patch-eye named Squigeye, pointed out, “Actually, sire, only a few uh-scaped.” “It doesn’t matter if there were only a few! I’ll teach them to rebel against Durmaer the Deadly! Get our fastest ship, supply it with vittles, find some slavebeasts to row it, and catch those slaves!!!!!!!!!  If you set out from the dock soon, you can get ahead of them and cut them off!” Durmaer commanded.  The guards did as they were told.  With so many guards helping, it was only a short matter of time before their ship, ‘The Ocean Raider’, was sailing from the docks to cut off the slaves.
    What had been The Sea Scorpion glided through the water.  Kaolin was awakened from her dream world by Audra. “Are you okay?” she asked. “Yes, I am.  I’m just excited.  Can you believe it?” We’re free!”  
    Zephyr walked up two the two maids and reminded them, “Not exactly.  They’ll be after us in no time.  Kaolin, do you remember your cousin, Brook, or Clingrose, the squirrelmaid getting aboard?” “No, I’m afraid I don’t.  But I hate to think we left them behind.  Why do you ask?” “Well, I thought they might want to keep a look out on the crow’s nest with you.  Since you don’t get that much time with Brook, I thought you might enjoy it. And I know Clingrose loves hights.  Plus, otters come in handy when it comes t’ the sea. Even though shrews aren’t too bad themselves.  I thought we could use the help.” he answered.  
    Just then, Dillon waltzed up and said, “Oi don’t mean t’ intrude, but oi couldn’t ‘elp but over’ear. Oi zaw mizz Brook an’ mizz Clingroze git on.  Mizz Brook’s helpin’ mizz Loiatriz with the zupploiz.  And mizz Clingroze iz in the galley with that bruhther o’ mine an’ yer” he pointed to Zepher, “sister Nora th’ zhrewmaid makin’ some grub.” “Thank you for telling me.  I needed to know where my sister was.”  Zephyr replied “Thank goodness.  I would have felt terrible if my cousin and that delightful squirrelmaid were still back there.” Kaolin said, pointing to the island in the distance.
    Everyone looked to the direction that Kaolin was pointing in.  That’s when they all saw it.  There, just behind them was The Ocean Raider.  Zephyr exclaimed, “I didn’t think they’d come this fast! Word must have gotten to Durmaer quickly!”
    This is what had happened.  The vermin had not been fast enough to cut them off because they had started late, but because they had started their voyage closer to open sea, they had caught up much faster than if they had started where the slaves had.  Now they were speeding towards them.  But because their ship was bigger, it couldn’t go as fast.  As soon as the slaves heard what was going on, they had rushed to get the vessel going faster.  Soon they were going twice as fast as The Ocean Raider.
    The slaves weren’t too worried, for they knew they if they worked together, they could out run the ship chasing them, no matter how small the group was.  Once on land, though, it was a matter of speed.
    While Zephyr steered, he talked to Kaolin, who was rowing diligently close to where he was standing, about his plans.  “Durmaer won’t give up very easily.  He’ll chase us ‘cross th’ seven seas and back again. Our best bet is to head for land as fast as possible, not try to lose his guards by taking twists and turns.  Our vessel’s faster and can reach land first. That’s the easy part. Once on land, we need to find somebeast to help us fight.  Maybe we could even find Boar.”
“I can ask Audra if she remembers what directions they came from  her old home, what does she call it......... Echodawn.”
     “Audra.” Marcus repeated. “What a beautiful name.” “Yes.  I suppose we should get on with the meal.” Boar said.  A young mousemaid by the name of Roseleaf, who had just recently become a sister, raised her paw. “Yes, Rose-, I mean, Sister Roseleaf.” Marcus gave her permission to speak. “We’re nearly done with lunch, but if you’re hungry, I’m sure Daylily and Friar Benjamen would love  to get you something.” Roseleaf said.  Daylily frowned at Roseleaf, then murmured to Murial, “Just because she’s a Sister now doesn’t mean she can just tell someone I’ll do something without asking me first!”
    Daylily and Benjamen did end up making more lunch, along with cleaning the dishes.  That got Daylily in a pretty bad mood, especially toward Roseleaf.  That explains why Marcus found them quarreling in the orchard that afternoon.
    “Did not!”
        “Of course you did!”
    “But I didn’t!”
    “You’re the only one here besides me! That proves it!”
    “That doesn’t prove anything! Maybe a Pippin’s hiding about!”
    “Don’t try to fool me! I know it was you, so ‘fess up!”
    “But I already told you, I didn’t take it!”
    Marcus stood between the two angry maids.  “Girls, girls!” What’s the meaning of this? You two are quarreling like two Pippins!” The two jumped at the sight of their Abbot.  Daylily was the first to speak. She glared and pointed at Roseleaf accusingly. “She took my ap-”
         “For the millionth time! I did not!”
         “Slow down! I’ve had just about enough of this nonsense! You are both  on Abbot’s Report! Daylily, see me in the gatehouse before dinner.  Roseleaf, I’ll see you there after it.  But mind, neither of you are getting any.  In the mean time, you will march up to the dormitories and stay there!  That  should give you some time to cool down! Then we’ll sort this out!”
    Murial’s thoughts had traveled back to that morning.  She was sitting in a large apple tree in the orchard, a ripe, red apple crunching as she consumed it.  Now she had an idea of the danger she had been sensing.  This  idea made her feel better.  Maybe harm wasn’t  to befall the Abbey after all!  Maybe the danger she had sensed was danger she herself  would face with Boar.  But that brought up another question.  Am I to go to with Boar?  she asked herself.  But whether she was or not, she had already made her choice.  She would go.
    Her thoughts were interrupted by an erupting fight.  Or, rather, an erupted  fight.  As you’ve probably guessed, that fight was between Daylily and Roseleaf.  She had been so wrapped up in her thoughts, she had not realized them arguing beneath the tree she was sitting in.  Nor had they  noticed her  in the tree above them.  She saw Abbot Marcus walk up. Uh-oh.  This means trouble. she thought.  Because the tree was so high, she couldn’t hear what he was saying to them.  It seemed forever before she saw Abbot Marcus walking away, murmuring something about, “The nerve of young creatures these days.” As soon as the Abbot had left, she saw Daylily stick out her tongue at Roseleaf before the two of them sulked up to the dormitories.
    That’s just like Daylily. Always trying to get revenge, She shook her head. I guess it backfired on her.  She’ll never learn.   
    She got the seeds out of her apple core and put then in her knapsack, which she had set in a hollow in the tree.   It contained a locket with pictures of her father and mother, which she had taken off while in the tree, lest it should fall or catch hold of something and break, an extra cord for her habit, lest the cord she had now would snap, some cold boysenberry cream tarts from breakfast, should she get hungry, her father’s old sword, and a few other miscellaneous things.  She slung the knapsack around her shoulders, so it hung at her waist, and began to climb down.
    On the way her habit sleeve got caught on a branch. She tugged and tugged but it wouldn’t come loose. Suddenly she was knocked off balance. She heard a rustling noise.  Her head turned just in time to see a white thing disappear into the strawberry bushes below her. She had a weird feeling someone - someone attached to the other end of that tail - had done this to her. But there was no use in figuring out who that was - or, at least, for right now.  Suddenly she wanted her habit to stay caught. She couldn’t untangle herself, and if her habit ripped and she fell, she might break a limb, or worse, her neck.  She could think of only one thing to do, even though she doubted there was anyone within hearing range.  

                                               Chapter 5
    “H  eeelp! Helllp me! Somebody! In the big apple tree!” Murial continued in this way until her voice was hoarse.  Finally she stopped. The horrifying realization dawned on her. No one’s coming.  There are no branches below to support me, except for a few small limbs, but they‘ll break beneath my paws.  I can’t hold on much longer!  Oh! what am I to do?  Her foot paws searched desperately for a place to take hold, but found none.  She could hear her habit ripping. She held to the branch she was caught on.  If her habit got free, she could shimmy around the tree to find footholds.
    That gave her an idea.  She let go of the branch with one paw, and reached into her knapsack, trying to find something to get loose with.  She felt something like leather.  She checked again. It was  leather! The only thing in my knapsack that’s leather is my sheath! My father’s old sword! That’s it!  she grabbed it and took it out.  As she did so, her locket fell to the ground.  “Oh no! My locket!” she said in a worried, yet hoarse, voice. “I hope it’s not damaged!”
    She took  the two egded sword out of it’s sheath. It was beautiful, with a diamond at the tip of  the gilded hilt.  The blade glistened in the afternoon sunlight. It wasn’t actually a sword. It was too small for that. It was a bit bigger than a dagger, though, and not jagged like one. It wasn’t curved like a saber, either. It was really a blacksmith’s creation.  
    It sliced easily through her torn habit and nicked her other paw. She winced. After climbing one branch higher, she maneuvered around the trunk, and found the footholds she had climbed up with.  Once she came down, she looked into the tree and saw the corner of her habit sleeve.  Then she immediately looked for her locket.  She paused. There was something nearby.  Rustling.  The same rustling she had heard after she someone caught her habit on the branch!  She didn’t look in time to see who it was, but she did  see a silver locket disappearing into the bushes.  Her  silver locket.  
    She ran after the thing.  It was making for the abbey.  They got through the orchard.  She could see only a nutmeg colored blur.  She had never known she could run so fast!
    The thing took a sharp turn at The Abbey Pond.  A sharp turn Murial didn’t know she needed to take until too late.  She tried to stop, but her legs didn’t obey in time.
    Splash!  Water went everywhere as Murial splashed into the shallows of the pond.  She stood up, completely drenched. She walked out of the water, onto the wet grass, and slipped again.  This time she stayed seated.  She was too frustrated to do anything about it.  She couldn’t stop herself.  She broke into tears.
    “It’s (sob!)  gone!  With my (sniff!)  locket!  It’s the only thing I have left to remind me of (sob! sniff!) Mother and Father!”  She buried her face in her soaked habit.  Then she perked up. “Wait! I still have Father’s sword!”
    She gasped. “My knapsack!”
    She dove into the shallows and retrieved the wet pack.  She poured out everything on the grass.  The tarts were ruined, the sword wet, the sheath wasn’t in the best shape, and the knapsack itself wasn’t so nice either.  The only thing that seemed normal was her extra habit cord, which was only damp.
    She threw the tarts in the grass, saying, “The birds can use them, but not me.” She bit her lip, but the tears flowed openly.
    Then she felt something on her shoulder. She turned her head to see Marcus looking down at her sympathetically.
    What happened to you, my child?” He asked worriedly.
    When Murial didn’t answer, Marcus sat down next to her and just gazed at her crying figure comfortingly.  This went on for awhile.  Finally she either ran out of tears to cry or swallowed the ones she did have.  
    Then she explained.  She told Abbot Marcus about being in the tree, getting stuck, and hearing someone.  She told him about dropping her locket, getting down from the tree, and chasing the thing.  She told him about falling in the pond, and getting her knapsack wet.  
    “. . . . And that’s how I came to be here, sobbing and dripping wet.” she finished.
    Of course, Marcus didn’t know what to think of all this.  He had never considered something like this happen. Oh, yes, he’d seen fights, like with Daylily and Roseleaf, but this? Never!
    Curfluey! A-a-a-achoo!  
    “Come back to the abbey, or you’ll catch your death of cold.  We’ll soon get back your locket.” Marcus assured.
    “I hear you, Father,” Murial replied with a sigh, “but I wish I could believe it.”  
    Abbot Marcus looked surprised. “What’s not to believe, Murial? Though, I’m not really sure you need a locket.”  
    “What do you mean?” Murial asked, cocking her head.
    “Well,” Marcus said, as they walked past the gatehouse, “you have your mother and father’s blood in your veins. You don’t need an object to represent them or to give you courage.  Also, you’re courageous enough as it is! Why, not many beasts, let alone maids, I know would even know what to do in the situation you went through in the tree.”
    “Hmm...” Murial  thought about this.
    Marcus continued, “Not to mention, cutting yourself down and finding footholds.  Most maids would just scream and cry.  There’s something inside you, Murial, something unfathomable.  You are a born warrior, and I was not surprised at all when you raised your hand to go with Boar. Go with Boar, set slaves free, do what you were born to do.  That is all I have to say.”
    The old Abbot’s kind words comforted Murial, and she went inside the abbey, not weeping, but savoring the words, You are a born warrior. . . . . Do what you were born to do.
       “The fools!” Durmaer stormed around his bed chamber. “In their haste, they forgot everything!  No food, no fresh water, no weapons! Not even Crookear, my slave catcher!  They’re a bunch of dimwits! That’s what they are! Why, they’ve never even been on the open sea, save for raiding small islands along the coast! They’ll be dead within a fortnight!”
    “Now, now, Sire.  Did you not just say yourself they’re dimwits?” Quickfoot soothed.  Her voice was smooth as butter, slick as oil, as creamy as milk, yet as deceiving as poison wine.
    “Yes, but better fools die than me.” Durmaer answered, pacing around the stone floor.  
    “Sire, stop pacing, you’ll wear a hole in the floor!” Quickfoot scolded.              Durmaer ignored her and continued, as if she was not there.
    “If there should be an attack, there would be no one to stand in the front line for enemies to use up their arrows on! There’ll be no one to do the dangerous work so my best fighters don’t have to risk it! And  they took slaves with them! Not to mention a valuable ship! Quickfoot, do you still see my ship?”
    Quickfoot shook her head. “No, sire. They are gone.”
    Then Durmaer growled so loud, Quickfoot thought he was roaring! He pounded the ground with his fists. There were such vibrations, that he sent Quickfoot sprawling on the floor, who smashed into a tray of food, and it fell over! Food flew everywhere, and a flask of damson wine smashed to thousand pieces!              Durmaer calmed down.  “Don’t ‘Sire’ me,” He said with a low growl as she got up. “Go bring the ship back, load it supplies, and chase them.”  
    “But, my lord, what’s one ship? You say yourself you have many, and you also said the slaves are growing too numerous.  This is a way to get rid of them, as it saves you the trouble of planning to.  Besides, it’ll serve those guards right for not packing provisions! They wouldn’t have done much better here.  Leave them to think of turning around themselves.  Don’t meddle with what can be fixed without it.”  
    Durmaer considered these words of advice.  Then he spoke. “You know what I think? You just don’t want to take the journey!”
    Quickfoot’s face was a picture of shock. “But, my lord, I know nought of the sea! I serve you much better here! Of course, my lord, I don’t dare argue with you, Durmaer the Deadly! I’ll go if you’re sure.” And she began to walk away, avoiding spilled food and drink.  Quickfoot knew this wouldn’t change the warlord’s mind, but she tried anyway.              Much to her surprise, he reached out his paw to her and chuckled. “What was I thinking?” He said, “You need to stay here, with me! Sit down, have some wine! Oh dear, there is no more!  You’ll just have to take a rest in my bed instead.”
    Quickfoot grinned eagerly. This had never happened before.  She bowed and said, “Thank you.” She began to climb in bed, when an enormous paw swung out at her, knocked her down, and knocked her out as well.    
    Durmaer laughed evilly. “Next time you trust me, vixen, you’ll lose more than consciousness!”
    The slaves were singing to pass the time.  It was a cheerful ditty, written by a gluttonous hare slave.  Their voices blended as if one. Some beasts clapped to the beat, while others bellowed until there their ears hurt.  There were others who did both! The song was bouncy, funny, and loud, one that let them yell out their joy through song.
                                      “When I was just a young tike,
                                      I traveled far from home!
                                      ‘Caught meself a great big pike
                                      And ate it all alone!
                                      I had a ‘normous tummy-ache,
                                      And grew so very fat,
                                      That I couldn’t even fit in a lake!
                                      Now what do you think of that?
                                      That night I drank some water
                                      And caused a drought so dry
                                      My home became a desert
                                      Where no one could survive!
                                      The fishies took one look at me
                                      And ran me out o’ town!
                                      When I asked for one cup o’ tea
                                      My bum got so sore, I still can it feel now!
                                      This story has a moral
                                      That’s very clear to see!
                                      Bumps can last for seasons
                                      When given by fishieeeeeeeeeees!
    That gave a good laugh to all the escaped slaves. Because of its up-beat rhythm, many of the slaves had rowed faster than they knew the were able.      Kaolin had grown bored of endlessly rowing, so she had gone below deck and relieved Dudley, Clingrose, and Nora of their duties in the galley, forgetting to talk to Audra.  She had never been much of a cook, but she had never needed to be.  Their rations back at Durmaer’s Deathland had been scarce. But still, she could make simple dishes, such as skilly and duff.  At this moment she was making a bowl of shrimp and hotroot soup for Brook and herself, a favorite among otters.
    It was made by crushing hotroot peppers until you a fine powder. It was added by the heaping spoonfuls into boiling broth.  Then of course, there were the watershrimp.  They had been caught earlier when the slaves had searched for vittles .  She rubbed them with the hotroot she had crushed, broiled them, and added them to the broth, which was steaming hot.
    She tasted it. Steam literally shot out her ears, hot tears poured from her eyes her mouth puckered. She swallowed.  A weak grin crossed her face. “Now that’s  some shrimp ‘n’ ‘otroot soup!”
    Just then, Brook waltzed up. “I see the shrimp ‘n’ ‘otroot soup’s ready, mate.” she said with a chuckle. “Let’s see if you know how to make real  shrimp ‘n’ ‘otroot soup!” Kaolin gasped for breath. “Oh, it’s real all right! Wait! It’s too hot! Even for shrimp ‘n’ ‘otroot soup!” Kaolin waved her paws frantically.
    But Brook ignored her.  She took a big slurp.  It had the same effect on her as it did on Kaolin. She panted a reasonable request. “Hey, Kaolin, me liddle cousin, ‘ow ‘bout a drink for yore ol’ mate?”  
    Kaolin’s eyes sparkled with tears of laughter.  “I tried t’ warn you, but nobody listens t’ their ‘liddle cousin’, do they? ‘Course I’ll get yore poor mouth a  drink! What would you like, broth wit’ ‘otroot, or a pipin’ ‘ot cup o’ newly brewed tea?!” Kaolin said with a paw on her heart, as if she were going to burst with laughter.
    “‘Tis no laughin’ matter! I’ll git me own drink!” Brook fumed.  But Kaolin didn’t hear her.  Too busy laughing.  Brook went over to a barrel of water and cupped it in her paws.  She took a long drink.
    Dudley and the others had come back to make lunch.  Everyone was quite hungry, probably from skipping breakfast.  He peered in and saw Kaolin, rolling on the floor with laughter.  Brook was walking out, looking quite peeved with her cousin, and saw Dudley’s puzzled expression.  He asked her, “Whoit’s thuh moitter wi’ mizz Koilin?” Brook glanced back at her cousin, as if she hadn’t seen her laughing hysterically.  She answered,
    “She’s just busy cracking ‘erself up.”
    Daylily and Roseleaf had chosen beds as far away from each other as possible.  Roseleaf didn’t even know what she had done to make Daylily mad, and frankly, Daylily herself didn’t know either! She was just mad about baking extra tarts, and wanted to get revenge on Roseleaf for suggesting it.
    Roseleaf was seated in a bed by a window, gazing out at the beautiful afternoon, and sulking because she wasn’t out there enjoying it. Daylily had picked a seat close to the door, because it was the farthest point from Roseleaf she could find while still seated on a bed.
    She heard footsteps approaching.
Probably Abbot Marcus, she thought
    Marcus had left Murial to think (and sent her off to Sister Thora, the infirmiry keeper and healer to see if she had hurt anything) and was walking to the dormitories, ready for his ‘talk’ with Daylily.  He opened the door. “Daylily,” he called, “I’m ready for the talk.  Let’s go to the gatehouse.”  
    Daylily got up slowly, as if trying to make up her mind. She smoothed out her habit, tightened her waist cord, and glided out the door, closing it softly behind her.
    The two mice walked wordlessly to the gatehouse. Once Daylily started to talk, but wilted under Abbot Marcus’ stern stare.
     Dust stirred as the gatehouse door creaked open.  Hmm,  Marcus thought.  We need to oil that.  And a bit of dusting or organizing wouldn’t hurt.      Marcus gently nudged the sleeping Brother Hubert, not wanting to awaken him rudely.
    Hubert was a jolly old type.  His whole body was round, from his rosy cheeks to his stomach.  In fact, he was so round, when he walked, his feet shuffed because he didn’t have enough leg to walk normally! Even so, he was extremly wise.     
    “Eh, what’s that? Oh, er, Hello, Father.” Hubert mumbled, blinking in the sunlight.  Marcus smiled. “Hello, Brother.  May we use the gatehouse for a short period of time?”  Hubert got up.
“Of course, Father.” he said, “I need to get up anyway if I’m to be in time for supper!” Then he waddled off.
    Marcus shook his head and chuckled.  Then suddenly his face was stern. “Now, to business! You so know why I called you here, right Daylily?” Daylily looked at the ground and shuffled her feet.  
    “Because I fought with Rose, er, Sister Roseleaf?”
    “Yes.  Why is that a problem?”
    “Because. . . . . . Uhh. . . . . . . . . . . What was the question?”
    “Haven’t you been listening in Abbey school? For one, the Golden Rule says ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’! Would you like someone to do that to you?”
    “Well, no, but she took my apple! Would she like me to do that to her?”
    Marcus put his head in his hands and cried out in dispair.  
    “That is not the point! I’ll talk to her about that later! Now  I’m talking to you  about your  sin! You are impossible!”
    Dalily sighed.  Her stomach growled.
    “May we continue this dicussion after  supper?”
    “No.” said Marcus firmly. “We must finish what we have started.  Sister Roseleaf won’t get supper either.  But back to business.  Why are you so mad at young Roseleaf? You don’t even know she took your apple!”
    “It had to be her! There was no one there!”
    “Did you know that Murial was sitting in the tree directly above you, hearing every word you said, seeing your every move?”
    “But she wouldn’t take anything!  She’s the most honest mouse at the abbey! Maybe even in the whole of  Echodawn!”
    “I didn’t mean she did it.  I just meant that there may have been a Pippin somewhere that you didn’t see,  just like you didn’t see Murial in the tree.  Now, why are you so mad at Sister Roseleaf? I thought you were friends!” He paused. “Was it about making extra lunch?”
    Daylily only nodded her head. She blurted, “Just because she’s a Sister now, she acts different! She’s so much bossier, and when we ask her for a reason, she just says, ‘Because I’m a Sister and you’re not!’ It infuriates me!”
    “I’ll have to talk to her about that.  Have you ever told her how you feel?”
    “If I did, Father, my words would not be fit to hear, and you would be shamed to know me.”
    “Then I’ll tell her for you. In the mean time, try to make up with her.  Now that you told me how you feel, don’t you feel a little better?”
    “I guess so.  But that doesn’t change the fact that I’m hungry.  Do you have anything, even a crumb, that I could eat?”
    “Well, I do have this biscuit. I can’t let you starve, can I?”
    Daylily took it, shrieked with delight, and ran away.  Marcus shook his head and walked off to the Abbey for dinner.



            Chapter 6

    Things on the Ocean Raider were not going well.  Captain Bloodfang had realized they had no supplies, and wasn’t too happy about it.  He also knew if he turned back, Durmaer would behead him for coming empty-handed, and he couldn’t sneak back, because Durmaer always had one eye on the surrounding land.  He was left with the choice of starving until he could find an island and get provisions from it.  But as he knew from a sea otter slave he had forced to tell, that could take days, weeks, months, even seasons! So he began to think.
    “Hmmm. . . . . There’s got t’ be a  way . . . . . . . What if I - No, no, no, that would never  work!”
    A crew mate banged on the cabin door and cried, “Cap’n, the slave’s er gettin’ fart’er every second, and I’m ‘ungry!”
    “Leave me alone,” Bloodfang hissed, “Can’t you see I’m tryin’ t’ think, idjit?- Wait!” A malicious, crooked smile crossed his face. “Durmaer cou’n’t thunk up a better plan hisself!”
    Murial was thinking.  Who had taken her locket? She didn’t care anymore if she got it back, but if there was a thief and close-to-murderer in Pebblestone, she wasn’t going to let them off easily. All she could remember was nutmeg-ish fur. Who at the Abbey had that?
    Let’s see . . . . Chervil and Fennel, the mole twins, Diabalo, that new otter, Nutmeg the squirrel, Hazelnut the chipmunk maid . . . . . Does her sister, Almond have-No, she doesn’t. She began to narrow down her choices. Because Chervil and Fennel were Pippins, they were prime suspects.  But that didn’t feel right. Whoever took her locket had also knocked hewr off balance in the tree, and they couldn’t climb! Even if they could  climb, moles are terrified of heights.
    Nutmeg could climb, but like Hazelnut, she was Murial’s friend, and Murial trusted them both.  
    Maybe,  she reasoned, Hazelnut or Nutmeg thought it was lost, and was going to bring it to me! Then who knocked me off balance? And why would they run away?
    The last suspect was Diabalo.  He had come to the Abbey looking for shelter about a season ago, the day after the Abbey warriors left.  Now they were back, and he constantly kept out of their way. Murial didn’t trust him. He didn’t even look the way an otter should. His rudder was always rapped in several layers of bandages; he said it was terribly injured.  Sister Thora had tried to give him proper treatment, but he had refused.  He wouldn’t even swim.  No one knew much about him, but she was going to. She was sure the Pippins would know a lot about him, seeing as they were always around him, as they always were with newcomers.  
    And she wasn’t going to have the least bit of trouble finding them.  That is, if their brains were on right.  If she knew Pippins (and unfortunately she did), they would be making a terrible racket for their food right about. . . . . . .
    “We want food! We want food!”    
    . . . . . . now. Of course, it was no use asking them at dinner. She would have to wait until after.
    Dinner was delicious, as always.  Murial congratulated Friar Ben, which he appreciated.  Abbot Marcus had not thought about who would help him with dinner before he sent Daylily up to the dormitories.

    Speaking of Daylily, she was wandering the Abbey, bored and wishing she had never got into that horrid fight. Supper had smelled lovely, and crusty biscuit doesn’t even come close to comparing with the delicoius delicacies she had seen being put on the table! And- alas!- they had chocolate biscuits, which were her favorite, but Friar Ben seldom made them!
    Suddenly a storm of Pippins rushed out the door, with a few scolding mothers to follow. They all had the same thing on their minds: Swimming and sailing in the pond before bed.
    She noticed Murial a short distance behind them, and Roseleaf and Marcus a bit behind her.
    Murial approached her and held out a chocolate biscuit. Daylily’s first thought was to grab it, but instead she remembered. “I- I’m not allowed-” She was cut short.     
    “The Abbot gave me permission, since they’re you’re favorite, but he also said this is the only time.  Of course, if you don’t want it........” Murial broke into a smile.
    “None of that!” Daylily exclaimed with her hands on her hips. “I’ll take it while it’s still warm, thank you very much!”

    “I’m assuming you know why you’re here, Roseleaf?”
    “Yes, Father. I’m here because I fought with Daylily in the orchard.”
    “And because I’d like to know something. Did you take her apple?”
              Roseleaf looked shocked. “Do you think I would?”
    “No, but she claims someone did and I wanted to know. I’m looking back at what happened, and I think it was mostly Daylily’s fault. But do you know why I think she started that fight?”
    “She thought I took her apple?”
    “No, actually, I think she wanted to get you in trouble. You see, she thinks you lord it over the others that you’re a sister now. Now, I know that’s only half true, but that’s how she sees it. You don’t boss them around- much- but you do use it as a way to get her to do things, and you must realize that you’re but a young sister, and have a lot to learn. No one is born knowing how to do things, just as no bird is hatched knowing how to fly. They have to learn, and that takes time.”
“I understand.”
“No, I don’t think you do. It’s more than stopping being bossy, it’s repairing your friendship with Daylily.”
“Oh. Could you come with me when I apologize?”
“This is a battle you must fight on your own.”
Roseleaf walked out of the gatehouse with a sigh and ventured off to find Daylily.
Speaking of battles, Marcus thought, I need to speak with Boar and his volunteers. The next full moon is tomorrow night!
    Breeze the squirrelmaid rowed as slowly as she could. Why should she take part in catching her friends? Now her oar was going especially slow, as her oarmate, Swissel the mousebabe, drifted off to sleep. She gave him a little nudge. As much as she wanted the oar to go slowly, she didn’t want him whipped.
    Breeze started to yawn herself. They had all been woken up early. That was usual, but they hadn’t had breakfast, either. Not that breakfast would have been a big deal. Slop isn’t very appetizing.
    She took a glance across to the slaves beside her, working hard. One was a squirrel, like herself. She was dark brown, and was named Clove because of it. The other was Chestnut, the chipmunk. She pointed to her oar, signaling them to go slower. Pass it on. she mouthed. They nodded, signaling they had gotten the message. In a half hour or so (for the ship was pretty big) the whole works were going slower.
    Suddenly Bloodfang showed up. We’re in for it now!  thought Breeze.             “Unchain the mouse, Scarfoot.” He ordered a ferret. You, squirrel, drop that oar and help him.”
    With slightly trembling paws, Breeze slowly unchained Swissel.
    “Don’t be afraid,” she whispered. The truth was, she didn’t know if he should be afraid or not. She certainly was!
    “What’d you say?” Scarfoot asked.
    “Umm...... I said....uh... Don’t free the babe.”
    “Of course I’m gonna free ‘im! Bloodfang said to!”
    “I know that.... I just.... uh.....”
    “Well, get on with it! We’ll starve if you don’t go faster!” Bloodfang roared.         They dragged off Swissel and left Breeze in her thoughts as they began unchaining the rest of the babes.
    Why would you starve? Babes can’t cook...... Come to think of it, there’s no food on board! So why would you want Swissel?  
    It was late. Marcus wondered if he should postpone this meeting till the morrow. Why had he made it the time it was anyway, I don’t know.
    Boar, Caleb, and Levi had had no trouble getting up, (although they had been a bit surprised to be up early, particularly in their own home,) but Murial was still half asleep. The only times she had ever gotten up early were times of need or her own will.
    Caleb had whispered her when walking to the Abbot’s Study, “If you really want to go with Boar, you need to get used to this kind of thing.”
    She nodded sleepily.
    Marcus sat at a desk in the cozy, small room. Parchments, maps, and scrolls sat on shelves. It smelled of books, pine wood, and the piping hot scones Marcus had had Ben set out for them.
    It was the sort of room a grandfather would read books to his grandkids in. It was the sort of place you’d be shy to go into, but love once you were inside. It was the sort of study that you could fall asleep in on a boring afternoon. It was the kind of  room Pippins would look through old trunks in on a rainy day, like a Grandma’s Attic. The four soon-to-be slave rescuers had no trouble figuring out why this had been made the Abbot’s Study.

And I never finished.


He's dead? He's dead? Why,

He's dead? He's dead? Why, some of my fondest reading memories are of reading those books out loud to my younger sister--finding a distinctive accent for each of the races of animals, giggling at the dialogue, letting my voice warm over the descriptions and shiver in the battles...even though I've moved on to Conrad and Eliot and O'Connor, now, he will be missed.

By the way, for the production of a nine-year-old fangirl, that fanfiction is pretty polished. I'm impressed.

Annabel | Thu, 02/10/2011

My brother and I started a

My brother and I started a Redwall rip-off too, about an otter named Kyra Silvertail. Sadly, I think it got deleted because we both found it years later and were horribly embarrased... :0)

For a nine-year-old, it sounds like you had a really good sense of plot and character. With some polishing, it would be  great story!

I'm going to miss the Redwall books.



Heather | Fri, 02/11/2011

And now our hearts will beat in time/You say I am yours and you are mine...
Michelle Tumes, "There Goes My Love"

Not to be rude...

But where did you get your info? I heard that Brian Jacques is publishing a new book. I'm not quite sure that he's dead. Love the story, by the way. Awsome work!

Arya Animarus | Sat, 02/12/2011

Oh for the times when I felt invincible.


It's true. What might be confusing you is that his brother will be finishing up the last book he was working on. But it wasn't that long ago--maybe last week.

Julie | Sat, 02/12/2011

Formerly Kestrel

What a shame.....I was never

What a shame.....I was never an avid Redwall reader, but my brother listened to the books on CD which Mr. Jacques read, and I loved his voice. I also loved reading on his website, and how nice and inspiring he sounded. May he R.I.P.

Erin | Sun, 02/13/2011

"You were not meant to fit into a shallow box built by someone else." -J. Raymond

He's dead...? **thump** I

He's dead...? **thump**

I fainted.

Anonymous | Sun, 02/13/2011


I loved this guy! He was epic!!! I didn't even know he died until JUST NOW!!!!!!!!! *sniff* I'll miss him...i only read a couple of his books, but i admired him so much as an author. Very said...may God bless his soul and take him to Heaven, to be the Patron of authors! 


Clare | Fri, 02/18/2011


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