Cover image credit goes to deathecho on deviantART.
The Redwall series holds a special place in my heart. The only bright spot during my less than pleasant middle school years was my experience with reading the Redwall books, and getting pulled into Brian Jacques's magical world. I owe him many thanks for shaping my love of reading and writing. I wrote this little fic as a homage to the series. Long live Redwall!
Runaway Ronin (1)
A lone hunched figure limped along the weather-beaten path. Rain and wind stirred up a tumultous torrent, submitting the dirt, grass, and trees under their mercy. The sheathed katana and wakazashi, both strapped to the lone traveler's side, shook like a death rattle. The figure seemed to defy the implications of such an unsavory fate as he ploughed onward. The figure lifted his head by an inch, revealing the face under the hood to be one of a grown wolf in his prime. His lips pulled back and his teeth showed as he grimaced from the pain of his wounds and the heaviness of his armor. The wolf didn't know how much farther he could go. He narrowed his amber eyes and spotted a red building in the distance. Clenching his jaw, he continued to battle the rain above and the mud below.
The wolf finally stopped when he was only an armslength from the gate. His weary yet curious gaze swept the building before him. Too big to be a hovel, but too humble to be a castle. The wolf couldn't fathom for what purpose was it built, and what kind of creatures lived inside. Tired, soaked, and wounded, he quickly came to the conclusion that beggars could not be choosers. He prayed to the gods that he found shelter.
He rapped on the gate with a clenched paw. "I need sanctuary!" he hoarsely called. "I've come a long way in the wind and rain. Please let me in."
He wasn't sure if there was anybeast who heard his plea. The wolf swayed on his feet, then found himself collapsing heavily onto his side. His heavy eyes fluttered shut. He couldn't hear his labored panting anymore. He wondered if he had just knocked on the gate of death instead.
The whole abbey was abuzz from the sudden appearance of a newcomer at the gate.
Constance the badger inspected the fallen creature with great wariness and caution, to ensure that he didn't play some cunning trick and pretended to be injured. Her suspicions wavered a bit; the lone traveler genuinely appeared to be in need of shelter from the weather and medical attention. Some Redwallers protested in taking in the wolf, no thanks to Chickenhound's deception not too long ago. Following his warrior's instinct, the newly appointed Redwall champion Matthias deemed the wolf to look like an honest, noble creature. Abbot Alf, successor of the late Abbot Mortimer, voiced agreement that helped everybeast to come to an ultimate decision of letting the wolf inside. Constance herself singlehandedly carried him to the infirmary, where he could be treated with proper care.
Healers approached the wolf with undisguised fear and paranoia, but he remained unconscious, and after a few hours he was tended to with little fuss. Stripping his strange, cumbersome gear and clothes revealed a deep leg wound and several smaller gashes across his torso and chest, much of the blood washed away by the rain, but still red from the deepness of the wounds. Patches of his dark-grey fur were matted with dirt and dried blood. He was washed, treated with herbal poultices, and wrapped in clean bandages. Constance had the wolf's weapons confiscated for precautionary measures, of course. The blades he carried were no crude scraps found in the paws of second-rate mercenaries or bandits. It was clear that the traveler was a real warrior.
Matthias inspected the blades with great fascination. "What beauties. The quality and sharpness of the metal...the way the hilts are bound...they're unlike anything I've ever seen before. That creature must come a very long way from Mossflower." Though he came up quite close to admire the weapons, he didn't touch them out of respect for the unconscious warrior. He turned to Basil Stag Hare, who stood just a few feet behind him. "What do you think he is, Basil? A fox?"
The hare shook his head. "Not so, old chap. His fur's gray, not red like a fox's. His muzzle's rounded, not narrow. I've seen the broad limbs an' paws on that chap, too. On top of that, his tail isn't splashed with some white on the end." The hare lowered his voice to an awed whisper. "I'd say we have a bally wolf in our midst, wot."
Matthias's eyes widened. "A wolf..."
John Churchmouse interrupted their conversation as he breathlessly dashed into sight. "The traveler's awake!" he exclaimed.
Willing himself to remain calm, Matthias quickly followed after the mouse. Basil was right on his tail, and so was Constance. Somebeast had called the abbot, because he too accompanied them into the infirmary. The injured wolf hunched over in his bed, inspecting the bandages covering his paws and chest. He looked up when he heard approaching pawsteps. His amber gaze was unwavering. Matthias tightened his grip on Martin's sword as he returned the wolf's stare.
"Where am I?" the traveler finally asked.
Abbot Alf was the one to answer. "This is Redwall Abbey, founded and run by creatures of peace. We never turn away anybeast in need."
Constance stood guard, in case the foreign vermin dared to spring up and attack. The wolf surprised them all by clasping his paws together and, despite the bandages, bowed deeply. "Thank you very much for taking me in and tending to my wounds. You honor me with your hospitality."
The abbot interpreted that as a way of expressing thanks in the wolf's culture. He mimicked the gesture in return. "You are most welcome. There are farmers here who say it will keep raining for the next few days. Stay a little longer if you'd like, so you can have time to recover in the safety of this abbey." Suddenly the abbot's eyes widened. "Oh, where are my manners? I almost forgot introductions. I am Abbot Mordalfus: the leader of this abbey. The badger is Constance, the hare is Basil, and this young fellow is Matthias, our abbey's champion. Pray tell, what is your name, traveler?"
The wolf dipped his head. "I am Kyoshiro of the Hokkaido wolf clan. Friends and foes alike call me Kyoshiro the Windslayer."
"Hokkaido...? Is that a place?"
"It is, Abbot."
Alf frowned. "I've lived for many seasons and have read extensively, but I've never heard of that place before."
The wolf's eyes clouded as he averted his gaze to the blankets that covered his lap. "It's far, far away...across oceans and many other lands in between. I come from an island nation called Nippon, and Hokkaido is only a small part of it."
The abbot nodded thoughtfully. "I see. Well, most of us Redwallers have never ventured farther than the abbey itself, let alone Mossflower country. You'll have to excuse us for our ignorance."
"Who am I to judge you when you have shown me nothing but kindness?" The wolf paused, saying nothing for several seconds, then spoke again: "I can smell fear, and even when I laid unconscious I sensed it in the healers who cared for me. Still, your show of mercy and compassion is why I'm alive now. As soon as the rain lifts, I will be out of your way. Until then, I hope my stay here won't be too much trouble for you all."
"Oh, it won't be trouble, provided that you don't stir up some yourself," Constance replied in her gruff voice. "If we find that you show the slightest sign of deceit or malice towards these peaceful creatures, I won't hesitate to throw you back in the rain where I found you."
Alf raised his paws in an attempt to assuage her. "Please Constance, this is hardly the way to treat our injured guest."
"You have my word that I mean no harm to anybeast in this abbey," Kyoshiro replied solemnly. "I would never compromise my honor with the bloodshed of innocent creatures."
"I believe you," Matthias blurted out. "A warrior's honor is rather important." Feeling like a novice again for speaking up in front of older creatures without permission, he shuffled his sandals. "Um...you are a warrior, are you not? I've seen your weapons."
"I am. In my country, true warriors are called samurai." The wolf's face darkened and his paws tightened over his lap. "I was a samurai once...now I am nothing more than a ronin."
Matthias couldn't help but ask, "Sir, what's a ronin?"
"I think that's enough talk for the day, young Matthias," Alf gently said. "We should let Kyoshiro get his rest. It's almost lunchtime, so he must be hungry too."
"I'll have a talk with Friar Hugo and see what we can do for our guest," Matthias replied with enthusiasm. He took his leave with a little bow then ran off without further ado. At the implication of food, Basil followed in hot pursuit.
Alf and Constance shared a small chuckle. "If it weren't for the sword by his side, I'd still mistake Matthias to be the novice he was a few seasons ago," the badger remarked.
"A few seasons and a war can change a creature...but old habits die hard, I suppose," Alf mused. He turned to the bed-ridden Kyoshiro. "We apologize for prattling on. We'll leave you alone now."
"Thank you again," the wolf said. "Your kindness will not be forgotten."
As soon as the abbot and Constance left the infirmary, the latter was first to break the silence. "He's polite and he knows his manners, I'll give him that. What do you think, Abbot? Were you and Matthias right to take him in?"
"Only time will tell for certain, my friend," the abbot replied. "For a creature traditionally considered vermin, Kyoshiro seems to be, as Matthias said earlier, honest and noble at heart. He seems sad, too. We don't know his story, but I could see it in his eyes. I pray that we won't be proven wrong about the goodness in him."