The following is a transcription of posts made by ten different contestants on an offsite forum. Every week they will write chapters from their own character's points of views and push the plot forward until its inevitable conclusion. One by one, they will be eliminated until only three remain. Your vote counts! Please join us by visiting to vote and discuss, or feel free to leave a review and give us feedback!
The Chains that Bind Us
A Collaboration Between: Komi and Minerva
The nights in the Drag had grown deathly quiet since the Culling. No more was the silence broken by the ragged coughs or weeping of weaker beasts. Those beasts were gone and when there was noise, it was deafening.
The sound of a rattling chain was all it took to wake Minerva. The otter blinked tiredly and swiped a paw over her eyes. Across from her in the cave they commandeered, Komi lay upon her bunk. The stoat twitched violently in her sleep and she clenched her teeth, her face contorting as if she were wounded. She kicked her leg then, sending another ripple through the chain.
Quietly, the otter got to her feet and trudged towards the stoat. "Komi…" she whispered. When the beast didn't wake, the otter placed her paw on the stoat's shoulder. "Komi."
Komi shoved the otter's paw away with a gasp. Her eyes stared wildly around the room, as if searching for something, or somebeast. Returning to Minerva, she blinked, then scrubbed her face roughly with her paws. "Damn..." she whispered, her voice breaking.
Minerva lowered her paw. The chain at her ankle rattled as the otter ambled back to the other wall and sat against it. Turning her head, she watched as the stoat panted heavily. It was the only noise between the two for a short while, until the otter looked back to her and broke the silence. "My daughter has nightmares."
The stoat snorted. "That supposed to make me feel better?" Komi pushed herself into a sitting position, wiping her damp face once more with a trembling paw. "Having nightmares like a kit…" She stared at the floor, her breathing shakily, then her paw began tapping softly on her leg.
"Didn't mean it as an insult," Minerva said. She watched the stoat's claws drum up and down, recalling when the stoat did the same thing in their cell. The otter continued. "Sometimes, late at night, Fable'd come runnin' t' my bed and tug my paw til I woke. I'd hold her and, sometimes, we'd tell stories t' one another 'til her worries were gone, and she fell asleep. Is that what ye do when ye get scared? Tap yer claws or sing?"
Komi's paw stilled. She glanced at it, and shrugged. "Singing was the only thing that kept me sane after..." she swallowed, "after Redwall. Never could get back to sleep, so I'd just… start walking. Sing. I didn't know what else to do." Her voice dropped to a very quiet whisper. "I can't sing here…"
Minerva strained her head, looking around her at the other beasts sleeping huddled on the floor of the Drag. "No, prob'ly not. Doesn't mean ye can't talk though."
Komi's mouth opened, closed again, then she asked, "Are you saying you want to talk to a 'vermin?'"
"No. Talkin' to a vermin is the last thing I'd ever want t' do," Minerva answered her, "but they were sayin' communicatin' would help us live. I hate the beast, but Nire had a point. I'm not about t' drag some vermin's corpse just 'cause I don't wanna talk t' them, and I'm certainly not about t' let ye drag mine. I've got Fable countin' on me."
"You do," Komi agreed. "Though, I would probably just take an axe to a corpse's leg." She shrugged. "Remove the dead weight."
"Hard t' do that when all ye've got's a shield, Coward," Minerva said with a sly chuckle. "Besides, what would ye do when they replace that 'dead weight' with an iron ball?"
"I didn't say it was the best idea," Komi muttered. "Better than dragging a body around. Certainly wouldn't help your daughter's nightmares, if she saw." Komi leaned her head back on the stone and closed her eyes.
"No. But that's why I've gotta live for her. She's all I have left," Minerva said quietly, turning her fishhook in her claws. "And, well, I'm all she's got. I'm not leavin' her alone in this place."
"I wouldn't either, if I were you," Komi whispered.
"Of course not. What mother would?"
Komi went completely still. For several long moments, she didn't even breathe. Then she exhaled slowly. "Of course."
"I've been havin' nightmares, too, ye know. I go t' sleep and all I see are boars chargin' at her, or monsters swallowin' her whole. But, when I wake up, I just remind myself that it ain't real," Minerva said, a soft smile rising to her lips with each word. "I think of somethin' happier. I think about how big she's gettin' or how fast she's learnin' t' sew. She'll be a proper seamstress afore long. Maybe, I tell myself, when we get outta here, I'll take 'er t' Redwall and she can learn how t' make grand tapestries like the ones they've got hangin' around everywhere. Then I start thinkin' about seasons passin'. Maybe she'll find another braw riverdog and settle down, and have a little daughter of her own… I dunno.
"Her father used t' tell me stories before we married. I always liked stories, so, I try t' come up with my own now. It's a different one each time. One time, she was a healer tendin' t' the sick. Another, a scholar, studyin' old texts that would leave me scratchin' my head. A cook, bakin' bread and givin' sweets t' Dibbuns. A sister of Redwall, keepin' the peace. Makes me smile thinkin' about it," Minerva said, letting her fishhook fall slack at her neck, "thinkin' about what she'll become."
The otter heard a sniffling noise come from across the room. She looked up to see Komi turning her head away from her, trying her best to hide her face as tears fell down it.
A look of realization came over Minerva then as she recalled the way the stoat had watched her and Fable in the caravan and the way she gave her the chain in the cell.
"Ye've got a kid too, don't ye, Komi?"
Komi nodded, then curled in on herself, paws wrapped around her middle as she shook. "I miss him," she said through clenched teeth. "It hurts… how bad I miss him…"
"I'm- I'm sorry, I didn't know," Minerva said softly. She paused before asking, "How old?"
"Ten," the stoat choked out. She dragged a deep breath in and raised her head, then took another breath. Her voice steadied. "I miss him, and when I sing, it doesn't hurt as much. It's silly, but it helps."
Minerva shook her head with a light chuckle. "Please. It ain't like it's less silly than comin' up with stories in yer head," the otter said. They sat in silence for a few moments before Minerva looked back towards the stoat. "How about this? Why don't ye sing a song t' me and when yer done, I'll tell a story? Then we'll both get over our bad dreams."
Komi ran her paws down her muzzle and across her face, drying some of the tears. "Beasts'll wake up if I start singing. Last time I tried, someone threw a rock at me."
"Aye, that was prob'ly me," Minerva muttered.
Komi snorted, but it sounded a little like a laugh.
"So, go on. Sing," Minerva beckoned.
The stoat sniffed, and leaned her head back on the stone once more. "It'll wake beasts up. Do you really want them yelling at us?"
The otter snorted. "I'd like t' see a beast dare raise their voice towards the Monster of Mossflower Woods."
Komi closed her eyes and shifted in her seat for a moment before beginning to hum a soft melody. Keeping her voice low and soft, she sang her son's lullaby in the darkness of the Drag.
"My darling, lay your head down.
Close your eyes to dream."
Komi stopped then as a tired hare stirred and shot her a glare. Minerva growled at the beast and he fearfully turned away. The otter beckoned the stoat on. After a few moments, Komi continued.
"Drift away on a white cloud.
Watch the stars a-gleam.
If the night feels too dark now,
I will hold you near.
I will stay right beside you.
You will know I'm here.
So rest your head and close your eyes.
Drift off into the darkened skies,
And all around the stars will rise.
I will never go,
For I love you so."
The stoat finished her song and, when the silence settled back over the Drag, Minerva began her story. It was one of warm summers and quiet streams, of trilling birdsong and a whistling in the woods, of chance encounters and…
Komi was asleep, breathing steady and still. Minerva stopped her story there… both their worries gone.
When the morning came, the surviving slaves in the Drag began to be ushered towards the training grounds as usual. Something was off though. Hargorn and the other slavers were gentler when they woke them, and a persistent noise seemed to carry throughout the entire Crater and echo within the Drag. It was only as Minerva and Komi walked beside one another towards the training grounds did they realize it was the sound of a cheering crowd.
While there were fights nearly everyday within the Crater, the slaves quickly came to realize it was towards the end of weeks when the seats around the arena filled to the brim with beasts. Nire, sly as he was, likely had something planned to draw them in.
Komi glanced towards Minerva. The otter simply nodded. They would be fighting today, both of them knew.
It was only after doing a few more drills with Trainer Hapley and Nix did two guards approach the pair and tell them their names were called.
"Remember: Trust. Communicate. Cooperate," Hapley advised both of them. "You are not each other's enemy. You've been doing better this morning than before, so keep it up and work together and, maybe, you'll both survive the day." He glanced between them. "You might even survive intact."
"Aye, just remember who your real enemy is," Nix said.
Minerva and Komi both nodded and thanked the two trainers as they were led out of the training grounds and down a dark corridor. A guard waited by the gate at the end of it with a rack of different spears and shields and motioned for them to select one of each.
Minerva selected a simple reed spear while Komi pulled a kite shield from the rack.
The guard patted Komi down before doing the same to Minerva. "I figured Nire would be havin' ye check my mouth too after what I did t' Hammerpaw," the otter said with a grin when the beast finished.
"I doubt that glorified needle of yers would leave a scratch on what ye're fightin'," the beast said with a snort.
"And what are we fighting?" Komi asked.
"Heh heh, ye'll see soon enough, Coward."
Komi narrowed her gaze at him. The beast merely chuckled at her as he turned and unlatched the gate to the arena and pulled it open.
"Lovely ladies, gentlebeasts… I've promised you all a show this morning," Nire's voice echoed through the stands, "and now I'm going to give it to you. You saw the Monster of Mossflower take down the mighty Hammerpaw. Now how will she fare when she's chained to the craven runaway… Komi the Coward!"
The crowd roared in a mixture of cheers and boos as the two of them strode out from the gate and into the sands of the arena. As they tentatively walked towards the center, Nire's voice rose from his place at the Podium. "The Coward here tried to escape. And what kept her from escaping you may ask? Well…"
Komi and Minerva looked across the sands as a gate in the opposite side began to rise. The stoat took a half step closer to the otter, ready with her shield, feeling bare and naked on her right side with no weapon of her own.
With an unearthly rattle, a shiny black scorpion came scuttling into view. Komi yelped and shrunk behind her shield. The creature turned to and fro, claws raised, tail arched high over it's back. It skittered forward and Komi jerked backwards, stumbling over the chain before bumping into Minerva.
"What are ye doin'!" the otter snarled, sparing Komi only the briefest glance before returning her focus to their opponent.
Komi swallowed, her mouth suddenly bone dry. "That thing... It was in the tunnel, coming down in the dark." She shuddered. "Almost fell in a pit of them. Their tails can paralyze and kill and those claws..."
The monster on the other side of the arena lowered itself onto the sand, sitting still, as if waiting. The crowd in the stands began to holler and roar at the three beings in the ring.
Minerva eyed the scorpion tentatively, shifting her footpaws in the sand. "Bet that's why Nire's havin' us fight one. He knows yer scared of 'em. He's only tryin' t' prove t' ye and everybeast else that yer the Coward they say ye are. I don't think yer a coward, Komi. I get bein' scared of somethin' like that. But if we're gonna get out of here and see our young 'uns again, we can't stand here."
Komi took a slow, deep breath, and swallowed. Then she nodded. "Right." Another breath. "So what's the plan?"
Minerva thumped a footpaw down on the sand and the scorpion turned quickly, centering itself on them. "I don't think it sees all that good, but I bet it can feel us through the sand."
Komi took a step away from Minerva and the scorpion shifted towards her, raising it's tail a little higher. "I think you're right." She moved back to Minerva's side, bent down and began gathering up the slack in the chain between them with her right paw. "Stay close. I'll follow your lead and watch that tail. I'll block it if I can."
"If ye can?" Minerva scoffed. "Ye'd better."
"And you'd better be good with that spear."
The otter readied the weapon as the both of them stepped forward slowly through the sands. The scorpion clicked its pincers and, as if it were a command, the crowd grew quiet. With its eight spidery legs, the creature skittered forward a few steps tentatively before backing up again and lashing out with its stinger in warning.
Komi nearly bumped into Minerva as the otter suddenly stopped moving and eyed the creature. "What is it?" the stoat asked.
"Thinkin' is all," Minerva answered. "Like I said, I don't think it can see very well. I'm wonderin'... does it know there are two of us?"
Komi looked blankly at Minerva in response. The otter tapped the butt of her spear twice into the sand and the scorpion focused its attention towards her. "Could we make it think there's only one beast?"
"By movin' like one," Minerva answered with a look to the stoat. "Why don't ye give us a song? Somethin' simple t' keep our steps in rhythm. If we can keep our steps in time, maybe we can trick it int' thinkin' there's only one beast. Then, we can sneak in close and...
"I can block and keep it busy…"
"Aye, and then I rush around and take it by surprise," Minerva finished. "It won't expect it, I don't think, and there are some nice fleshy bits between the shell I can sink my spear into for a quick kill."
"It's worth a shot. I mean, the only thing on the line is our lives," Komi said.
Minerva rolled her eyes. "Give us a song, Komi."
After thinking for a moment, the stoat then cleared her throat and began to sing. It was a marching song with a simple three-beat rhythm and, after a few moments, Minerva memorized it and began to step forward with her partner.
"Pawstep, pawstep, one, two, three,
These tough beasts will never flee.
Pawstep, pawstep, four, five, six,
Always ready for your tricks.
Pawstep, pawstep, seven, eight, nine,
Bring the fight so we can shine."
Together they advanced forward, their pawsteps in sync. Like a phalanx, Komi took the front, her shield at the ready, while Minerva was a step behind her with her spear poised to strike. The scorpion clicked its pincers together, its attention still fixed on the both of them as they approached, and then, without warning…
Komi stopped her song abruptly with a gasp and stumbled backwards into Minerva, nearly knocking the otter down into the sand. They recovered their footing, eyes widening as the thing skittered towards them at an unexpected, terrifying speed. Could they meet its attack? Neither beast hesitated to find out and, without a word to one another, both the stoat and otter began to run.
The chain snapped taut and they both stumbled face-first into the sand. Then, Minerva and Komi realized their mistake: they ran in the opposite direction.
The scorpion descended on Komi then, and the crowd cheered as it tried to pick at the prone stoat with its sharp pincers. Screaming in fright, she curled into a ball like a hedgehog and held her shield tightly against her to defend herself. Cries of "Coward!" echoed from the stands.
Without hesitation, Minerva grabbed her spear and got to her feet, charging towards the creature and lunging with the weapon. The scorpion hissed as the point dug into one of its claws. The otter nearly lost her grip on the shaft as the beast pulled back in fright.
"Get up, Komi! Now!" Minerva shouted to her partner and pulled her weapon free. The scorpion turned its attention towards the otter then, and Minerva retreated slowly away from it. She held the spear defensively in her paws, struggling to keep her paws from trembling as the scorpion arched up its back. Then, with a hiss, it lashed out with its stinger.
The point skittered off the flat of Komi's shield as the stoat jumped in front of her ally and blocked it just in time. Minerva stabbed out with her spear, digging it deep into the tail. The creature hissed and attacked with one of its claws then, its pincers tightening around the shaft of the weapon.
Both Minerva and Komi stared wide-eyed as the spear was wrenched out of the otter's paws and, with a deafening sound of crunching wood, was broken in half by the scorpion's powerful pincers. Their only weapon destroyed, both beasts began to slowly retreat.
"Aye, you can handle a spear really well," Komi sneered, keeping her eyes on the creature.
"Oh, shut it," Minerva spat. "I wouldn't have lost it had I not had t' save yer sorry tail."
"And whose fault is that?" the stoat asked.
"Both of ours," the otter answered.
Komi was quiet for a moment before nodding in agreement. "We both ran in the other direction."
"Aye, we didn't talk first."
Komi was quiet for a moment, before sighing. "Thank you... for getting that thing off me."
Minerva nodded. "We're partners now, whether we like it or not. Besides, ye did the same for me. That stinger would've gotten me had ye not been there. Thank ye. Ye saved my life." The otter trembled thinking about it. "Now we just need t' get talkin'. If we make a mistake like that again, we'll both be dead."
"Right." Komi glanced behind them as they continued their retreat. The scorpion eyed them anxiously. "We're getting close to the wall. Not much room to keep backing up. Which way are we going?"
"Let's circle t' the left."
"Left it is." The two began to trace along the wall of the arena, watching as the scorpion turned to follow their movements from where it stood in wait. "And if it charges again?"
"We run t' the right."
Komi nodded and adjusted her shield. "Now, how are we going to kill this thing? We don't have a weapon."
The chain at their footpaws rattled as they walked.
"Nah, not necessarily," Minerva said with a grin.
Komi narrowed her gaze at the otter. "You can't be serious.."
"If ye have any better ideas, I'm all ears," Minerva sneered. "But I'm just rememberin' what Hapley and Nix did t' us. Remember how they wrapped their chain around us and pulled? We could do the same and constrict it like a bloody snake."
"Is the chain long enough?" Komi asked.
"Aye, I think so," Minerva answered, sizing up the creature. "We can probably loop it around one time and still have just enough slack left over fer both of us t' pull. We'd have t' pull hard though, like we did in the cells."
"Wrapping the chain around could work, but what's to stop you from getting stung?" Komi observed. "I've got the only shield. We can't share it."
They circled the arena, Komi in front slightly with her shield and Minerva, holding nothing. The scorpion circled opposite them, warier now, as if he knew he had two opponents and not just one to contend with. The audience around them called out advice, but it was lost in the cacophony.
Minerva's eyes narrowed at the scorpion. "Nire said ye were the Coward, that ye were always running." She glanced at Komi, "How fast can ye run?"
"Can ye move faster than that thing?" the otter asked, pointing and making a circular motion with her paw.
Komi bared her teeth in a savage grin. "One way to find out."
Minerva put a paw on Komi's shoulder. "Yer gonna have t' get real close. Are ye sure?"
The stoat fixed her eyes forward on the scorpion. "Your daughter is here, Minerva. She needs you. My son doesn't. Besides, I'm sick of everybeast calling me a coward. Stay out of range of that tail, and be ready to pull." She began gathering the chain in her paw, leaving Minerva some of the slack.
Komi started to sing her marching song again and they got their pawsteps in sync. "Go right," Komi said, in rhythm with the song. "I go left. Let the slack run underneath."
They advanced, while the crowd around them roared its approval. Closer they marched to the scorpion and it, sensing their approach, held claws and tail at the ready, waiting.
"Now!" Komi yelled and they split apart. A scorpion claw snapped first for Minerva as she ran close by, then the second claw snapped at Komi, closer to the scorpion now. It bounced off her shield. The chain between the two tumbled through the sand, going under the first two sets of legs. Komi dug her footpaws into the sand, dropped the chain in her paw, and changed direction. Her free paw grabbed a hard scorpion leg as she vaulted over the monster's back, shield held high. The tail struck down, smashing into the shield. Komi kept the shield up, as her footpaws hit the sand on Minerva's side. Now dropping, she rolled under the scorpion's body, between the articulating legs. The scorpion scurried around, trying to find her again, dragging Minerva off her footpaws.
Tail lashed as Komi rolled out, the stinger hitting the bottom of the shield and scraping down it.
Komi screamed as it grazed down the leg that wore the shackle. She pushed back once, pulling the chain taut. The tail flashed down again, hitting the top of the shield. Komi drove the point of the shield into the sand, her injured leg buckling as the venom numbed it. She dug her uninjured leg deep in the sand, and curled behind the shield as it took another hit.
"Pull, Min! Pull!" she screamed, bracing herself.
Opposite to Komi, Minerva found her feet, grabbing the chain as she'd done the first night she'd found herself chained to the stoat. She dug her paws deep into the sand and pulled. The chain cinched tight around the scorpion's middle, and Minerva stepped back, leaning her bodyweight into the pull.
The creature gave an eerie hissing rattle, and struck down again at the stoat behind the shield.
The chain slipped off the armored carapace and went between two of the plates.
Another step, and Minerva hauled with all her strength.
The scorpion hissed and half turned. Something in it's shell cracked. It tried to back away, but the movement only pulled the chain tighter.
Minerva stepped back again, teeth bared in a silent snarl.
The audience around them roared it's approval.
Minerva let out a roar of her own and put everything into another pull.
With a wet, cracking sound, the chain severed the scorpion in two. Minerva fell back onto her tail as the beast's halves went still with a shuddering rattle and churned blood and ichor into the sand.
The arena erupted with screams and cheers.
Minerva slowly got to her footpaws and staggered over to Komi, who lay flat on the sand, eyes closed, but breathing. The stoat's leg bled from a long gash from knee to ankle.
Her eyes opened as the otter approached. "Fast enough?" the stoat panted.
"Aye. Ye hurt?"
Komi grimaced. "I can't move my leg."
Minerva held out a paw. "I ain't dragging yer carcass out of here."
Komi took Minerva's paw, and the otter pulled her upright. Minerva then supported Komi and the two beasts stumbled out of the ring together.
End of Round 2