The wind whipped the waves high, sending them crashing against the rocky shoreline. A few yards above the tide-line was an old mouse wife, bent with age. She sat huddled in her shawl around a small fire under a rocky outcropping that sheltered her from the fierce winds. She was no stranger to the freak and sudden storms of the southeast. She stared out at the storm watching the ferocity of mother nature. Huge waves crashed against the rocks, seeming to try to dislodge the wrecks of four once huge seagoing vessels. Yet they were half buried by sand, and stood firm against the waves.
"A beast, can git killed by going out in that weather, oh yes indeed", muttered the old mouse wife to herself. She soon fell asleep from the warmth of the fire. Had she been able to piece the dark thundering night she would have seen a vessel drifting close to shore.
Captain Threugg was not happy. He was a rat with muscles like bricks and veins like rope, quite tall for his species and his eyes glittered like amber in the light from the swinging lantern above him. His fur was a dark brown and he wore a trench coat with sea boots but wore no pirate finery. For he was no pirate, but a captain in King Reonmad's navy, trying to intercept merchantmen.
Nine days after setting sail in his ship the Trident they were holed at the waterline by an unknown reef. Now they were also low on water besides lost in a gale and slowly sinking. The winds outside seemed to whistle as it blew through the rigging and the taut ropes and sails like a giant harp. Every beast was below decks and Threugg could imagine the crew sitting in their hammocks, cursing the wind, the rain, the sea, and him.
Dawn found the crew of the Trident pumping out the sea water energetically while the rest set about sewing and patching the sails. Suddenly the cry of "Land Ho!!!" caught their attention. Captain Threugg rushed onto deck in a gray coat, fasting his scimitar to his side. Taking control of the wheel from his bosun, a fox named Vendal, Threugg called out"Where away Ripear?
"North, by north east, capt'n" replied Ripear. Setting the course he gave the wheel back to Vendel and summoned his lieutenants into the great cabin. Sitting behind his desk in an decorated chair with wolf skins draped over it, his amber colored eyes searched over them. The first was a rat like himself. A former corsair named Bladetail. Bladetail wore his gray Lt.'s uniform and a gold hoop through one ear. A reminder from his pirating days.. Bladetail stood to attention holding his breath. The Captain had been known to have violent mood changes. The next was a ferret with white fur and a pink nose. Similarly clad like Bladetail in his Lt.'s uniform though with only one instead of two gold bars on his right sleeve marking him as a second Lt., named Whiteclaw. The third was Old Carn, another rat dressed in work clothes. Carn was tough and strong and was the ship armorer.
"Bladetail, when we reach landfall, take a small group of about eight fighters, arm your selves from the armory and then go ashore and scout out the land. Don't try to get in a fight with any hostile force, just report back, understand?" asked Threugg turning from where he was watching out the cabin windows. Bladetail nodded, dumbly and stared straight ahead. Threugg resumed his pacing. "Whiteclaw, take twelve fighters and find some fresh water. You're in charge of dat." Then Threugg rounded on Carn. "Carn, you're goin a take charge of patching the hull. We won't need to beach the ship in order to repair it."
"It t'will be done as you say master," said Old Carn. At a nod from Threugg, the three turned on their heels and walked out, happy to get out of the cabin. Threugg walked onto the quarter deck, automatically checking the sails. With this strong breeze and press of canvas, they should make landfall by late afternoon. The blue sky above promised a hot day, and the seagulls cried out happily as the ship cook threw out the food that had grown rotten. He glanced ideally over the decks. His crew were mostly rats with the odd ferret or weasel and the occasional fox. Most of the sailors were spread out on deck sewing and patching the sails along with a few of Bladetail's fighters. Threugg frowned, the fighters were actually archers that in battle would climb the mast and shoot down on the decks of the enemy. Though they could also be put ashore and used as infantry armed with their dirks. In the old navy, sailors did everything, there were no special fighters, still they may be useful if they stop being seasick, he thought to himself.
His ship, the Trident was a three masted vessel, fairly large, that was low to the water with a wide bird-like bow, and just two decks. Again he frowned, mounted on the top deck were four large crossbows. Each one was fired by a crew of two, and would release two arrows with a sharp, strong, line about a yard long in between. The line was covered with glue and then glass. The missiles would drag the line between them, ripping up sails and heads he thought wickedly to himself. .Eight even larger crossbows were located on the second deck. These took the form of a tube, hollow at both ends with a large bow on the back. These fired huge bolts, capable of smashing through the oak hull of a war galley. Chuckling quietly to himself, he thought of King Reonmad's advisor, a rat named Golth, who was fascinated with making his own machines of war.
Motioning for his clerk, a fat weasel named Scarback, he turned and went back into his cabin. The weasel placed a tattered book on the desk. Turning, Threugg dismissed the weasel with a wave of his hand, picked up the book and turning to a page, ran down the crew roster. A total of two hundred sailors and thirty-five fighters. Looking over the piles of notes on his desk, he reviewed his orders written in the hand of Admiral Lash." To destroy all merchant ships belonging to the East Coast tribes of Lord Dunbar." Then there ways the mouse skull crest of King Reonmad, ruler of all the vermin (though mostly rats) on Simped Island. Leaning back in his chair, weariness overtook Theugg and he began to dream
As the fire burned low, the cry of seagulls awakened the old mouse wife. Standing up and stretching she brushed the sand off her shawl. Smiling, she rubbed her eyes and stared out at the sunrise. Suddenly she froze, it looked as if the four beached ships were moving! Impossible! Rubbing her eyes, she squinted again. The ships were not moving, but the four ships behind them were. Running to the shore she looked again. Yes, there were four huge ships, each one was lowering rowboats filled with armed vermin. A couple actually tipped over because there were so many of them in the rowboat. At first she thought they must be pirates, but she could see they were wearing breast plates and pirates did not wear armor. Deciding that no matter who they were, that they were armed vermin was enough, she turned and ran. A small sob of fear escaped her as she clambered up the side of the sand dunes. Fear lent strength to her aged limbs as a shower of arrows fell around her. She gritted her teeth as one pierced her foot paw. Then her paws were on hard land again. Hobbling as fast as she could, she tripped and fell on a stone concealed by the tall grass. Lying still, hardly daring to breath she began to sob quietly. Then she peeked out as ten vermin, mainly rats though also a few weasels and stoats and foxes, all wearing matching breastplates and carrying short bows and drawn dirks, marched past her. Finally when she was sure they were gone, she tied her foot pad with some grass to stop the flow of blood and hobbled off north, toward her village.
The East Coast has none of Mossflower's trees, or the Northland's mountains, or Salamandastom's sand dunes, all it has is tall grass that waves in the wind and foggy moors. The East Coast was ruled by the royal mouse family. Currently that was Lord Dunbar, a fierce, jolly, heavy set mouse who loved a good fight. He ruled from his ancestral home, Castle Ruboc. Even though it was it far inland, fog still hung about it. It stood on a small rise overlooking the surrounding country-side. It's main keep and it's three towers were surrounded by an inner wall, and then still a second outer wall. The walls were star-shaped so when the area between two points was attacked, the defenders in both points could fire at the attackers. It's battlements were constantly guarded by a patrol of mice and squirrels, and otters . On clear days it was said that you could see the sea-side town of Mareta,( though it was almost all ways foggy).
Lord Dunbar, dressed in a red cape and chain-mail with a gold crown on his head was every inch a mouse king. His short stubby sword was thrust through a red sash across his waist. Hurrying through the stone corridors, Dunbar was followed by a tall gangling hare with white fur who walked one stride to Dunbar's two. The hare wore a monocle, and a field uniform, covered with an array of medals. Leaving the Great Hall, Dunbar opened a tall door, carved with lilies. Closing the heavy door behind him he stepped into the room. The floor was polished wood and the walls were covered with pictures of the castle and the royal family. At one end was a heavy wooden desk littered with papers. Along the opposite wall was a huge marble fire place, big enough to stand in. In the very center was a small rug and on it sat four chairs, two of which were occupied. The occupants of the chair, a mouse maid and a bankvole, both wearing green habits, rose and curtsied when Dunbar entered. Dunbar gave a short bow then ran forward to shake paws. "Sister Sinetra, and Sister Rive'ow nice to see you again," he said shaking the paws of the mouse maid and the bankvole. Turning he motioned for his accomplice to step forward."Ladies, allow me to introduce Major Feldco of the East Army. Bowing deeply the hare shook paws with Sinetra, whose furry brown paw disappeared in Feldco's huge paw and completely immersed Rive's black paw.
With introductions out of the way the Dunbar plopped into a chair followed by the others.
"Ladies," said Dunbar, "I have long heard stories of the famed Redwall, and of it's great hospitality and also it's heroics in battle. Today a great shadow of evil has been thrown upon the East Coast. Vermin Warships have landed two-thousand vermin upon our shores, under orders from King Reonmad. Their warships have been sighted, destroying our merchant ships. Today my fleet of five warships set sail to deal with the scourge. But I need to raise an army to fight by land. The East Army numbers only five-hundred beasts. Lord Streamblade is marching here with two-hundred and fifty of Salamandaston's finest. But I still need more beasts if I am to win this. Can Redwall help us?"
In the flickering fire light, the the mouse maid and the bankvole fell silent. Then, speaking out calmly and clearly in a strong voice, the mouse maid said"Lord Dunbar, We could not call ourselves Redwallers if we did not try to assist such brave folk, as yourselves. Redwall pledges to stand firm", Rive nodded her furry black head in agreement.
"Thank you Sinetra and Rive of Redwall, It is good to know that we still have such wonderful friends as you. When will you leave, for Redwall?" Inquired Dunbar.
"Immediately after breakfast, tomorrow you're Lordship," said Rive.
"I shall have food prepared for you to take with you tomorrow," said Dunbar, and wishing them good night, the two Redwallers left.
"Well," said Feldco, after the door slammed shut behind them, "they certainly seem like a responsible, energetic pair."
"Oh, indeed they are old friend, otherwise Abbess May of Redwall would not have sent them," said Dunbar. Then walking across the room he unrolled a map of the East Coast. Turning he pointed to a spot on the map. "The fishing village of Firern is located on our southern most border. Directly in the path of the vermin. What do you advise major? "asked Dunbar, looking up into the face of Feldco.
"Well, If I led our forces up onto to the high ground, between the village and the vermin I think we co'd well make ah stan' to at least sloe 'em down, until reinforcements arrive." Replied Feldco, after much consideration.
"Very well, said Dunbar, nodding wisely. "I"ll tell the troops to arm up tonight, we'll march at dawn.!"
"Ah, you sure my lord, that you want to come with us? After all, you're a Mouse Lord," said Feldco hastily, after seeing his friend's slightly hurt look.
"Oh, quite," said Dunbar,"But it has been far to long since I last skinned a rat, or walloped a weasel," said Dunbar, as he felt bloodlust begin to descend upon him.
"You're right my friend, you'll of course be coming," said Feldco in a slightly awed voice to the mouse in front of him. For in front of him was indeed a warrior mouse, made of granite to last the ages, with eyes that blazed with blue fire and more fierce and deadly than a grown viper, here indeed was a king of mice.
"I say, awe, it has been a while since I felt battle lust upon me."said Dunbar shaking his head, as if to clear it, and returning to normal, feeling quite tired. "I say, do you think there are any scones left, Feldco, I feel quite hungry."said Dunbar.
"Let's check out the kitchens old pal, you grub stealer."anserwed Feldco jokingly.
"Ah! A hare telling another beast that he is a grub stealer! Now I've heard everything! Besides," added Dunbar," I am a Mouse Lord, and we do not steal," said Dunbar defensively. With playful banter the two friends headed out the room.
Frindel was a Great Rat. Dressed in golden armor with a spiked helmet and armed with a spear, he was every inch a conqueror. He laughed at the sky, that only made the stoat captain at his feet worry more. All around him thousands of soldiers dragged ashore equipment, everything from arrows and wine to bread and lamps. Already the beach was clogged full of soldiers and still more kept coming. Stepping forward he spoke to the captain at his feet, who buried his snout in the sand, he was bowing so low. "So, let me get this straight. A band of forty mice shot arrows at you. You attacked them, wounding thirty, and forced them to retreat. Taking their wounded with them."
The stoat, spitting out sand, nodded furiously, knowing his life depended on it. Shaking with rage, the rat paced back and forth. He knew the stoat was lying, still he wanted his fun."You lie, he yelled! Admit it!", shaking with fury, the rat began beating the helpless stoat's bare back with the end of his spear. The stoat curled into a ball, and his cries startled the seagulls. The soldiers carried on, averting their eyes from the gruesome sight. They knew what would happen if they got Frindel mad. Sighing, Frindel stepped away from the quivering stoat. The stoat's head was now lacerated with angry red welts. Frindel called out,"This stoat will be bathed in seawater until morning. Then he will join his squad, as a rank and file. Because he lied!" The stoat moaned, and then coughed violently, before collapsing. Turning to a rat in the stoat's former squad he announced."You shall now bear the rank of captain. Take over from the stoat." Shaking visibly, the rat saluted and retreated back to join his squad.
Sighing again, Frindel, closed his eyes. If the mouse had gotten away, she would alarm the entire coast. Better to get going then, he thought to himself. "Tell, the division captains to have their creatures form up." He yelled to a passing aide. The noon day sun beamed down on the soldiers, roasting them in their armor. Even though every pore in Frindel's body was sweating and sand had entered the joints in his armor, irritating his skin, he retained an impassive look on his face. Gratefully though, he retired to the cover of his tent set up on the shoreline. The tent was guarded by four black rats, in black cloaks. His personal body guards. Each one was huge, a mountain of muscle, and they were loyal to no one, except him. For Frindel trusted no one. Plopping down on a chair he picked idlely at a roasted duck and some damson wine served on a silver platter. Frindel bent down and selected a blood red cloak from his war-chest next to the chair that contained his personal armor and chain-mail. Twirling the cloak over his shoulders, he fastened it with a thin gold chain about his neck. Then as a drum began to beat, he stepped out onto the beach, temporarily blinded by the sun. Shading his eyes he grinned with satisfaction he surveyed the two-thousand troops that were formed up on the beach. Each one was part of a hundred beast division. The line stretched down the beach for a mile or so. "Today, we march forth, to make war on the East Coast. We will burn their villages and destroy their armies. For no beast can stand in the way of Frindel and his army of warriors. Have I not always led you to victory?," he yelled out. Two-thousand voices roared their approval. At a nod from Frindel, the lone drummer began to play a steady, tap-tap-tap. Like a giant armored snake, they marched forward at double time. Chanting,"Frindel !Frindel !Kill !Kill!"The wind whipped out their division banners topped with skulls, flapping them in the breeze. They were indeed a fearsome sight. At last, War had come to the East Coast!
Threugg glanced down on the soft white sand and felt the warmth of the sun's rays play on his back and watched them sparkle as they hit the clear blue water below him. He knew where he was. It was the East Coast. He was pleased. Whiteclaw had managed to find fresh water, and Old Carn reported that the hole was sealed. Threugg turned away from the railing as he heard paws approaching. The searat saluted and reported,"Da water is on board and L't. Badetail is back Cap'n. Returning the salute, Threugg stepped up onto the quarterdeck.. In a fine voice he called out,"All hands, prepare to cast off. Let lose the bow ropes and stern ropes! Up the anchor! Run up the main! Set loose the jib!"The ship buzzed into activity, the slowest crew member often receiving the knotted end of a heavy rope from the officers. Turning to Vendel, he ordered,"Steer us into deep water, then get me from my cabin."
"Aye, aye, Cap'in." replied Vendel. Suddenly the cry of "Sail ho!," rent the air, and floated down to the quarter deck. All activity immediately stopped. "How many of 'em Ripear?" asked Threugg.
"Just one of 'em, Cap'n. Two points off the starboard side.'Looks like an East Coast war ship, Cap'in.!"
Threugg, grinned happily. Here was a fight!. He glanced at the crew. Most were grinning wickedly at the approaching ship, fingering their sabers and cutlasses. Speaking to Whiteclaw he said," Whiteclaw, beat to quarters, Bladetail, send your fighters up the masts, and Carn, ready the crossbows.!" With a wild cheer, the crew set about their work with a will. Knives and dirks, were sharpened and large quantities of arrows were stacked up. The crew ran to their crossbows, loading the first volley. Sand was poured on the deck, to provide traction from the blood that would fall.
Eyeing the East Coast ship through his scope, Threugg could see similar activities going on in their ship. Their ships had no crossbows, instead they had four catapaults, each at about six feet high and eight feed wide, on their top deck. These, Threugg knew were very deadly. They would hurl shards of hot metal or small spiked balls through the air. Also,the Eastern ships while slower, were more maneuverable, because they used oars, and only had a single sail.
At extreme range, with the ships parallel to each other, Threugg yelled out,"Fire as she bears!" The crossbows let loose with a sharp twang, sending the missiles ripping through the single sail. Hurridly they reloaded, and let loose another volley, bringing down the mast. Now though they were close enough for the opponent to bring it's catapualts into play. The shards of metal ripped up the deck, sending eighteen inch long splinters everywhere. Two searats had their bellies ripped open and a weasel was stabbed through the chest. Now within close range, both ships opened up with all they had. The archers up top fired mercilessly onto the packed decks Two of the lighter crossbows were smashed to pieces, killing the four that were servicing them and smashing through the deck , killing every beast below it. Then another iron ball snapped off the Trident's rudder. They could now no longer steer. Peering through the his telescope, Threugg watched the East Coast ship intently. The ship began to cut in front of the Trident. Cold fear gripped Threugg as he realized what they were about to do, and that he was helpless. The Trident's crew could not turn their crossbows to fire directly in front of their ship. The East Coast ship let loose, firing down the length of the entire ship. The carnage was enormous. Hundreds screamed as they were hit, some falling into the watery depths never to be seen again. Threugg could not allow that to happen again, he knew he must board.
The creatures around him had taken off their shirts and sweat ran down their faces as they fired and loaded as quickly as possible. Drawing his sword, he cried,"Now or never men, grappling hooks away!."
With that, Threugg grabbed a rope and swung onto the enemy's deck. Only a hundred and fifty crew were able to follow him. The East Coast crew was waiting for them. A shower of arrows met them as they boarded. Some thirty or forty vermin fell into the sea, between the two ships, with arrows impaled upon their chests.
Threugg swung his cutlasses at his opponent, a burly sea otter armed with an axe. The otter countered the blow, but then Threugg swung up, thrusting his cutlass through the otter's body. Which erupted out the back in a fountain of blood and gore. Glancing around he saw most of his crew lay dying and wounded, along with a fair number of dead otters and mice and squirrels. His crew was outnumbered nearly two to one. Sidestepping he slew a mouse and then found himself forced back into a ring around the stump of the mast. On his left was Bladetail and Whiteclaw, on his right were two ferrets. Blocking a thrust, Badetail spoke to Threugg,"Looks like we're go'in to 'ave ta surrender Cap'n."
Something snapped inside Threugg, he gave a wild animal yell.. In near insanity he yelled out to Carn, who was the only creature sill on board the Trident. "Fire the crossbows Carn, fire the crossbows!"
"But cap'n," yelled Carn, shocked.
'Do it!"screamed Threugg, throwing a dagger at him.
Ducking, as he went, Carn one by one set off the Trident's crossbows. Threugg's head was snapped by a string from the lighter cross bows. His head fell ono the deck, amber eyes unseeing. The other arrows ripped into the tightly packed oar crew. All five of the huge lead tipped bolts, each a quarter of a foot wide, three feet long, smashed through the hull slautering nearly the entire oar crew.
When the dust rose, the two ferrets and Old Carn surrendered. Two hundred and thirty-two vermin lay dead and wounded. A young mouse with bright eyes and carrying a bloody sword
helped the dazed Carn to his feet. Then the young mouse spoke kindly to the dazed rat,"It is an honor to meet someone which fought so bravely. I am Captain Rainwort, and you are now my prisoner." Then calling to an aide he said, "Transfer all of our wounded and living into the vermin ship. We are sinking fast." In the dimming light of the setting sun, the Trident set sail, headed East.
Sinetra awoke early just as the morning light reached her cot. Putting on her habit she splashed cold water on her face and cleaned her two large front teeth with a piece of straw. Then going down the stone staircase she found Rive finishing a bowl of porridge while the morning cooks began to make breakfast and start up the ovens. "Well, thank you for waiting on Rive," said Sinetra dryly.
"It's not my fault you slept in", pouted Rive. "Come, grab a scone and let's go outside, we can see the King depart."
Grabbing a scone and dodging a swipe from a fat mole wife armed with a ladle, they picked up two knapsacks filled with food. Then they exited the kitchens and gazed at the scene below them. There in front of them was indeed a majestic sight. Sinetra felt her heart swell at the sight, of the East Army. They were a multitude of squirrels, otters, mice, moles, hedgehogs, and hares clad in thick tunics with a scattering of chain-mail among them. All looked determined and at the sight of their King they gave a loud rousing cheer that echoed against the walls of the parade ground.
How heroic they look, thought Rive. Dunbar and Feldco both waved in ecnolegement to both Rive and Sinetra and the troops. They were each clad in chain-mail and Dunbar carried his trusty sword, while Feldco had armed himself with a pike.. At a wave of Dunbar's sword a young drummer began to play and somewhere a trumpet broke out. As the first sweet notes broke the air the columns began to march forth, five-hundred voices singing lustily, One find morn I marched away,
I left behind my foggy moor and grabbed a sword.
To march and fight all day,
The Great Rat horde.
Both Rive and Sinetra watched them march away until only a faint dust cloud could be seen. Then they to left, heading west into Mossflower Woods.
The hot sun blazed mercilessly down on the parched land. Rubbing their tongues around their parched mouths, they marched on in silence. Kicking up a dust cloud as they went, each stared down at the foot paws of the hare in front ofhim. Until when they closed their eyes at night they could still see that hare's heels, going right-left-right-left, for what seemed an enternity. Every now and then they would risk a glance at the blur on the horizon that marked the start of Mossflower and that night's campsite. Hoping it would seem a just a little bit closer. Ahead of them, always some fifty yards ahead walked the Badger Lord. Lord Streamblade marched on quietly, never slowing, and carrying his great spear, which was as large a young oak tree, slung over his shoulder, and so onward marched the Long Patrol of Salamandastron.
That evening just as the sun was setting, turning a deep red right before it plunged the wold into darkness, the weary hares marched into camp. Laying out their groundsheets, they lit several small fires and the hare cooks, using water from a near by stream, made a leek and turnip soup which was eaten up heartlly by the tired hares. Then cleaning their weapons they collapsed onto of their groundsheets, except for the few who were assinged to sentry duty by the seargent. Lord Streamblade observed all of this through his deep brown eyes. Turning to his solitary companion, he spoke. "Well, cornol, we covered a fair distance today. Keep up this pace tomorrow and we'll reach Redwall Abbey by late evening. You're hares have done well."