Chapter ten

Bran watched the sun rise from his watch position on the wall tops. Next to him Arami dozed. Bran yawned and stretched his footpaws out, sliding his lithe body across the stone until he was flat on his back, before sitting up again.

"Arami?" he asked, to see if she was awake.

"Yeah?" came the sleep-laden reply.

"Oh, don't worry. I just wondered if you were awake."

"Aye, I am."

"All right."

Silence took over again, and Bran stood up to stretch better. Looking out over the woodlands he ducked, and just in time, as an arrow flew over his head.

"Attack!" The young otter whispered urgently, shaking Arami. "Arami, wake up, the vermin are back."

The squirrel sat up straight, and peered over the wall tops before turning back to Bran. "Stay here. I'll go and get help from the abbey." Arami scrambled to the steps, crouched low, and vanished beyond Bran's view.

Bran's thoughts turned back to the vermin army. Cautiously he peered over the wall tops to look at them again. Below him he watched as the hoard dragged several large tree trunks towards the walls.

Skipper crouched beside Bran, quietly. He too had seen the vermin. "Wot d'ye think they're up to, mate?"

"Not sure. They've got ten or more tree trunks down there, but if they were going to be used as battering rams they'd only have one."

"True, mebe-" Skippers speech was interrupted by a cry from the other side of the wall.

"Attack! We're under a-" The cry was silenced abruptly. Skipper and Bran looked at each other.

"Go." Bran urged. "I'll keep an eye on this lot 'til Arami comes."

Skipper needed no second urging. The otter chieftain rushed round the battlements, and arrived where a vermin arrow had felled Lasui, a young otter. Skipper knelt by Imloth, Lasui's watch partner, and felt for a pulse.

"He's alive." Skipper reassured Imloth after a couple of seconds. "He's lucky. By the look o' it yon arrow's gone through his shoulder. He needs t'get t'the healer, though, 'n' quick." Lifting his head to look over the battlements, Skipper hoisted the wounded otter onto his shoulders. "Wait 'ere, mate. Arami should get some re-enforcements up soon."

Imloth nodded grimly, and turned back to watch over the battlements again, resting his paw on the hilt of his short-sword.

Skipper carefully carried Lasui into the main abbey building, being careful not to aggravate his wound further. Leaving him with Nipfal, Skipper joined his otter warriors who were streaming out of the abbey; acting on Arami's alert.

Meanwhile Bran watched lazily from above the gates. He was certain now what at least one of the trunks was to be used for – a battering ram, and a diversion, and was pretty sure what the others would be used for too. The dark furred otter kept his right paw on the leather handle of his bow the whole time, waiting for the order to fire back, waiting for the opportunity to let out some of his frustration at being stuck in such a honourable abbey. Finally Arami reappeared, panting slightly.

"Bows at the ready, mate!"

"Finally." Bran muttered, as he notched an arrow and brought the string to his cheek. "Any particular target?"

"Skip says we need t'get the battering ram down if we can, but if we can't the moles have something for it." Arami checked back along the wall to get that all the projectiles were ready. "FIRE!" She yelled, and a volley of stones, javelins and arrows hurtled towards the approaching vermin army.


Down below Wil'eye laughed. "We're too far out for 'em yet. When are we gonna go an' knock on 'em gates?"

"Later. Later."

"When?" Wil'eye moaned.

"When the idjits think we're not gonna do naught more t'day. Ye'll wait 'ere until they stop firin', and then ye'll go in."

"Wot 'bout you?"

"I'm goin' round the back t'sort out the others."


Skipper bounded up beside Arami. "Right, I'll take over 'ere. I think they need yer help on t'other side, though."

Arami sighed. "An' I was having so much fun here." She gave Skipper a quick kiss on the cheek. "See you later, and try not to get hurt."

Skipper batted her away, and reached for a javelin. "Same t'ye, but go!" The otter hurled the javelin as far as he could, but the weapon missed the nearest vermin by about ten feet. "Damn." He muttered. "Hold fire!" He called to the creatures along the wall top who were still firing, despite the fact that none of their projectiles were getting anywhere near the vermin. "Hold fire!" He repeated, holding one paw in the air. Slowly the message was relayed all round the walls.

"What's going on?" Bran asked, slowly releasing the tension on the string of his bow.

"Can't ye see they're out of range, mate? We're wasting shafts."

"Ah, right." Bran replied, slotting the arrow that he had had on his string back into his quiver. "Well, what next then?"

"We sit tight, and we wait."


"Keep yore heads down!" Arami whispered furiously at the beasts on her side of the wall top. "Shades, what part of 'I don't want them to see you' do you not understand."

Silently they sat and waited until . . .

There was a quiet clatter, the sound of wood on stone. Arami chuckled wildly, and positioned herself where she knew the impromptu vermin ladder had fallen against the walls. All along the wall beasts moved into position, waiting until vermin heads peeked over the ramparts.

Arami grinned at a young rat who had the misfortune to be at the top of his tree trunk. "'Ello." She said, pushing the trunk back from the walls. The rat screeched, and tried to jump onto the wall tops, but a quick thrust of Arami's short sword silenced him. She watched as other tree trunks fell all along the wall, and smiled in a satisfied way. Picking up her bow, and selecting one of her arrows, which had an oil soaked rag wrapped round it, she lit the rag, before firing at one of the trunks. It took a few arrows for the tree to catch, but the summer had been a long, dry one, and soon there was a large fire burning below her. As other trees fell victim to the fire, the vermin ran, screaming and yelling, from their positions, making easy targets for Arami and her archers. Soon the ground was cleared, and Arami called to some abbey beasts who had been waiting by the wall gate below.

"Now, mates, and be quick!"

Armed with water, old blankets and soil, they ran outside to put out the fires before they spread to the woodland. A small guard of otter warriors went with them, and Arami and her archers watched from the wall tops, her bow at the ready, to make sure that they were not disturbed. Soon the fires were safely out, and everybeast was back inside the abbey walls.

"Good work." Arami nodded, before turning to Imloth. "Keep an eye on them. They shouldn't try from this side again today, but it's better to be safe then sorry." She said, skipping off back to where Skipper was.


Meanwhile, the vermin on the other side of the abbey had grown bored of watching and waiting. Wil'eye had allowed the score of hoard beasts who had been specially picked for their strength to pick up the massive old oak trunk and make their way to the abbey gates. With them went a small group to help protect them with their shields, and take places if beasts were killed. Skipper watched almost in disinterest until he judged them to be back into range.

"Everybeast, get ready! Fire!" A volley of javelins, arrows and slip stones flew at the group, slaying one, but most of the missiles missed or bounced off shields harmlessly.

Skipper held up a paw for the others to wait. The battering ram came closer and closer, until, Skipper released his paw again, and another volley was sent at the vermin. This time, javelins and arrows had been wrapped in oil rags and set fire to, but the trunk, despite having several burning in it, did not set fire.

"C'mon, Foremole." Skipper said, indicating to the young mole leader, who was sitting with his moles on the wall steps. Foremole made his way carefully up the steps, followed by his crew.

"Oi doubt if'n there'll be any oil in 'ee abbey after today, zur Skipper." He said, as the moles positioned a cauldron of oil on the ramparts.

"Ah, there's plenty, I checked meself, mates, so ye've no reason t'worry." Skipper reassured him. "But kin ye hurry up? Them vermin ain't gonna wait round all day."

"I'll say." Arami agreed, appearing next to the otter. "'Specially when their mates get back."

"Arami! I though you were going t'wait as long as possible?"

"An' I did, so don't blame me. 'Snot my fault if the vermin decided they couldn't wait any longer."

While the pair chatted, the moles tipped the oil over the huge tree trunk that the vermin had intended to use as battering ram. It soon caught light on the arrows that still burnt in the trunk, and the vermin dropped it, yelling and screaming. Ten of the fore most beasts had no time to run before the oil that soaked them caught light.

Skipper listened to the screams. "Well, I 'spect that be it for t'day."

A/N: Will never, ever try to edit after 9PM again. Brain dead. Sorry for any major mistakes, I fell back on just checking paragraphs etc. towards the end, so may have to redo again later. None the less, will try and update with a new (shock!horror!) chapter before Christmas. Hope you enjoy anyway.

~ Ela.