My first Redwall ficlet! And it's really weird.

This is one take on what happened when Gonff took the Path to the Dark Forest Gates. Not as depressing as it sounds.

Disclaimer: I do not own Redwall.

Enjoy!

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Twilight Thief

Great sadness lay over Redwall. Instead of running and shouting, youngsters walked slowly along familiar paths with their heads bowed. It was rare for smile to pass between two creatures and it did, it was small and wan. There was no laughter, no merriment. The Prince of Mousethieves was dying.

~~~~~

The forlorn shape lay still on the bed. The only movement was the shuddering rise and fall of the thin chest as Gonff struggled to draw halting, gasping breaths that rasped in his throat. Once strong muscles in his arms and paws now lay weak and wasted. He could no longer sit up. Merely turning his head to regard the creatures sat next to him caused him great pain. He winked slowly at Bella and Gonflet and tried to force his lips into a smile. He opened his mouth to speak, but no sound came from his lips. His breath caught and he began to cough feebly, pathetically.

The badger and young mouse both leapt forwards to help him, but he waved them away. "No, no. Don't bother about me anymore, mateys," the ancient mouse croaked as his breathing grew more laboured and his eyes began to dim. "I go now to rest. I go to rejoin Columbine and Ben and Goody Stickle and Skipper and Martin. Dear old Martin. Remember me with happiness and do not grieve, for I go somewhere better. My last adventure." With that Gonff- the Prince of Mousethieves, mimic, singer and true friend- laid his head back and relaxed into the darkness. Bella put her paw on Gonflet's shoulders as the younger mouse broke down into helpless tears.

~~~~~

Gonff opened his eyes. He lay on a soft cushion of black mist and a swirling grey fog surrounded him, cutting down his vision to a couple of feet on all sides. He sat up and rubbed his eyes, blinking in surprise. Once again, his eyes shone bright and sharp. His muscles were young and strong and his limbs were full of vitality. He carefully got up, shivering as the icy cold of the place hit him and whistled through his body. "Where am I?" he wondered out loud, rubbing at his arms to warm them.

A whispering voice answered him from beyond the mist, within the mist. "Welcome to the Path of Shadows, Gonff of Redwall. Here you will face your worst fears and your deadliest nightmares as you travel to the Dark Forest Gates. Do not falter and do not step off the path, or you will spend eternity wandering lost and alone in the dark."

Gonff scanned the area around him, frantically searching for the owner of the ageless voice that sank into his bones like the toll of a funeral bell. "Who are you? Where are you? Am I dead?"

"I am the Guardian of the Path. It is my duty to protect the secrets of this place. I am the shadow of a nightmare, the deathly chill that runs up your spine, the dark voice that whispers in the dead of night. I am the first night, the longest night, the oldest night. Tread carefully, little thief. Tread carefully to your afterlife." The voice faded, leaving behind a black taint in the air.

Gonff looked down and saw that a dark vein of a blue ice lay in fornt of him. It twisted away into the mist. This must be the Path. Gonff hesitantly stepped onto it and was relieved to feel his footpaws grip the substance as if it was a normal mud-track. He started frowards, blind in the fog but with his ears pricked and his whiskers quivering, relying on his senses to guide him. He kept his paw on the dagger at his belt warily, still unsure of the cavernous mystery.

After a while his paws became numbed by the cold and he started to stumble every few steps. But he did not stop going. He did not forget the dire warning of the Path Guardian. Suddenly, he heard a low snarling noise. He stopped and fumbled at his belt, drawing his dagger and taking up a defensive stance, waiting.

He did not have to wait long. Out of the mist burst a petrifying shape, an evil spirit twisted and malformed by the empty Shadows, a leviathon long since banished from the world of the living. Tsarmina, Queen of the Thousand Eyes, let out a great roar as her crazed bloodshot eyes settled on the mouse. She lunged for him and he squeaked in fear, lurching backwards, his mind dead with terror at the sight of the old enemy now ten times as powerful. He continued to retreat as the wildcat advanced, back towards the edge of the dry blue ice. His footpaws caught on the suddenly uneven surface and he fell backwards with a startled cry. He gazed up into Tsarmina's triumphant eyes and trembled, waiting for the inevitable blow, unable to raise his weapon in self-defense.

Tsarmina purred with malicious glee, her mutated claws quivering in anticipation, her tail twiching with excitement. She loomed over the mousethief, dwarfing him with her malevolence. Gonff shut his eyes and braced himself. But just as he prepared to take the stroke, a warm strong, familiar voice entered his mind.

"My friend, why do you lie in fear of a thing you have already defeated? Why do you cower from a mere shadow, a mere cloud across the moon? Rise up my friend, rise up and take your true position. Strike my friend, strike for all that you believe in!"

Warmth spread through Gonff and he stood, defiantly facing the horror in front of him. He raised his dagger and plunged it into Tsarmina's chest. The wildcat howled in agony and defeat and collapsed, her disfigured form melting into the fog as though it had never been. Gonff sheathed his dagger and turned to his saviour. Martin stood on the Path, a warm light emanated from his sturdy form, a large smile on his face and happy tears trickling from his eyes. Gonff shouted his name and ran towards him. Martin opened his arms wide and Gonff crashed into him. They clung to each other, both crying now, both overcome with joy.

Martin pulled back from the embrace and favoured Gonff with a happy smile. "It has been too long since we were together, Gonff. I have been waiting for you. As has Columbine and another very special friend of mine."

Gonff slung his paws around Martin's shoulders and they strode off together down the blue Path, the mist clearing around them. "A special lady friend, matey?"

Martin laughed and the angelic light about him intensified. "Come on, you old rogue. Let's go home."

And together, the thief and the Warrior strode down the Darkest road to their last and greatest adventure.

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What do you think? I need to know? Please R&R!