I have returned to the domain of Redwall! With an actual fic this time! A one-shot, of course, and somewhat dark and solemn in mood, but with a bit of romance for once... so, 'tis a good thing, boi hokey!

This theme is probably too cliché for any sane author to be doing now though I never claimed to be sane, nor have I perused the Redwall section of forever, so for all I know this type of fic is hardly done, but I take any inspiration I can get! So, here I am doing a Martin death-fic with a Martin/Laterose pairing

Disclaimer— Being not-British and therefore unknowing of British accents, I would never have been able to come up with the mole dialect myself, no matter how good I am at understanding it

Homecoming

...
How many tears must be shed
So that every heart can become gentle?

People go beyond grief
And every heart sleeps happily

How long, how long till every soul
Can become peaceful?

-(translated) Minna no Kimochi ("Every Heart"), BoA
...

To a coward's soul, the Gates of Dark Forest loom tall and foreboding. The crests of dark pines, wreathed in the dusky gloom of twilight, tower ominously over the shadowed and silent woodland. Perhaps it is their craven fear of Judgment that makes the pale mists and fogs curling around the tree trunks twine into the forms of menacing adders. Maybe their inability to accept a fair defeat causes the path to twist and branch, losing them in the depths of night. But to the brave one who dies readily and with no regrets... the darkness is restful, the silence is peace, and the forest is wide. As night follows day, so death follows life.

He had seen the Forest in his dreams many times, distant and calling. And why wouldn't it be? He was growing no younger with each day, and many old friends he had known had passed on before him. Their voices would never have sounded to welcome him if he was not yet done in life.

And yet... as hard as he might try, Martin could not forget all those new faces he would leave behind. He had given so much to create the peace they enjoyed now, but he could not delude himself that it would last forever. It was not that he was so arrogant as to believe that he was the only one capable of defending his beloved Redwall; peaceful creatures were in need of strength, warriors were in need of guidance, and he loved them too much to deny them any aid he could offer.

The only legacy he had to leave them was a sword. It had belonged to his great-grandfather, a warrior, and had been passed down to himself. Though only the original hilt remained, many paws had touched that same weapon and wielded it, warriors all. The Martin after whom he was named; his own father, Luke... even the vermin who had taken it had been formidable, though the sword scorned to serve evil hands. The new blade had been forged by a mighty Badger Lord, who had remembered all the souls of the powerful fighters who had come before him with each stroke of his hammer against the metal of a star. All of them had bestowed a small gift of themselves into this magnificent blade... and now it was Martin's turn.

He had no son or daughter to carry on for him. Instead, he had hidden the sword where no one would find it until the time was right. The weapon and his spirit would know... he would be watching over even from beyond Dark Forest's gates.

He had seen this when he first held the blade— like fire in ice, the sparks of the warriors' spirits had gleamed in the cold metal, not quenched in death, but strengthened by passion.

Those who are dead are not always gone…

He did not know how long he had been sleeping, but gradually he came awake to the land of darkness. The world was flat, dim, and grayed, unending and unbroken with no sky to contrast the ground. But, as Martin reflected, it gave the place an eternal feel, as if all of it was one and whole.

In the distance, he noticed a horizon stretching as far across as he could see. He began to walk closer, as that was the only destination it appeared possible to reach. No place else could be defined from the rest of the flat, misty landscape.

As he neared, he realized that it was an infinite forest of pine trees, their green needles so dark they were almost black. It was then that Martin remembered the name of this place— Dark Forest, the land of the dead.

Directly before him, the line of trees was broken by two large wooden doors, each a half of a gate. Their immense size dwarfed the mouse, as well as another figure curled up in the roots of a nearby tree.

Martin approached the bundle of robes cautiously so as not to startle whatever creature apparently slumbered there. The cloth's folds moved gently up and down in time to somebeast's slow breathing. He was reaching a paw out hesitantly towards the dreamer when a sudden voice rang out.

"Halt!"

Martin leaped back a pace as the figure rose, its face shadowed by a hood and its impressive voice giving nothing away.

"Martin the Warrior, son of Luke the Warrior, I have waited for you. For many seasons now the keepers of this gate have rejected you, but now I am here to open it. None are here who would doubt your worth nor begrudge you what is long due. Your life was hard, but to the courageous, death is easy. Your time has come, and many who went before you have spoken on your behalf.

"Martin, I am here to welcome you!"

But said mouse was frozen where he stood, for as the mysterious figure had flung open the gates of Dark Forest, its voice had changed to one he recognized. A memory came back to him like the scent of salt carried on a vagrant breeze, the salt of the sea and of tears.

"Laterose..."

He did not know when or how he had gotten so close, but he found his paws grasping the fabric of the hood and pulling it back, revealing a visage he'd so longed to see again. Her hazel eyes glittered brilliantly with tears, and he vaguely realized that his own face was wet, though he couldn't recall weeping. In an instant it was all forgotten though, because she was there, laughing in his arms.

This, this was what he had fought for all his life, this was what he had used his sword to defend, and when danger was no longer close to paw, this was what he had protected by giving up his sword in favor of a life of peace. And when every thing was said and done, this reward...

... it was a dream from which he would never have to wake.

Rose's paws on either side of his face was enough to soothe away every scar and wound carried on a warriors body, mind, and spirit. Her presence was enough to renew him, make him whole again after the long, irreparable damage of his life.

Brushing a paw across her cheek, Martin murmured, "Here with you is home, and I'll wander no longer." And then he swept her up into a passionate embrace, strong as an oak but gentle as the fluttering of a butterfly's wings.

They stood like that perhaps for a moment, perhaps for a year, until Rose broke away.

"Martin, you great sillybeast," she chided playfully. "Do you intend to stay out here for endless seasons while all our friends are waiting for you? How inconsiderate!"

He shook his head, mournfully rebuked. "Lackaday, you always brought out my flaws, Rose." She tweaked his ear and imitated the cheeky voice of a familiar mousethief.

"Somebody has to, matey!"

"Then, milady, allow me to escort you as a gentlebeast."

Laterose laughed prettily as Martin bowed to her, and she took his proffered paw to link her arm in his. It was as if nothing had happened, as if the two hadn't a care in the world. Which, really, for once they didn't.

"You'll find that all of us here are waiting for someone, Martin. Parents wait for their children, who have loved ones and children of their own, and friends, and everyone is connected somehow. But one day everyone will come and be a part, and every heart will be fulfilled...

"Your mother Sayna waits for you, and your father Luke. Your tribe is here, all of your family and friends. Gonff and Columbine, Boar the Fighter, and so many others have been patient for you to rejoin us. Other acquaintances will stop by as well some day."

The two mice strode off paw in paw, disappearing into the misty twilight depths of the eternal Dark Forest.

"And Martin, you're going to be my husband now, so you'd better hope for your sake that there were no other pretty mousemaids who caught your eye!"

"Yes marm!"

...
End

-Windswift Shinju