Foxfire: Chapter 1: The Company
Disclaimer: Redwall is © Brian Jacques and Redwall Abbey Company Ltd. I do not claim ownership of the series or of any original ideas of the author of the series. However, the characters Tristyn, Kyo, Ren, Frey, Dinali, Grenn, Osono Caden, Brynmor Caden, Deirdre, Sway, Anwen Caden and Tarian Rhan are of my creation and are not to be used without my permission. If you would like to use one of my characters, please email me first and ask my permission, otherwise, forget it.
Author's note: I've tried to rewrite Foxfire so many damn times, and I didn't get any inspiration until last night. I feel this is a stroke of genius, but I leave it up to the reader to decide. Let me know what you think, please, read and review.
This fic, for now, is rated for older teens. There is violence and hints at sexuality. Just thought I give y'all fair warning…
She felt the sharp slap against her cheek, and it threw her a few paces until she collapsed onto the rough stone floor. The overseer stood over her, brandishing his whip. The weasel spat on her. "Stupid mouse! When I tells yer t' do somethin' I expect t' be done right, get it?" he backhanded her again.
The mousemaid hid her face from his blows, bracing herself for the whip lashes which she knew were coming. Sure enough, a sharp crack rent through the air as the flail's end met with her unprotected back. The threadbare dress did nothing to help her, and the whip lashed through the thin material, drawing blood from her raw wounds from previous beatings.
She chanced a look to the other slaves in the compound, working dutifully to construct the fort for their cruel master. Otters, mice, squirrels, hedgehogs, even hares…all bent over, lugging heavy stones from the rocky sea shore to the hill, the single-file lines slow-moving and sluggish. The eyes of every male, female and child were downcast, blank and vacant; this was their lot in life, and they had accepted it.
Problem was, she had not.
…Which explained her current beating… The weasel overseer cracked the whip mere inches from her face, and she winced. When she opened her hazel eyes, she was looking into the fearsome face of her captor.
Dinali looked no different than any other ferret, in fact, by most standards, he would have been considered scrawny. But the mere fact that he was so lanky, and supposedly unimposing, made him that much more dangerous. No one expected the smaller creatures to be killers…but they had speed and dexterity in place of strength and size. And in Dinali's case, he had more than that: he had the most disturbed mind anybeast had ever known. He delighted in torture, was rumored to be a blood drinker, and his savagery was as renowned as his cunning. He, to date, was the only ferret to have been known to outfox a fox, and to kill a grown male badger in full Bloodwrath.
The mousemaid gasped when she saw him, and Dinali gave her a queer grin. "That's much better," he purred. He gently touched her cheek and she recoiled. He grinned wider. Another thing about Dinali the Killer…he liked mind games…a little too much. Too many of his captains had gone insane thanks to him, and that was not counting the number of slaves and prisoners who had succumbed to his twisted mind. He was sick, depraved...and the ferret loved every minute of it.
His lean body stood over her as he continued to grin, his eyes narrowed. He demanded the whip from his overseer, and wrapped it over one paw. Kneeling, he roughly grabbed the mousemaid's chin in his paw and looked at her hungrily.
"You can make this easier on yourself," he said soothingly. "Just do as you're told, and nothing bad will happen to you…or did your parents not teach you obedience?"
She didn't say anything, only stared back into his eyes, a blatant challenge. He frowned. "A challenge eh? Cute." He backhanded her sharply, the blow throwing her to the ground. "Grenn!"
"Sir?" the weasel overseer asked attentively, smartly saluting. Dinali threw the whip back at him and Grenn deftly caught it. "Grenn, I'd like you to take her to my quarters…she needs a little attitude adjustment."
Grenn said nothing, and waited until Dinali had passed by him before he gave the mousemaid a terrified look. It was obvious he did not envy her—but if she went insane like all the others, it wasn't his problem anymore.
Grenn roughly grabbed her upper arm and she struggled against his vice-like grip, screaming and fighting. "NO! let me go! Let me go! Lemme go NOW!"
Grenn quickly lost his patience and raised his paw to strike her again, but his wrist was caught by another.
"Strike her again," a dangerously silky voice said, "and I'll stick that whip where the sun doesn't shine."
Grenn yelped and jumped back. The mousemaid looked up and saw Dinali's second-in-command, a vixen with pale eyes. She looked down disdainfully at the mousemaid. "What does Dinali see in them anyway?" she wondered aloud. "Either way, Grenn, you know he doesn't want damaged goods."
"But she was fightin' me!"
"Wonder why," she said wryly, raising an eyebrow.
"Don't you git smart wid me, vixen!" then he bit his tongue when he realized who he had smart-mouthed.
She gripped his wrist hard and snarled. "Excuse me? Are you a little low in the ranks to be mouthing off?"
Grenn said nothing and only stared at her in fear. She was not a vixen to piss off: one of the few females in the horde, and the only fox, she carried nothing but her throwing knives and was a fair shot with an arrow…but that's not what scared him…The gray vixen snorted and would have spat on him had Dinali not called her to his side.
"Tarian! Get over here!"
Tarian Rhan rolled her golden eyes and turned about to follow her leader. The mousemaid watched the vixen closely; of all the beasts in Dinali's horde, Tarian was the only one not afraid of him—at least visibly. And that bothered her. As a matter of fact, it bothered just about everybeast. Grenn even cursed under his breath and muttered the words "crazy vixen"…but there was fear behind those words.
No one knew the whole story, but what everybeast guessed that Tarian and Dinali went back a long ways. She was his first mate when he was still a ship's captain, and was easily his most trusted confidante. The mousemaid saw Tarian walk up to Dinali and stand just off to his side and hold a whispered conversation with the ferret before the door closed in her face.
Grenn dragged her down the subterranean passageway. Dinali's temporary quarters were old sea caves converted into make-shift living space until the fort about it on the top of the cliff was completed. Dinali seemed to prefer the darkness, so his personal quarters were far below in a large cavern.
Grenn brought her down to the cavern and passed by two rats on guard duty; the mousemaid didn't like the pitying looks they were giving her as she passed by. Finally she was led into the spacious quarters of the ferret leader, and thrown onto a carpet that covered the rough stone floor.
The weasel said nothing as he closed the heavy oak door behind him, and barred it from the outside. The mousemaid quivered. She was trapped.
Frey didn't like the way things were looking lately. The river otter could smell a change in the air that he didn't like. He sat outside his holt while the others sat inside and ate supper. He was on guard duty tonight, not that he minded, he was the odd otter out in this case.
He looked up and down the broad stream. No, it had gotten too quiet these days. The birds didn't sing as often, the woodlands around him had lapsed into an uncomfortable silence. This hadn't happened since he was a kit, quite a few seasons ago. he was still young, green so to speak, but it had seemed like so long ago when those pirates had come so far inland…his grandparents had not survived the attack, but somehow he and his mother were able to get out; Frey's father was not spoken of, and the otter had come to accept that.
What Frey refused to accept, however, was that he would have to pretend that nothing was amiss.
He sighed raggedly and stood straighter, resting only lightly on his javelin. He couldn't afford to look like he was lying down on the job…but as much as he wished he could ignore it…those trees, the birds, even the river itself seemed to be telling him that something was wrong.
Tarian sat outside her master's quarters and counted under her breath, "Three…two…one…"
"…right on schedule," she sighed. She waited until the oaken door slammed open; Dinali held his paw and sucked in a breath as the cold cave air hit the open wound where the mousemaid had bitten him. Tarian sighed and shook her head.
"I warned you…"
"Shut it, vixen!" he snarled.
She smirked; she knew she'd won. How many times had she warned him…sooner or later, those slaves he kept asking for to use as "personal aides" would one day come back to bite him…literally. "What do you suggest I do?"
Dinali struggled to get his temper under control as blood dripped from the bite and onto the floor.
"I want her executed."
Tarian held back on a sigh, but she nodded and ordered two guards to arrest and imprison the mousemaid. She really didn't want to see another slave or horde member die. The punishment for attacking a horde member, or trying to escape, was obvious: death. Dinali preferred hangings in particular…because he liked messing with the corpses afterwards.
She suppressed a shudder and helped find bandages for her master.
"I still say you're an idiot."
Kyo rolled his amber eyes and refocused his attention on his quarry below him, the black fox and his fellow vulpine companion hidden in the leaves of the horse chestnut tree. They were cloaked by the darkness, yet Kyo's sharp eyes picked up more than enough… he pawed the hilt of his saber at his side in anticipation.
"There," he whispered. "See that chest they carry?"
"Kyo," his companion sighed. "How often have I told you…I'm not a common robber."
"This isn't robbing, this is…"
"'Borrowing without permission and having no intention of taking it back'…" he finished. "Yes, one of your favorite quotes, if I'm correct."
"Ren, shut up."
Ren, a fox of brownish red and dark eyes, chewed on a dandelion stalk casually and looked over the proceedings below with a jaundiced eye. He straightened his cream-colored shirt and brown tunic, "What's so important about this particular venture of yours anyway?"
Kyo's eyes shone with greed. "That's badger treasure."
Ren almost choked on the stalk. "You're kidding? You're risking our lives for a fabled treasure? That's it…" he made a move to leave. "I want no part in this…"
Ren stifled a yelp as Kyo yanked him back by his brush. "Will you shut it? This will be easy…look, those hares have no idea we're here…this will be like taking a candied chestnut from a baby mouse."
"Open your eyes, idiot…they are hares…Salamandastron hares!" Ren hissed. "And you are going to steal from them?"
"That's the plan." He shrugged his shoulders and cracked his neck, and this made the other fox gag.
Ren was silent for a moment, looking between Kyo and the platoon of fighting hares, armed to the teeth and ready for any form of attack. Ren wasn't stupid…well, not entirely…but he knew that to try and steal from the badger lord of the Fire Mountain was as foolhardy as fighting one straight-out.
"It was nice knowing you, Kyo my friend…"
"What are you talking about? We're in this together…"
"Who's this 'we' you speak of?"
Kyo was quickly losing his patience—not that he had a long fuse to begin with. "I thought we agreed to stick together."
"That was one time…"
"I'm going after that treasure…and you are going to help me."
"Why do I get the feeling this will turn out bad?"
Suddenly below them, a hare let out a cry. Kyo and Ren froze, fearing they had been discovered, and then witnessed to their amazement as two score hares were attacked by a squad of vermin. Kyo could see mostly weasels, stoats and rats. No foxes. The black fox found that interesting.
The vermin fought tooth and nail, viciously, without restraint, and while the hares gave as good as they got, within minutes, the majority had been killed. The guerilla attack proved a success.
Ren looked confused. "Where have I seen those creatures before?"
Kyo set him a sidelong glance and whispered. "You know them?"
Ren looked closer, and then saw a marker on the sleeve of one weasel's tunic; he cursed. "Dinali."
The black fox sitting next to him cursed quietly. "Damn that ferret…"
"I thought he was still roaming the south…"
"Apparently he decided to move north," Kyo groaned. "Just great…there goes my plans…"
"Kyo," Ren whispered, "Don't you realize? With Dinali here, that means…"
Both foxes fell forward after feeling something heavy wham into the back of their heads, then there was nothing but darkness.
The mousemaid looked up long enough to see two larger shapes be thrown into her cell. One of them hit the opposite wall with a thud, then slid down to the floor. The other, still conscious, was unceremoniously deposited onto the floor, placed in shackles and viciously slapped before being left alone.
The mousemaid hid in the shadows and was able to see by the light of the first quarter moon that the two creatures were foxes. She trembled slightly, knowing that once they realized she was there…well, the guards wouldn't care what those foxes did to her—one less execution they had to worry about.
The one conscious fox, a brownish-red male in a brown tunic and homespun shirt, shook his head to get the cobwebs out, snorted to get dust out of his nostrils, and he looked almost comical… she hid a smile behind hercallused paws. The fox tried to scratch the back of his head, but the heavy iron shackles inhibited his movements. With a frustrated sigh, he leaned back against the cold stone wall of the dungeon cell and looked up at the ceiling, as if looking for a sign from above.
The other fox started to moan, and the shackled one looked over. "How you doin', Kyo?"
The dark shape against the wall muttered one word: "Lousy."
"I figured," the other one quipped.
The mousemaid watched as the black fox staggered to his feet then tripped, and finally cursed when he saw that his ankles had been shackled. "Damn that ferret…"
The brown fox shook his head. "I should have never made a deal with him…"
The black fox looked up at his partner sharply. "You KNOW him?"
"Ren, why the hell didn't you tell me?" he asked, outraged, the rising bump on the back of his head not helping his mood.
"For the love of…" the fox called Ren groaned. "I'm a PIRATE, O Intelligent One…you think I haven't run into him before? Besides, I'm a southerner, and so is he. We were bound to cross paths eventually."
"So you cut a deal with him. What was it?"
"Oh you know the deal—you've tried it before: promising a partnership, equal shares, blah, blah, blah, et cetera, you get the idea, been there, done that. Well, we found nice plunder one day, and I took the better share and ran off…and fine, I suppose I did leave him for dead and…Kyo, why are you looking at me like that?" the smaller of the two sounded scared.
Indeed, the larger black fox looked ready to kill him. "You mean to tell me I got dragged into a dispute between you and Dinali the damn Killer!"
"You sound worried…you shouldn't be. He's really not that ruthless."
"Yes he is!" the mousemaid interjected, then gasped and slapped a paw over her mouth. Both foxes whipped their heads to look in her direction, startled to find they were not alone. Ren stood slowly, still sore from his own beatings. He walked over to her, and she shrank against the wall.
Ren got close enough to her to properly see her face; he smiled. "Hey, Kyo, it's a little mouse kid…"
"I am not a kid!" she snapped.
Kyo chuckled and Ren's surprised expression. "She's got spirit…I like that. But what's she doing in here? I would figure she'd be in the pen with the other slaves…"
"I'm like you," she answered quickly, "awaiting execution tomorrow at dawn."
"WHAT?" Kyo exploded. "LORENZO! WHAT IN HELLGATES HAVE YOU GOTTEN US INTO?"
The brown fox cringed at the outburst then chuckled nervously. "Oh right…did I neglect to mention that stealing from Dinali means death?"
Kyo was seething, muttering under his breath, "Give me my saber, and you are a dead fox…I'll skin you and wear your pelt and throw your damned guts to the vultures!"
Ren only chuckled and offered a paw to the mousemaid; she looked at him like he'd lost his mind. "What are you doing?" she asked him.
"I believe its called 'helping'…come now, if we're all going to die tomorrow, we might as well get to know each other."
Somehow, "getting to know each other" didn't sit well with her. Sure, they weren't even her species, but any males who had gone a long time without a female companion weren't picky. Then again…she looked at Ren again. He didn't look that bright; the black fox looked to be more of a threat.
"So what's your name, mousie?" Ren jokingly asked.
She debated whether she should tell them the truth, but, she figured it wouldn't have mattered if they were both going to be dead by midday.
"Tristyn," she said. "My name is Tristyn."
"Tristan?" Ren asked, completely misinterpreting her. "I thought that was a boy's name?"
"It can be a girl's name…much like Ren can be a girl's name," Kyo said with a wry grin. Ren flipped him a rude gesture and Kyo grinned ear to ear, knowing he'd won the argument. Tristyn couldn't help but smile at their antics. "So…you are pirates?"
There was no way this was not going to be awkward. A normal mouse like her would never have dreamed she'd be sitting in a cell awaiting her own execution and speaking with two murderous foxes. But, nothing seemed to make sense anymore, so she shrugged and decided to roll with the punches.
The black fox shook his head. "Ren is, I'm just your friendly neighborhood thief."
"There's an oxymoron…" Ren muttered.
"Who are you calling a moron?" Kyo snapped.
"Oh forget it…"
The Black fox gave Tristyn a half-smile and shrugged, "Sure, we're violent, murderous, dangerous and maybe a little insane—butwe're really nice once you get to know us."
"That's not very reassuring…" she pointed out.
"I'm working from scratch here, so cut me a little slack, will you? Ren, what the hell are you doing?"
Ren was trying to look through the barred window into the courtyard. "Huh…they're setting up a scaffold. Hey, Kyo! They're going to hang us!"
Kyo's tail bristled and his eye began to twitch. "WHY do you sound excited by this?"
Tristyn also looked at him like he'd lost it—although considering it was Ren, that should not have surprised her. Kyo looked at him worriedly, but the imposing silhouette of the gallows didn't help ease his nerves any more.
Yet Ren's pirate smile slowly grew. "I have a plan."
A/N: well, what do you think? Let me know. Read and Review!