A/N: Holy crap, it's been over a year. Sweet baby Jesus…well, this is one chapter. Let's see what happens six months from now…
Not two days after Cedric had joined their group, Frey had learned that badgers were a very strange breed indeed. The tall badger, for all his strength and might, was serene, eerily so. From the stories the otter had been told about badgers struck by the horrible affliction of the mysterious Bloodwrath, he half expected Cedric to be a bloodthirsty, violent creature.
Instead, when he woke up that morning, the young otter found the badger sitting cross-legged on a boulder, facing the rising sun. The badger's back was ramrod straight, his eyes closed, large paws resting on his knees. Frey slowly got up, stretched and bit back a yawn as he took the chance to walk closer.
Michael was sitting on the ground in front of the boulder, watching Cedric. Frey poked the mouse's shoulder and whispered, "Wot's 'e doin'?"
The mouse shrugged. "He used t' do et all the time when I was growin' up. Sit up on th' ramparts at sunrise, and just…set there."
"He ever say why 'e does it?"
Cedric suddenly spoke, making the two younger creatures jump. "Its called 'meditation' and I do it to become a better warrior."
Michael recovered quickly and rubbed his nose. "Better warrior? Ye don' need that. You're the best there is!"
Cedric chuckled and uncrossed his legs, hopping down from the rock and stretching. "A warrior must always be alert, always in touch with his surroundings. Its something I learned from a healer in my travels. He taught me to watch my breath; it is the life and the energy that makes the spirit whole."
Michael nudged Frey, who watched as the mouse twirled a finger around his head, indicating he thought Cedric had a few screws loose.
"Scoff now, but I can tell you; since I learned how to control my breath I have never had a surprise attack…" the badger side-stepped as Michael charged, a desperate attempt to test the badger's theory. "Nice try, Michael."
The mouse hit the dirt face-first, letting the badger help him up. "Arg, I don' get it. How can ye be so calm all the time? A warrior needs t' be fierce an', an' brave, an' tough…"
"And he must also not go looking for trouble," Cedric warned. "Discretion is the better part of valour."
"Meanin' wot?" Frey asked.
Cedric began picking up their weapons to leave their encampment. "It means, young Frey, that sometimes, retreating is a better option than staying to fight."
Michael looked crestfallen. "Ye…ye mean ye ran away from battle?"
Cedric's smile fell when he saw the mouse's change in mood. He sighed and patted a heavy paw on Michael's shoulder. "Michael, some day you'll understand. Running headlong into battle is foolhardy, and not very smart, if you don't have a plan first."
Michael shrugged off the paw, looking at the badger angrily. "So you're a coward."
Cedric narrowed his eyes, confused by the mouse's outburst. Despite this, he kept his voice level and calm. "What? No, Michael, listen…"
"Ye ran away from battle, when ye could've taken on an entire army!"
"Don't be ridiculous! I know I'm strong, but I can't take on more than twenty creatures at one time. A warrior who doesn't know himself, or know his limits, is a warrior that won't live very long."
Frey halted any of Michael's further outbursts. "I see what you mean."
"You do?" Cedric asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Aye—Discretion is th' better part o' valour. If ye've got a crew of two score, yore not gonna take on a horde of five score, no matter 'ow well yore creatures c'n fight."
Michael grumbled. "I still say et's cowardly."
Cedric snorted. "Next time we find ourselves in a fight, we'll see how long you last against more than one other."
Frey looked between the two and sighed. First he had been forced to come along on this stupid mission, and now he had to serve as mediator to a badger that could snap him like a twig, and his best friend.
This was going to be a long trip.
Finn was completely and utterly exhausted. Following the wandering trio was difficult with the badger's swift pace. Already, by his estimation, they were less than a day and a half's journey to Salamandastron. Knowing now what he knew about Cedric's travel habits, thought, it wouldn't have surprised him if they showed up by daybreak.
He stopped long enough to get a drink from a stream and refill his waterskin. He gave himself a minute to think.
He had lost sight of his second quarry. That alone bothered him greatly. Magnus proved to be tougher to track than he had anticipated. What the massive otter wanted with Frey he couldn't say, but that only increased his worry. He recalled that Herryk had told him Magnus was by far the strongest otter in the holt, and also the one with the shortest fuse.
Finn was used to the smaller creatures having the shortest tempers, but Magnus must have been a special case. The massive otter must be consumed with a lust for power unlike anything the chieftain had seen before. Whether or not he would dare to attack one of his own just to assume power over another creature was not just unlikely, it was downright unthinkable.
True, woodlanders in the past had turned on their own and even killed out of rage and jealously. Surely the fury of a creature unafraid of death was terrifying indeed.
The otter chieftain sighed and gazed into the water at his rippled reflection. What in the world was he thinking, all those seasons ago?
He'd first set his eyes upon Amora at her engagement ceremony. Such a ceremony between a chieftain's daughter and a neighboring tribe's chief was nothing more than a diplomatic venture, an effort to save her holt from the complete destruction of vermin raiders. She was beautiful, a fair sandy brown rather than dark like the other females of her holt, with wide warm brown eyes.
Their eyes met across a crowded room, just like in the ballads the minstrels sung that night. He smiled at her, respectfully of course, and she beamed back. That did it.
Soon, they were meeting in secret, exchanging embraces, gentle caresses and sweet kisses. Her family and her betrothed had no idea where she was sneaking out to late at night, but one thing was for certain: it wasn't anywhere appropriate. Her betrothed was kept out of the loop for as long as her parents were able, but when he found out, instead of breaking off the engagement, he guarded her jealously.
Finn was heartbroken, and resigned himself to the fact that it just wasn't meant to be…until she showed up outside his holt late one night. If there was one thing Finn certainly would never regret, it was the night he and Amora had together, trapped in each other's embrace, their bodies melding together, becoming one while the stars bore witness to their copulation.
She disappeared the very next morning. Nobeast knew what had happened to her, until word came from her parent's clan that an otter kit had been left on their doorstep, the babe already given the clan's tattoo.
Well, there was no mistaking it. Frey had his mother's eyes and sandy fur, and had always been a skinny string bean of a child, much like Finn had been. However, while Frey's grandparents figured out their daughter had an illicit affair, though try as they might, they could not have identified the father.
Either way, Finn knew the child was his, and while the honorable thing to do was admit his fault, he had been married to an allied chieftain's daughter from the south, and bringing the child into the marriage would have been disastrous. Not to mention, his good standing in Mossflower would have suffered. Only his closest friends knew the whole story; he had confessed to Charity after Amora had run away, who kept Carys informed. Finn eventually told Herryk and Gris as well. Herryk, heaven bless him, offered to raise the "orphaned" Frey as his own, and while it was a useful ruse, Finn knew that Herryk's high opinion of him had fallen.
Finn looked back at his reflection and sighed. Well, he was going to set things right again. No more cowardice, he needed to tell his son the truth bring Frey to his senses. There was no question in the otter's mind where they were going—they were off to fight the vermin hoard.
But, he wagered, if Magnus was going to do what Finn thought he would do, the trio would have more on their paws than a foreign army to worry about.
Taking one last drink of water, the otter stood, shouldering his weapons and set off along the stream, tailing them as closely as he could.
Magnus, for his part, was also finding it difficult to keep up. the massive otter knew the badger was aware of his presence, so he knew he'd need to be careful. Strong as he was, he wasn't an idiot; he'd been having a feeling that somebeast was tailing him as well, but he couldn't tell if it were friend or foe. It didn't matter to him, as far as he was concerned, they were one in the same.
Magnus plodded along behind the trio of warriors, following the footprints in the still soggy soil from the previous-night's rain. He was panting, but also plotting.
Usurpation had long been his plan. Herryk was an old fool, and getting older and weaker day by day. Erek was a soft-hearted creature, and just as foolish as his father. No, what the clan needed was a strong warrior as their chieftain, and not a weakling. A creature that was formidable in battle was the perfect match for a chieftain; what enemy would dare attack him?
However, an outright coup, he knew, was out of the question. for reasons he could not explain, the clan loved Herryk and thought him a good leader.
But Magnus knew ways around that.
First, he'd need to find himself a claim to the leadership. Marrying Liv, Herryk's daughter, would be the first step. Herryk and Erek, however, seemed less than enthusiastic; whatever Liv thought, Magnus didn't care. She was a female, and supposed to follow the orders of the males in her family.
There was a loophole to get her paw in marriage.
An untimely, accidental death of her father would make her vulnerable, in need of a creature to talk to, to share in her grief. Magnus would be that creature. Once he gained her trust, it wouldn't be difficult to convince her brother to let them wed. Once that trifle was over, poor Erek would also die accidentally, cruelly snatched away to the Dark Forest in the prime of life. Being the last male in line for leadership, Magnus would finally have control.
However, one problem still persisted: Frey.
Any other creature would have wondered why the strong otter would care about a puny pipsqueak and laughable soldier at best, but Magnus knew what to look for. Frey's only problem, he realized, was that he was still young, still green, and all he needed was to learn the "tricks of the trade" from a seasoned fighter. And that is exactly what Salamandastron had: scores of them, and three—three!—badgers to boot.
With the right training, Frey would be a force to be reckoned with. Combine that with the fact the young otter was an observer, Magnus worried that if he allowed the otter to return, then his plans would be foiled by the ever-persistent and sharp-eyed youth. He figured Frey already had suspicions, and allowing the otter to return was unacceptable.
Though, the rational and ethical part of his mind—however small that part was—argued "well, wanting to outright kill the lad is also unacceptable. How do you know your deed won't be discovered?"
Easy: make it look like an accident. How to do that, though, when the badger was constantly around him? And that stupid little hothead of a mouse was also problematic. He and Frey were inseparable friends, never alone for more than a few minutes. If Magnus wanted to act, it would need to be at night, when they were asleep, or…
He smirked dangerously. Or, he could make it to the Mountain, gain their trust, then get Frey alone, perhaps at the top of the crater… No, better yet! Wait until a battle begins, and make for damn sure the youth was killed in battle. That shouldn't be difficult; this new horde looked to be much more ruthless than the others from lore and Magnus' own personal experience. Finally, a challenge.
But, first things first…try to keep up with that damn badger's pace. He trudged along, nearly limping from exhaustion and dehydration. He would need to stop soon, or collapse. As long as he did so before losing their tracks over the rocky landscape coming up, there would be no issue.
Charity tossed and turned in bed that night, her subconscious mind racing, thoughts and images coming at her from all sides. It had been a long time since she had nightmares, not since the seasons of her travels with the skippers, Carys and Augustus. Compared to what she was seeing, those dreams from her youth were tame.
There was darkness at first, then suddenly her eyes were blinded by a white light, replaced by a world tinged in red. She was looking out over the battlements of Redwall towards the red setting sun, Mossflower woods barren and black. It looked like fire had swept through it, but when she turned to see her beloved abbey, she felt the world collapse around her.
Redwall was gone. All that remained were burning ruins, corpses of beloved friends laying about her feet. Smoke clouded her eyes, blocking out the last vestiges of the sun's rays as they disappeared over the wall tops.
Charity ran down to the abbey grounds, her heart breaking as she saw friends she had grown up with, their bodies mutilated beyond simple recognition. Their sightless eyes stared up to the heavens, and in the case of some, their eyes were removed completely, expressions of the horror shortly before their death still evident on their stiff faces.
Someone called her name and she turned, screaming as a creature raised its arm to bring a sword down on her. An unearthly screech to her right made her turn and she locked on to a pair of golden eyes. The eyes stared back at her with as much fear and confusion as hers no doubt contained.
In an instant, the carnage dissipated into blackness, all around her. The eyes remained the only twin beacons of light that she could afford. A mist slowly formed around her and a booming voice made her jump.
"Charity," the voice called, and to her amazement, the mists formed into an easily recognizable figure: Martin the Warrior.
She almost sobbed with relief. He was here! but almost as soon as she thought this, another one sunk in with a sickening thud. The only time Martin appeared was when a great calamity would befall the abbey. Oh for heaven's sake, she thought, can Redwall ever go through a prolonged period of peace?!
Martin raised an armored paw and held it palm up, offering her his paw. She slowly and gingerly took it, wondering if, perhaps…maybe she had died, and he was her guide to the spirit world?
"Charity," he said again, "Now is your time..."
"Swell," she quipped.
"…your time to protect our home."
Ah. Right. She really needed to learn to let others finish their sentences before responding.
"My time? The abbey is in danger again, isn't it?"
He responded cryptically—she expected that, at least.
"Forget the customs of old,
Let reason overtake passion
Make friends among the foe;
Your victory will hasten."
Charity paused, then asked. "Can you talk…forward?"
Martin sent her a frustrated look, then continued:
"Follow the twin suns
will lead you to the champion
whose own battle will yet be won
upon the walls of the bastion."
Another riddle. Two for the price of one—not bad. "Anything else that I need to know?"
"Yes," he said, then sighed. "Build a library inside the abbey, if you don't mind?"
"And get the otters to train the non-fighters. Make weapons. Really, this pacifism hasn't done much for you lately."
Charity made a face. "Make one silly decision and you never forget it…"
Martin pointed at the eyes. She turned and squirmed a little; they were staring right at them. The Warrior spoke, this time addressing the golden eyes—charity realized, the eyes like twin suns!
"Son of a father, forgotten again,
Prepare yourself, O Scion black as coal
the battle for your life is begun, destroy the bane!
Kole shall be your name, restored to you is your soul!"
She awoke with a start, sitting up and looking around to make sure she was in the same place she had been the night before. She was safe in her bed, the single candlestick by her bedside long since extinguished. The abbess took deep breaths to counteract the panting, her thoughts racing wildly like a great triathlon in her head. When the realization that it was a dream came upon her, a second realization did as well.
The squirrel jumped up, almost as nimbly as if she had been a young creature again and, foregoing her habit, raced through the abbey in her nightdress, down the stairs, across Cavern Hole and the Great Hall. As she rushed past the great tapestry of Martin, she glanced at it, and could have sworn the heroic figure woven into fabric winked at her!
Saucy rouge, she thought. Had I known him personally, I would've given him what for!
She finally made it to the Gatehouse and pounded on the door, rousing Augustus from his deep slumber. The elderly mouse fixed his spectacles to the bridge of his nose, yawning,
"M-mother abbess…goodness, Charity, do you realize how late it is?"
She said nothing and brushed past him, almost knocking him over. Augustus sputtered, now more awake than he had been when he answered the door. The mouse watched with great curiosity as Charity began frantically shifting through the parchments and quills.
"Charity, what on earth has gotten into you?" he asked exasperatedly. Charity finally found a spare piece of parchment and an inkwell and began scribbling away with all the zeal that a squirrel in her position could do.
Augustus steadied himself and walked over to the desk where she sat, and looked over her shoulder. Now, it was not unusual for Charity to walk around the abbey at night; it helped her to sleep, knowing everybeast under her care was safely sleeping sound in their beds. What was unusual was not wearing her habit, headfur and bushy tail frizzy as if she'd been shocked, and a wild look in her eyes as she maniacally scribbled away. When she finished, she set the inkwell down and handed him the parchment; she struggled to control her breathing, and the mouse saw that she hadn't gone mad. She was excited about something.
"I had a dream. Martin came to me in a dream!"
Augustus smiled, mystified. "He came to you in a dream…oh Charity, what an honour!" The recorder paused, then the blissful smile on his face faded into a bemused frown. "But isn't it odd?"
"Martin usually appears like this to the one who will become the Abbey's Champion..."
Miles away, the black fox jolted awake with a scream. Ren was roused in as rude a fashion as possible, falling off his bunk and onto the hard, cold stone floor. Cursing, he propped himself up and glared at the black fox.
"Thanks, Mate, I needed that."
The fox looked back at his cell mate, and Ren noticed that for the first time in days, the dead look was no longer there in his companion's eyes. Instead, it was a very frantic, crazed look.
"Alright, fox, take a deep breath," he said soothingly, yet panic began creeping into his voice as he stood. "Yore safe, no one's gonna 'urt you…it was a bad dream, roight?"
The black fox shook his head slowly, looking around the room. A moment of tense silence followed, then the fox addressed him with a mixture of confusion and disappointment, "He's not here…"
"The mouse, in the armor."
"What? What mouse?"
"You didn't see him?"
"Nooo…" Ren said slowly. "'Tis just you an' me in here. It's been like that since we got 'ere."
The black fox took the brown fox's advice and took some deep breaths and appeared to be calming down. "It must have been a dream then…" then his eyes widened and he gasped. "Ye gods…he must have been a god!"
"Dowhat?" Ren asked in confusion.
The black fox jumped up, pacing the room, his legs wobbling from days of disuse. "He must have been! He talked to me, told me to prepare for battle! He must mean I need to fight Karnak; that must be it!"
"Mate, yore not makin' any sense…"
The black fox suddenly smiled and turned to his friend. "Ren! The mouse god, he gave me a gift! A profound gift, that only a god can give!"
Ren started inching towards the door, getting the guard's attention. He whispered out of the corner of his mouth to the hare on the other side, "I dun care where ye put me, jest get me outta 'ere—I think 'e's cracked!"
The other fox laughed and grabbed Ren by the upper arms. "Ren! I have a soul!"
Ren paused, the guard's face poking up to look into the cell at the black fox. Ren and the female guard shared a dubious look with each other, then Ren answered, "…well, obviously."
"And a name!" the black fox said exuberantly.
Ren hesitated before repeating the words, disbelieving, "The mouse gave ye a name…"
"Yes! It's Kole!"
"Aye, Kole! Kay Oh Elle EE—Kole! He gave me a new name!"
The female hare spoke up, clearly confused. "I thought only kings could do that, in your culture, I mean."
The newly-named fox flashed a rude gesture out the barred window, intended for Karnak far below. "Hang the king, a freaking god told me this!"
"You sure there was nothing wrong with that mushroom soup tonight?" Ren asked the female.
"Ren! I'm telling you the truth!"
"I'm sure you are…" he conceded, just to keep the peace. He had, after all, just spent three days in captivity with a near-insane mumbling shell of his best friend, so Ren's logical faculties told him that Kyo—or Kole—might still be missing a marble or two.
"Ren, I'm better!"
Ren paused, looking at his friend seriously. "Are you sure?"
"Alroight." He punched him.
Kole backpedaled a couple paces, nursing his cheek, then through a punch into the brown fox's gut, "You slimy, flea-infested, fluffy-tailed bastard!"
Ren's jaw dropped, then he whooped, embracing the fox. "Huzzah! Yore back! Haha!"
"Yes!" Kole celebrated, hugging back.
Then both foxes froze, loosened the hug to look at each other. They looked down their fronts, realized that they were, in fact, embracing. Slowly, Kole asked, "Did we…just have a…ah, damn, what're they called. A…moment?"
Ren nodded mutely, looking very uncomfortable. "I…think so? I dunno, never 'ad one before."
"It's a moment," the female hare assured them. "Kinda cute in a sick and twisted way, wot."
The foxes quickly parted each other after that and returned to their respective spots in the cell. Before settling down to sleep though, Ren asked, "Oy Ky—I mean Kole?"
"This doesn't leave the cell, does it?"
Kole shook his head. "This doesn't leave the cell."
That same night, one more creature joined the rest in a restless, sleepless creatures. Tristyn sat up in her bed, looking out over the shore. The gulls carrying on overhead, their calls quiet and mournful, and the steady crashing of waves upon the sand, she hoped, would lull her to sleep. It had worked for her lapine roommates, who were lightly snoring across the room.
The sea breeze tousled the mousemaid's fur, a heavier wind plastering her white nightgown to her tiny body. She sighed and pulled the covers up to her chin, shivering slightly.
Three days. They'd been in the mountain three days, and neither had the vermin horde attacked them, nor had Kyo apparently gotten any better. Tristyn took a small victory in getting him to eat, but every time she brought him a meal—for he felt threatened by everyone else—he didn't seem to even recognize her. Honestly, she wondered, how much can one creature change in just three days' time?
She sighed, feeling the material of the soft sheets. Almost two weeks ago, she had been a slave, and awaiting execution. All she had ever known was beatings, starvation, dehydration, torture, cruel weather conditions and hard labour. Now, she was surrounded by creatures who were willing to help her, even to the point of doting. She wasn't allowed to lift a finger to help herself, and whenever she asked to help one of the hares, they politely waved her off. Now, she was not one to complain, but, in truth, she was bored. As a slave, the duties of the day were known before your eyes closed the night before. Here, she did not need to do a single thing.
Had she been a more learned creature, she might have taken advantage of the mountain's library—but a hare had told her that the majority of the tomes were about military conquests and genealogies of the badger lords. If the mousemaid could read, she was sure she'd find it incredibly boring.
Finally she got up and tiptoed out of the room. If she couldn't sleep, she might as well find something to occupy her time. Maybe traversing the mountain's many passageways would tire her out, and help her sleep. Maybe…but then she remembered that, this late at night, there was not likely to be as many people about, who could help her if she got lost.
Well, she thought, I might as well find someplace to lie down, whenever I feel tired. Then she thought about which way to go. Go up, to the crater perhaps? Or down, to the kitchens—maybe a cup of chamomile tea (the cook's end-all cure-all) would help.
Tristyn closed her eyes and leaned against a wall, sighing. She stood there a moment, then slid down the wall until she was sitting. The mouse listened to the tiny little noises in the hall, the moment of wind, the gentle drip of water, scurrying of hares in other rooms along the corridor, the sound of her own breathing…
She slipped into darkness, and she started awake, but when she opened her eyes, she was surrounded by mist. The mist was everywhere, heavy with water, soaking into her fur and nightdress. She stood and looked around, seeing nothing, no indication that she was still in the hallway. Where was she?
A light behind her piqued her curiosity and she slowly turned, finding an armored mouse, bearing a beautiful sword. She took a cautionary step back, expecting to fight if the need arose. You little fool, she scolded herself. He's armed, and clearly trained. What do you have?
The mouse smiled at her, catching her off guard. He held out his sword to her, a blade that gleamed like polished silver, sides and tip as sharp as shattered obsidian stone, the hilt wrapped in thick twine, graced with a red pommel stone at the top. Tristyn stared at it, completely entranced, hypnotized by its simplistic beauty.
She glanced up at the mouse, who was still smiling in…a rather odd way. She couldn't place it, but the more they stared back at each other, slowly the concept dawned on her. Fatherly affection. So, that's what it looked like…wait! Could this mouse, this one in armor, could he possibly…?
"Dad?" she asked timidly, almost fearing an answer.
The mouse seemed to sigh, but still smiled. He said nothing, but held the sword up a little higher, and Tristyn understood: he was offering it to her. She gingerly took the blade into her small paws, expecting the weapon to pull her down. Marvellously, she could hold it in both paws…one paw! It didn't feel heavy at all, but it looked still so dangerous; a worthy match for any vermin's weapon.
"He will be here soon," said the mouse. Tristyn jumped, almost dropping the sword; she stared at him in amazement. What a strong voice! For a mouse that was…actually not much taller than she was, he had a voice that was commanding, stern yet compassionate.
"W-what?" she stammered.
"He will be here soon. Take care of him when he arrives, and bring him home."
Any fears she had harbored for this mouse evaporated instantly, now that he had spoken. She held the sword reverently, then pleaded, "Please, tell me who you are? I don't know anything about this place or these strange customs. I've been a slave for so long, how can I take care of someone else when I don't know how to care for myself?"
The mouse nodded once, resting a hand on her cheek. "Seek, you will find. Ask, you shall be answered…"
"Must you talk in riddles and rhyme?" she asked.
The mouse's expression changed for a moment to show the wry sense of humor, "Comes with the territory."
"You're a spirit."
He only smiled again and stepped back, fading away into the mist. Tristyn realized she was still holding onto the sword.
"Wait! Your sword! Sir mouse, you're leaving your sword with me, you'll need it! Sir! Sir…"
"For heaven's sake, wake up!"
Tristyn bolted awake, startling Anwen. Mouse and badger stared back at each other for a long moment, until Tristyn recognized her. The mousemaid looked up and down the hallway, getting her bearings. "I was asleep, wasn't I?"
Anwen nodded, her long silvery hair flowing past her shoulders. "You were dreaming. Who did you see?"
Tristyn stood slowly, her back and haunches sore from being in that seated position for so long. "Ugh…some male mouse in armor. He gave me a sword…it was very weird."
"Yes. A mouse in armor."
"Did he speak to you?"
"…Yes, he did. Why?"
Anwen smiled. "I know who it is you saw."
Tristyn's ears swivled to catch what the female badger was saying. "Really? Who?"
"Martin the Warrior, the Champion of Redwall."
"Aye. Everybeast talks about it, but I don't even know what it is."
Anwen brushed some dust and dirt off the mousemaid's back and led her along the corridor. "I can show you first, but after, we need to go directly to see your friends…"
Tristyn gazed up at her. "Why, is something wrong?"
Anwen smiled and shook her head. "On the contrary. Everything is looking better for them. For one, my father agreed to an interrogation so he coul glean information about the enemy from them—they wont be hurt, you have my guarantee! But even better news: your friend, the black fox?"
"Kyo?" she asked quickly, suddenly filled with dread, despite the badger lady's smile.
"Not anymore," she grinned. "He's better. And has a new name—and, such a small world, he said a mouse war god in gleaming armor and bearing an impressive sword bestowed a new name upon him."
Tristyn arched an eyebrow. "A…mouse war god?"
Anwen giggled. "I can think of no better summary for Martin! But come, before we go, we need to educate you about Mossflower, so we can explain it to those foxes."
"I can't," she protested.
"What do you mean?" Anwen asked.
"I can't read."
Anwen sent her a look of pity, then gently took the mouse's paw into her own. "Then I know where we really need to start."
"But its so late. Don't you sleep?"
"No, but you don't either."
Paw in paw, badger and mouse set off to the library. The image of Martin, however, haunted Tristyn—as well as the Warrior's other visitations—for days after.