14.

The Unthinkable

"Martin that is lovely."

The sliver beams of moonlight sparkled off of a golden paw bracelet. It was very slender and while it was one solid piece looked as if it had braided from three separate strands of gold. At the apex of the golden circle a single rose had been engraved into the metal. "Thank you for saying that. This was my mothers."

Rose looked up at Martin. "But Gonff said told me that you don't remember much from your past."

"That's true. There are still many blank portions. But when Emalet found me at Redwall some memories came back to me."

"What came back?"

"Well first was several of the details of our adventures after Marshank."

Rose widened her eyes in mock-surprise. "You mean you forgot about me?"

Martin took her paws in his. "Never. You have always remained locked in my heart. But the words of many of your songs, your kindness toward those horrible Squidjees, almost freezing our paws off while in the sea after the boat sank. Details like that were lost, but they were the first to come back to me." Rose smiled at Martin at that statement. "What also returned," he continued, were a very few memories of my youth on the coast of the Western Sea. After my mother was slain, my father hid this bracelet in our cave. Only he and I knew how to find its hiding place. On the journey here from Redwall I asked Emalet to retrieve it for me."

"Is this the token you were going to leave here in Noonvale?" asked the mousemaid.

"Yes. I planned on leaving it on your grave. But now I can think of a much better use for it."

Rose sensed what he was about to do. Fear gripped her heart. She needed to tell him her other secret. But she didn't know if she had the courage. Before she could find out Martin began speaking again.

"From the moment I met you that night on the shore, through all my wanderings and journeys, battles and quests there has always been one thing that has kept my courage and strength up. Even when I thought I couldn't bear the pain of losing you anymore I never gave up on this." Martin tapped a paw to his heart.

Panic was flooding through Rose as Martin dropped to one knee and held up the bracelet. "I have known the pain of running from my friends once in my life. I know I never want to feel that way again. Now, with you being alive I know our dreams can finally come true. A home, a family, and peace for the rest of our lives. Laterose of Noonvale, I Martin the Warrior have loved you from the moment I saw you. Will you do me the honor of being my wife? Will you marry me?"

By now Rose was sobbing. Martin's heart was thundering wildly in his chest. He knelt on the hard stone rock floor starting up at Rose. He was anything but prepared for her answer.

"Martin, I can't."

Her words didn't register at first. "What?"

"I can't Martin!" Rose screamed it and turned her back on him sobbing even harder.

The time Martin heard her clearly. He stood up with a dumbfounded look on his face. "But I thought you loved me?"

She turned back to face him tears streaming down her cheeks, but she couldn't meet his eyes. "I do Martin! More than you'll ever know! But I also know the life you would want us to lead. It is something I can't give you."

Martin was now even more confused than ever. "What is that supposed to mean?"

Rose tried wiping her eyes, but fresh tears replaced those she wiped away. "Martin I didn't tell you the whole truth of my recovery after the Battle of Marshank. I told you that I only recovered a short time ago. Just about when creatures were first starting to come here because of Rassk.
"The truth is I fully recovered the use of my legs a long time before that. The reason I didn't try to find you was because I was too ashamed to face you."

Martin stepped closer to Rose and put his paws on her shoulders. "Ashamed of what? In the time I've known you; you have never done anything to be ashamed of. I saw you act kindly to those horrible Squidjees. You acted as my conscience several times when I would have otherwise let my warriors' spirit get away from me. You were at my side with honor and courage at Marshank. How could I ever feel anything but love and pride for you?
"Now whatever this is that is troubling you, we'll deal with it together. You have helped me in so many ways. Let me help you this time." Martin pulled Rose to him. He could tell his words had had an effect on the maid. She wasn't crying as hard and was holding him as tight as he was her. "But I can't help you if you don't tell what's wrong."

Rose leaned further into his comforting embrace. She fell even more deeply in love with him at that moment. She always knew he was strong enough to deal with any physical troubles that could come up. Now he had just proven he was up to bearing her emotional troubles as well, and would do so willingly. She spoke her next words slowly as her fear melted away.

"It was something my mother found out. She was always more skilled with healing maids than Brome ever has been. She said that the head injury I suffered didn't just affect my ability to run and walk. She said that because of it, I would never be able to bear children."

Martin thought he was prepared for anything, but the news still came as a shock. He hugged Rose tighter. "And you thought I wouldn't want to be with you because of that?" Rose nodded. Martin took a deep breath. "Oh my sweet Rose. It's a shock yes. But there is nothing, nothing, in this world that would rob me of wanting to be with you for the rest of my life."

Rose was finally able to meet Martin's eyes. "But what about your Warrior's legacy? Who will wield your sword after you? Your family has always been warriors. Could you leave that behind?"

"Rose for you I would do anything. And as far as a family warrior legacy, well I would rather have a family of just me and you than worry about who next will bear my blade. If I had my way no beast would ever again have to use it in battle. Besides there are always many young ones at Redwall. We'll take care of them together."

"That sounds nice." Rose had finally stopped crying and was just enjoying the feel of Martin's arm around her.

"So does this mean you've changed your mind?" asked Martin as he held up the bracelet. Rose could only smile as she held up her right paw. Martin couldn't help but notice that the starlight reflecting in her gentle hazel eyes looked exactly the same as it had when he had pulled himself out of the escape tunnel. He slid the bracelet over her paw and then leaned down to kiss her.

Gonff and Columbine had wandered to the waterfall pool to wash off the many feathers still stuck in their fur. Columbine was wiping water from her eyes when she saw Martin and Rose emerge from behind the rocks. She called out to them. "Martin! Rose! Over here!"

From her spot at the shore of the pool Columbine saw Rose look up at Martin. After a few whispered words Martin nodded at the maid at his side. A wide smile blossomed on her face and she came running to where Gonff and Columbine stood. She was calling out to them as she ran; behind her Martin was walking normally to join his friends. "Columbine! Gonff! Wonderful news!" Rose skidded to a stop in front of them. "Martin and I are to be wed!"

Columbine squealed with delight and hugged Rose. Gonff gave a laugh and clapped a paw on her shoulder. He then turned to Martin who had arrived. "Getting' hitched matey! Congratulations! But watch out, it won't be long till she's got you sewing skirts rather than swinging swords. Ha ha ha!"

Martin gave his best friend a friendly punch in the arm. "You're just still upset that Columbine had you mend all those sheets you cut up to make a Boar the Fighter costume at the last harvest feast."

"Never upset matey! I was quite happy to provide some useful service to our dear Abbey. Not unlike a certain mouse I know who spent the entire feast at the pond trying to drown the fires of Skippers hotroot soup."

"I was only at the pond because you switched my cider with soup during that sword demonstration you talked me into. Why do you think I've had you in the act ever since?"

Gonff went chasing after Martin. "So that's the reason I've had me paws near chopped off by that oversized pruning knife of yours." Gonff caught up with Martin and the two went rolling around on the ground while their sweethearts dissolved into peals of helpless laughter.

Martin chuckled as he pushed Gonff off of him and latched onto the back of the thief's collar. "Get off me you great grub grabber. Rose I'm sure you can't wait to tell your mother and Brome about us. Why don't you go and tell them while I finish scrubbing this one off."

"Columbine you go with her," said a struggling Gonff. "I wouldn't want you to be witness to the first defeat Martin has ever known when I chuck him in the pool here."

The two mousemaids walked off towards Council Lodge. Behind them Martin and Gonff wrestled furiously trying to throw the other in the water. Without warning black shapes obscured the sky and descended on Rose and Columbine.

"Kreeeehaaaa! Flurem Woo-es! Seize them my brothers. Take them back to where our Master waits." It was at least fifty large black crows and ravens. They grabbed onto Rose and Columbine and started flying off.

"ROSE!!"

"COLUMBINE!!"

Martin and Gonff tried running to save the maidens. Unfortunately both male mice had left their weapons at Council Lodge. The grabbed several large stones and began hurling at the mass of black feathers as they ran. Sadly there were too many blocking the sight of Rose and Columbine. Still the ferocity of Martin and Gonff's attack felled several of the black birds.

The leader of the crow gang told the ones holding Rose and Columbine to fly off. Noticing several of his number had fallen to the stones of the two mice charging towards them he took off and flew low at the rushing pair. His hefty wings knocked both mice flat on their backs. Circling around he landed in front of where Martin and Gonff who were getting to their feet.

Both mice were weaponless as they had lost their pawfuls of rocks in the dark grass. Martin leapt at the crow with a snarl but was again knocked back by a powerful wing blow. The crow spoke to the mice. "Cha chackaa! You will not interfere mouse! The Flurem Woo-es are ours now!"

Martin screamed at the crow. "Scum! Unhand those two right now or I vow I will never rest until you and every single one of you oversized pillows is slain."

The crow only scoffed at Martin's bluster. "You are even now too late mouse, look." The crow pointed a wing to a sight far overhead. Rose and Columbine were being carried away, each held by three crows. Their screams of shock and fear were clearly heard to the two mice on the ground.

Taking the sword belt off from his shoulder Martin hurled it at the crow. The bird didn't see the black leather until it was too late. The supple leather wrapped around the birds' neck before the heavy silver buckle struck it squarely in the eye. The crow fell to the ground senseless.

Martin dropped to his knees as he could only watch as Rose was born over the trees and was lost to sight. Gonff too stared in silence at the patch of sky where his wife was finally obscured by the treetops. Gonff's eyes burned with tears of helplessness. Then the Mousethief heard Martin speak.

"Gonff I need my sword." Martin's words were as hard and fierce as a raging thunderstorm. As Gonff padded silently toward Council Lodge he caught a glimpse of Martin's eyes. The Warrior of Redwall had not taken his eyes off the spot where he had last seen Rose. Gonff wasn't sure, because of the dark night, but he swore he could see a tinge of red in the fierce eye's of the Warrior.

A/N; I'll bet you never say any of that coming. Just to clarify, the linen bag Martin pulls the bracelet out of is not the linen beaded bag from Legend of Luke. As for why I've written what I have I offer this. I started thinking that this would be another AU tales where Martin gets to have his happily ever after. As it has progressed I've started to think of this tale as less as an AU and more of a possible canon correct "missing years" type of tale. Yes, I know a lot of you are thinking it's Redwall canon that Rose is dead and all. But if you use my tale, Rose's death could be explained away. So that's where I'm trying to take this. Hopefully it makes sense.

So we have come to the end of this story, but not the end of the tale. A Mask and A Song is now over but the story will continue under a new title. When I thought us this Rose and Columbine get kidnapped idea I knew I would have to publish it under a new title as it wouldn't fit in the title of this story. As of yet I don't know what the title of the sequel will be, but I will be working on it and it will appear soon.