A/N; Alright the wait is over. Here we go on the start of the sequel to A Mask and A Song. I hope you like it. There will probably be a lot more filler chapters in this story. Critiques, comments, and suggestions for plot ideas are as always more than welcome.
Skipper had never seen Gonff so upset. He had been woken up by the sounds of the Thief throwing aside pieces of Martin's armor which was still in the small side room of Council Lodge. Skipper had fallen asleep where he had sat at a table during the victory dinner.
"Where is it? Where is it?" Gonff was muttering under to himself as he threw Martin's left shoulder pauldron over his shoulder.
Skipper shook his head to rid the last vestiges of sleep. "Steady on there Gonff me mate. Why are you chucking Martin's armor around like that?"
Gonff didn't look up at the otter as he lifted the breastplate out of its haversack and peered inside. "Martin wants his sword and I want my daggers and sling."
"What for matey? We won! Don't need no more weapons." But the look Gonff gave the otter took the friendly smile from Skipper's face at once.
Gonff had stopped looking through the haversacks and addressed Skip directly. "Rose and Columbine have just been taken by a band of crows and ravens. Now please Skip, kindly tell me where the weapons are, or get out of my way."
The pain in Gonff's voice was obvious to the otter chieftain. "By the claw mate! I'm sorry. Don't you worry, we'll get them back. Yours and Martin's weapons are in the other side room. I'll show you where."
Soon after Gonff and Skipper left Council Lodge and came to the spot where the Mousethief had left Martin. The Warrior was a short distance away binding the senseless form of the crow that had attacked them. Gonff handed Martin his sword. The Redwall Champion immediately clipped the scabbard to his back by the sword belt running over his shoulder. Martin had picked it up and put in on sash wise from where it had fallen after it struck the crow.
"Is this him Martin?" asked Skipper.
"Aye, this is the leader of the birds who stole Rose and Columbine."
The burly otter walked to where the bird lay in the dirt. A few well placed whacks of his rudder brought the bird back to consciousness. It tried to fly off but only discovered three hindrances. The first was the ropes binding its wings shut tight. The cords had also been tied to a nearby sapling. The second was Gonff's daggers crossed over its throat. The third was the point of Martin's sword hovering over its heart. The big bird wasn't going anywhere.
"Where did your crows take those mice?" None could fail to miss the menace in Martin's voice as he asked the question. The crow glared at Martin but kept its beak closed. Martin pushed the sword tip into the plumage of the defiant bird. A small trickle of blood began to drip down over the feathers and onto the ground. "I said, where...did...you…take…them?" The words came out slowly and full of scorn for the crow.
"Krah! Nightfeather, is a loyal servant of the endless hordes of the Great Lupisto. He who commands the rivers to dry and the grounds to tremble. The Great Lupisto of the Allpack welcomes all Flurem Woo-es into his protective embrace. They who would have no protection are secure by the might of the Allpack. They who would harm the Flurem Woo-es are Chastised. The Allpack lives to protect all Flurem Woo-es and it is Nightfeather's great honor to seek them out and bring them to the shelter of the Allpack."
"But why Rose and my Columbine!" Gonff had pressed his daggers harder against Nightfeather's neck feathers.
"You are unfit to gaze on the beauty of Flurem Woo-es. Nightfeather was forced to liberate them from your undeserving presence. Now the Flurem Woo-es will live the life they were meant to live. Protected, free, cared for, all they could ever desire shall be theirs. Craw!"
The mice and otter exchanged very confused looks. None of what the crow had just said made much sense to any of them. Skipper spoke up. "Who is this Lupisto and where can we find him? We'll show him a thing or three about the proper way to treat a maiden." Skipper was whirling his loaded sling close to Nightfeather's head as he spoke. But the crow had said all he was going to. He shut his beak and would answer no more questions. At a nod from Martin, Skipper sent his sling crashing into the feathered skull. For the second time that night Nightfeather fell limply to the ground.
Gonff stood up and sheathed his daggers. "Now what do we do?"
"And what was all that about Flurem Woosits and all the rest? Seemed like a big pile of mumbo jumbo to me." Skipper said.
Martin sheathed his sword before he answered. "I think it means that these birds have been going around kidnapping maids. Whoever this Lupisto is, he must be the beast behind all this."
Skipper looked a bit confused. "How do you figure that matey?"
"Listen to what this Nightfeather talked about. He was talking about how we are unfit to gaze on the beauty of the Flurem Woo-es, I think he called them. How this Lupisto has a horde dedicated to protecting his captives. I don't know what it all means, but like you said Skip I think we should pay this Lupisto a visit and teach him some manners."
Gonff was still worried "But what about all that talk about the horde he was talking about? I don't think that was an exaggeration."
Skipper by now was completely confused and impressed by the level of intellect of the two mice. "How do you know the bird bag wasn't lying Gonff? Trying to scare us with by bragging about the size of the horde he serves. Most vermin types do that."
The merry twinkle usually Gonff's had been gone since Columbine had been taken. It started to return as he answered. "You forget matey, I'm the Prince of Lie Detectors. If the crow was exaggerating, he wasn't by much. I fear that we face a horde of foe beasts larger than we've ever seen." The sparkle again faded as Gonff described the horde he thought they faced.
Martin was glad that though his best mate was hurting he could still reach for some humor and give himself a new prince title. Martin also knew Gonff was right. The Mousethief was very adept at telling when a beast wasn't telling the truth. The Warrior was glad he had never outright lied to Gonff about his past, only told him part of the truth. The witty mouse would have seen right past his story right away.
As Skipper and Gonff continued to discuss the cryptic words they had learned from the crow Martin began pacing back and forth. His brain had long ago switched over to warrior mode. Tactics, logistics, planning, travel times, and possible allies were bouncing around in his head. Soon the first elements of plan came to him. He stopped pacing and in a firm tone of command he addressed his friends.
"Skipper rouse the crew. Please ask them to dispose of those dead crows and keep a careful eye on our feathered friend over there. Also if you see Emalet send her to me. I want them here fully armed and ready to march within the hour.
"Gonff keep an eye on Nightfeather until the otters arrive. If he wakes up try to get more information from him. We need all we can get. Know this both of you. We will be leaving Noonvale come first light. We travel fast and light back to Redwall. We won't march at the same grueling pace we used to get here, but there will be little time to spare. Understand?" Both otter and mouse nodded. "Good, see to your tasks. I'll be in Council Lodge if you need me. We'll meet at that rock in one hour at the latest."
Martin's mind was racing as he ran to Council Lodge. Even now Rose and Columbine were being taken further and further from him. The pain from his torn heart threatened to overwhelm him. He gathered up the pieces of armor Gonff had thrown about and chose only those he knew he would need. He took his helmet, breastplate, forearm bracers, shin greaves, red cape, and shield from the pile and buckled them on.
Tucking his helmet under his arm he ran back to rejoin his friends. The otter crew had arrived letting Gonff run off to make his own preparations to depart. Martin spotted Emalet amongst the crew. Going over to her he gave the owl her instructions. Emalet bowed to Martin and flew off to fulfill her duty. Looking around Martin saw the otter crew ready for battle or travel at a moment's notice. Nodding in satisfaction at the quick response to his orders the Warrior Mouse climbed onto a nearby rock. It was time to sound the call to arms.