I - AM THAT IS
The Summer of the Late Rose was coming to a close. The final debris of the war had been cleared away. The fallen Redwall defenders had been laid to rest in the Abbey grounds. A large ditch had been dug in the woods and the bodies of Cluny's horde had been dumped in. It was left unmarked. The Joseph Bell had been removed, with much difficulty, from the bell tower. The word was that it would be recast into two smaller bells, but that was a project for later. Currently the Abbey slept as it enjoyed the peace that had once again come to Mossflower.
Except for one creature. Matthias the Warrior was still awake gazing on the tapestry of Martin. Since finding the fabled blade of Redwall's first Warrior, Matthias was trying to find out everything he could about his mentor. He had traveled back down to the Warrior's Tomb to glean what he could from the carvings and hangings on the walls. While he had been cleaning out the Gatehouse to make room for the cottage he and his new wife would share he had poured through the oldest Abbey records he could find for any information of Redwall's legendary founder. However, much to his surprise it was a detailed examination of the tapestry that had been what had proved most interesting. The image of Martin was clearly the oldest part of the cloth. However what surprised Matthias was that the areas surrounding Martin all seemed newer by many seasons. As if Martin's picture had stood alone for many seasons before the tapestry had then been woven around it. The stitching of the vermin fleeing Martin also appeared newer than the stitching of the warrior himself.
Now late at night Matthias sat in front of the tapestry. Beside him on a table was an old and yellowed tome from the Gatehouse, and the Sword of Martin. He was starting so hard at the tapestry that he didn't hear the soft steps coming up behind him until a gentle paw placed itself on his shoulder.
"Matthias, it's late. Come to bed you need your rest."
He started a bit. "Cornflower! I'm sorry you startled me. I would but I can't sleep."
She sat down next to her husband and began playing with the headband she had given him that had always remained tied around his arm. "Still thinking about Martin?" Matthias only hummed in reply. "Have you found out anything more than what Methuselah was able to tell you?"
"Some," he picked up the tome on the table and carefully flipped to the back pages. Matthias then pointed at the picture of Martin. "Look on his right arm."
Squinting in the moonlight Cornflower peered carefully at the woven image. "It looks like he has a sash tied arm." She looked down at the scarf she had tied around Matthias' arm then back at her husband. "A maidens colors?"
Matthias saw the somewhat shocked expression on her face. "That was about my reaction too. Methuselah never said anything about Martin meeting any maid special enough to him to wear her colors. So I decided to look a bit closer in the old records."
"Did you find anything?"
"Actually yes, but there's something I have to show you first. Follow me." He stood up and buckled on his sword. Taking Cornflower by the paw he led her outside. He stopped beside the wall of the Abbey.
Cornflower immediately saw what he had led her too. "The Late Rose? What does that have to do with Martin?"
"It appears, everything," Matthias said as he opened the book. The waxing moon gave plenty of light to read by so Cornflower could easily see the words carefully written on the page. 'The Account of Martin and his love Laterose as told by the mousemaid Aubretia of Noonvale.'
"Noonvale? What's that? Who is Laterose? I'm still confused." Cornflower looked back up at Matthias.
"Let's go back inside and I'll tell you all about it. There is one thing that confuses me," he told her as they walked back to the Great Hall. "It seems like the pages and the binding aren't the same age. As if someone had rebound the pages long ago. And on the last pages there appear to be what look like scorch marks."
Cornflower tossed and turned as she tried to fall asleep. Her head was still filled with many confused images and thoughts. Martin, Matthias, this new mousemaid named Laterose, Martin's journey's as a younger creature, the tale Matthias had told her of his own quest to find the Sword, they all circled her mind in rapid succession. Finally the images were replaced by a cooling mist. From the mist a song began. In Great Hall, Matthias also felt his eyes droop. A feeling of security came over him as the same mist and song formed before him.
"You will find me in Noonvale on the side of a hill.
When the summer is peaceful and high,
There where streamlets meaner the valley is still.
'Neath the blue of a calm cloudless sky,
Look for me at dawning when the earth is asleep,
Till each dewdrop is kissed by the day,
'Neath the rowan and alder a Vigil I'll Keep,
Every moment that you are away.
The old earth gently turns as the seasons change slowly.
All the flowers and leaves born to wane.
Hear my song o'er the lea like the wind soft and lowly,
Oh please come back to Noonvale again."
Matthias looked around and found Cornflower standing near him. She walked over to where he stood with wonder in her eyes. "Did you hear that? I don't think I've ever heard such a lovely song."
"Hush, look there's two beasts coming this way."
Through the mist two figures where visible. As they drew closer Matthias recognized one right away. The other he had never seen before. They were both mice and Matthias felt his heart glow as Martin the Warrior approached him. However unlike previous times he had been visited by Redwall's guarding spirit the Warrior was not dressed in armor. Instead he wore the same green tunic and scarlet vest that Matthias was now beginning to wear.
Martin smiled as he looked at the mousemaid to his right who had her arm linked with his. Turn back to Matthias and Cornflower he addressed them for the first time. "Matthias, my lady Cornflower," he bowed to her. "It is my deepest pleasure to introduce you to my wife Rose."
Matthias and Cornflower looked at Rose to see her smiling at them. When she spoke it was clear by her melodic voice that is what she who had been singing. Rose walked over and gave hugged both Matthias and Cornflower. "I don't normally accompany Martin when he visits Redwallers like this, but he insisted this time. And I wanted to meet you as well." Her embrace shook them out of their stunned expressions.
It was Cornflower who found her voice first. "You're the Rose from that tale?"
Rose laughed her tinkling summer breeze among bluebells laugh. "I am. And that's my flower growing in the Abbey gardens. Aubretia did take a clipping from Noonvale when she visited Redwall."
"So that's why it faded when the tapestry was stolen," Matthias chimed in.
"Yes and no," Rose told him. She walked back to Martin and put a paw around his waist. "Martin here is the guarding spirit of Redwall not me. He's become quite attached to that tapestry over the seasons so it was a bit of shock when it was stolen. It took me a while to get him out the funk he developed to get back to helping you find the Sword."
"I did not get into a funk!" Martin said as he looked at Rose.
"Don't argue dear," she said before turning back to Matthias and Cornflower. "The summer was also very hot and with the war some of the gardening tasks were neglected."
"Then what about that vision of Methuselah's face in the Late Rose flower I saw?" Matthias asked.
Rose looked at Martin and her brow furrowed a bit. "You used my flower for one of your visits and didn't tell me?"
"It was a request of Methuselah," Martin told her. "He isn't the only creature to love that rose bush more than any other flower in the gardens you know."
Matthias and Cornflower looked at each other. This was the last thing they had expected from a visit from Martin. Usually he came with a dire message of warning that was most often in code form. They were anything but prepared to see him arguing with another creature. Still they could see that neither Rose nor Martin was angry at the other and they were just debating for the sake of debating.
"Anyway," Rose said as she looked at the Redwallers. "That's not the point of our visit." She looked directly at Matthias this time. "You have one more task to complete young warrior. You have Martin's sword and shield, but his armor doesn't rest in Redwall."
"Then where is it?" Matthias asked.
"Pay close attention to what I have to say. It will save you a great deal of effort and time."
Shortly later Martin smiled as Matthias and Cornflower returned to their selves as their vision ended. He noticed Rose smiling at him. "They'll do fine," she told him.
"Of course they will," he told her as he looked back at her. "Especially Matthias, after all just look at the family resemblance."
Rose only grinned as she gave Martin a kiss on the cheek.
A cool autumn breeze swept through the northlands forest as Mathias and Cornflower sough a place to rest. They had left Redwall three days after their joint vision of Rose and Martin. As per the instructions given them by Rose they had traveled alone and to the north. Thanks to her directions they were able to avoid many dangerous rock falls, found easy steam fords, and avoided many other dangers as they traveled. They were also blessed that the warm temperatures of summer had stayed though the early parts of the fall. But now there was a definite chill to the air as the leaves began to fall around them.
Finding a small hill they rested in a small depression that the forces of wind and water had carved out of the soil. It provided a snug little cave that would be a perfect shelter to spend the night in. As Matthias started making a fire to roast some chestnuts they had found Cornflower got up and walked out of the cave.
"I'm going to have a look around while we still have some light."
"Don't wander to far please," Matthias told her.
"Relax; I'm only going to the top of this hill." With that Cornflower began to scramble up the loam covered hillside.
The going was fairly easy and soon she had reached the summit. To the west she could see a small stream flowing gently near the hill. Then she noticed something odd. The trees of this forest were huge things that grew everywhere. Yet none grew on this hill top. The only thing she saw was a pile of brambles curled around a few scattered rocks at the very top of the hill. Walking over to where the brambles grew she lost her footing and fell with a small yell. Her paw shot out and grabbed one of the branches. Feeling a small prick on her paw Cornflower stood back up and looked down to more carefully inspect the bush.
It was not as she had first suspected. Instead it actually looked very familiar. Then she saw the flash of color amid the brown stems. It was a brilliant red rose, the last blossom to be found. What struck Cornflower even more was that it was the exact same shade as the Late Rose found in the Redwall gardens. However just as this new information was dawning on her a song began to ring from the surrounding woods. It wasn't as lovely as the song she had heard Rose sing, but it was still haunting and beautiful.
"'Tis the last rose of summer left blooming alone
All her lovely companions are faded and gone
No flower of her kindred, no rosebud is nigh
To reflect back her blushes and give sigh for sigh
I'll not leave thee, thou lone one, to pine on the stem
Since the lovely are sleeping, go sleep thou with them
Thus kindly I scatter thy leaves o'er the bed
Where thy mates of the garden lie scentless and dead
So soon may I follow when friendships decay
And from love's shining circle the gems drop away
When true hearts lie withered and fond ones are flown
Oh who would inhabit this bleak world alone?"
Looking to the north Cornflower saw a procession of woodlanders heading toward the hill. She stood stock still in shock as two tough looking squirrels spotted her. They were obviously an honor guard judging by the javelins they held. In a flash they ran up the hill and leveled their javelins at her.
"Who are you? What are you doing here?" one of them spat at her.
"I…I…I…," but Cornflower could only stammer in fear.
"You're a trespasser and not welcome here!" the other squirrel yelled at the terrified mousewife.
"Get away from her!" Matthias arrived on the scene and jumped between Cornflower and the squirrels.
Rather than being intimidated the squirrels only leveled their weapons at Matthias. "Who are you to demand anything from us mouse?"
"Now leave this solemn ground or we'll skewer you were you stand!"
"Then you would be the ones to fall. Not me or my wife!" roared Matthias. Reaching behind him he drew the Sword of Martin from where he had been carrying it on his back. The ancient blade flashed in the afternoon sun.
The two squirrels went from angry to stunned as the sight of the fabled blade. Their javelins fell to the ground in a clatter of wood as one of them pointed at the sword. He whispered to his companion so Matthias or Cornflower couldn't hear. Then a new voice from the opposite side of the hill was heard.
"Copon! Gerbar! Your hot blood does you no honor yet again! Brave you may be, but you still have manners to learn." A mouse had come up the hill and was speaking to the two squirrels. Copon and Gerbar shook their heads and faced the mouse. Standing to one side they let the mouse walk forward. As the squirrels had he stopped short when he caught sight of the sword Matthias held.
Awe shone in his eyes as he addressed Matthias. "You bear the blade of Martin. Who are you?"
Matthias saw that the older mouse hadn't taken his eyes off the sword he held. Sensing no danger from the mouse Matthias raised it in a Warriors Salute before he answered. Somehow he knew what to say. "I Am That Is."
By this time the rest of the creatures had reached the hill top. At Matthias' words many caught their breath and muttering were heard from the crowd.
"Did you hear that?"
"He said 'I am that is.' I heard him."
"Is it really him?"
"After all this time?"
"Look it's the Sword of Martin. It looks just like it's described in the stories."
The mouse turned back to the crowd. "Hush everybeast, please be quiet." He then turned back to Matthias. "Who are your parents?"
Matthias looked at Cornflower looking very confused. "I don't know sir. I was found as a woodland orphan before I was brought to Redwall where I have lived ever since."
The name of the Abbey drew another round of whisperings and mutterings. The mouse had to shush the crowd before he turned back to Matthias. "Do you know where you are?"
"On a hill." It was the only thing Matthias could think of in his confused state.
A few chuckles broke out before the mouse started walking to the pile of brambles. "Forgive me for not introducing myself. My name is Celmson, Patriarch of Noonvale."
Celmson cleared back some of the brown stems from the rocks they were covering. Faded lettering was visible on the rock face.
'Here lies Laterose of Noonvale
Beloved wife of Martin, Warrior of Redwall'
"I think I know why you are here I Am That Is. There is something we have been holding for you. Something that Martin gave Brome very long ago at Redwall."
Cornflower had approached the stone and reverently ran her paws over the words. However new questions filled her mind. Standing up she faced Celmson. "But this doesn't make any sense. According to Redwall history Rose died long before Martin came to Mossflower. They were never wed. And how would Martin have given something to Brome? They never saw each other after again the Battle of Marshank."
It was Celmson's turn to be shocked. "You mean you don't know? You've never heard the rest of the story?"
"What story?" Cornflower asked.
"Come, both of you there is much to discuss."
Celmson escorted Matthias and Cornflower back down the hill amid the crowd. As they passed the crowd grew silent as each beast tried to catch a glimpse of the legendary Sword of Martin. After a short walk Matthias and Cornflower found themselves overlooking a large valley full of small cottages. At the north end a large lodge had blue smoke curling out of its chimneys. At the other end nestled against a rock face by a waterfall was a building that Matthias instantly saw would be a very defensible structure should the need ever arise.
Celmson spread his paws wide over the vista. "Welcome to Noonvale."
Sheathing his sword Matthias took Cornflower's paw and helped her down the path leading from the bluffs into the valley.
Celmson led them to the large building at the north end of the valley. "This is Council Lodge," he told them as the entered. "Here we have kept this." Celmson went over to a glass covered display case. Within it was a leather bound scroll with the words 'I Am That Is' clearly written on it.
"This has been protected here in Noonvale ever since Brome, my ancestor, came back from Redwall after Martin and Rose were wed."
The crowd that had formed the procession to Rose's gave had now filed into Council Lodge. Celmson brought out a large book as the creatures of Noonvale took their seats. "But before we get to that," he said. "There is much you two need to know."
Matthias and Cornflower took their seats at the head table as Celmson opened the book. "You seem to know of Aubertia's visit to your Abbey long ago. However that is only a third of the story of Martin and Rose. The rest is in two parts. They have been come to be called 'A Mask and A Song,' and 'Winter's Flowers.' Would you like to hear the rest of the story of Martin and Rose?"
Matthias and Cornflower nodded eagerly as Celmson sat down and began reading. The story he spun thrilled Matthias and Cornflower as they heard for the first time of the later exploits of Martin. It took the rest of the night for the tale to be completed. Some had left for their beds, but most of the Noonvalers were still awake.
Cornflower looked at Matthias. "How come we at Redwall never heard any of this?"
"I've been thinking about that," he told her. "Remember those scorch marks? It's possible that we may have lost some of the oldest records in a fire at Redwall. There looked to be scorch marks on the walls of the Gatehouse when I was helping to clean it out. I've only just remembered." Matthias turned to Celmson. "May I have the missive Martin gave Brome?"
The only thing audible was the squeak as Celmson stood, opened the case and bade Matthias to retrieve the scroll.
Reverently Matthias pulled the scroll out of its case and undid the leather thong holding it together. Just as his sword belt and sheath had somehow escaped the effects of age so had the leather of covering the parchment within. Unrolling it carefully he began to read it aloud.
"Warrior and Flower,
Strength and power,
The lost sword found,
The Abbey free ground.
I – Am That Is stands true for all,
The Warrior Mouse protects Redwall.
My armor my cape are yours to claim,
Reveled to you now is the truth of your name.
The blood of the valley and the blood of the coast,
Were mingled once before a great host.
Brothers in spirit and brothers by blood,
His sister named for a flowering bud.
The line of the Warrior ended with me,
The sad reward of fate's decree.
Yet my blood lived on in one who did roam,
In I - Am That Is, descendant of Brome."
Matthias and Cornflower stayed in Noonvale for the winter. They were introduced to many fine creatures. Copon and Gerbar explained to them that they were direct descendants of Scirus. The Fur and Freedom Fighters had evolved into the Noonvale Home Guard of which they were the captains. Celmson revealed himself to be Matthias' uncle and told him that his brother had run away from Noonvale when he was a young creature. Word had reached the valley that Matthias' father had wed and had a son, but no other news had ever been heard.
When spring came Matthias, now clad in the armor of Martin, and Cornflower set off for Redwall. With them they also brought the rest of the story of Martin the Warrior and Laterose of Noonvale.