I do not own Redwall.
It was snowing. That was nothing new, it was winter after all. But the little fox didn't know that. He just knew he was cold, and wet, and his mother was rowing a boat. That was all that his short life had let him learn of so far. He kept getting hit by the icy spray of water, ice hanging from locks of fur. No clothes, no blanket… the young fox lay on the bottom of the wooden boat, he had stopped shivering quite some time ago. But his mother hadn't stopped.
She kept muttering to herself, she sounded angry. He couldn't understand what was being said, but he knew he didn't like it. Barely aware, he could feel her warm paws pick him up by the scruff, and he was lifted, up, up. She wouldn't hold him. If she didn't have to pick him up to get rid of him, she wouldn't even touch him. Filthy thing, how sad that it be made of her own blood.
"Amae." He whimpered, the only word he knew, opening his blue eyes though it was useless. They would never see the world around him. Would never take in the beauty of the winter world he had been born into only a week ago. He was flying now, only to land of the hard ice-packed ground, back connecting roughly with a tree.
"Sit there and rot!" Words, words he couldn't understand. Too young to know what they were, too young to think about why he was here. He could hear the boat scrape against the bank of the river, and head back out. She was leaving.
"Amae!" Where was his mother? She wouldn't have turned, even if she could hear him. He was too weak to move, to make noise louder than a crickets whisper. The snow was still coming down, but he was too numb to feel the touch of the flakes as they buried him. Closing his eyes again, his body slackened, the world leaving him alone to die in the snow.
"Oi! Skipper! 'Old up a minute 'ere, there's sumt'in on the banks." The burly otter chief shook the ice water out of his fur, and turned to Spackle, the young scout that was on his team. He was bent low, inspecting marks that lead to the water.
"What's all this nou? Sumthin' tae see mate?" Skipper stood behind the young male with the rest of the scouting party, trying to see what he was pointing at.
"Ai, looks ter me like a boat. And sumt'in got out. Lit'le paws, too big fer rat or mouse. Long paws, maybe a ferret? Can' see where et goes, snow's cevering it up. Must 'ave been this merning." Looking at the watery sun that tried to show through the snow clouds, Skipper shrugged at the scout.
"Yer guess isas good as mine mate. Did they git back in the boat?"
"Ay, that they did, an' shuved off too. Looks ta be only one o' them."
"Well, at least t'ey're not in our forest. Let's get over ta the Abbey, it's getting cold out again."
"Skip! Take a look over here!" Barnic, the more learned of the otter group, called and waved over the band of five. Instantly, eight pairs of paws joined his around a mound of snow at the base of a tree.
"The mound was a little big in my opinion for the snow we keep having, so I dug out this." He held up the fox that had fallen there that morning. Though held carefully, it was clear he was in terrible shape. Stiff, unmoving, Barnic was rubbing the tiny chest with a big paw, trying to get him to wake up. "He's colder than the water Skip, and he's barely breathing. I don't know how long he's been under the snow, but he won't be here much longer if he doesn't get up to the Abbey."
"Leave 'im." Came a harsh bark from Blue, a small otter that served as Skipper's right paw. His gray fur, rather than brown, held such a blue tint to it that his name had been obvious. "'E's a fox. They're no good, put 'im back in teh snow and let 'im die."
"No." Skipper gave Blue a stern look, and then took the foxbabe from Barnic. "He's too lit'le. If one o' ours was lost in th' snow, and some vermin found 'im, would you like if they jus' left him ta die? If we did, then we would be no bet'er than they. No mother in their right mind, vermin or no, would le' their child o't in the cold wit' nuthin'. Something must 'ave happened, and if a band of vermin could be set 'on where this is the on'y survivor, then 'e might know something that could be used ta protect the Abbey." He held the fox in the crook of his arm, close to his chest. Wrapping himself and the babe in his cloak, he led the way to the red building.
Abbot Russell shook his head at the dibbuns that wreaked havoc on the snow. They had been there almost all day, throwing balls of white at one another and running around to stuff snow in robes and shirts. It had been many seasons since he had been a dibbun… how he didn't miss those days in the least. A call went up from the walls around the happy Abbey. Redwall was getting some visitors. The gate was opened, and any welcomes and smiles and chatter was pushed to the side as the Skipper of Otters rushed inside, almost tossing the poor squirrel to the ground in his haste.
"Sorry, Father. Skip seems a little worried about our little tagalong." Barnic helped the poor beast to his paws again. "I think it died out there, but I hardly think Skipper will take that seriously until one of the Abbeybeasts tell him so."
"What 'tagalong' Barn? What could possibly shake Skipper? That beast is unflappable."
"We found a babe fox, Abbot sir." Spackle shrugged, "Thin' was frozen oot there. Proa'lly died li'e Barnic said." The kindly squirrel nodded, and the rest of the Abbey began to greet their guests. They could learn more once everyone was inside and warm.