Author's Notes: Hrm, I said one-shot, but then I started thinking about if Gonff ever did tell Martin, and how that would work. And then I got an idea, so I had to write this. So it's a two-shot, or something. Thanks for the reviews on the first part, by the way!
Let It Be
Slowly, things had changed. Dibbuns grew taller and began to take on responsibilities; elders stood back in the shade of the orchard trees, nodding in approval of those they had raised into adulthood. Even Redwall's stones began to grow up, battered by wind and rain, losing their newborn glow. Some creatures had passed into the gates of the Dark Forest, while others remained, chatting in casual voices of the good days of old, smiling outwardly but aching inside at the loss of youth.
Down on the Abbey grounds, two babes were playing a game of make-believe, swinging sticks and growling in what they hoped was a terrifying way. One was a plump mouse, the other a squirrel, who didn't quite have his walking skills perfected. They laughed while they fought, striking out with the sticks and yelling battle cries.
Off to one side, four creatures sat watching, speaking quietly as to not interrupt – two elders and two grown beasts, all smiling warmly.
" Sorry to say it, Gonff, but I think your grandson is at the disadvantage."
" Don't talk too quickly, matey – little Matt can barely run!"
" No, but he's got his father's Warrior Spirit. Right, Chug?"
Still watching through half-closed eyes, the squirrel nodded. " Aye, sir. He'll grow up to be a fine Champion, if need ever comes for one."
" Let's hope it doesn't." The old mouse breathed a sigh, looking past the game into something deeper. Though his fur was gray and his body tired, his eyes still had that quality they always had – that way of reflection, of hidden thoughts and quiet strength.
Standing beside him, the chubby mouse laughed. " Martin, don't worry yourself. You look like you're thinking too much again!"
" Gonff..." But he smiled, shaking his head. " Perhaps you're right." He looked to the two fathers. " Why don't you go fetch your sons? Your wives are probably looking everywhere for them – night will fall soon."
" As you say, Martin." They walked away towards the Abbey building, taking their sons in their arms as they went.
The two older beasts were left standing in the eerie light of sunset. Gonff looked at Martin from the corner of his eye. " Hey, what's got you bothered, matey? Why'd you send them away?"
" You should hurry too. You'll miss supper." And with that, he slowly walked towards the wall steps, shoulders slumped. His friend waited a few moments, torn. He did want to sit with his family for dinner, and enjoy the talking and singing. It would certainly be better than standing on the walltop with an old Warrior who seemed to be slipping into a depression.
Then again, he had always been there, and he intended to keep it that way.
The colors of the dying day swirled together, finally reaching a constant tone of darkness near the top of the sky. Martin was sitting on the battlements, the small breeze ruffling his habit. Gonff approached as quickly as his aged body would allow. " Martin, what is it?" There was no response. With a grumble he leaned against the stones, glaring. " I'd appreciate it if you'd stop being so down, so I could get to Great Hall in time for the grace."
" I never said I needed company."
" That's because it didn't need saying." He shook his head, drawing closer. " Listen, Martin. I do care about you. But I'm getting tired of your sad times. You should tell me what's wrong."
" Should I?" The old Warrior's shoulders raised as he stretched. " Or maybe I should just go to bed, and feel better in the morning." Gonff saw him cast a searching glance over his shoulder in the thief's direction. After a few moments, he laughed. " You're not going to pry any further? You know well enough that I won't feel better by sleeping."
" Ah, so you do want to talk about it."
" Not unless you make me."
Feeling a smile grow on his face, Gonff patted his friend's shoulder. " Alright then, tell me or I'll get Columbine up here. She'll give you quite the strict talking to."
" Then I suppose I have no other option but to tell you."
Gonff felt his body tense. This was all it had taken? In all their time together over the years, he had never been able to get Martin to open up. And now, he seemed willing – even excited – to speak of his troubles. " Go on. I'm listening."
There was a pause as a far off bird started singing a high-pitched tune. Martin blinked hard. " I'm... worried, I suppose. That everyone will forget about me." He raised his eyebrows as Gonff mouth opened to protest. " Quiet, please. You wanted me to talk, and now I am. If you interrupt I might get mad – old creatures are touchy like that. Now then, as I was saying..." He returned his gaze to the distant horizon, the smile fading away. " I have no children, no wife, no family. The worst part is, I'm old and I'll die someday. And nothing will remain of my life, save for a battered sword. That's... hard for me to think about. After all I've experienced, any creature that looks back on my memory will only see a Warrior. That's all that will ever matter."
Gonff stared at the cracks in the red stone, heart heavy from those words. They were true.
" And if I hadn't gotten that sword, I'd be a different creature, with something much more precious to hold in my paws."
" And that precious thing?"
" What else could it be?"
And in that moment, Gonff remembered everything. He hadn't forgotten in the least – everything was still crisp, easily distinguished from the rest of his past. He simply realized that it was suddenly relevant, suddenly real. Undeniably so, and it made his head spin. " A maiden."
So it was true. Martin had a maid on his mind. He shuffled his paws nervously, fighting inside his head. That was the reason he had never told Martin. The Warrior had never shown any signs of knowing that phantom mouse, and so Gonff had dismissed any thoughts of telling him about her. But now, he obviously...
" Laterose of Noonvale."
Martin jumped so suddenly that he nearly fell from the wall's edge. Gonff reached a paw forward, steadying him as he breathed raggedly. " What? Did you... say something?"
" Yes, but I won't say any more! You nearly fell! I'd rather not be the one to tell Bella that you've died!"
But Martin wasn't listening. Instead, he climbed down and grabbed his friend's paws in his own. Gonff could feel them shaking. " You said her name? How could you know that! I've never told anybeast..."
" So it's true. You knew her."
" Of course! Rose was... she... I..." He released Gonff, running a paw across his face. " I haven't heard her name spoken in so many seasons... how? How do you know of her?"
Taking a deep, steadying breath, Gonff closed his eyes. " I wasn't ever going to tell you. I didn't want you to think I was crazy, matey. I just... that day, I saw her." He slowed his speech, paws clasped across his stomach. " The day you fought Tsarmina. I ran ahead of the others. I saw her holding your body, but you must have been too hurt to notice her. She spoke to me."
" She told me that she had come for you, and... greats seasons, I thought you were dead. I couldn't manage to think about everything she said. But I remember, somehow. She told me that she had been watching you, and me."
Martin's head was turned, but Gonff could sense his tears. " And her death? Did she say anything about how she died?"
" Was she... angry?"
Gonff took a step forward" She said she wasn't angry anymore. I think she forgave you... for whatever part you played in her death." He watched silently as Martin's tears fell from his face onto the stones. " Please, Martin, don't cry... she... oh, I remember now."
Martin looked up quickly, blinking. " What?!"
" I remember what she told me last. I... I was afraid it would sound foolish, but now... I think it might be the best thing for you to hear. You see, Martin, she said that she was walking with you. That day, and before then... and now, and forever. She said she'd always walk beside you."
Eyes fixed on his friend, Martin let his mouth open, but didn't speak. They stood frozen as the sunset began to fade into gloomy dusk, revealing starlight.
At length, Martin closed his eyes, tears flowing. " I never thought... in all my seasons, I never thought she'd want to stay by my side. You say she forgave me?" He shook his head. " I... Gonff, I loved her. So much. But I left her alone in that battle, and she died. I didn't know. I couldn't stop it." Turning, he placed his paws on the battlements. " You're so fortunate, Gonff."
Without waiting for a response, he continued. " You say you saw her. That she spoke to you. And I... I've only seen her in my dreams." Then he moved away from the wall, towards Gonff. " Thank you," he whispered. " You say she's been walking by my side?"
" Of course!"
" And she always will be." For the first time in a long while, Martin smiled, and his face was filled with such joy that he didn't look old, but only a young creature, full of life and hope. With one nod towards Gonff, he walked past him, down the steps, and into the gathering night.
Gonff stood on the wall top a while longer, feeling tears in his eyes. He had done it. He had said everything that was always needed. And now, there was nothing more to say.
The night came. The Abbey slept through it peacefully. And when the creatures woke in the morning, one was left to sleep forever. There was a smile on his face when they found them, as he lay there, dreaming.