Summary: A conspiracy to overthrow a leader. A village fighting for it's freedom. An enemy like no other attacking an abbey. And one creature caught in the middle of it all...
Rating: T (for the violence, the blood, the gore, the backstabbing, all the usual Redwall stuff)
Well, here's my next multi-chapter Redwall fanfic! Like I said at the end of "Weylan's Family" this fanfic breaks the trends and takes place some time in unknown Redwall history, several seasons after "Doomwyte". All of the characters who appear are of my own invention, and thus all belong to me. There will be few exceptions. Keep an eye out for cookies relating back to my other fanfics, however. ;) This chpt is a prologue (hence why it's labelled as such) to introduce the situation. Next chapter will take place a couple seasons later, and will focus on Redwall itself.
Anyway, enjoy! :)
Warrior of Redwall
"Moroni, my son, are you there?" the elderly mouse whispered weakly.
"I'm here father." the son, Moroni, said quickly, coming to the side of his father. "I'm here. What is it you wanted?"
His father did not reply right away, he simply clasped Moroni's paw tightly, licked at his dry lips, and stared longing into the eyes of his son. Moroni didn't press him any. He knew his father. More than likely he merely wanted to see his son, in case this would be his final chance. He had done it before many times over the course of the week, whenever Moroni had managed to come to visit, and none of those chances had in fact been his last.
But he could sense perhaps just as well as Moroni could that this time it wasn't going to be like that.
It was currently winter time in the village of Angola, and this particular season had been extra harsh upon it's inhabitants. The snow had fallen heavy and thick during the first few weeks, rapidly covering the land with the pristine crystals. Then a heavy cold spell hit that froze the land even more than before. And with the cold spell came a bout of the flu, striking creatures all throughout seemingly at random.
Normally, this was no overly large deal, as the flu visited Angola frequently. Most creatures would be ill and sometimes bedridden for about a week or so, but then always bounce back, no worse for wear. Moroni himself spent such a week, the week previous in fact, in his home with his wife, ill with the flu. By the end of the week he was feeling much better.
Then Moroni's father, Mormon, caught the disease and was bedridden almost over night, more severely ill than most. As old as he was, the matter was serious. The village healer, Sister Daisy, was called in to help care for him. Moroni came to visit and help as frequently as he could, but his duties as captain of the Angola militia otherwise kept him preoccupied.
As the week wore on, it quickly became clear that Mormon was not getting better, and was instead growing worse, and ever more weaker. Finally, Sister Daisy came to Moroni and broke him the bad news. She had done everything she could to no avail. It was unlikely Mormon would survive the rest of the week.
The rest of the time spent up until now had been spent waiting for the worse to happen. In addition to his normal duties, Moroni had spent that time making sure his father's affairs were in order and spending as much time as he could with Mormon, in case he died without warning. Sister Daisy continued to treat him, but all she could do now was make sure he remained comfortable. Moroni hadn't told Mormon the news during all that time, but he didn't really need to. Mormon was as smart as he was old. He knew he wasn't likely to live perhaps sooner than everyone else.
Now, it seemed, the time had finally come.
Mormon ran his tongue over his dry lips once more before speaking. "Moroni, as a member of the militia, tell me what it's duties are." he instructed calmly.
"To serve and protect the village in times of need or danger." Moroni replied instantly, having these duties memorized by requirement. "And to serve and obey the lord and lady of Midnight Castle. To rally to them at times of war and to protect the lord and lady from danger with our lives."
Mormon chuckled for a moment. "To serve and protect." he repeated to himself. "How restricting that sounds."
"Father?" Moroni questioned. "What do you mean, restricting?"
"Isn't it obvious, Moroni?" Mormon asked. "Angola has no liberty, no freedom to act for itself."
Moroni blinked in surprise. "Of course we do!" he exclaimed. "Angola has freedom. We can come and go as we want, do what we want, whatever we want!"
"If our leader, Lady Grinta, got it in her head that she wished to start a war, would we have the choice to go along or not?" Mormon asked.
"Lady Grinta is no condition to start a war." Moroni objected.
"It is a rhetorical question son, now please answer it." Mormon interrupted. "Do we have that freedom?"
Moroni sought for the answer he wished, but failed. "No." he admitted.
"Do we have the freedom to choose who leads us?"
"And do we have the freedom to choose not to protect the lord and lady?"
"Please answer the question, Moroni."
Moroni bit his lip. "No."
"Then Angola has no freedom."
"What is you point, father?" Moroni asked, feeling lost.
"The time has come, Moroni, for Angola to get it's freedom." Mormon said. "The time for us to break away from the rule of Lady Grinta."
Moroni blinked in surprise. Across the room, where Sister Daisy stood preparing an herb mixture, there was a sudden gasp and a clatter as the healer mouse dropped the bowl she was carrying.
"That's treason!" she exclaimed.
"She's right, father, what you speak of is treason!" Moroni agreed. "If you were overheard..."
"It would only further prove my point that we have no freedom." Mormon said. "Now is the time to break away from the monarchical rule that has held Angola back."
"But why, father?" Moroni asked. "I do not understand. Angola has been ruled by a lord or lady for untold seasons now. We have never had a problem. We have always been ruled fairly, even if what you're saying is true, and we do have no freedom. Why change that?"
"Because we will not always ruled fairly." Mormon said. He paused for a moment to cough. "Times are changing. Tell me, Moroni, what condition is Lady Grinta in?"
"She is well." Moroni said. "Still ill, but I'm told nothing life threating."
"Presume for a moment that it is, and she dies." Mormon said. "Who is next in line to rule?"
"Her eldest son, Kani." Moroni said. "His younger brother, Hax, after that. But they are both well-liked, they will rule fairly, I fail to see the problem."
"Clearly, Moroni, you cannot see what is underneath your own nose." Mormon said with a smile.
Moroni was going to inquire as to what he meant by that, when Mormon suddenly broke out into a coughing fit. Sister Daisy hurried over in case she was needed, but there was little she could do but wait for the fit to end. Moroni sat and waited as well. Finally, Mormon relaxed, took a deep breath, then leaned back onto his pillow, looking weaker still.
"Moroni." he said. "You are captain of the militia. Promise me you will rally the militia together to fight for Angola's freedom."
Moroni didn't reply right away.
"Moroni, promise me you will do this." his father repeated. "Promise me."
"I won't promise anything father." Moroni said. "I don't see the need to do this, nor do I see us being successful at such a task."
"But you will try?"
Moroni hesitated for a moment, then nodded. Mormon grinned, then relaxed, closing his eyes. He died peacefully a few moments later, all the while still smiling.
Moroni trudged through the frozen snow that layered the village street, oblivious of the chill that surrounded him on all sides. He had left Sister Daisy to tend to his father's body and prepare it for burial, likely to take place on the morn. Normally, Moroni would've hung around to help, like he had done when his mother passed away some seasons earlier. But he had been away from home long enough as is. His wife would be wondering what had kept him, and besides, she would want to know what had happened.
As he went, he reflected upon his father's last words, wondering what Mormon was implying. He had decided that now was the time to fight for freedom, when there had never been a need before, nor did there seem to be a need now. And then there was the implication that Mormon knew something that Moroni didn't. What was it? And why did Mormon not simply tell him why? Did he think he wouldn't have enough time before he passed on to the Dark Forest?
So deeply in thought he was, he almost didn't hear the weak moan that came from a small and narrow side road that went in-between two Angolian cottages. He had managed to walk past it before what he had heard sunk in fully. Puzzled, his ears perked up as he strained to listen for the noise. Sure enough, he heard it again, followed by a faint whisper for help.
Alarmed, Moroni doubled back to the side street and hurried into it. He didn't go far before he found a creature lying in the snow, struggling to pick himself up, but failing. As Moroni drew closer, growing more alarmed, he saw that the creature was a fox, and had a knife protruding from his chest. And it wasn't just any fox.
It was Hax Fennix. Lady Grinta's youngest son, and one of the heirs to her throne.
Beyond alarmed now, Moroni quickly rushed to the side of the fallen fox, stripping off his cloak to strip off a piece of the hem to try and staunch the bleeding, while at the same time checking to see if Hax was still alive. He was. But only just. Breathing in quick, sharp, breaths, his was fading fast.
Moroni wasn't sure what to do. This wound was too serious for a creature of limited expertise such as him to handle, and he didn't have the supplies anyway to properly treat him. He thought about going back to his father's cottage to get Sister Daisy, but he knew that Hax was likely to die in the time it took to do that.
There wasn't anything he could do.
Regardless, he took the strip of cloth he had made and pressed it on the wound, wrapping it around the dagger. He didn't dare remove it though, knowing that could make things worse. As he did this, he contemplated how this could've happened. Hax had always been very friendly with the Angolians. He came down from Midnight Castle into the village to visit fairly frequently. He had no real enemies that Moroni knew of. Yet it was clear that for some reason, Hax had been attacked, quite possibly fatally. Worse still, there was no sign of a struggle, meaning Hax had been caught by surprise.
It shouldn't have to be this way, though. Hax was still very young, hardly fully grown yet. He was a strong believer of upholding what was right, and wasn't known to do anything morally wrong. And then there was the fact he was a warrior in training, and quite bold, if not reckless. It seemed unlikely someone could get the jump on him like this. And yet some beast had. And Moroni didn't have the foggiest idea who and why.
Moroni saved these thoughts for later, however, knowing that his first and foremost goal was to try and make sure Hax lived, if only long enough to tell who attacked him at the very least. But no matter how he treated the wound, warm blood continued to seep through, staining Moroni's paws and the surrounding snow. Very soon Hax would bleed to death, if he didn't die from other complications.
Hax seemed to be for the moment to be unconscious, quite likely a very merciful thing as he would no doubt be experiencing extreme pain if he wasn't. But then, like a switch being thrown, Hax's eyes suddenly snapped open, and focused blearily on Moroni.
"Captain?" he asked in a harsh whisper, recognizing Moroni, as they had met before. "Captain?"
"Aye, I'm here your lordship." Moroni said, as he worked. "I'm trying to help you."
"I'm trying what I can, your lordship, just hang on." Moroni said, and sought for something to use to distract Hax from his pain. "Can you tell me what happened here?"
Hax was silent for a moment, and for a moment Moroni thought he had lost consciousness again, but then the fox spoke suddenly without warning.
"It was...a meeting." Hax whispered. He winced suddenly, but continued. "Plain meeting. One of peace. Suspected nothing." he paused, his breathing quickening still. "I arrived on time...but he didn't."
"Who didn't arrive?" Moroni urged, but Hax wasn't listening.
"They came out of nowhere." the fox went on. "Couldn't...stop them. Didn't have a chance...stabbed me...then ran."
Moroni thought suddenly to look around at the surrounding snow for footprints, but only saw his own. The rest had been swept away, to erase all evidence of whoever attacked.
"Stabbed me...then ran." Hax repeated. "Left me to die, I suspect."
"Who attacked you?" Moroni urged. "Your lordship, do you know who attacked you?"
Hax weakly managed to nod once. "It was...it was..."
But then he trailed off, leaving his sentence unfinished. It wasn't long after that Moroni saw, for the second time, a creature die that day.
Moroni quickly sent for help after that. Not long afterward, a large party of creatures, most of them Angolian mice, gathered at the sight, whispering amongst themselves as they strove to catch sight of Hax's body. Members from the militia strove to keep them back at Moroni's order. Creatures from Midnight Castle were sent for, and would come to further investigate.
Kneeling near Hax's body was Moroni, sitting on his haunches and his paws clasped together in his lap. He wore a blank expression on his face. Kneeling next to him was Sister Daisy, who had been sent for because her healing skills might be of use. As there was nothing she could do for Hax, she went about reassuring Moroni.
"You did everything you could." she told him. "There was nothing you could do to prevent this."
"I know." Moroni said flatly. "But will everyone else?"
At that moment, there was a bit of a commotion from within the crowd of watchers. Several started to move aside, either on their own or otherwise, as a smaller group of creatures moved towards the site.
"Move it!" a harsh voice said. "I said move it, there! C'mon, move aside! Make room fer him t' git through!"
Finally, the group, all foxes, emerged from the crowd of mice and moved towards Hax's corpse. Four of the foxes were royal guards, and surrounded a fifth fox. Moroni recognized this creature instantly, and quickly stood up to greet him.
"Methusael, sir!" Moroni exclaimed, standing at attention.
Methusael Redd, second in command to the royal family, stood there for a moment, towering over the mice, and surveyed the situation. He glanced for a moment at Hax's body, completely ignored Sister Daisy, then focused his attention on Moroni.
"What happened?" he demanded.
"I wish I knew, sir." Moroni said. "All I know was that he was attacked, ambushed."
"By who?" Methusael asked sternly.
"I don't know, sir." Moroni pressed. "Whoever it was left little trace of their presence. Hax wasn't able to tell me who it was before he passed on. He did recognize whoever it was, though."
Methusael stepped over to loom over Hax's body for a moment, looking down at the fallen fox. "That does not tell me much, captain." he said.
"I know, sir."
Methusael looked the mouse captain up and down again. "I presume that's Hax's blood on your paws." he said, pointing at them.
Moroni glanced down at his stained paws for a brief moment, already seeing what Methusael was getting at. "I was trying to help him, sir." he said. "It was not me who killed him."
"I only have your word on that, captain." Methusael pointed out.
Sister Daisy, who had been wisely keeping quiet up until now, spoke up in Moroni's defense. "He didn't do it!" she exclaimed. "He couldn't have! He was returning from visiting his sick father when he found his lordship on the verge of death! I know, because I was there!"
"A likely story." Methusael said.
"His father is dead now." Sister Daisy continued sternly. "Murder was the very last thing on his mind."
"You don't know that." Methusael said, but he seemed to accept the story. "When did he leave his father's cottage?"
"Just moments before he found Hax, not enough time for him to attack." Sister Daisy said. "I can vouch for him."
"I'm sure you can." Methusael said, then turned to Moroni. "You realize I will have to conduct an investigation regardless, correct?"
"Aye, I do, sir." Moroni said. "I don't blame you for making sure."
Methusael nodded, then glanced at the dagger still stabbed into Hax's body. "What weapon is that?" he asked, pointing with one claw. "To what loyalties do you suppose this attacker was?"
Moroni hesitated, already knowing the answer and not liking it.
"The weapon is Angolian, sir." Moroni finally replied.
Methusael tilted his head. "So Angola is to blame for this unprovoked attack." he determined.
The fox glanced in mild interest at Moroni. "Oh?" he asked.
"There is no motive for an Angolian to do this." Moroni said. "Nor can I think of any creature who would want to do this anyway."
"Do you have a means to disprove that an Angolian did this?"
Moroni hesitated again. "No sir."
"Then until I say otherwise, Angola is to blame. Understand?"
Moroni nodded. "I understand, sir."
Methusael nodded again, and then turned to Hax's body once again, his back to Moroni. He nodded to the guards, who stepped forward to tend to Hax's body. "Thank you captain for your cooperation." he said. "I will take over from here. You may leave, if you wish."
Moroni hesitated. "I would like to be the one to tell her ladyship the bad news." he requested.
"Lady Grinta has already been informed." Methusael said. He turned his head to look back at Moroni. "I will send her your condolences if you wish, however."
Moroni paused, then nodded. "If you could, sir, it would be appreciated." he said. "Good day, sir."
"Good day captain." Methusael said. "We will meet again soon to discuss this matter further."
Moroni nodded one last time, then left, pushing his way through the crowd. Sister Daisy followed him.
"They can't blame this on us, much less you." she muttered as they walked down the snowy street. "There hasn't been any contention between Angola and those foxes at Midnight Castle for untold seasons! We Angolians certainly didn't do it!"
"They can't take sides, Sister Daisy." Moroni reminded her. "They have to look at all the angles. Methusael was doing his job as he should."
"Pinning the blame on us isn't looking at it from all angles." Sister Daisy pointed out. But she sighed. "I suppose, though, there's nothing we can do about that except gripe, is there?"
Moroni was silent for a moment. "We could if we had more freedom." he said calmly.
Sister Daisy glanced at him in shock. "You aren't." she said.
"Well, I haven't decided for certain just yet."
"But you aren't thinking about actually fulfilling your father's last request, are you? Certainly, your father was a good creature but...this is treason we're talking about."
"I know. But I promised him I would at least try, didn't I?"
The view was quite breathtaking. The window made it even more spectacular. It was a large window several feet long, and about half of that distance in height. It was made out of a single piece of transparent crystal, no easy act. No one, not even him, would've even thought it was possible to do without breaking the crystal until a group of traders that passed through Angola some seasons back presented the means of doing it, and were more than willing to build the window. For the right price.
Despite it's cost, he still thought it was worth every cent. The view this window provided never ceased to amaze him. But today, it's beauty was lost on him. He had no will to focus on the view, or much of anything. All he wanted to do was sit there and stay there until he got the gumption to move on, as he eventually would. But it wouldn't be easy.
There was a light knock on the chamber door. His sensitive ears picked it up and analyzed it, determining the most likely creature it belonged to. Deciding who it was fairly quickly, he acknowledged the knocker.
The door opened, and the creature entered, coming to stand beside the desk he faced away from. He had guessed right on who it was. His servant, Mordecai, stood quietly beside the desk for a moment, also looking out the window, before speaking.
"Master Kani." he said. "Master Methusael wishes to speak with you concerning important matters."
"Can't say I'm surprised. Tell him it can wait until later."
"He says it is important, sir. He's not likely to take no for an answer."
"He's going to have to. I don't wish to talk about the matter right now. He should know that."
"When I say important sir, I mean it. It involves Angola."
"I know. What else would it involve? Methusael will still have to wait. I do not wish to speak with him right now."
Mordecai was silent for a moment before he continued speaking.
"With all due respect, sir, Master Methusael is likely to come storming in here if I tell him no."
"Mordecai, my brother is dead. Murdered in cold blood. My mother is very ill. I'm told she isn't getting any better. I am in no mood to discuss anything with anyone right now. I just want to be left alone. To think. To dwell. Please let me do that."
"Very good sir. I shall see to Master Methusael then. If you don't mind, though I will have to post a guard at your door. Perhaps two."
"Fine. Do what you need, just so long I can have some peace."
"Yes sir." a pause. "My condolences for your loss, sir."
"A lot of good that will do me. But thank you anyway."
Mordecai bowed, and then turned and left. He closed the door quietly behind him. Kani sat quietly in his chair, paws clasped together as he looked out the window and pondered today's unexpected and terrible events.
"Why?" he asked himself aloud. "Why would someone kill you, Hax?"