Quick Disclaimer and Authors' note (because there are two of us). Firstly, we do not own Redwall nor any characters or concepts related to said book series; they are property of Brian Jacques and possibly any publishing companies he's used to get his stories out there.
Quick warning: There will be an endnote system in here to explain some more abstract stuff.
Matthias stood beside a large scroll of parchment, rolled out flat and plastered to the wall to provide a better view of his instruction. Along the left side of the parchment was the runic woodland alphabet – majuscule and miniscule – and along the right side was a series of words, which his pupils were set to copy down.
"Keep writing, young 'uns," Matthias chimed. "I may be a retired Warrior, but I'll be a rat's uncle before I let you walk out of here not knowing your ABCs." For another minute or two, all that was heard was the scribbling of charcoal and the gnawing of claws until Matthias called out, "Alright! Strips down, and let's see that work." A number of groans were heard among the clatter of dropped pieces of charcoal. Matthias smiled and walked between tables, looking at the form and spelling of the creatures' words. "Hmm, quite good form little Bark, but 'nutmeg' is spelt with a u, not an a. Yes, very good Boler. Now, how are the advanced students doing." Matthias made his way to another table occupied by the older children of Redwall. He positively glowed when he saw the work of Lily, a bright young mousemaid. "Ah, Lily, perfect as always. You'd better be careful, or you'll end up taking master Rolo's future as recorder!" The little maid chuckled, sending her sandy fur into ripples.
Martin, son of Mattimeo, sat across from her, gazing heavily into her brilliant red eyes. He wasn't thinking of anything in particular, not even necessarily about her. He was, as children did and do, daydreaming about life of a Warrior. His trance was broken when his grandfather, Matthias, flicked his ear. "Ow!"
"Come on, Martin, let's see what you've got," Matthias said, gesturing to the paper Martin was leaning over.
"Erm…what I've got, sir?" Martin asked uncertainly. "Did the lesson start?"
Martin shrunk under the combination of giggles and Matthias v-shaped scowl. "That's the third lesson, Martin." Martin shrunk even further under the knell of his grandfather's tone.
Matthias sighed and carried on, eventually coming to a stop behind his table. "Alright, young 'uns, you can go. Not you, Martin." Martin stopped as he rose from the table, and met Matthias' stern gaze. "You stay here; I want a word with you."
Martin sat back down, and grinned hopefully at his friends as they filed out to go do their chores and play. Lily gave him a pat on the back, assuring him in her own way that it would be alright. Matthias' stony gaze told Martin otherwise.
When all the others had gone, Matthias beckoned to Martin with a claw. "Come here, Martin." Martin gulped and acceded, walking up to his grandfather's table. A few seconds of silence passed before Matthias broke it. "Three lessons, Martin." The statement hung in the air a few moments. "Three lessons you've wandered off into your own little world and missed everything. Where do you go?"
Martin shrugged. "Sorry, grandfather. I just really want to get out there and be a Warrior. I…I think about the sword dad uses, and I imagine myself with that sword, out there helping woodlanders, beating vermin…all that."
Matthias' visage softened slightly. "Martin, being a Warrior is about more than swinging a sword. You have to be able to think to be a good Warrior; trust your instincts, but also learn to think right."
Martin bristled. "Being a Warrior is all about acting, not thinking. Everybody knows that."
Matthias cocked an eyeridge. "Really? I didn't, yet I was Redwall Warrior for some years."
Martin blinked, puzzled. "Well…not all Warriors are like that I suppose. But that's the Warrior I want to be; I don't want to waste time thinking about things, I just want to do them."
Matthias smiled inwardly, but gave his grandson a stern frown. "You can't just do things, Martin. You have to learn it first."
Now it was Martin's turn to raise an eyeridge. "What? But everything I do, I get it right the first time. Tree-jumping, my chores, everything."
Matthias looked thoughtful. "Yes, you are a talented young one, but not everything may go your way. Seasons forbid, but you may find yourself in a situation like your father or I, having to defend Redwall or beat back a tyrant or something. Your father didn't escape Slagar by action alone, but thought and planning." Martin's eyes sparked at the mention of his father. Matthias huffed; this conversation was going nowhere fast. Maybe Mattimeo would have better luck. "Ah, off with you. Next time you fall asleep in my lesson, though, you'll be washing your parents' robes for a month!" Martin laughed and ran off, his voice carrying down the halls.
Matthias got up and started to collect the parchment and charcoal. Sam Squirrel walked out of the shadows and helped him, saying quietly, "He's a tough nut to crack, isn't he?"
Matthias fumed. "Yes, he is. Can't seem to get it out of his head that being a Warrior's about the fighting."
"Were you all much different before the Late Rose Summer Wars?"
Matthias paused at that. Even Abbot Mortimer had been under the impression that a Warrior was only needed when there was fighting around. "No, I suppose not," Matthias admitted, "but he is taking it to the extreme."
"Maybe," Sam said, "but he'll come around, don't worry. Remember, he hasn't been through what we've been through; we had to learn the hard way."
Matthias nodded. "I hope you're right, Sam, and I hope he doesn't have to learn like us."
It was a beautiful day outside Redwall Abbey. The trees and bushes were peppered with myriad fruits and berries that the Abbey had cultivated. If the fruit wasn't attached to the bush, then it was lying on the ground or in the hands of a hungry young one. Strawberries seemed to be today's favourite; nearly all the young ones not doing chores were lying beneath the shrubs, dipping their strawberries in milk or sugar that had been swiped from the Abbey kitchens.
Lily's plan, of course. She couldn't help but giggle as she remembered Friar Durral's face as he ran after Rollo's chuckling bulk, providing a distraction so that she and some of the others could sneak in and steal the milk and sugar.
What a tasty caper!
Now she and her fellow conspirators sat along the strawberry bushes, watching Martin run through his practices.
Martin's wooden practice sword was a basic affair; a whittled blade with a small crossguard, so as not to interfere with his odd style of practice. Martin's paw gripped the cloth wrapping around the handle in a reverse-grip. Without warning, he lunged forward, driving the butt of the weapon upward to smash the nose of an imaginary foe. Ducking, the little mouse whirled around, disembowelling the shade and bringing his blade up in a deflecting swing. Martin drove the sword downwards through the chest of his second imaginary assailant.
Lily watched the young Warrior-to-be with fascination. Martin was always a rather simple beast; if the rare occasion arose that he didn't understand something right off, he'd pass over it and go on to the next thing. His fighting style was much more complex, however, and Lily found herself unable to make out a reasonable pattern to his swings.
Martin did not see the young mousemaid watching him, nor any of his friends. He was focused entirely on the task at-hand. Up, guard, duck and thrust! Martin withdrew the wooden blade from the fantasy corpse behind him, bringing the blade out from under his armpit and sticking it in the ground.
The world returned to normal as Martin released a pent-up breath. He turned at the sound of a clapping noise, and came face-to-face with Elmtail. The reddish squirrel walked up and patted Martin heartily on the back. "Nicely done, Martin. Haven't seen many a swordswinger like that."
Martin sniggered. "There's only three swordbeasts in this Abbey, Uncle Elmtail, and I'm the only one who swings it like that."
Elmtail simply shrugged and grinned. "Doesn't change it; you're still a good swordsbeast. But something tells me you're not just practicing for the heck of it. What's on your mind, young 'un?"
Martin cocked an eyebrow. "Oh really? What makes you so sure there's anything on my mind at all?"
"Well," Elmtail said. He promptly started counting off claws. "There's the fact that you looked like you were really trying to kill something, that your swings were hard and fast, that you didn't stumble even a little bit, that you couldn't even tell that your friends or I were around to see you…do I need to keep going?" Martin just blushed and shook his head. "Really, you looked like you were trying to let off stress. So what's on your mind?"
"Really, not much," Martin replied, seating himself against Abbey's nearby wall. "Just…I don't see why a Warrior needs to sit down all day and learn about reading and writing and cooking and all that."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, look at you, Elmtail; you never learned to read or write, but you were still a Warrior."
Elmtail frowned at that. "I dunno what you're talking about; I can read and write just fine, thank you."
"But you didn't before Dad and Grand-dad rescued you from Malkariss," Martin pointed out. "Back then you were just—"
"A slave," Elmtail gritted. Seasons forbid the child possess any sensitivity. "Yes, I know. But I wasn't a Warrior then, Martin; I was a lot younger and a lot more bitter. Malkariss took everything from me, even my family. I would have sat through a hundred of your grandfather's lectures if it meant never having to be a slave."
"I'd rather be out there fighting vermin than sitting in there," Martin snipped, jerking his thumb towards the abbey. "What does all this 'history' matter, anyways? Martin's story is a good yarn, but why does it matter what Martin did? I'm me, not him."
"That's true," Elmtail acceded. "But if you think about it, you might find yourself in the same position as Martin or one of the other Redwall Warriors. Then what would you do?"
"Well…I suppose I would do what they did?"
"Which would be easier if you knew what they did," Elmtail pressed. "Sometimes it's better to learn from the mistakes of others than to make the same mistake."
He's right, a voice told Martin. Elmtail was making sense. "Fine," Martin admitted, "So maybe all the history's not such a bad thing. But I still don't see the need for reading and writing."
Elmtail chuckled. "You'll learn that another day; I'm perfectly happy with teaching you one thing a day."
Martin's jaw dropped. "You knew what I was thinking all along, didn't you?"
"Aye, that I did," Elmtail sniggered. "But I couldn't let you know that, could I? You'd think I was just being another mean old nanny tryin' to get your head over your parchment." Elmtail laughed as Martin harrumphed and crossed his arms. "Cheer up, mate; what's say we go and do your tree-jumping practice now? That's a good way to get your mind off things."
"Alright," Martin conceded. Elmtail lay a paw over his back and happily led the young mouse towards the parapet steps.
Martin's father, Mattimeo, was no longer the little mouse that he had been many seasons ago. He had grown a great deal; his defining feature was the physique of his torso. Though shorter than his father had been, Mattimeo was still a fearsome beast. Especially deadly was the great sword that hung sheathed across his hip: the Sword of Martin the Warrior!
Mattimeo fingered the hilt absent-mindedly as he walked through the halls of Redwall. It was a beautiful day outside, and he was just getting ready to go fishing with his father; Abbot Alf was getting far too old to land the graylings that he and the retired Warrior had been famous for, and Mattimeo always did like spending time with his father.
Mattimeo did not, however, like what he was seeing. There, positioned atop the parapet, were the silhouettes of Elmtail and Martin. Mattimeo bit back the instinctual fear that gripped him as he watched his son leap off the parapet with Elmtail, grabbing onto the branch of an apple tree and swinging onto the branches. He'd been doing that for more than a season; though everyone else was perfectly fine with the practice – several even sanctioned it and admired Martin for it – Mattimeo was naturally fearful of watching his son jump from who-knows how many yards in the air. But it was logical. If Martin was to be the next Redwall Warrior, he was to be fit, and though there were other methods of staying in peak physical condition, there weren't many that were as efficient or effective as tree-jumping. The combination of upper- and lower-body use alone was enough to keep the young one in good shape and as agile as…well, as a squirrel!
That didn't make the nut any easier to swallow, though.
Martin laughed as he landed, then nearly dragged a grinning Elmtail back up the parapet steps and to the walltop. Seconds later, they were falling through the air again, disappearing into the foliage only to land crouched on all fours near the roots of a nearby tree.
Lily was less apprehensive of Martin than his father was. Of course, she never thought for a second that she could do that; the heights scared her far too much, and she didn't have a lot of muscle at her young age. But she certainly admired Martin for it. She envied him, too; it looked like such fun to fly through the air and swing on the branches like a squirrel. Then she saw the calluses on his paws and thought better of it.
Martin landed rather roughly during a rapid descent, and rolled through the grass laughing. Lily laughed with him, running up beside him and tickling his sides to prolong his laughter.
"Ahahah, oh stoppit Lily, stoppit!" Martin giggled. "I'm going to lose my lunch!"
Mattimeo harrumphed at the sight when Cheek came up alongside him. "Lose yer bally lunch, wot?" Cheek(1) called out smartly. "I say, you little rascal, don't ye' be losin' none o' yer jolly lunch, eh? Tucker's an important part of growing up, don't'cha know, haha!" Even Mattimeo sniggered; after all these seasons, Cheek's mix of otter slang and hare mannerisms was very difficult to listen to without laughing uproariously. Cheek noticed this and played it up, wrinkling his whiskers. "I say, Matti ol' mousemate, d'you really think you ought to be laughing at me? I am, after all, the Skipper-in-training, and you may just find your bally self dunked in the dipper."
Mattimeo could hold it in no longer. He gripped his sides and sat hard on the ground laughing uncontrollably. Cheek wrinkled his snout in mock indignity. "Jolly mouse-a-things can't hold a shred of respect to save their lives."
"I'm sorry Cheek," Mattimeo apologised between giggles. "Even after – haha – all this time, it's hard to imagine an otter speaking like Basil."
Cheek stiffened slightly, but smiled. "Aye, Basil was a true father to me." Matti stopped laughing; Cheek had abandoned the hare mannerisms. The mouse Warrior blinked a few moments before it clicked: Basil was gone.
Matti stood up. "Oh, I'm sorry Cheek…I wasn't thinking."
Cheek shrugged. "'Snot your problem, matey; and I'm not sad."
"You do miss him, though," Matti said tenderly.
The otter nodded. "Aye, I miss 'im alright. He was a good hare, and a good father. Never woulda learned to eat the way I do now if'n he hadn't raised me."
Matti looked to the sky as if seeking help. "Great seasons, you eat more than Constance, Auma, and Orlando combined! How can you stomach it all?"
Cheek sniggered, returning to his usual hare-otter dialect as he walked off back into the abbey. "My stomach's a jolly big'un, y'see matey. Can't fill it fast enough!"
Mattimeo shook his head and looked back out into the orchard. Seeing Martin and Lily running about reminded him of the reason he was here. Steeling himself, Mattimeo stepped forward and made his way towards Martin.
Martin was laughing raucously as Lily jumped on top of him, pinning his arms to his sides and wrapping his legs up with her tail. "Haha, what are you going to do now, little Warrior? I've got you!"
Martin grinned slyly. "This!" Lily yelped as Martin's tail tickled the inside of her ear, and she jumped off and swatted it away. Martin leapt up and pinned her arms to her sides from behind, cackling wickedly in her ear. "I've got you now, Lily. What are you going to do, eh?"
Lily opened her mouth to reply when Mattimeo cleared his throat, demanding their attention. Martin released Lily, blushing, and said, "Er, hi Dad. Lily and I were just playing, you see, and–" Mattimeo 'ahemed' again, silencing the young mouse.
Mattimeo jerked his head backwards. "Off with you now, Lily. I need to talk to my son in private." Lily nodded and promptly left, a fierce blush staining her cheeks.
Martin, on the other hand, was flushing before his father's stern look. Mattimeo said nothing, only turned and beckoned Martin with his claw. Martin gulped; he didn't like where this was going.
Mattimeo walked slowly, aware that his son was following behind him, probably with his tail between his legs. Good, the older mouse thought severely. He's made one too many mistakes. Finally, they arrived near the pond. Mattimeo sat on the grass with his legs folded, drumming his claws on his knee.
Martin gulped again. His father never sat like that unless he was focusing on something. And, considering he'd just had Martin follow him, Martin didn't think it was anything he'd like.
A few moments passed before Mattimeo said, "Martin, why have you been falling asleep in your grandfather's lectures?"
I knew it, Martin thought. "I haven't been falling asleep, Dad, I've just…erm…"
"Not been paying attention?"
Martin blanched; not seeing his father's expression was probably worse than if he were faced with it. At least then he could figure out how best to say what he needed to. So he said instead, "Yes…I mean, er, no, Dad."
Mattimeo continued to drum his claws. "And why is that?"
"'Cause," Martin said lamely.
"'Because' isn't an answer, Martin. There's always a reason."
Martin's apprehension turned to indignity. "Because I'm going to be a Warrior, and a Warrior doesn't have to know any of that stuff."
Mattimeo shut his eyes and took a deep breath. "Martin, there are many ways you can use what we're teaching you in order to become a Warrior. We'd rather you became a Warrior differently than myself and your grandfather."
Martin blinked. What? "But…father, you don't become a Warrior just by reading or hearing about it. You have to actually do it. And anyways, what does any of that matter; a Warrior doesn't need to know how to read or how to use an abbey-whatsits."(2)
"Abacus," Mattimeo corrected softly. "And it's easier to learn how to use your head than it is to learn how to use your fists. And history is important because –"
"Uncle Elmtail already told me why history was important." Martin cast his eyes about for said squirrel. He needed help to get out of this; his father was so stubborn! But he found nothing. Coward, Matti thought sourly.
"Good." Mattimeo had to take another deep breath; he hated being cut off. "But you need to sit down and learn the other things, too."
"Because I said so."
Martin paused a moment, and then he really got mad. There was that stupid ignorant phrase, 'Because I said so'. "That's not very Warrior-like," Martin said through gritted teeth.
Mattimeo's eyes narrowed, though he did not look at his son. "Oh?" he asked icily. "How not?"
"A Warrior makes their own decisions," Martin retorted. "A Warrior follows his or her heart, only ever doing what is right, never what they're told."
"A Warrior learns discipline," Mattimeo countered. "Be careful Martin; drop the attitude."
That only got Martin angrier. "No. Discipline isn't about following orders, it's about showing respect. But you're not being very tolerant; why do I have to do what you and grandfather did? Why can't I be my own Warrior?"
"Because you're not experienced enough," Mattimeo hissed. "You're still too young to make your own decisions, you need us to guide you. And to guide you, we need you to listen to us and obey."
"'Obey'," Martin grated. He turned on his heel and ran off, near tears.(3) "Go and obey yourself!"
Despite the ineffectiveness of the insult as a whole, Mattimeo's fury did rise at that retort. "Don't you talk to me like that!" he roared, getting up and turning around. He opened his mouth to tell Martin off, but the young mouse was already gone. Jaw trembling in rage, Mattimeo made his way towards the practice circle of the orchard. Ignorant little mouse, the father thought bitterly.
Tess heard it all. Worse yet, she saw it all. And even worse was the fact that Martin ran headlong into her as he ran away from his father. She forced herself to bite down a growl as Martin ran off again; great seasons, they were at it again! Both stubborn, hard-headed beasts, they were. Tess cast a glare at her husband before leaving to find Martin; it was no use talking to Matti now, but maybe she could persuade Martin to reconcile.
Tess' search was unfruitful until she came across Rollo. The bankvole recorder-in-training told her that he saw Martin go down to the cellars. Tess thanked him before going after her son; no doubt he was drowning his sorrows in strawberry cordial(5). He always did that after a fight with his father.
Tess opened the door to the cellar quietly and made her way down. She came to the bottom and was relieved beyond words that the October Ale hadn't been opened; Martin always went for that stuff if he could, but Jube was smart enough to keep it under lock and key at all times.
Then Tess heard a sniff. It was nearly inaudible, and she had to strain her ears before she heard several more. A sympathetic look fell over her face as she set forward. She knew exactly what had to be done.
Matthias stared hard at his son, practicing his own sword forms. It infuriated him, the fact that Mattimeo and Martin kept butting heads like this. And deep down, Matti refused to believe that he and Martin were alike in anything except their ambition to be great Warriors. And yet Matthias couldn't help but notice the fact that they had the exact same habits. Granted, Martin was younger and brasher, and much easier to distract, but Mattimeo wasn't that much different at his age. In fact, Matthias still remembered the many times he had to use the Sword of Martin(4) to command his son's attention. Mattimeo had no such power, however, and that irritated the Warrior.
Martin, Matthias realized, was much freer than Mattimeo was. Matti, as a young child, was content with life in the abbey, regardless of his ambition to be a Warrior. Martin, on the other hand, yearned for travel. He was far from satisfied just settling down in one place, he wanted to be on the move, going places and meeting new people. Most strange, Matthias thought, was the ambition Martin had to travel to Salamandastron. If there was one thing Martin used his reading for, it was for poring over barkcloth scrolls of old Redwall lore.
Mattimeo did not sympathize with his son. And while Matthias sympathized with his, he still knew Matti was far too stubborn and unsympathetic to be a good model.
So it was without regret that Matthias walked up to his son, ducked a sword swing, and grabbed him by the ear. The elder mouse ignored the younger's protests and dragged him to the parapet steps. Releasing his son, Matthias fixed Matti with a gaze that clearly said, 'Sit down or I'll take that sword and chop your tail off.'
Matthias stared hard at his son for a moment. Then he cracked his tail like a whip, making Mattimeo wince. "Where do you get off talking to your son like that," Matthias asked. There was no anger in his voice, which, perhaps, made it all the more fearsome. His face clearly spoke volumes of anger, after all.
And though Mattimeo did not become indignant or angry, neither did he cow down. "What are you on about?" he asked back.
"You ask your son to drop his temper, yet you seem to have little control over your own."
Mattimeo looked askance at his father. "Temper? I never lose my temper!"
"And I suppose you didn't just shout at your son, either?" Matthias said icily.
Matti blinked, but recovered quickly. "Here now, exactly where d'you get off telling me how to raise my son?"
Matthias glared even harder at him. "As a brother of Redwall and next in line for Abbotship, it's my duty to tell my charges when they're behaving irrational. And even more importantly, it's my duty as a father to tell my son when he's behaving in ways I never brought him up to behave in."
"Which is exactly what I did to Martin," Mattimeo countered. "He was neglecting his work, and he has a terrible idea of what being a Warrior is all about."
"Our job is to show him," Matthias said. "Anger and hate only spawn hate and anger, son. You should learn to control your temper and teach him to do the same. You are not fighting a war against him, so your Warrior's passion is useless here. Do you understand?" When no answer was forthcoming, Matthias took a quick swipe at his son's head. Mattimeo yelped as his father's paw struck his ear.
"Yes, father," Mattimeo groused. "But I thought you said you'd never hit me?"
Matthias sniggered. "That was before you grew up into such a stubborn hard-headed beast. Now come on; you and Martin need to talk."
Martin pulled his knees up to his chest as he sniffled. He'd taken up residence behind a large barrel of strawberry cordial, and a mug of it sat beside him. Much as he wanted to, though, Martin couldn't bring himself to drink any of it. Not yet anyways.
Soon enough, though, Martin gave in and raised the mug to his lips. It was such a wonderful drink; so smooth and sweet, Martin couldn't help taking another one. What did his father know about being a Warrior, anyways? He never fought off a tyrant. Sure, he was kidnapped by that fox, Slagar, but he never actually defended anybody. Now Matthias… Yes, Martin thought, his grandfather was a real Warrior.
Matthias had, after all, fought in the Late Rose Summer Wars; he had even defeated Cluny the Scourge in a one-on-one fight! Mattimeo could claim no such thing; he just got dragged along by a nasty fox and whipped a few times. He may have been under hardship, Martin thought, but there was no way he was a Warrior like his grandfather.
Martin's ears perked up as he swallowed a mouthful of the cordial. He could have sworn he'd heard something. Tap. There it was again! Martin listened a few more moments before it hit him; someone else was coming down! He suppressed the urge to groan as he realized who it would be: his mother. She always tried to get Martin and his father to reconcile, but Martin didn't want that right now. All he wanted was the strawberry cordial. Martin hid behind the barrel, praying to the seasons that his mother would neither hear nor see him.
Tess was smarter than that, however. It didn't take her long to find the tampered barrel of strawberry cordial, and to see the mug standing in apparent isolation near the back. With a wry smile, she said, "Come out, Martin; I know you're there." When no answer was forthcoming, she turned away and turned back again.
The mug was gone.
He must think himself very clever, Tess thought with a smile. "Nice try, son. Come out here, or I'll tell Jube you've been messing around with his cordial barrel." She was rewarded with a groan and the dragging of footpaws as a depressed Martin extracted himself from behind the barrel.
"Don't wanna talk," Martin muttered, sitting back down and leaning on his knees.
"Too bad, you little buck," Tess admonished. "You've had a row with your father again, haven't you?" Martin nodded. Tess sat down beside him and pulled him into a one-armed hug. "You're both such stubborn beasts. Why can't you talk instead of yell?"
Martin sniffed before answering. "'Cause, dad don't listen and always thinks he's right."
"You mean 'doesn't listen'," Tess corrected softly. "And what if he is right?"
A throaty gurgle escaped Martin's gullet. "Bad way o' showing it. Never says why he's right, only that he's right, and…Mum, he wants me to do something just because I'm told."
"You know you should," Tess replied, pulling the mug away from his claws. "We are your parents, after all, and you have to trust us to know what's best for you."
"But it makes no sense," Martin said, slamming his fist on the ground. "What in Dark Forest is so wrong about explaining things to me? Don't you want me to get smart? I'm not going to do that if all I'm ever told is that 'just because' excuse!"
Tess stood up and looked straight down at Martin. "How can we expect you to learn a decent sense of trust if we don't tell you that?" Martin looked up at her, completely nonplussed. "If we tell you everything, then you won't learn that you can trust people. You don't have to understand everything Martin; sometimes you have to trust people. Remember when Elmtail first taught you how to jump?" Martin nodded. "You knew he wouldn't let you fall, right?"
"Of course I did," Martin replied with a wave. "He's…family…oh." Martin looked sheepishly down at his feet. "I understand, mum."
"Good, then you'll come and apologise to your father." Tess' smug look did nothing to reduce Martin's indignity. Why'd he have to apologise? It was his father who got nasty with him! But when Martin saw his mother's face turn stern, he simply muttered, "Yes, mum," and got up to go see his father. Tess followed behind, looking smug as ever in her conquest.
The road through Mossflower was everything but overgrown. Ferns and shrubs dominated the pathway borders, and several ivies and other flora snaked over it.
This did nothing to deter the two travelers making their way along the path, though. Indeed, the cat and crow seemed to enjoy the way nature permeated everything around them. The cat even stooped low and picked up several flowers; when he built up enough, he'd let out a cry of ecstasy and throw them in the air, chiming a little ditty as they fell all over a mock-irate crow.
"D'ye have to go throwin' yer little petals aboot, thar Mic?" the crow grated. Age tempered the crow's voice, reflected in the dullness of his down, and seemed positively plastered on the red scarf that draped around his shoulders. He waddled along the path slowly, covering his bespectacled head as the flowers came falling about. "Gah, great seasons lad, yer getting' flo'ers in me down!"
The cat simply gave him a playfully evil smirk. "Aye, old timer, and I'd say ye could use them. Have ye smelled yourself lately? Good grief, you're smellier than a wet streamdog! Flowers'll do ya good! Maybe that lot from Redwall will be so kind as to give you a nice lavender bath."(6).
Derision was plain on Angus' face as he snorted. He gave a little hop-cum-flap and landed in front of Mic, pecking the cat's side. "Be silent ye disrespectful li'l toad! Unlike you, - caw! - I respect Redwall for its history! Do ye un'erstan' what that – agghcaw! – abbey has been through?"
"No less than you, you old fowl." Adding a juvenile smirk for emphasis, Mic said, "Which isn't saying much, really."
"Hmph. At least I want to learn a li'l bit about the place. All you want to do is go there and sing your songs and prance aboot the abbey like a madbeast."
Mic threw his paws up in mock-shock and ran past the elder crow. "Why how could ye say such a thing, mate? I would never go there simply for that! I also wish to dazzle them with my brilliant talents!"
Despite the antics of the two, neither of them could deny the fact that they needed a place to rest. The squabble was simply fun and games for them; they didn't even stop even when they reached the great abbey doors.
"You knock," Mic told the bird, staring up at the massive wooden doors.
"Caw! Nae lad, ye knock!"
"Ye! Agh, this is – caw! – getting us nowhere. Why don't we both do it at the same time, young 'un? Meet in the – caw! – middle, aye? Ye knock and I'll crow at the same time."
Mic glared at the crow suspiciously. "Alright, crow, but I'm watchin' ye." Without further ado, the pair walked up to the door, straightening their apparel accordingly. But when Mic knocked, Angus just hopped backwards and let it happen. Mic blinked for a moment afterwards, then snarled. "You cracked bird, you didn't crow!"
Angus merely smirked triumphantly. "Ah, even after all this time, ye're still so easy, hehehe."
Martin and Mattimeo stood stock still in Cavern Hole, where they met. Awkward was the understatement of the season for what the father and son were feeling. Exasperation was a little more accurate, however, for Matthias and Tess.
"Would you two get it over with already," Tess growled. "The longer you wait, the worse it gets!"
Martin only shuffled in response, causing Matthias to huff audibly. "Would you just apologise already? You're making it worse on all of us."
"You didn't have to be here," Matti snapped at his father. Matthias merely narrowed his eyes at his son.
Martin was in no less comfortable of an environment. If anything, he felt more awkward than his father; he was the one who stormed off, but…how did that show that his father was right? The anger started to well up again, but Martin forced it back down; anger wasn't going to help here. So, before anything else happened that he would regret, Martin opened his mouth and said, "I'm sorry, dad, for running off like that, and I'll make sure to work harder in grandfather's lectures."
Mattimeo looked down at his son. Matthias did as well, though did so beaming with pride. The young one had managed to put his pride on the mantle and apologise, something that Mattimeo was still struggling with. We have to be careful, the elder Warrior thought, or Martin will grow up faster than his father.
Mattimeo crossed his arms and heaved a sigh. "Aye, I hope so Martin. And I'm sorry as well; I shouldn't be so quick to my temper." With a wry smile, Mattimeo beckoned to his son and drew him into a soft hug.
"Think this will make a difference in the long run?" Tess whispered to Matthias.
Matthias smiled wanly with his reply. "Not bloody likely. Those two will butt heads again, and probably soon."
Mattimeo glared at his father and opened his mouth, intent on giving his father the verbal what-for for trying to ruin this moment. Before he could utter a syllable, however, a loud knock sounded at the door. Mattimeo released his son and cocked an ear. There it was again; he hadn't just been imagining it.
Matthias tapped his paw on the ground. "Oh great seasons, who could that be? They were having a perfect portrait-moment, and somebeast ruins it by knocking on the door?"
Martin rolled his eyes at his grandfather. "Please; as if you didn't do that well enough."
Mattimeo huffed and placed his paws akimbo in mock-frustration. "Well, acorns to apricots, I suppose we'd better go and let them in, shouldn't we young 'un? Mind whacking them on the head with that wooden sword of yours? Knock some sense into 'em, eh?" Martin just sniggered and shook his head. With a wave of his paw and a quick farewell, Martin left the group. Perhaps he could get Orlando to practice with him while his father busied himself with the door…
Mattimeo watched his son leave, then turned at the sound of another knock. "Come on you old sod," Mattimeo called over his shoulder to Matthias. "You're still the acting gatekeeper; I'm just your protection."
Keeping pace, Matthias gave a wave of his paw and returned playfully, "Oh yes, because a withered old goat like me does need a great strong warrior such as yourself to keep him safe. Even if I did beat Orlando the other day in a demonstration, who knows how big the creature behind that gate is? A real monster, I bet!"
Mic knocked again and huffed. "Blackmane's whiskers, what does it take to rouse these mice? Probably all laying about in their habits, but I'll be blowed if I didn't knock loud enough to wake a hibernating badger!"
Angus pecked the cat's side sharply. "Caw! Be silent, you young rip. Show some – ackaw! – respect fer these mice; they'll be hostin' ye till we set off agin."
Mic rolled his eyes and folded his arms. Thirty seconds…a minute…two minutes… Mic growled in frustration. "Exactly how long does it take to cross a bloody building and –"Mic's rant was cut short as the massive gate was pulled inwards. He blinked confusedly, but Angus had no such issues. As he hop-walked over to the gate, he gave Mic a quick jab on the base of his tail. Mic yelped and jumped up, growling at the crow. "Hey, ye daft bird; you didn't have to go and do that now, did you?"
Angus sniggered as he walked through the door. "No, pro'a'lly, not, but I have to have some way of disciplining you." Mic snorted audibly as he followed the crow in.
The first thing the cat noticed was the unbelievable thickness of the walls. Angus had told him some of Redwall's history, and Micaelo found himself wondering how in Hellgates anybody could even imagine breaking through those walls. It was unthinkable.
The second thing he noticed was the immense area that Redwall covered. An entire orchard, a field for wheat and grain, even a pond for fishing and a massive vegetable garden! Redwall was beautiful in its grandiose simplicity.
The third and fourth things he noticed came when he looked down: two mice, one garbed in a worn green habit and the other in basic leather padding. The fifth thing that stared Mic in the eye was the deadly-looking sword strapped to the padded mouse's waist.
Matthias couldn't help but raise his eyebrows at the black cat. He was huge! Monster may have been an appropriate term; he was not quite as large as Orlando, but so well-built and lithe that the Elder Warrior(7) felt oddly out of shape. Mattimeo, on the other hand, had his eyes on the crow. Since his return from Malkariss, he had become wary of crows and other large birds that would venture near Redwall. While the tale of Ironbeak was entertaining, it was also true, and being the guardian of Redwall, Mattimeo could afford no risks.
Yet again, however, he was prevented from speaking as the black cat made an elegant leg and swept his feathered hat in a low bow. "Greetings, my magnificently miniscule mice. I am Micaelo Sanjiovanno, il Cantante of Oaken Fort, Performer Extraordinaire, and Schermitore Straordinario; but you can call me Mic. How do you do?"
Matthias was impressed by the manner of the cat, if a bit puzzled by the foreign terms. In fact, he had taken a shine to the cat already. With a smile, Matthias reached up and shook Mic's paw warmly. "Quite well, my friend. And who is your companion?"
Mic grinned inwardly. With a dismissive shrug, he jerked his thumb-claw over his shoulder and said, "Oh him? Oh, that's just Angus."
Angus puffed up indignantly. "'Jes' Angus' indeed!" Angus cleared his throat and said. "I am Angus, also – caw! – from Oaken Fort, but much less of a show-off than this great fuzzball. I be a scholar, and I prefer studying – crackakaw! – history to runnin' aboot singin' nonsensical ditties like this great hairball."
Matthias patted the crow on the shoulder. "Oh, you like history, do you? Well, my friend, you've come to the right place; Redwall is absolutely flooded with history."
"Craw! Indeed, mouse; I know much of Redwall's history from travellers who've stopped here and carried on their way. But I'm afraid we dinnae know yer names. Who do we have the pleasure o' meeting?"
"Oh, forgive us," Matthias said. "My name is Matthias, Elder Warrior of Redwall. This is Mattimeo, my son and current Abbey Warrior."
Mattimeo inclined his head and shook Mic's paw. "Greetings, friends. What brings you to our Abbey at this time of year, anyways?"
"Well," Mic said, exaggerating a thoughtful look. "We heard…oh what was it…oh yes, that there was a great celebration here in Redwall. And being a bard, of course, I just couldnae resist the urge to offer my services. All I ask is the opportunity to sit with you at the table. I can do anythin' ye like; watch the young 'uns, help set up for the celebration, and any other sort of help ye'd need."
Mattimeo nodded thoughtfully. "We could use extra paws, and I'm certain that everyone would love a bard. We only have one condition: that you leave your sword in the gatehouse while you stay."
Instinctively, Mic's paw shot to the rapier at his side. He shook his head sadly. "I'm sorry, sir, but I cannae give up my sword to anybeast. It was given to me by someone…very close to me, and I am reluctant to give it to anybeast."
Angus gazed back and forth between the young mouse and Micaelo. The silence was hardening; there would be an argument if either began to get overly defensive. "Well I – caw! – have an idea, then; a compromise. Would it be acceptable, Matthias, if Mic left his blade in his own quarters? He would not take it anywhere outside, and it would not have to be given to anybeast."
Matthias scratched his chin. "Hmm…I suppose that would be acceptable, but you must leave it in that room at all times, Mic."
Mic closed his eyes and thought a moment. How could he give up his sword? But he wasn't really giving it up, he reasoned; he was simply placing it where it would be kept safely and where nobeast but he would go. Reluctantly, Mic nodded. "Alright, Warrior, we're agreed; I will take my sword nowhere except my room."
With a clap of the paws, Matthias said, "Well, now that that business is settled, come my friends. I'm sure you must be weary after your journey, and I believe that supper is soon to be served. You had better get your paws on something fast, too; Cheek Stag Otter will probably eat half of what's there and thensome if you let him."
Martin suppressed a laugh from his position hanging by a wall over Cavern Hole. Lily would never find him here! She never was a good climber.
Martin yelped as paws gripped his waist and he was pulled down onto a table. Maybe she had improved.
Martin imitated struggling against Lily, allowing the mousemaid to pin his arms behind him and hold him chest-down against the stones. His mouth half-covered by a piece of his clothing, he mumbled, "Ummf, yur got ee ily! An you git off now; can' breev!"
Lily laughed and pulled him up. "Oh really?" she whispered. "And why is that?" Martin felt the heat rise around his cheeks in a blush, which only deepened as he saw his father and Matthias walk in with two guests. Seasons, why did his father have to walk in on EVERYTHING?
Lily saw them as well, and hurriedly released her captive, feigning a conversation. "So you never did tell me why you train so much?"
Martin, not catching on, was flabbergasted. "What? What are you talking about? I've told you before! And where'd this come from any – oof!" Lily punched him in the gut and sent him a look. "Erm…sorry."
"Ah, young love," Angus cooed. "Don't they look lovely t'gether, Mic?"
"Oh yes, Angus," Mic replied, imitating the mannerisms of a hare. He gave a flick of his tail as he grinned. "I say, they look splendid together. Why, if they were older, you'd think them jolly married!"
Martin shifted uncomfortably, a movement his father mirrored. Matthias merely smiled knowingly, and waved them off. "Come now, off with you two. Get ready for dinner; wash your paws and all that."
Lily bowed. "Yes sir. Come on, Martin; let's get to the pond." When Martin did not reply, the mousemaid turned around and beckoned to him. "Martin? Come on!"
Martin's gaze, however, was transfixed on the thin sharp blade strapped to the waist of the retreating cat. When Lily started to tug him by the wrist, he allowed her to lead him away. He could not, however, dislodge the idea which had embedded itself in his head:
That cat was a warrior!
Jon: Oh my, Matthias has certainly aged well. Even in his older years, he's still a force to be reckoned with. A bit batty, too; thought a lot over that, I did. I wanted to keep his previous nature, but still make him seem older. I think making him slightly irritable has done that quite nicely, don't you Feebs?
Feebs: We also apologise for making a cat and crow into good guys. It's one of several with the 'woodlander good, vermin bad' canon because we felt it was unfair. Cats DO rule, after all.
Jon: Aye, but not especially; birds have been known to be good (Warbeak and Stryke Redkite to name two) and cats are just as malleable (Gingivere and Julian, for example). Besides, Blind Shot is on the bad side, and he's a woodlander.
Feebs: We'd also like to warn you that this story might sound a little like the first Redwall book. It's a 'siege' book, but we're taking it a step further. We're taking a new direction with this =)
Jon: Yes, and one of those directions involves CHARACTER DEATH! So if you don't like character death, then stop here; I guarantee that later chapters will have much of it.
Feebs: And a bit of…er…wanton violence. This IS war, after all.
Jon: Indeed. There is a reason this story is rated K-plus. But enough of that; onto other notes. You have anything more to add, Phoebe, or shall we send our readers on their way?
Feebs: Yes, one last thing: I don't want to see anyone complain about rapiers not being worthy swords! It's not what sword you use, it's how you use it! And CATS RULE!
Jon: …Indeed. Though I would argue that squirrels can kick cats' asses from Redwall to Noonvale and back ;D
Feebs: Oh hush up; Redwall's so full of cool squirrels they're not that impressive anymore. But a bad-ass cat? That's new!
Jon: Fine, fine. One last little thing to do: Shout-outs! Feebs? Ladies first ;D
Feebs: Uhm…I don't have much of a shout-out to do…except, if you happen to be a DMC fan, go read my fics! I'm ElvenAngelMayCry! I've also got an art page on DeviantArt: ElvenAngel.
Jon: Bah humbug D= Self-promotion. Have you no shame?
Feebs: No, I just haven't got anyone else to mention…
Jon: Fine…my shout-outs then! I recommend reading anything by warrior4 or Keleiah; they are both fantastic writers and deserve your praise! Warrior of Redwall by Scyphi is also a wonderful read; a bit long, but well worth your time. I also recommend reading anything by the following authors: inuficcrzy, GirlyGeek, KLCTheBookworm, and myself, Hera Ledro, of course (if only so you can tell me where I'm going wrong in my writing and how to improve it).
Feebs: WAIT!!! I have one last one! Go see How to Train Your Dragon! There, I'm done.
Jon: Alright then, read and review…erm…readers and reviewers! Till then, may the seasons grace your orchards a plenty and the winds fill your sails with the smell o' roses.
1 – I say, do you know how hard it is to mix the bally hare and otter dialects, wot wot? It is rather challenging, you see, since streamdog slang and hare propriety are rather converse to each other. So do forgive us if we tarry on with a few mistakes here, that's a good chappy. It's a rather difficult thing to pull off, don't'cha know. (Oh, and if you don't know who Cheek is, he's the adopted son of Basil from Mattimeo).
2 – Martin will seem rather intellectual now, as opposed to his normal nature of just being a kid. The reason for this is that he was described in Pearls of Lutra as being a spectacularly wise Warrior. We thought this was ridiculous without an explanation, so we're instead making this a bit more plausible by making him inherently quick with his mind, but also very naïve and stubborn. It's quite common to have some very quick children in our world, so we don't see why that principle shouldn't extend to the world of Redwall. In any case, this is an attempt to de-Sue-ify Martin.
3 – This can be read in many ways. It could be a mood swing, since it's rare that a young boy can go straight from bottled anger into tears, and Martin is getting to that age. This is what we would like to think, but you are more than welcome to make your own interpretations.
4 – As much as we loved Abbot Mortimer, we refuse to call the Sword of Martin "Ratdeath". So fracking cliché and just…don't ask. Ratdeath is a bad name for a sword. To quote Saphira from the book Brisingr, "Inventing random names is easy. Inventing the right name, however, can try the patience of [anyone]." Yeah, it's changed towards the end, but there are no elves in the world of Redwall!
5 – No, neither of us have this same problem, but let's face it, when you get into a big fight with someone you love, you need some comfort food. And it's not alcohol, right? So no biggy, not really anyways.
6 – It's actually quite difficult to transcribe the accent necessary here. For Mic's voice, imagine David Tennant speaking; that slight Scot accent is exactly what Mic speaks in.
7 – Yes, this is a reference to Legend of Luke, where we discover that Martin's grandfather was named Martin, the Elder Warrior. By this logic, Martin the Warrior is really Martin II, and our Martin is Martin III, but we don't really care; either way serves our purposes, and the method we're using is canon (i.e. it's the way Jacques did it).