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Prologue: The Solstice of Peace

by Vitora (admin)

It was with the weight of relief that the sun heaved itself over the horizon and smiled down on the thirteen tired faces gathered on the Abbey ramparts.

Abbess Dittany, for all her youth, had shadows of age darkening her face. But the squirrel's step was light as she crossed the invisible line separating the woodlanders behind her from the horde leaders in front of her. She reached to take Gurkin's paw.

"A part o' 'istory," the tattooed stoat said softly, as he clasped both paws over hers.

"Bring the treaty," Forerat Lazuleep snarled to his hulking wildcat attendant. She curtseyed, her whole body jangling with tiny bells, and disappeared with startling grace into the makeshift war-tent set up behind the warlords.

Lazuleep turned back to the Abbess, his lazy eye trying to settle on her. "All are not present. The treaty will be incomplete."

Dittany matched his gaze steadily. "Enough are here, an' th' others were in th' negotiations. They're part o' this, too."

The wildcat returned and handed Lazuleep a large, gold-trimmed swatch of parchment. "Mr. Colley sends his compliments," she said, her green eyes sweeping the company. She leaned closer to Lazuleep, keeping her voice at the perfect level so he would believe it was private. "Don't forget your visions, sir. You were - quite insistent about the way this would end."

Lazuleep stiffened. "That will be all, Liya."

Leaning with wary nonchalance against the battlements, Skipper of Otters tilted his chin at the treaty. "That there piece o' fancipated guff? I ain't makin' no promises me otters won't break it if'n we find out yer 'ordes are where we don't want 'em."

"Skipper," Dittany said, still calm but with an edge of impatience, "you agreed. You know Mossflower needs this."

"Don't mean I 'ave t'like it." The otter gave Lazuleep an especially dark glare.

The rat matched it. "I have as much reason to gut you, Wether Rushtail, as you have to gut me." Skipper stiffened at his real name, and Lazuleep hid a smirk before throwing out his paws, lazy eye roving. "But as progress is our goal, so we cannot allow the Woods to see war."

"Ah've done meh numbers," the burly hedgehog to Dittany's left said, "an' meh grandson'll be old enough teh rip yer spine out when th' treateh's over."

The Abbess's bushy tail swept in front of him before he could continue. "Enough, Corsenette. You want this as bad as the rest o' us." She gathered her habit and stepped into the small circle the warlords had formed, hovering over the treaty. Her voice, crisp as the morning air, carried to the gathered creatures holding their breath below.

"One: there will be no more war in th' borders o' Mossflower between th' signing parties."

"Aye," the Lords of Mossflower said in unison. The warlords echoed with a less enthusiastic response.

"Two: th' territories are t' be split fairly, with an impartial from each side makin' th' rulin's."

"Aye!" This time, the enthusiasm came from the warlords.

"Three: kidnappin', plunderin', an' guerilla warfare are t' be banned."

"Nay!" barked the red-garbed shrew between Corsenette and Skipper, but at the angry looks, Log-a-Log Brome shuffled his footpaws and murmured, "Or not."

"Aye," came the response, slowly, from everybeast.

"And four," Dittany said, raising her voice and smiling now, "henceforth, this night will be known as the Solstice of Peace, and will be celebrated every season with a feast t' remember!"

"Aye!" came the roar of the hundreds of Abbeydwellers and hordebeasts gathered below.

Applause followed the cry, and amidst the cheers of their cohorts, the leaders of Mossflower stood in uneasy silence, wondering who was going to suffer from the peace first.

"If th' Prophet were 'ere, I wonder what she'd say." Jareth grunted as he put the far end of the stage beam to his shoulder, grimacing. "Damn. I'm gettin' old. Where's Maur when you need 'im?"

Skipper rubbed his forehead and scratched the bridge of his nose. "Shhh. Keep it down. Dittany ain't s'posed t' know we're doin' this."

"Y'wanna give us a paw, Da?" Melian, Skipper's half-grown daughter, came padding into sight, three quivers slung over her shoulder. "Or are ye just gonna keep sittin' on yer tail an' thinkin'? It don't become ye." She reached up and tugged on his ear. "Lighten up! We're in th' walls o' Redwall. No warlord is stupid enough t' attack t'night."

Skipper's brow was still furrowed. "Somethin's wrong, otters. Stay alert."