Chapter One Hundred and Twenty-Three

All was quiet at Foxguard.

The Redwall delegation had returned to the Abbey the very same day that they'd seen Doublegate's burning, wanting to be back home in the event that this latest attack presaged a wider war in Mossflower. Some days after that, Saugus had arrived at the fox fortress with the news that Snoga's hostile forces had been destroyed and that the threat to these woodlands was removed. This report broke the tension that had held sway at Foxguard, and Tolar was able to stand down from the high state of alert he'd ordered. Saugus could not say exactly how the True Guosim had been defeated, but with Lord Urthblood's seagulls involved in the assault, the fox Sword was sure that defeat must have been total and overwhelming.

If this victory was encouraging, the owl bore other news that stirred consternation in the hearts of the Badger Lord's Mossflower defenders. The revelation that Urthblood had entered into face-to-face negotiations with the searats - mentioned almost in passing by Saugus - left every fox and mole and otter staring at the winged messenger as if he had grown a second beak. Surely those talks would be scuttled, now that Tratton had helped Snoga attack Doublegate? Saugus did not seem to think so ... which only left the foxes and woodlanders here all the more puzzled.

And left Tolar casting nervous glances at his unfinished outer wall. That such awesome searat weapons had been used so far inland ... If the peace negotiations at Salamandastron broke down, the war would surely continue, perhaps more fiercely than before. Foxguard sat almost right upon the River Moss. Tolar was stricken with visions of an armored enemy ship sailing up from the sea with an entire hold of the explosive compound, and what that weapon might be able to do to Foxguard. The battle with Snoga might be over, but who could say whether worse clashes with their main adversary might not still lie ahead?

Thus it came as a great relief to the swordfox chieftain when, some days after Saugus had departed, his morning lookouts spied a small caravan of logboats crewed by otters heading downriver toward them. Tolar and Lieutenant Rontorka met Saybrook's party at the canal bank, the junior otter officer snapping off a salute to his superior. "Ahoy, Cap'n! What news?"

"News aplenty," Saybrook answered somberly as he and his squad climbed out of their crude vessels up onto the banks. Rontorka couldn't help but notice that the logboats held room for nearly twice the number of otters in Saybrook's present company. "I'll tell ye all about it."

Tolar looked over the disembarking otter platoon with approval. "I see Lord Urthblood sent you to help speed up the construction of our outer wall. Your muscle will be most welcome, Captain."

Saybrook gave Tolar a sour glance. "Nay, we ain't here fer that, matey. Hate t' disappoint you, but we'll not be stayin' long." He turned to Rontorka. "Lieutenant, get all yore squad an' bring 'em here. We got some issues t' discuss."

"What issues?" Tolar asked.

Again, Saybrook looked to the fox askance. "This's otter business, friend, not yours. Fer our ears only."

"I'm the commander of this compound, by Lord Urthblood's decree," Tolar reminded the otter captain with sharp formality.

"This ain't Urthblood business neither, an' we ain't inside yore walls ... so shove off."

Tolar didn't know how to react in the face of such insubordination from a fellow commander, so he gave a forced nod and retreated to the fortress proper while Rontorka's otters gathered with Saybrook's squad down at the side of the canal. What happened after that made him wish he'd been a little more forceful about being allowed to listen in on the otters' conference.

Lieutenant Rontorka sought out the senior fox in the hour before noontide, joining Tolar atop the small finished stretch of the ramparts overlooking the canal. "We're leavin', sir."

Tolar studied the otter. "If Lord Urthblood has reassigned you, I should have been part of your discussion. Explain yourself, Lieutenant."

"Nay, we ain't been reassigned, an' you ain't gotta call me 'tenant, anymore'n I still gotta call you my commander. We're resignin' from Lord Urthblood's service - resignin', an' headin' back home up north. We ain't his soldiers anymore."

Tolar was flabbergasted. "What ... what happened?"

"Urthblood did something he shouldn'ta oughta. We can't serve him anymore in good conscience."

"Why? What did he do?"

"You can ask him that yoreself next time y' see him."

"That's not good enough!"

"It'll hafta t' do." And with that, Rontorka turned his tail on Tolar and strode back down to rejoin his fellow otters at the canal.

By lunchtime, every otter of Urthblood's in Mossflower - all of Saybrook's squad, and all of Rontorka's too - was on the wide river, bound for their home in the Northlands. None would ever set foot in these forestlands again.

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Kothar couldn't believe he'd escaped from the inferno with his life.

Three days before - or had it been four now? - Urthblood's gulls had descended upon the coastal mining camp like an angry bolt out of the blue. In a matter of minutes, every one of the wooden structures was consumed in flames, along with all three vessels lying offshore. Gormillion had perished in his office, and it appeared that Captain Kirkirt and nearly half the crew of the Keelfang had done likewise aboard their ill-fated warship. The survivors were the ones who'd either already been on shore or who'd been able to jump overboard and swim the short distance to the beach. That left Kothar as the ranking rat in charge of the disaster area.

The good news was that the killer seabirds had not swooped down upon the heavily-armed survivors in the confusion to press their assault. The bad news was that the attack had left those who'd lived through it with virtually no provisions or supplies, and no means of transportation to bear them away from this barren and desolate stretch of coastlands. In the end, Kothar had the others round up every scrap of food and drop of drink they could find, and led their ragged procession south.

"What about th' slaves?" one of the mining rats had inquired of the spyrat.

"Leave 'em to rot," Kothar spat in reply. "We'll barely have enough rations to get us far ourselves, much less those worthless lumps of fur. Last thing we need now is extra mouths t' feed!"

And so they'd started out, leaving the mine's woodland laborers chained up in their subterranean cells to waste away in their own good time.

A number of his fellow rats questioned Kothar's choice of escape route, wanting to know why south was any better than north or east. The intelligence officer acted quickly to quell any dissent.

"This attack came from the north. If we go that way, we're as like as not to run inta more of Urthblood's forces. An' east is where we just came from - not only is it a wasteland, but those shrews we attacked might be waitin' for us that way, an' they'll not give us a friendly greeting. If that badger knows enough about what happened at his shrew fort t' have his birds fly down here t' burn us out, then it stands t' reason his forces will be on alert all throughout Mossflower. So, we gotta head south."

"Yeah, but that takes us further from Terramort. How're we s'posed t' get home? Where're we gonna go?"

"King Tratton'll have a ship along here sooner or later. 'Til then, we gotta get to greener lands where we can forage, or where there'll be settlements we can raid."

"Yeah, but we can't go too far south or else we'll be on th' outskirts o' Southsward, an' we'll not be any more welcome there than in Mossflower ... "

"So you'd rather sit here an' starve t' death after our rations run out?"

Kothar's reasoning had sounded good, even to him, when they'd started their trek three or four days before. Now, on the third (or fourth) afternoon of the march, with the unblinking summer sun beating down on them, their provisions depleted and still no sign of hospitable land anywhere in sight, Kothar's decision was starting to look foolhardy.

"I can't understand it," the spyrat muttered. "I thought for sure we'd've hit greener lands 'fore this. We must be almost t' Southsward by now ... "

"Well, we ain't," grumbled another rat named Bisig, a sturdy fighter from Kirkirt's crew. In the last day or so Bisig had become increasingly vocal in his criticism of Kothar, not letting the usual searat fear of Uroza's agents intimidate him. "Now what're we gonna do?"

As the hundred searats stood milling about on the wide, shimmering sands debating their next move, scores of coldly appraising eyes sticking unnoticed up from beneath the sunbaked flats followed their every move.

"You challengin' me, Bisig?" Kothar growled, paw on his sword hilt.

"Sure, why not? Worst that'd happen is I'll die quickly on yer blade 'stead o' slowly by thirst an' hunger! We shoulda knowed better'n t' foller th' lead of a ratfink snitch like you!"

Such words could not go unanswered. Every other rat stepped back to give the two combatants room, knowing that this would be a duel to the death. No eye strayed from Kothar and Bisig.

The sand all around the searats erupted in showers of flying grains and silvergreen scales. Wraithlike figures, moving faster than any hare, rushed the rodents from all sides, deadly curved scimitars and even deadlier rakelike claws flashing in the afternoon sun. Long whipping tails lashed out, knocking rats' legs out from under them. Startled seavermin barely had time to reach for their weapons before they were struck down.

Kothar whirled away from Bisig to face this new threat. Drawing his sword, he just had time to see swivelling chameleon eyes staring out from an emotionless reptile face, only half a moment to hear the hiss of the curved blade that cleaved his head from his shoulders.

In less than a minute, it was all over. A hundred searats lay slain by a third that number of their attackers. The rodents had succeeded, as much by luck as anything, to cut the head off one of their assailants; that decapitated berserker had slain two more searats before succumbing to its own injury.

These furred intruders thus overcome, the victors proceeded to claim the fruits of their triumph.

The next morning, when the Gawtrybe brigade headed by Sergeant Custis tracked the fleeing searats to this spot, his company found that their quarry's footprints ended here in a mess of confused, bloodstained sand. Several of the squirrels scouted forward, but it was clear from the evidence of their eyes that the searats had gone no farther.

"Sir, what in the name of Dark Forest happened here?" one of the returned trackers asked his sergeant, mystified and perplexed by what he had encountered. "The tracks end here, an' we didn't see anymore comin' back north our way. An' there's so much blood ... an' that stench ... "

"I don't know," Custis confessed, no less befuddled than his subordinate. "But I think it's safe to say they're no longer our problem. If there aren't anymore tracks beyond this point, then we can't very well be expected to follow them, can we? Something took care of those searats, and I'm not exactly keen on sticking around to find out what it was. Okay, squirrels! About face and back the way we came! Let's get those mine slaves to Salamandastron!"

The Sleepers in the Sand - their blood not yet warmed to attack heat by the still-rising sun - lay silently watching the Gawtrybe withdraw, content to let this new prey escape unmolested and none the wiser to the presence of such a menace lying beneath their very footpaws.

00000000000

When the Guosim came marching out of the woods toward Redwall's east gate, the Abbey lookouts feared it might be an attack by Snoga. Word had yet to reach them about Urthblood's assault at Castle Marl, or the defection of the Badger Lord's otters, or any of the other momentous events that had recently been unfolding in the lands abroad. The smoke column from Doublegate hadn't even been visible from the Abbey, and everybeast there remained anxious about what was going on beyond their local section of Mossflower.

The confusion over these newcomers' identity was quickly dispelled when Pirkko, spotting his playmate Droge peering over the battlements, began waving and shouting up to the young hedgehog with unbridled enthusiasm, eliciting a similar reaction in return from Droge. Soon every watcher on the walltop joined in the happy ruckus, and the Guosim were hastily admitted into the Abbey by Monty's guards on the east lawns.

Abbot Arlyn and most of the other Abbey leaders were on paw to greet Log-a-Log inside the wallgate. "Well, well," the venerable mouse grinned at his old shrew friend, "we hadn't expected to see you again before autumn! What brings the Guosim back here so early?"

"Well, truth t' tell, Abbot, there was this big ol' lake way south o' here that was just dyin' t' be explored, an' don't think I wasn't tempted! That inland sea coulda kept us wanderin' fer another season, an' that just along her shores! But, uh, there's been a lot goin' on this summer, lots o' which we been party to, an' we figgered t'was only right t' slog our tails back here 'fore anything else, to keep you all abreast of it."

"They must be grave matters indeed, to have brought you back to Redwall with summer only half over. I think I can guess what one or two of them might be, but I'll let you tell these tales in your own way. I see you came through the forest east of here. Did you perchance pass by Foxguard on your way?"

"Aye, Abbot, that we did. Tolar gave us the grand ol' tour of th' place yesterday, tho' I must say I'm kinda glad that wall up atop his impossible tower came up t' my chest! Wouldn'ta wanted any less than that 'tween me an' that long fall t' th' lands below. We Guosim're beasts o' th' water, not birds ner squirrels, an' heights like that leave me feelin' downright mole-ish!"

"Burr hurr," put in Foremole, "oi can serpintly oidenterfoiy wi' that!"

"Did Tolar have any news about Doublegate, or Snoga?" Lady Mina asked over Arlyn's shoulder.

"T'wasn't much we had t' tell each other that we didn't already know - like I said, we Guosim've been in th' thick o' things this season - but that'll come out in th' tellin', I reckon. Don't s'pose any of Urthblood's birds or otters've been by here lately?"

"No," Arlyn answered. "We had some of our Sparra fly out to Foxguard in the days following the attack on Doublegate, but Tolar had not heard anything more about that situation ... at least that he was willing to share with us."

"Hmm. Thought that owl might've had th' decency t' stop by here after he left Foxguard, but I guess Urthblood's creatures follow their own rules o' courtesy. Tolar might've still been in th' dark last our sparrows paid him a visit, but I can assure you he ain't that way anymore ... to his regret."

"Then we are indeed eager to hear your tale," Arlyn said. "And we have some tidings of our own for you - not all of them happy, I'm afraid."

Vanessa, wearing a bright orange dress decorated with purple ribbons that made her look about as unAbbesslike as a creature could be, shouldered her way through the throngs of greeters. She stood there gawking at the Guosim with unabashed curiosity. "Why, look at all the little mousies! Or are they baby rats?"

Log-a-Log looked to Arlyn. "I see whatcher mean, Abbot."

00000000000

The Abbey elders and defenders retired down to Cavern Hole with Log-a-Log to hear his tale over a late lunch of watercress and onion pasties and fresh summer salad.

All sat enraptured by the account of this season's happenings in the south of Mossflower. The revelation that Snoga had allied himself with the searats for his attack on Doublegate elicited grunts of disbelief and mutters of condemnation against the renegade shrew. After the incident with Fryc and Broggen, the Abbeybeasts felt no great love toward Urthblood's shrews in general, but those crass Northlanders were still preferable to Snoga's gang of treacherous, villainous murderers.

That antagonism deepened considerably when Log-a-Log told them of Lorr's death. That bankvole had been as beloved among the Redwallers as with the Guosim, especially the Abbey children, who had never failed to be amused by the eccentric inventor's idiosyncrasies To have lost both Broggen and Lorr in the past season was a sad blow indeed.

Nor was much consolation to be found in Snoga's fate. That the barbaric shrew deserved a bitter end nobeast there would have denied, but the idea of a burning poison gas dropped by seagulls filled the Redwallers with revulsion to match their feelings toward anything Snoga had done. It was almost as if evil had been snuffed out by a greater evil. To have such a terrible weapon unleashed anywhere in Mossflower struck the peaceloving woodlanders as almost intolerable, and Colonel Clewiston made no bones about saying as much, his gravest suspicions about Urthblood seemingly confirmed anew.

Looking to the Abbot, the Long Patrol commander said, "First a slaughter of hares last summer at Salamandastron, an' now a slaughter of shrews usin' diabolical poison vapors! Wot's next - a slaughter of Redwallers?"

"That's not funny, Colonel," Mina said with ill humor.

"Don't reckon it looks like I'm laughing, madam. Abbot, you've gotta sit up an' take notice of this, wot? Urthblood's already proven his untrustworthiness time an' again, an' now he's taken to using weapons so fiendish they make Tratton's boompowder look downright civil!"

"And those weapons were used against an enemy who twice staged unprovoked attacks on Lord Urthblood's garrisons," Mina pounced. "The same enemy, I need hardly remind you, who knowingly assaulted Redwallers and struck down our Abbess, rendering her incapable of performing her duties. And who murdered Lorr, who was just about the most innocent, harmless creature you could ever hope to meet."

"Still doesn't justify what His Bloodiness did to Snoga, or to Hanchett, may seasons preserve that poor mad hare's soul. An' Urthblood's own otters musta felt mighty strongly 'bout him using that poison, if they went an' quit his bally army over it! Glad to know at least some of his woodlanders have a flippin' modicum of sense in their skulls!"

"Yes, that was surprising to hear," agreed Arlyn. "I was given to understand that the otters comprised a major component of Lord Urthblood's fighting forces, especially in battles involving water. However will he cope without them?"

"He sure couldn'ta taken Salamandastron last summer without 'em, or that sleepy stuff they used on us, that's for jolly sure."

"Oh, we could have taken it, believe me, Colonel," Mina begged to differ. "A score of hares holding out against six hundred warriors, led by a beast who knew the mountain inside and out? It would have been a massacre - which is precisely why Lord Urthblood went to such great lengths to prevent that very thing from happening. His compassion is the only reason you're sitting here now."

"Oh, posh! If that's his idea of compassion, I'd sooner choke on a blinkin' eggplant than be in his good graces!"

"After what he did to Snoga," Log-a-Log advised the hare, "y' sure don't wanna be in his bad graces, berlieve you me! An' as fer th' otters, if Tolar's any indication, their defection's bad news fer Urthblood. I could tell those swordfoxes were left shaken by th' thought of an entire species quittin' that badger's ranks an' refusin' to serve 'im anymore."

"Well, at any rate," Mina went on, "at least you can't accuse Lord Urthblood of working secretly with Tratton anymore, if searats helped Snoga attack Doublegate. He views the Searat King as a mortal enemy, and would never cooperate with that murderous tyrant."

"Um, that was the other part I'd not gotten 'round to yet ... " Log-a-Log proceeded to tell the Redwallers about the peace negotiations Urthblood had initiated with Tratton. Mina was no less astounded by this revelation than the others at the table.

"That jolly well puts the cream on the trifle, wot?" Clewiston declared. "Those two are in cahoots, an' now it's in the bally open for all to see!" He settled back in his chair, arms crossed over his chest in vindication.

"Now, Colonel," said Log-a-Log, "I'd not go that far, not by a good stretch. Those two're mortal adversaries, that much came across in what I saw o' their talks. They was talkin' like two sides who were still at war, an' tryin' t' grope their way through to some kind o' peace. I sat in on a lot o' their sessions, an' I can tell ya they were lookin' fer a way t' keep from destroyin' each other, not fer any kinda alliance."

"What was Tratton like?" Geoff inquired, his historian's curiosity getting the better of him.

Log-a-Log shrugged. "Can't say. Never saw 'im. All the negotiatin' was done by 'is Viceroy, rat by th' name o' Korba. For all we ever found out, could be Tratton wasn't even out on that steel ship o' his, just wanted us t' think he was. Things seemed pretty mired down an' close to a deadlock when we hadta go rushin' off t' take care o' Snoga."

"It's all irrelevant now," Mina said dismissively. "If Tratton was playing Lord Urthblood false during these talks, stalling even as he helped Snoga launch the attack against Doublegate, Urthblood would never return to the table after such underpawed treachery."

"I'd not be too sure 'bout that, Mina," the Guosim chieftain told her. "I heard Urthblood say several times, after we found out t'was searats as well as Snoga's shrews who'd attacked his fort, that mebbe they'd acted on their own, without Tratton's say-so. Sounded t' me fer all th' world like that badger was still tryin' t' salvage his summit, an' justify goin' back to th' negotiations once he returned to Salamandastron."

"Did Tolar know anything about whether the talks had resumed?" Alex asked. "It makes sense that Urthblood might use his birds to keep Foxguard informed on matters of such magnitude ... "

"Accordin' t' Tolar, none o' them brushtails even knew 'bout these negotiations 'tween Urthblood an' Tratton 'til that owl filled 'em in."

"That's odd," said Mina. "Even if Tolar's brigade has nothing to do with the defense of the coastlands, he's still one of Lord Urthblood's top commanders, and I can't see why Tolar wouldn't be kept appraised of something so vital as this."

"Yah," Clewiston readily agreed, "makes a chap wonder just wot it is that big brute's up to, wot?"

"We always knew that Urthblood would do as Urthblood will do," Arlyn said with a sigh. "I will not even try to hazard a guess about any of this. Log-a-Log, did you get a sense from his shrews, or from Tolar's foxes, that any of his other beasts might be on the verge of joining the otters in leaving Urthblood's service over this incident with Snoga?"

Log-a-Log thought about this for a few moments, then shook his head. "Nay, his shrews're about as loyal as they come, an' while Cap'n Tardo might've been shocked fer a trice when he first saw that courtyard full o' death on Snoga's island, I think he was glad they met that end, no matter how horrible it was. I gather they'll stick by Urthblood even through these negotiations with th' very searats who helped Snoga attack 'em. His seagulls sure didn't bat an eye at what they'd done, I'll tell ya that. As fer Tolar's foxes, or any o' that badger's other beasts ... " He shrugged again. "Guess they'll each hafta make up their own minds. But y' really hadta be there, t' see it yerself with yer own eyes ... "

"The Gawtrybe will never abandon their alliance with Lord Urthblood," Mina declared. "He's just done too much good in the Northlands for us to even contemplate such a thing, and anyway, there is his prophecy to consider. We may still be in the early stages of this crisis, or it may still be possible to head it off completely. I have no doubt that this is what he hopes to achieve in treating with Tratton, and as for Snoga, that was a threat to the lands that is now removed. If Lord Urthblood resorted to a rather extreme method of dealing with Snoga, I am confident he did what he thought was best, and I am not going to question his judgment in the matter."

"Oh? An' wot if he gets it in his striped head that Redwall's a bally threat to th' lands?" asked Clewiston. "Or his warped 'n' twisted notion of wot th' lands oughta be?"

Mina snorted. "Colonel, sometimes I think your skull is so full of nonsense that it's useless trying to hold a conversation with you."

Arlyn held up both paws before the exchange between hare and squirrel could grow any more heated. "Let's just concede that on the subject of Urthblood, you two agree to disagree. The question now is, what next?"

"What is there for us to do?" asked Alex. "What's done is done. Even though Hanchett and Lorr became involved in these sad affairs, these were for the most part events that took place far from Redwall, deep in lower Mossflower. Snoga will never trouble us again, and as far as Urthblood making peace with Tratton, who's to say it's not a good idea, if it can end a war that's already claimed hundreds of lives on both sides? Tratton never directly threatened Redwall anyway, and now he probably never will. Sounds to me as if we're moving away from a crisis, not toward one."

"Unless he an' Tratton team up against us," Clewiston speculated, eliciting a sharp glare from Mina.

"Or unless this entire deal with Tratton is just a way to put this conflict with the searats on hold while he turns his attention to us," suggested Geoff.

Arlyn turned back to the shrew. "What do you think about this, Log-a-Log? You've shared Urthblood's company more recently than any of the rest of us. Do you deem it possible that he could harbor any ill will or designs against Redwall at all?"

"I honestly didn't see it, Abbot. I think that badger's got his paws - er, paw - so full with so many other things, we're hardly an immediate concern o' his. Then again, if he'd talk peace with searats, who can say what he might do next?"

"And what about you, Log-a-Log? How do you feel about Urthblood yourself after seeing what he did to Snoga?"

"What can I say? Snoga was my rival, an' even if nobeast deserved an end as terrible as he got, Urthblood took care o' him fer me. 'Sides, it looked like Hanchett's paws may've done 'im in 'fore that gas ever got to 'em. An' I can never ferget that I owe Pirkko's freedom to this warrior lord. I swore him th' friendship an' alliance of th' Guosim last summer, an' I'm bound t' aid him if he ever calls on me fer help. He'd hafta do a lot more'n he's done 'fore I'd consider goin' back on that oath."

Arlyn heaved a sigh. "So there we have it. A summer of tragedy and strife, to follow our losses of last spring. I suppose I should get started on some sort of memorial tribute for Lorr and Hanchett. We might not have their bodies to plant in the ground, but we can still hold a ceremony to commemorate them."

"Thank ye, Abbot," said Log-a-Log. "We was all very fond o' Lorr, an' Pirkko's 'specially sick over what happened t' him."

"Yes, thank you, sir," Clewiston echoed. "Hanchett may've disgraced himself with his unharelike behavior, but he was still one of us, don'tcha know, an' he deserves a few parting words of kindness t' send his troubled spirit on its way."

"Do you think you and the Guosim are here to stay for the winter?" Arlyn asked Log-a-Log as they all rose from the table and started to file out of Cavern Hole.

"No, I don't reckon so, Abbot. Still got near half o' summer left, an' we can't sit still in one place 'til next springtide. I just figgered you'd wanna know all 'bout what'd gone on, an' t' hear it from somebeast y' trust who'd been there t' see it fer themself. We'll be off again after th' service."

"I appreciate your detour here to bring us this news. Where do you think you'll go now?"

"Oh, nowheres too far. Certainly not back out to th' coast, much as I'd like t' see how things shake out 'tween Urthblood 'n' Tratton. An' that big lake's gonna hafta wait fer next year's wanderin's. Prob'ly head up north Mossflower just a ways an' poke around there a bit. P'raps we'll even be back in time fer autumn Nameday, fer a change. Why settle fer just two Nameday feasts, when we can enjoy three?" The shrew's jovial tone changed to a more somber one. "Um, you are still plannin' on holdin' next Nameday, ain'tcha?"

"Why wouldn't we?" Arlyn was genuinely surprised at the question.

"Well, I was figgerin' with the Abbess an' all ... "

"Oh, that won't stop us. Winokur and I have already decided to help each other pick a name for the season, and everybeast here is looking forward to a fine feast indeed. As for Vanessa, in her current state I suspect she'd terrorize us our every waking moment if she thought we were going to cancel Nameday, until we relented."

"Any idea if she'll ever get back to her proper wits?" Even though he'd already known about the events at Foxguard, Log-a-Log was still astounded by the complete transformation of Vanessa's personality, just from having spent a few minutes with her before this council. "I mean, what's to become o' her if'n she don't?"

"What's to become of any of us?" Arlyn replied. "She's a Redwaller, and in spite of her rather bizarre affliction, she will continue to receive all the best that we can provide for her. As for what the future holds for her or any of the rest of us, who can say? We shall just have to wait and see, and let these questions be answered for us by the fullness of time. Something tells me we may indeed still have some very interesting times ahead of us."