'Fine, fine, I know the last time I sent you to Redwall it didn't really go as planned, but this time, its really quite simple. There seem to be a very small vermin band, about a score of them, hanging around the area. Its your job to get rid of them. Get that?'
There was a chorus of 'yes marm's coming from the 10 hare patrol, Vale and Galedeep had been replaced by Fleetpaw and Stargaze.
'Fine. All but Captain Daleria and Major Clandestine are dismissed.'
Curiously looking at one another, the major and the captain stayed behind as the rest of the patrol smartly saluted and shuffled out of the forge. They had been close friends ever since the end of the escapade with Vaxial and his vermin scum. They were constantly seen together, and when they fought together as a team, they were nearly unstoppable. Daleria often sacrificed going out alone to fight openly with her fencing sabre, as much as she favoured the freedom of fighting soley, the captain restrained herself enough to cover the major's back as much as Clandestine covered hers as well. To be truthful, Clandestine and Daleria fought as if there were no difference between openly fighting or covering each other. Most of the time, all their opponents saw was a swipe of a rapier of a sabre before sweet blackness took over. They worked near seamlessly together. They shrugged and resumed the at attention stance.
The badger lady sighed and turned slowly around.
'At ease, both of you.'
Sitting down on a ledge next to the window, and looked out. Her eyes glazed over as a faraway look entered her brown eyes. Sighing, she continued to talk.
'I felt it best to keep this from you until now, when I feel you will be able to take it the best.'
Immediately, Daleria's eyebrows shot up.
Consellariel stood up, and gently placed her paws onto both the major and the captain's necks. She withdrew a small silver necklace from under their tunics. The major gasped aloud.
'But marm! How did you know? Why does Daleria have one? What's going on?'
Both the necklaces were silver, and an exact half of a dark blue sapphire encased in both. The major never knew how it she had got it; it had always been there. Daleria, on the other hand, knew exactly where she had got it, and what it meant. Softly, she gushed.
'Marm… Surely not? They were all there with me! I saw it, before my own eyes, every single one!'
The major was starting to lose track of things.
'Who was where? What is this? Marm!'
The badger lady sighed.
'Clandestine, as a babe, you were sent to Salamandastron, to be reared up without any knowledge of your past. It is not like you thought; your parents never were Salamandastron hares. The hare who sent you here was Daleria's mother. Your mother. Daleria is your sister.'
It hit Clandestine like a massive boulder crashing down. Staring at Daleria, staring back at Consellariel, then shifting her gaze back to Daleria, she said,
'You heard me well enough, major.'
'Yes she is.'
Daleria was equally as shocked, but seemed to be taking the news in her stride. With all that happened in the past few seasons, nothing really surprised her any more. However, Daleria was stilled badly affected by it, blinking in astonishment at the badger lady. Seeing the two shocked faces, Consellariel waved her paw and dismissed them.
'Dismissed, both of you. Major, take your patrol out in two days. That will be all.'
Saluting as smartly as the situation would allow, the two walked out of the forge and into Daleria's dormitory room, which was nearest. They were both silent, contemplating was had just gone on, trying to figure out what was going on in a rational manner.
Daleria fingered her necklace, gazing at the dark blue sapphire intently.
'Well I guess that this isn't the only thing I've got left anymore…'
The major nodded, agreeing.
'I suppose that this is an interesting turn of events, wot?'
'I guess so… I don't really know what to say… Somehow or another, I think that I was expecting this…'
The major turned to the passive captain, raising an eyebrow questioningly.
Nodding silently, she went on.
'I don't know… There just seemed to be some kind of… Feeling. It is something I cannot explain…'
Nodding her head, the major got up, walking down to the mess hall, happy, and still rather shell shocked by the news.
By the time they had managed to actually get to the mess hall and sit down, nearly a half hour had passed since the rest of the patrol was dismissed. Everybeast was curious. Sergeant Longrunn was now a very close friend of Daleria now, after the many times he had to stop her from running off after Vaxial.
After all had been explained, the rest of the patrol was gaping. The lieutenant was stunned.
'You're her bally sister? Are you joking wot?'
'Not at all.'
'Well this is jolly strange wot'
The major got back to business, even through the emotional chaos.
'You few better get ready for the patrol, wot. We're moving out in two days.'
They finished up they're food and went back up to their dormitories to prepare for the trip ahead. A trip near to Redwall was always a taxing time, seeing that the peaceful creatures depended heavily on them for protection. It was no happy field trip by far.
On the way up to her dormitory, Daleria bumped into the Colonel. Since old Colonel Galde had died, the captain Rapieratce had taken over. Coming to attention, she saluted the officer. He smiled.
'I've head the good news, Captain, congratulations.'
'Thank you sah!'
'Very well, stand easy young un.'
With that, he went back down to the mess hall. Daleria completed her day with an immense feeling of joy in her heart. She had never felt this happy for seasons!
Two Days On
Major Clandestine's patrol padded silently through Mossflower woods in the dead of the night. Sergeant Longrunn had spotted the vermin; they appeared to be all foxes.
The Major in the lead, they stalked the foxes quietly, watching their every move and step. The major suddenly stopped and held up 3 fingers. Putting one down, everybeast in her patrol withdrew their blades, putting down one more, they got ready to charge, putting the final finger down, they charged, calling out the time honoured war cry of Salamandastron hares.
'EULALIA! TIS DEATH ON THE WIND!'
These foxes, however, seemed to be sword foxes. Deadly sword foxes. Daleria grinned. Swordplay was one of her stronger points. It was not the major's, however. Daleria could see that her sister was having immense difficulty with the experienced swordfoxes.
After taking out another fox with a vicious swipe of her blade, Daleria made her way to Major Clandestine. But it was far too late. The major went down by a stab through her heart. An immediate sick feeling swept over Daleria. Even in the heat of battle she stopped. But only for a moment. The feeling was immediately replaced with that of great outrage. She fought like she had never fought before, swiping, stabbing and slashing. The remaining six swordfoxes fled. Daleria dropped to the major's side. She was clearly dead. Once again, Daleria felt the feeling of loneliness come upon her. And she wept. Why did fate take away everything dear to her? Was it impossible, for once, just once, to have something that she could hold on to?
The sergeant and the rest of the patrol came over. The sergeant put a paw on her shoulder and tried to get her to stop
Not a word came from her. Instead, his paw was roughly pushed away, and the look she gave him was more venomous than any he had ever received. Longrunn slowly backed away.
No matter how hard they tried, none of the patrol could get the grief stricken Daleria away from Clandestine's side, nor could they get her to utter a single word. It was getting to be too much for the young hare. All her family, her whole family, had been murdered in cold blood before her own eyes, relentlessly torn away from her, and there was nothing she could do anymore.
So they had given up for the moment, and cleared away the dead foxes. Every otherbeast was fine, so they set up a fire and decided to pitch camp for the remainder of the night.
Fleetpaw whispered to the sergeant.
'I say sah, wots wrong with old Daleria?'
'She had a bally sad childhood. Family murdered in front of her by that flippin scum Vaxial. The major was all she had, until now. She's lost it all over again.'
'Is she ever going to stop weeping?'
'I don't know, Fleetpaw, I don't know.'
After a further week of travelling, they had made the trip back to Salamandastron.
During that whole time, Daleria hadn't spoken a single word. Her eyes were like stone, and her face like a blank sheet. She had laid her sister to death, facing Salamandastron, and the rest of the patrol had to literally peel her away from the place. How they had managed to do so was quite incredible. Daleria was no longer the cheerful and helpful hare she once was. She was now quick to lose her temper, and very fierce and unpredictable. No one liked to be around her when she flared up.
On her way up to the forge room to report, every hare she passed stopped in their tracks. They could not believe what Daleria had become in the short pace of two weeks. And where was Major Clandestine?
Knocking at the forge door, she entered. Her expression was as blank as it ever was, and the minute Lady Consellariel saw her face, she knew something was wrong.
No answer. Daleria's face was as hard as stone, but at the same time, tears streamed down her face, soaking her fur and dropping to the forge floor. Weakly, the badger lady asked,
All Daleria could do was nod. She could not bring herself to do anything else.
Taking up the at ease potion, Daleria tried to stop the flow of tears, but failed miserably.
'What happened? The vermin?'
Daleria nodded again, not a word escaping her lips. Consellariel shook her head sadly at her.
'Daleria, I don't want to sound disrespectful, but truly. You will have to get over this. What has happened, happened, and you have friends around you that are willing to help you through this.'
By then Daleria was shaking violently. Consellariel was seriously concerned.
'Sit down. I'll get Taremin.'
As the badger lady walked out of the room, Daleria stumbled over to a chair and literally collapsed into it. What had happened was almost too much for her to bear. A single thought about Clandestine sent her breaking down. The world had crashed onto her shoulders, and words had little meaning to her any more.
Lady Consellariel had returned with Taremin, the mountain's best medic, at her side. The hare set to work examining Daleria, who didn't move nor say a word. Finally, she finished.
'What's wrong with her?'
Sighing, the hare medic straightened up, looking grave.
'That's the problem marm. I don't know. I simply think it's grief.'
'I hoped it wouldn't be. Very well Taremin, dismissed.'
Sighing deeply, the badger lady turned her attention to Daleria.
'Daleria, just because you aren't talking, I realize that you can still work well enough. I am still putting you on your normal drills and sentries. I seriously hope you snap out of this. I don't want to pressurize you after your sister's death, but I want you to realize that life must go on. Don't think that I don't care about the major's death; I just want you to stop grieving. Clandestine's memory will live on in your heart forever, that you must remember. Dismissed.'
Still shivering, Daleria gave a shaky salute and stumbled out of the forge on weak paws. Dashing into her dormitory, she collapsed onto her bed. Slowly, she took off the silver necklace that hung around her neck. That was all she had now. She shuddered violently. Why? That question echoed through her head again and again and again.
'Well I guess this isn't the only
thing I've got left anymore.'
How wrong was she. Her head hadn't stopped pounding, her heart hadn't stopped aching. Her world was upside down, and she was totally at lost. She knew she had to pick up the pieces and move on, but where were the pieces? How would she glue her life back together again? No one was there to help her. Clandestine had been her best friend ever since she had stepped into Salamandastron so many seasons ago, looking for revenge over Vaxial. Life was spinning round so fast, and she could not keep up. Lying back down, she remembered that she had to go back down into the mess hall for dinner. Life was getting worse by the day.
She did every thing without saying a single word, not a mutter escaped her lips. They had lost all meaning to her, and near everything had turned monotonous in her opinion. What were the use of sounds that meant nothing?
Getting up from her bed, she reluctantly made her move towards the mess hall. Food was the last thing on her mind. She moved her way through the mass of hares and seated herself down in the midst of the rest of the late Major Clandestine's patrol. Now that her sister was gone, she should have taken on the leading role, as she was the next highest-ranking hare in the patrol. She knew than the Lady would insist on her taking the position, so she had little choice. She pushed the food around her plate, and only the concerned looks from Sergeant Longrunn and the rest of the patrol forced her to eat. She felt so bad, she didn't know if her stomach would accept the food. She couldn't even eat half of the contents of her plate, which contained wild rice and some vegetables. Usually she loved that dish, but the food turned into bitter sand in her mouth, gritty and uneven.
She ended up giving up and retreating to her dormitory until the drill practices later that day.
It was sword drilling that day. It was usually her favourite practice, and everybeast knew she went easy with them, as she could easily disarm any one of them in no time at all. She got paired up with a veteran called Greamal. Daleria fought like a madbeast. Even though Greamal was a fairly good sabre fighter, he was no match to the young hare. She practically battered his sabre to and fro, letting out her pent up frustrations. Again not saying a word. She slashed against his blade in a skilful left diagonal swipe and that sent tremors through his paw. Daleria did a quadruple slash-stab at him. Hitting at the left edge of his blade, and in a blur of silver, hit right, then she countered back with a left again, then with another right, which sent the blade flying towards an unwary Stargaze. Her sabre shot out again, catching Greamal's blade in the air and swinging it in a swipe towards Greamal himself. Too shocked to do anything, the veteran stared at the blade coming at him, and suddenly, a paw shot out and grabbed the blade by its hilt. It was Daleria. Throwing the sabre back at the veteran, she looked at him with a look in her eye that told him to pick up the blade and try again. But before he could even bend down, the Colonel was upon Daleria. Rapieratce looked very, very, extremely angry. Taking the sabre from Daleria, he fought to control his voice and temper.
'What on earth did you think you were doing wot? Really, you jolly well know that you could easily take the old chap out! This is bally unthinkable. Please! Don't vent your anger on the bally hare!'
The fire in her eyes slowly burned out and vanished. Sighing softly and sadly, Daleria saluted the Colonel and sheathed her sabre. Satisfied that she had been suppressed properly, Rapieratce calmed down himself.
'Fine then. Captain, dismissed until your next drill.'
As she walked away, Daleria was feeling really, really, low and immensely foolish. She could not bring herself to believe that she had just done what she did to poor Greamal. His paws must still be shaking from the impact. But what was she to do?
So far the rest of the day had gone by quite finely. Daleria had managed to control herself for the rest of the drills, and not fight like a crazed madbeast trying to kill anybeast in her path. Though she was slightly tired after the many rather taxing drills, she still couldn't bring herself to eat more than three bites of food.
Every hare she had passed had patted her on the back and muttered words of sympathy. Major Clandestine had been greatly liked, by both the officers and the recruits. She was always cheerful and helpful, yet totally perilous in her own way. Nothing helped.