For Kelaiah's sake, I barely included Freespring...but will get to that in the future! Read on for now! A bit of a pick up on situations...then again I don't know if you could call it that...

Brandy jolted awake as a young otter came bursting into the gatehouse shouting his name at the top of his lungs. Brandy had been up late into the night, watching out for the vermin Isa had seen to make a move. After many hours with no sight of hide or tail of the beast, the otter had retired, suggesting some of the others do the same as well. Just in case he was needed, he had slept in the gate house behind a stack of barrels. His poor head was now pounding from lack of sleep and the shouts of the young otter looking for him. Sitting up, he peeked though an opening between two barrels and watched the otter call for him enthusiastically.

"Halter...Halter quiet down I'm right 'ere." Brandy said tiredly, eyelids drooping.

The young otter Halter, spun about and saluted the elder beast, eyes ahead. Every beast knew it was the young one's dream was to be the next Skipper, his efforts to impress his elders made it obvious.

"Mister Brandy, sir! Skipper Rogth and t'squirrels are just coming through t'gates, sir! Jesparr sent me t'get ye, sir!"

"Enough with the 'sirs' already, Halter." Brandy said as he stumbled up and stretched. "I hold no authority really, other than being your uncle. 'Uncle' or 'Brandy' will be fine, as I've told you before." Something cracked in the otter's back as he spoke and he groaned, rubbing the sore spot. He muttered something about being 'too young for that' and started for the door, Halter right behind him.

"Jesparr says Skip ran into some vermin scouts." The young otter rambled. "A few squirrels and otters were lost, but the vermin were all killed. None were captured. Skip's waitin' in Great Hall for you."

Brandy nodded as he made his way across the lawn to the abbey. He took note of the looks of a brewing storm in the clouds ahead and quickened his pace.

"Anything else I should know?" He asked, knowing that the young beast was far from done.

"Aye." Halter said, scratching his head. "Father Abbot says 'e'll be 'olding the council as soon as ye and Skip get in 'is office. 'e said work first, breakfast later. Though there'll probably be tea or somethin' t'drink in there...""

Pushing open the red doors of the abbey, the elder otter nodded seriously.

"Alright, ye can go now, Halt. No need for a young beast like you to miss breakfast. Run along and get some food..." Then after a comical thought he added. "N'and that's an order!"

Halter stiffened and saluted Brandy, before turning and rushing off towards the kitchen. The otter chuckled to himself as he watched his nephew run off. It never ceased to amaze him how much the young beast was like his father. All business and no play, well for the most part. Every young beast is pulled to having some fun in their young lives. The otter frowned as he thought of his long-dead brother. The otter had been ill for several weeks before dying and leaving his wife, Kelia and his son. Brandy had taken it as his duty to see that they were alright and happy since his sibling's passing. Still, Halter had grown to be as any cub would, wanting nothing more then to be just as his father was or more. From what he knew, his father was a good fighter, good friend and a serious beast...thus explaining his mood. He figured becoming the next Skipper would impress his father in Dark Forest, so he had set his heart on it.

"He misses you, Rugger." The otter mumbled to himself as he entered Great Hall. He quickly pushed all thoughts of his brother aside as he stepped into Great Hall.

Skipper Rogth stood at the corner of the room, wearing his kilt, lacking his shirt and bearing a deep frown. His brow was furrowed and his eyes were narrowed in thought. As Brandy approached his old friend, he was about to question what was the matter when he saw Freespring in the corner of his eye. Turned, he watched as she went off to gossip with a group of her friends. It seemed that she had just been speaking to the otter chieftain before he came about. It was all too clear at why the Skipper's mood was the way it was. Letting out a sigh, he marched up to the otter chieftain and greeted him.

"Rogth ol'mate! Good t'see you alive in one piece!"

"Uh?" Rogth turned to see Brandy's smirking face. He seemed to be in a daze. "Oh, it's you..."

The slightly younger otter laughed as he slapped the Skipper's back. Rogth tumbled a bit beneath the blow before straightening and sending Brandy a glare.

"Who else would it be, mate?" The younger otter smirked. "Yore grandmammy? Didn't you miss me? Weren't ya worried I might die without ye?"

Rogth grunted and turned briskly about, tramping down the corridor. His mood was definitely not at it's best.

"Ever since we were young and wild, I've watched out for ye since yore too stupid to do it yoreself. I hoped ye could survive a few days. Now c'mon, the Abbot has started without us."

Taft stared impatiently at his paws as the older beasts about him argued and debated over what to do about Doxtriz and his invading horde. He'd been asked by the Abbot to join the council while Sister Cria had been re-bandaging his slow-healing wounds that morning. The very thought of having to remember everything he could for the council was depressing for the young mouse. However he'd do anything for Skipper and the otter would want him to, wouldn't he? The Skipper had been away too long for the young beast and he wanted desperately to see him again.

The mouse sighed heavily and twittled his thumbs. He was missing his first reading class because of this meeting and he hadn't even been asked anything yet! He craved the thought of just leaving...but then again, he didn't want to anger the elders in the room. Suddenly, Sister slammed her paw on the table, making the tiny beast jump with fright, startled. He looked at the badger, returning to the present.

"We've waited far too long!" She growled in her fierce voice. "Those vermin are up to no good and I don't like the silence! We should have crushed them days ago! Or at least them us!"

Abbot Illian frowned.

"I promised Skipper I would wait."

Captain Critalli, leader of the MPS, or Mossflower Patrol Squirrels, also slammed his own fist upon the table in anger. He had stayed behind in case the Abbey was attacked and hadn't been happy about missing action. The red squirrel just craved battling.

"This is a time of war Father, not just a meeting for choosing the season name! We must strike now if we are to be victorious! Rogth could very well have been killed out there! We cannot wait for him any longer!"

The old mouse stared grimly at the Captain.

"Rogth knows more about defensive warfare then any of us, Critalli. He is valuable and his advice keen."

The Mother badger beside the old mouse grunted.

"I'm sorry Father Abbot, but we have waited long enough. Critalli is right. We can no longer wait for Skipper to aid us. We could be besieged tomorrow! We can't wait anymore."

"Then you don't have to."

All eyes turned to the door, where Skipper Rogth stood in the threshold. He was dressed in his kilt, a long saxe knife hung by his side and there was a dark green cape draped about his bare shoulders. Brandy stood behind the grim-faced otter and waved to the elders from the back with a grin. Both moved towards the group.

Taft's heart skipped a beat as he turned to see the stong otter he had missed. His eyes sparkled in excitement as he immediately slipped from his chair and dashed over to the chieftain without a second thought. Rogth nearly had the wind knocked out of him as the mouse rushed into him with a furious hug. He looked down with surprise at the sudden sight of Taft and then smiled, returning the embrace. He looked the petite beast over and found that over the short time he had been gone, the mouse already seemed healthier and happier then when he had first been brought to the Abbey.

"Well, hello Taft." The otter said with a grin as he rustled the young beast's headfur. "I hope you've been behavin' while I've been out."

The mouse beamed at the sound of his hero's strong voice. He opened his mouth to reply, but was cut off by Abbot Illian.

"He has been well in your absence, Rogth...however I'm afraid that our current situation may change that for the entire Abbey."

The Skipper's brow furrowed as he took Taft's paw and went over to take a chair near the table. The mouse followed happily, still inwardly rejoicing at his friend's return. As he settled himself down in a chair by the otter, the Abbot explained the past night's events with as much detail as possible. Taft was too busy being excited to listen. He just stared a Rogth in awe. He couldn't wait to tell the otter that he was going to learn to read! A long-awaited dream. He was only pulled from his cloudy, joyous thoughts when the Abbot finished speaking.

"...And that's why we brought young Taft in." The old mouse stated, nodding towards the light-spirited Taft. "We thought his information may prove to be helpful in the future."

Rogth glanced down at the small beast beside him and noticed the sudden frown forming. The thought of having to make the young mouse dwell and speak of the pain and horrors he had endured was not relishing. He deserved try to have peace now. He was still young, still had so much to look forward to...why pull him back by making him relive his past?

"I don't think that will be necessary Father." Skipper said firmly. "I've seen enough to give us some details about these vermin. Taft is not needed in this meeting, I can assure you that."

"But Rogth..." Critalli leaned forward, his elbows on the table they all sat around. "...Taft has lived about them for all his life. He can tell us far more then you ever could from just one glance..."

"I had more then a glance, squirrel." Skipper said in a defensive way. "I fought them and crushed them. We left none alive and lost few. Taft's presence is not needed."

Sister Fendila frowned, but nodded in agreement with the otter, understanding his reasoning.

"Rogth is right, Father Abbot." She said in her deep voice. "I do not belive that Taft needs to stay..."

"Fendila..." Critalli began with a sigh, before being cut off.

"I think I now agree, Critalli." The Abbot stated suddenly, leaning back in his seat and staring a Taft. "I'm sure there are other things this young beast would prefer to be doing rather than talking to a bunch of old fools like us."

Critalli caught the Skipper's gaze and frowned.

"Are you sure Rogth?" He asked, not convinced. "After all he is the most likely..."

"I am sure, Captain." The otter replied stiffly, trying to hold a glare from escaping. He gave a sideways glance at Taft and then let his gaze become solid as stone. It was then the Abbot intervened.

"Very well." He gave a small smile to Taft as he adjusted his specticals. "You may go, Taft. I'm sure Sister Isa is still somewhere about. Why don't you pay her a visit, eh?"

The mouse looked about the room, then up at the otter beside him. He didn't want to stay and talk about the foxes that had enslaved him, but he also didn't want to leave Skipper again.

"Go on." Rogth said with a grin, understanding Taft's torn look. "I'll meet up with you right after, I promise."

Taking the otter's words to heart, Taft reluctantly slipped from his chair and made for the door. He couldn't help but let his mood sink with each step he took away from Skipper. As he came to the door, he gripped the handle and sent a look towards the firm otter he admired. Skipper waved him on with a shooing motion of his paw and worded 'go'. Taft frowned and pulled on the door, letting himself out. As he closed the door, he watched Rogth lean forward in his seat to continue the discussion with a grim look on.

The second the door shut, Rogth turned on the Abbot with a frustrated voice.

"Just whose idea was it to get information from Taft?" His eyes narrowed as he spoke.

The old mouse looked blandly at the otter. He could understand why the otter was angry, but then again he thought the beast would have agreed...

"Critalli suggested it with the best intentions in mind..."

The large otter slammed his paw on the table with a growl as he sent a vicious glare at the squirrel Captain.

"Many of the worst things possible have come from those with the 'best intentions' in mind." He snarled lowly. "I don't want any of you to even consider asking Taft any questions about his life of slavery. Understand?"

Brandy spoke from where he sat next to the chieftain. Putting a paw on the heated otter's shoulder, he tried to stow the anger inside of his friend.

"Calm down, mate, they were only trying to help..."

Rogth growled again and glared at the younger otter forcefully.

"They may have been trying to help...but what good would it do the young one to remind him of what he suffered?"

"It was for the good of the entire Abbey, Rogth..." Critalli said with a huff. "One beast's life to all the Redwallers safety isn't much to ask-"

"Yes. It. Is." The chieftain hissed. "Redwall is not about destroying one life for others, it's about trying to save all. You would remind this beast, just barely older then a cub, of seasons of agony and pain for the safety of others? It kills a small part of him every time he thinking of them. I know. I'm the one who found him shivering in pure terror and pain in the snow! I'm the one who read the fear of his face as he squirmed away from me, thinking I was a vermin. He was bleeding and petrified to death. There was far too much pain in his eyes. Too much for one so young. Finally, he's slowly coming alive for once in his life and you want him to start reliving his nightmares? That is not how Redwall works, Critalli. If this is how you will treat him here I'll take him back to the holt with me."

"Rogth, it's not like we're killing him or anything..." Mother Fendila started before the otter snapped his head at her with a glare.

"Physically, no. But mentally, yes. That cub's gone through enough, just leave him be. I would sooner fight a battle blind, then reopen mental scars in that young one's life."

Critalli slammed his paw down on the table in anger.

"That is your choice, Skipper, however the entire safety of the Abbey rests on Taft's informa-"

"Enough!" Everybeast snapped their attention to Abbot Illian, looking grim and heated. The old mouse looked at them all disapprovingly. "We will continue without Taft. The fighting I listen to here is mind wrecking. We shall speak no further of the young mouse. For season after season we have depended on Martin the Warrior for help, why should we lose faith in him now?"

"Martin has only ever given us clues, Father." Critalli said in a low voice. "Taft could give us solid information to act on."

The Abbot gave the Captain a scrutinized look and set his paws on the table.

"That may be, however I would stand by Skipper in this case, as I have not lost faith in Martin. He will help us, with or without Taft. The young one deserves peace and I don't think Martin would want us to harm the young beast in any way, as he knew what slavery was like himself."

"And if Martin does not come through?" Fendila asked in her gruff voice.

The old mouse looked into the badger's eyes and frowned.

"Redwall has promised peace to every creature in need. Taft needs peace of mind, and we are not permitted to take that from him." He sighed. "That is my last word on the matter. We do not need Taft to fight this foe. Understand? We shall speak no more of it."

Everybeast mumbled confirmation and the room went quiet. Rogth still glared a bit a Critalli and Mother Fendila and Brandy merely shrugged. After a while, Illian thought is was about time to get back to buisness when a sudden voice interrupted him.

"For being a curtainly can shut a crowd up."

All heads turned quickly towards the speaker and gasped when their eyes caught the glint of orange fur in the morning sunlight. A fox sat upon the windowsill, looking out over Redwall with little interest. He bore a blank, semi-emotionless face and his black-tipped ears were turned towards the debating woodlanders. His eyes were pitch black and dangerous, deep and searching as he looked down from his perch on the Abbey grounds. He was clad in a black tunic, a midnight cape about his shoulders and thick leather boots that stretched to the knees. Across his torso was a thick, black belt, holding a great, sheathed, blue-jemmed broadsword to his back. Strapped to his upper legs, were two matching blades, daggers and from his left boot produced the hilt of a dirk.

As the Abbey elders gasped and quickly rose from their seats reaching for weapons, the fox smirked without turning to look on them.

"Did I catch you off guard?" He said in an amused tone. "When an enemy is close, you must always be prepared, did your fathers teach you nothing?"

Skipper growled, brandishing his strong saxe that he pointed at the fox.

"Who are you and how did you get in?" The otter's eyes beamed dangerously at the intruder, however the fox seemed to ignore the chieftain. He took a deep breath of morning air, relishing it's cold beauty before responding.

"Oh don't worry waterdog, if I wanted to do you harm I could have easily done it twenty times by now." The fox still had not turned his face towards the beasts present as he spoke and merely waved a paw to emphasize his point.

Rogth let out a snarl and took a step towards the intruding fox, ready to kill when Brandy put a paw on his shoulder to stop him.

"What is it you want fox?" The younger otter questioned, eyes narrowing.

Copper smirked and turned his black eyes to the group, scanning each of them with mild interest.

"You are the elders of this place?" He asked calmly, still grinning.

"Aye!" Skipper threatened. "And if you don't turn tail and get lost I'll tear you limb from limb!"

The fox smiled at the otter as he hopped from the windowsill to stand in front of the Redwallers. He wasn't much taller then the otter in full height, and his tail flicked as he confronted the chieftain.

"Come now otter, I haven't raised a claw against you, yet you wish to do such a violent act! I was so sure this Abbey was a place of peace!"

Mother Fendila growled and stepped forward, looking viciously at the vermin.

"It is for those who are peaceful." She pointed an accusing claw at the fox. "Yet your kind has threatened our peace. So state your business and be gone before we allow Skipper to vent his anger."

Copper dipped his head to the badger respectfully.

"I can assure you, Madam, I bring only peace on my platter." He straightened and turned his head towards the heated otter. "However, should the 'Skipper' loose all self-control, I would be obliged to defend myself."

"Rogth will not do you harm, so long as you do none to us." Abbot Illian stated suddenly. "If you bring peace, I am willing to speak with you. Why are you here?"

The fox bowed.

"I am from the 'invading' forces of Doxtriz Gorelimb. I wish to speak of...important matters with you."

Critalli crossed his arms and eyed the fox skeptically.

"What sort of 'important matters'?"

Copper shrugged.

"It could change the tide of the tensions between my horde and your Abbey...better on your part."

"You still have not told us who you are, so why should we trust you?" Brandy asked firmly, still gripping the Skipper's shoulder.

The fox smiled at the otter, sizing him up.

"If my name was a ground of gaining trust, then life would be a simple matter." Copper waved a paw towards the door. "As to who I am...ask the mouse, Taft. He knows me."

At that Rogth growled and pulled from Brandy's grip, charging the fox. Copper was expecting such a rush from at least one of the elders of the Abbey, since they were all so soft-hearted for slaves. He simply side-stepped the otter and the blade clanked harmlessly on one of the red stone windowsill behind him. Then, one well-forced kick to the Skipper's stomach caused the beast to topple over, gasping for breath.

"Tensing up lets the enemy know of your attack." The fox said, waving a claw at the wheezing otter. "It's an old warriors rule, I thought a beast like you would know such a thing."

"You know nothing of warriors!" Rogth roared, looking up with hatred-glinting eyes at the fox. "Warriors do not torture helpless, young slaves for amusement!"

Copper nodded, his face slightly grim.

"That is something we can agree on."

"Yet you have done so to Taft!" The Skipper growled, standing back up and gripping his blade tightly. "You tormented him from birth! You are scum!"

Copper stared at the otter for a moment.

"I have never beaten a slave." The fox stated calmly. "Bring the mouse, he will tell you...if such a thickhead as you is willing to listen."

"No." The otter snarled angrily. "I'm never letting your kind near him again!"

Abbot Illian folded his paw in his sleeves and stepped out in front of the group.

"If you were not Taft's master, then who are you?"

The fox smirked and saluted the mouse lightly.

"I am Copper, the one who sent you the message. You did receive it, did you now?"

They each looked at each other in shock. Critalli scratched his head in confusion, as did others in the room.

"You're the one who let Taft go free? I didn't expect a fox..."

Copper nodded.

"Yes." He turned to glare slightly at Rogth. "I am the one who released Taft. I also bought and renamed him. I am the one who warned you of my father's horde. Yet I see you do not think much of that do you? As to being a fox...well what did you expect? A fellow slave?"

Mother Fendila suddenly decided enough talk had gone on. Coming forward, she pulled a confused Skipper back by his shoulders into his seat. It was obvious he didn't know what to make of the fox at this new revelation, however he continued to glare at the vermin in distrust. The badger then turned an eye on the fox, weighing him up. After a moment she pulled up a chair and gestured to it.

"Sit and tell us of your odd actions. If you mean well, you shall not be harmed."

Copper's smirk returned and he thanked the Mother Badger reverently before taking to the seat. The other beasts about the room followed in suite, each leaning in around the table with interest. Abbot Illian settled himself comfortably in his chair and watched as the fox waited for each creature to be attentive. It didn't take long, as each of the Redwall elders were eager to hear what the vermin had to say. However, the fox surprised them yet again as he suddenly stood up and made for the window.

"Hey! You said-" Rogth started from his chair, rising to follow the fox when Brandy pulled him back again.

Copper turned his eyes to the otter and grinned.

"Don't worry your pretty head ol'ruddertail, I'll make it clear in a moment." He looked back out the window and cupped his paws in a strange way. "Let me just call a friend, eh?"

The elders watched curiously as the fox brought his cupped paws to his lips and blew into them. They were astonished when an owl-like sound suddenly came from the vermin's paws. He blew a strange sequence before turning from the window back to his seat. All watched as he silently sat down and began brushing off his shirt. They were each equally confused by his strange set of actions, foxes were indeed odd beasts as the stories said.

After a few moments of dead silence, Critalli could no longer hold back his thought.

"Um...What exactly...was that for?"

Copper looked up at him and grinned.

"No need to worry my bushy-tailed beast, I'm not insane. I have a method to my madness. Just wait, give him a second more, he's never been exact with timing and I don't expect him to be."

Just as the fox was finishing his sentence, a strong, black ferret seemed to appear from nowhere on the windowsill, causing the beasts to gasp. He slipped from the cold outside and shut the shutters that the Abbot left open for fresh air. He then nodded towards Copper and remained standing by the windowsill with his arms crossed as the fox began to speak.

"Now we can begin." Copper said as he stood up and put his paws behind his back, taking on a serious expression. "As I have already said, my name is Copper. I understand I have surprised you by being a fox and all, but that's beside the point. I am here on a very serious matter, for both you and I. You see, the horde which now stands out in your forests, doesn't exactly want to take you over like all the hordes in the past...well I mean, eventually they will. But for now, they are seeking something else."

"And what might that be?" Abbot Illian asked when the fox had paused.

Copper grinned slightly and reached his paw into his shirt, pulling out the parchment he had written up the night before. He waved it at the Abbot mouse .

"I've learned that your Abbey is fond of riddles" He slapped the paper on the table before him. "I've brought you yet another to solve. The answer is what Doxtriz wants."

Critalli grunted and looked hard at the fox.

"So why has he come then? What has this to do with us?"

Taking his seat, Copper tapped his claws on the parchment, eying all present.

"We have figured out the first part, however the rest is yet unclear because no one has followed the directions further. You see, this riddle is much like the ones in your history. It's a map and it has required curtain creatures to be the ones to uncover it's secrets."

"Just what exactly does this map lead to?" Rogth asked gruffly.

Copper smiled and shrugged.

"This riddle has been passed down through the Gorelimb family for seasons. Rumors are all we have to guess where and what it leads to."

Mother Fendila crossed his big arms and glared at the vermin.

"You said the map required curtain beasts to follow it, who might they be?"

The dark clad fox smirked and unfolded the paper, scanning it's contents. He cleared his throat before reciting the contents in a loud, clear voice.

"The antient gift to Gorelimb grand
Is hidden far beneath the land,
To those who idly wish it find,
Woe to those, your wicked kind.

Four must seek, one must find,
The place this gift is enshrined,
A warrior from a place of peace
The one of bloodline to release.

The one of low and timid birth,
Who hardly seemed to have a worth,
Two more beasts may follow them,
But one of which shall be condemned.

See the sun, follow through the day,
Never from the path do stray,
Through the home of creatures cold,
Travel there, warrior be bold!

Go where beasts breathe no air,
Yet many lives still yet live there,
Cross this country,the sun does rest,
To begin his short slumber blest.

Five long days must be spent,
It's all you have to repent,
Leave and return across the foam,
The last chance to return home.

There it lies, the place is there,
Beast do tread with good care,
For the ground is ever hungry,
Do not go along too boldly!

Search this place and you will see,
The entrance of the gift will be,
There the bloodline one must go,
He must follow the airflow.

Carved it is, for you to glance,
Do not be taken into trance,
Here it is the gift does lie,
Use it wisely, lest you die."

Abbot Illian furrowed his brow as the fox finished and set the paper down. Copper simply smiled and leaned back in his chair.

"So you came here for one of us?" The old mouse questioned. "The 'warrior from a place of peace'?"

The vermin nodded before resting his elbows on the table.

"Yes, for the most part. This riddle requires a beast from a place of peace, which would be an Abbey. And what Abbey has a warrior besides Redwall? Doxtriz came here to find this warrior."

"How do you fit into all this?" Critalli demanded suddenly. "What do you get out of this? Vermin never go into a deal without a profit!"

Copper gave a comical expression and stared hard at the squirrel Captain.

"I am not vermin, sir. The correct definition of 'vermin' is an objectionable or disgusting animal. Especially those of small size that appear commonly and are difficult to control, as flies, lice, bedbugs, cockroaches, mice, and rats. Notice, squirrel, I am none of those. Objectionable, maybe, but nothing more. Now you could easily qualify as a pest."

The Captain flushed in anger and rose from his chair, eyes gleaming.

"I think you've out-stayed your visit, fox." He hissed.

"Now, now, Critalli." Fendila stated with a small smile on her lips. "The beast does have a point..."

"You still have not told us why we should help you." Rogth stated grimly, arms crossed and eyes daring. "How do we know ye aren't with Doxtriz?"

Copper merely shrugged.

"I want to be on the winning side." He folded the riddle back up and replaced it to the safety of his shirt. "Let us simply say...I am not fighting beside that horde out there, nor with you. I have my own reasons for this. However, if you were to beat Doxtriz to his 'gift' then you would have the upper paw if the present situation resulted in war."

"How is that?" Brandy asked curiously.

"It's simple." Copper gave the otter a grin. "Doxtriz believes that this 'gift' will make him invincible. I think it's ridiculous. I would sooner side with the winners then with fools."

"Why?" Rogth demanded.

Copper smirked.

"Any fox of cunning would."

Notice how Copper really avoids directly answering questions!

Yea, it was longer then my other chapters. And it was mostly Copper being mr smarty pants XD. More to come in the future! And please pardon my mistakes! Read and Review!

-Ireland Ranger-