AN: Hello all, Airan's Enigma here, just wanting to go ahead and thank you for clicking and reading this story of mine. I've actually been off this site for a while, leaving my other fanfic "Chess" to collect dust while I've off been writing other things and participating in some of the survivor contests that have been put up on the site, but this story idea has been floating in my head for a while now and I've been dying to finally put it on paper and get some feedback on it, and I figured that this site was the best to do it on. So, thank you very much for reading and if you have the time, drop a review or two, it'd be greatly appreciated.
FOREWARNING: This story is rated PG-13 for some language (not excessive), violence, and some adult themes, so if you're not keen on those things, I apologize in advance.
Anyways, without further ado:
-Chapter One: A Place to Call Our Own-
For my father, whom I never let read my writing because I was too embarrassed to show him, and to whom I'll now never get the chance.
Strong was nearly three seasons old when his father, Django Riverdeep, remembered the place his mother, Strong's grandmother, would take him every summer after his father had died. Though she herself had passed away some ten seasons ago, the otter could remember it just as easily as he could remember her face. It was a small lake that sprouted from an almost invisible stream, a miniscule niche that broke off from the base of the River Moss and winded its way nearly a day's march until it deposited itself into its body where a natural blue hole awaited. It was a tranquil spot, seemingly undisturbed by anybeast, with glassy water that hosted a varietyof freshwater specimen like trout, grayling, and bass, and even some shrimp nestled in the reeds and shallows. Even as an adult today, Django could remember himself as a child, urging his mother to 'watch this' as he leapt from the top of the rough Cliffside of the lake's southwestern rim and landed in a perfect dive in the water below, though his mother practically screamed for him not to. However when he emerged from the depths with a smile on his maw, no matter how furious she was, he always noticed she grinned as well. Smiles were hard to come by in those days.
"Do you remember this place?" she would always say when they arrived."Your father found it the day before you were born, hidden away behind clusters and clusters of forest and trees. It's where I had you. You know, I don't think anybeast else has ever found it, this place. It's always been our secret little hideaway; I guess you could say it belongs to us, that it's our place."
It had taken him nearly a season to find it again, but Django Riverdeep once again stood in the shallows of the lake, his webbed footpaws settled deep in the warm mud underneath. He was a burly otter, barrel-chested and with toned muscles that carved their way through his arms and legs, a lightweight jerkin and barkcloth vest draped over his broad shoulders. He adjusted the haversack and travel bag he wore on his back, blinking his green-grey eyes twice just to make sure the crystal-clear water he was standing in was actually real.
It had seen better days, he knew. The water looked as if it had grown shallower over the seasons, a detail he could tell by the slight slope he had had to descend to reach the waterline. It was only a minute detail though, still spanning nearly an eighth of a mile to the other side and teeming with the same life as it always had. He even noticed a few herbs and berry bushes dotted around the landscape. Looking over it like this, he realized now why it seemed to have never been disturbed. The trees and surrounding forest formed what looked like a natural barrier around the alcove, shielding it from the eyesight of most everybeast who wasn't a bird or standing atop one of the cliffs on the nearby plateaus that he could see some many miles away above the treetops, the same way he had found the lake again himself.
It was beautiful, the food was plentiful, and, most importantly of all, it was nearly invisible.
Django smiled, turning on his heel and lifting his arms in a display of showing what lay before him. "What d' ya think, Lorena?"
His wife, Lorena, stared over the lake and its surroundings from where she stood behind him with a bemused look in her crystal-blue eyes as if what she was seeing didn't actually exist, her green dress and apron fluttering softly with the spring breeze.
Where Django was brawny, Lorena was his opposite. She was average in height with lean, delicate looking limbs and a careful, well-groomed look to her. She looked like the type of beast to shriek at the sight of a spider or shrink away from a drop of cold rain, though her husband knew better than that. In reality, her stubbornness would lead to her standing in the freezing rain, chiding it just because it dared interrupt her peaceful afternoon and the spider would be smacked away with one of Django's boots without a moment's hesitation all while saying 'I've seen worse.' And it was true. Her fierce temper and stalwart resolve, united with her careful nature and gentleness reminded him of Redwall's badger mothers, and though he knew she wasn't qualified for that position, her qualities had given her an almost natural talent for healing the sick and injured, landing her a position as Redwall's previous infirmary keeper. And over the seasons, her delicate paws had cured flu after flu, sewn thousands of stitches, mended hundreds of broken bones, saved beasts lives, and had some slip between her claws, and yet still held fast through it all. A mere spider was nothing.
It was part of her steadfastness that made finding a place where their family could settle a challenge. Every place he found was never good enough, as she was always convinced it wasn't safe enough, but here, with its invisibility and shield of trees, Django knew what she would say by just the sparkles in her eyes. "It's perfect."
"HAHA! I knew ya'd love it!" Django practically shouted, darting forward suddenly and grabbing Lorena around the waist, pulling her into a quick kiss. When Lorena pulled away after some mere seconds, he glanced over his wife's shoulders. "An' what about you, lad?" he said to the wide eyed otter Dibbun clutching the back of his mother's skirt with one paw and the strap of his tiny satchel with the other.
Strong Riverdeep had been born and, so far, raised within the safety and confine of Redwall, and, not yet used to the noises of the night and the thought of not having four rosy-hued walls surrounding him, he had developed a habit of hiding behind his mother's skirts. The Dibbun, closing in on his fourth season, stared back at him with the same crystal blue eyes that belonged to his mother. Though he had his mother's eyes, Django could already see a few of his own traits in his son as well: the same balled shoulders that would grow broader and broader every day and an almost absurdly long rudder that dragged behind him like one of his playthings.
Strong nodded, burying his face back into the folds of Lorena's dress. "I's biyootiful," he mumbled.
"I's biyootiful?" Django repeated. "Ya ain't even seen it yet, hidin' back there."
"Django, I don't think…" Lorena tried to say.
"Relax, dear, I know what I'm doin'," he replied. Much to Strong's protest, the otter leaned over and scooped him into his arms, carrying him kicking and screaming to the shallows of the lake. He silenced his son with a single glance and held him carefully against his chest. "See, what's all that cryin' about, huh? Ain't no reason t' be that scared. Now, now that ya've actually seen it, what do ya think?"
Strong wiped his eyes with his sleeve and glanced around him. "I's bigger den da one in Wed'all," was his first observation.
"Course it is. That one was just a tiny pond. Ain't nothin' compared to this." With that, Django sat his son on his footpaws in the shallows. "How about ya go swim around a bit, see how deep ya can go?"
He ignored her, urging Strong onward.
"But what if dere's a monster or somethin' in dere dat wants t' eat me?" he asked.
Django scratched his head. "And what could possibly make ya think that?"
"Well, dat's what dey told us in da abbey," Strong explained. "Dat dere was a monster in the pond dat would gobble us up if we swam in it."
His father rolled his eyes. "Bah, they just told ya that so they wouldn't have to yell at ya every second to not swim in it." He knelt down to Strong's level, who still didn't look convinced. "What's yer name?" he asked.
Django nodded. "Aye, that's right. And do ya know why yer named that?"
He nodded again. "Aye, because 'The Riverdeeps are as proud and strong as their tails are long.' That's what my mother an' father always said to me and it's what I named ya after. And ya know why? Because yer rudder's so long I could wrap it around yer neck like a scarf, so ya must be a pretty strong otter right?"
"An' pwoud," he added.
"And proud too," Django corrected himself. "So, if ya see some scary monster, ya show him what a Riverdeep is made of. Got it?"
Strong nodded and tentatively stepped deeper into the water, his eyes still staring at the lake's surface as if it would swallow him whole. And then, without another moment's hesitation, he began splashing through it as he ran to deeper water with his satchel trailing behind him in his wake, his webbed footpaws waiting for the moment when they'd feel no ground beneath them.
"Strong, wait!" Lorena called, but it was too late. His tiny head dipped beneath the surface and was lost to sight. She sighed.
"What is it?" Django asked, a smile still plastered on his face.
"Oh, nothing really. He still had on his satchel is all," his wife explained. "All of his clothes are in it, so if he loses it… And even if he doesn't, they're going to take a lifetime to dry."
He waved off her complaints with a paw. "Ah, let him be. We've got more important things to worry about."
"Hmm, and what's that?" Lorena said.
"Well, for one, we'll be needin' a place t' live. Houses don't make themselves," he answered. "And I want a big one, with plenty o' room for me an' you an' Strong, maybe a spare bedroom for yer family if they decide t' visit one summer. Perhaps a kitchen the size of Redwall's?"
Lorena was amused at the notion. "Oh, yes. And a moat and battlements. Let's just build our own Redwall, why don't we? And we can share between the three of us."
"Anything for you, my dear." Django gave a theatrical bow. "I only wish to make ya happy."
"Django," Lorena said patiently, "you should know by now it doesn't matter whether we're in a castle or in a shack, so long as I'm with you and Strong, it'll be a home to me and I'll be happy."
"But I don't want my wife and son to live in a shack," he argued. "I want them in a grand castle where they've got room to live and grow. A place where they're safe and that they can remember when they get older. A place to call our own."
"Castles take a long time to build," Lorena replied. His wife smiled and stepped forward, kissing him lightly on the cheek. She whispered softly into his ear, "So, do you know what I suggest?"
"That you better get to work."
Django laughed just as tiny splash erupted from behind him, a brown, wet mass appearing by his side and tugging at his arm. His wife quickly retrieved the satchel from Strong's back, letting out a sigh of relief. He turned to his son. "What is it, Strong? Did ya find the lake monster?"
Strong shook his head furiously. "No, but I found somethin' diffewent. Dere's a big cave in that cliff I want ya t' see. Come on!" He tugged at his father's arm again.
Django remembered the underwater cave he had explored when he was a child. It was hidden nearly two taillengths beneath the lake's surface, carving a tunnel into the Cliffside that stretched for another few yards and opened into a small grotto, hidden from the world. He turned to his wife and smiled. "Maybe I'll start tomorrow." He pawed over his haversack and travel bag into her waiting arms.
"Tomorrow then," Lorena replied, throwing them over her shoulder. She waved her paw, urging them on. "Go, I'll have a warm fire ready when you get back."
"Thank ya dear, we'll need it." Django nudged Strong on the shoulder. "What are ya waitin' for, lad, lead the way."
His son nodded and disappeared once more under the surface. Django gave Lorena a reassuring smile and turned back to the lake.
Before he could disappear along with their son, Lorena stopped her husband with a touch to his shoulder. "And Django? You're sure this place is safe, that we won't be bothered here?"
"Ya said yourself that it was perfect," Django answered his wife. He turned to face her. "I'm as sure as the tides, dear. This place is invisible, nobeast will ever find it. An' if they do, I won't let them touch a hair on you or Strong's head. Trust me."
"Come on, Da'!" Strong shouted, his head barely peeking over the surface of the water some distance away.
"Aye, I'm comin', lad! Lead on," his father answered his call.
The paw left his shoulder. "I do."
And with that, Django dove beneath the surface after his son, not knowing how wrong he was.
Pretty Fluffy chapter for the first one, but I promise it will get more interesting in the next few updates, which should be in about a week. Thanks again for reading, and if you have the time, feel free to leave a review. :)