Hello, all. I recently became a fan of the Redwall series. It's really in-depth, the characters and settings are memorable, and the battles of good vs. evil are very refreshing. However, there is one thing I don't like about it: the fact that species determines whether a creature is good or evil. This was especially obvious in The Outcast of Redwall. Well, I decided to write a story about a character I've had in mind for quite some time. I hope you like her. Note: I have not read all of the books and am not sure which time period this exactly takes place in, except for the fact that it's after Martin's time and after the events of Redwall and Mattimeo at least. Enjoy!
The warm, noon sun fell through the trees like butter flowing across a hot loaf of bread, gently coating the grass, flowers, and stones resting at the bottom of a clear creek with a golden sheen. The light brushed the tops of several small, modest houses that sat in a ring. A few smaller huts sat off in the shade, enjoying the day with roofs dappled in leaf shadows. On the humble, dirt paths, light mousepaws walked idly and rose petal ears twitched in response to the call of a robin.
Nobeast had the slightest inkling that a pair of narrow, amber eyes was carefully scanning the area while a young mind sought out the weakest link in the circle of woodland homes.
The eyes belonged to a fox, a nameless vixen who was in the final seasons of childhood. Any beast to lay eyes on her would be forced to call her pretty, even if the beast was a woodlander being threatened by her long, thin dagger. Her fur was a stormy gray color that faded to silver on her tail and face, but darkened to black at her wrists, ankles, and ears. The tip of her tail was as white as the freshly-fallen snow that would never be seen, destined to never be marred by the footpaws of any creature. Most remarkable of all were her front paws, which were the rich, red-ginger color most often seen in the common fox. If one looked closely, one would also see the barest traces of ginger creating a series of patches on the gray coat that were more like red shadows than actual changes in color.
The nameless vixen adjusted her dagger, so that it was secure in her black leather belt and hidden beneath her tattered, dark brown vest. Her gaze passed over the larger houses that made up the center circle, then the smaller houses that sat beneath the trees. Finally, she looked at the most distant house, which was distinguished by its especially small size and the white birch tree that was dwarfed by the towering oaks and maple trees.
This would be her first target.
Grimfang the Foebiter was well-named. Tall, red, and powerful, his yellowing teeth had seen more throats than his sword ever had. He bit down into his opponents whenever possible, enjoying the taste of blood that always seemed tangier in the final death throes. His face was covered with scars from when his victims tried futilely to dislodge his firm jaws from their breathless necks.
He allowed nobeast within his horde to carry a name that wasn't similarly earned. A nameless beast, who had performed no masterful deeds, who had never excelled in thievery or murder, would be called "Soldier" (if he was feeling generous), "Idiot" (if he was not), or "Fishbait" (if he was particularly angry or annoyed). A hundred of them could die, and Grimfang wouldn't even bat an eye.
When a mysterious gray vixen had easily crept up behind him one night, putting a knife to his back, he readily offered her a Captain's position as well as a new name: Shadesneak. She had, fortunately for the warlord, accepted.
Mere seasons later, Shadesneak, who was suspected to have some Marlfox blood in her veins, was chosen as the Chief's mate. Over the years, she had birthed many cubs. Some had earned names such as the swift Arrowbane, the ferocious Heartchewer, and the wily Coppertongue. Some never were named. Grimfang could have cared less about them. He could have cared less about his youngest nameless daughter, if Shadesneak hadn't been practically ripping his ears off with her silly maternal anger.
"She's gone, you imbecile! How your horde remains loyal to you, I will never know!"
Grimfang snarled irritably. "If she comes back, she comes back. I have better things to do than babysit your charges."
Shadesneak's silvery-amber eyes flashed dangerously. "You treat that stupid rat lieutenant of yours better than your own blood. I hope Arrowbane runs you into a lake, someday! I hope Ironjow crushes your bones!"
"Oh, save your threats for some dumb squirrel." The warlord spat. "Get out of my sight. I'm sick of listening to your whining." He watched through glaring eyes as his mate turned on her heel and stalked out of the tent. Breathing a sigh of relief at the respite, he turned back to his maps. Hm… Where to find new valuables…? He thought. And slaves, of course. I could always use more slaves.
Old, silver Matthew Bircheye was a mouse of few words. He had lived in his small house in the small village, spending his days reading under the small birch tree for as long as he could remember, which varied depending on the day.
His black-tipped ears were still sharp, however, and heard the fox long before his old eyes saw her.
"You can come out, young'un." He murmured, yawning as he flipped a page. "I won't bite you." He heard a sharp intake of breath as the bushes grew still. He continued to listen for a minute or two before speaking again. "I know you're still there. Either come out or go play somewhere else."
A quiet growl and the renewed movement of bushes signaled the approach of a young vixen. He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. "Afternoon. I don't believe I've seen you before."
The vixen had one paw hidden beneath a dirty vest, and her eyes were flickering nervously. "What does that matter, old man?"
Ignoring the fox's rudeness, the mouse closed his book and stood. "I was just about to have tea, and I wouldn't mind having some fresh company." He eyed her hidden paw. "Just leave your dagger on the doorstep, if you please."
The young vixen winced, one black ear flicking. Her white teeth ground together as she realized how un-stealthy she had been. Trying to keep up her bravado, she scoffed. "Tea is for scrawny elders who've got no more room in their bones for meat."
"Very well." Bircheye shrugged, turning to walk toward his door. "I suppose I'll just have to eat those candied apple slices all by myself."
Despite herself, the gray fox felt her right eat twitch. Candied apples, eh? Out loud, she snorted. "Those'll rot whatever teeth you got left."
"Not if I wash it down with some cool milk." The old mouse suppressed a smirk at the way the fox barely kept from licking her lips. "And then, there's nice cheese bread with new, yellow butter, strawberry cordial, mint tea, blackberry tarts…"
The vixen's mouth watered, but her eyes remained as hard and cold as frozen honey. "What's the catch, creakymouse? Waiting for some son of yours to come home and ambush me?"
At this, old Matthew cast his gaze to the side. "I never had any young'uns of my own. My wife was barren and left me all alone when she died last year."
The fox's ears flattened. Was the mouse trying to gain sympathy? Even if he wasn't, even if he was genuine, she felt nothing. To feel pity was to be weak. She would have done anything to prove that she wasn't weak. And being scared of some old man's home is even weaker than pity! She drew her dagger and stabbed the ground next to the birch tree. "Alright, then. Are you gonna give me some food, or will you fall over on the way to the house?"
Matthew yawned softly before suddenly lunging forward and delivering a sharp kick to the vixen's legs, causing her to fall in a heap on the ground. "Not before you do." He chuckled, turning toward the house.
A low growl resounded in a gray throat. Insolent mite! I'll eat his food and kill him after he's been fattened up! She vowed to herself as she confidently followed the mouse into his small, wood-smelling abode.
"Oy, Golddig." The rust-colored Coppertongue called out to a small, masked ferret with exceptionally large claws. She looked up at the smaller creature, not willing to stand. "What's got my mother's tail stuck in a bramble bush?"
The ferret saluted smartly. "Yer youngest sister be missin', milady. Lady Shadesneak is havin' the scouts go lookin' for 'er"
The vixen snorted. "Another nameless piece of vermin runs away. Typical." She leaned back against the tree. "Well, she can forget about me wasting my time hacking down vines looking for the brat."
Golddig fidgeted, glancing warily over his shoulder. "I be one of the scouts, milady. Can I be goin'?"
Coppertongue waved a russet paw. "Go on, then. Let me know if you find her hanging from a tree by her neck somewhere." She chuckled darkly.
The ferret gulped, nodding more rapidly than the statement probably required, before running aimlessly into the forest.
Matthew calmly sipped at his mint tea as, across the table, a very badly-mannered fox cub scarfed down more dainties than anybeast should ever eat in one sitting. Along with the promised candied fruits, milk, cheese bread, strawberry cordial, and blackberry tarts, there were tiny apple pies with meadowcream, crumbly shortbread sprinkled with sugar, blueberry scones, and soft cookies filled with raspberry jelly.
A bottle of strawberry cordial was clenched in the fox's fist. She swigged noisily from it, pointedly ignoring the beaker that sat near her. "You call this tea? I can't even see the pot." She mumbled, spraying crumbs on the table.
Matthew continued to sip from his cup, saying nothing.
"Are you deaf, old man?" The vixen mumbled through a tart.
"I will not answer someone who talks with her mouth full." The mouse replied calmly, his eyes half-lidded as he placed his cup on the table and picked up a napkin to wipe away the crumbs.
"Hmph." She shoved a pawful of raspberry jelly cookies into her mouth.
"Better." Her host smiled. "Tea for me is not 'tea' as much as it is an excuse to eat lots of dessert in the middle of the day."
The fox swallowed. "So, you invite a fox to your 'eat lots of dessert' and don't ask what she's doing? You know I came here to pillage this town, don't you?" There was no harm in telling the geezer. She could kill him without her knife if he showed signs of running to warn his friends. "I may well decide to kill you by the end of the day."
"I thought that was your intention, but I'm not afraid." The mouse chuckled. "You are but a child, and I'm past being truly afraid of anything."
"You should be. I'm the daughter of Grimfang the warlord. If I don't sack this place, he will with his entire horde, and everybeast will be his slave." She drew herself up proudly. "I could get a good name just by killing you: Mouseslayer, perhaps. Maybe Backstabber, if you turn around for me."
"If you wish, you can sleep in here for the night. I don't have many beds, but the couch by the window is quite comfy." Matthew said briskly, standing up and stretching. "I will be in the garden. Do clean up your dishes."
The fox's mouth was slightly open as the mouse walked by. How is he not afraid of me?! She wondered, bemusement almost tangible in her mind. Her gaze hardened. Just for that, I'll make sure to kill him first! She started toward the door and her dagger before pausing. She glanced at the table and shoved another blackberry tart into her mouth. Tomorrow. I'll kill him tomorrow.
I'm reading Marlfox right now, and I am so happy that silver-colored foxes are getting a spotlight. I don't want my fox to be a Marlfox, so I settled for having her gray and red with a hint of Marlfox blood. Also, I just need to put in my two cents about the book so far (I'm about 80 pages in): Dwopple is the most annoying thing ever and Deesum is probably the worst person to raise him in the world. Discipline, woman! Discipline! She's worse than Bryony!