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Epilogues / On the Road Again
« Last post by Kali on August 30, 2018, 08:39:57 AM »
The Gilded Rat was a far cry from the opulent setting of the arena, but as far as taverns go, it was a bit more ritzy than most in town. It was a subdued night, the fox bard providing music to the few patrons that appeared.

In the middle of a song,  he caught sight of a familiar face sitting down at the bar. After finishing his tune he said to his audience, "You know what, I think I will pause here folks and use all the money you've thrown my way to buy a drink. My throats getting a little parched." Baxter stepped away from the stage, smiling and nodding and holding out his hat to any last minute tips.

He slipped himself over the stool before pulling it closer to the bar and his fellow vulpine. Both foxes had the same red coat but they could not have been more different.

The heavy armorer looked different in a vest and tunic. He was thinner, if only slightly so, than before but not in a healthy way. Drake's fur was unkempt and looking patching from stress.

"Well, fancy meeting you-" The bard stopped as Drake glanced warily at him. Baxter gulped, waving off the indifferent stare with a nervous chuckle, "Haven't seen you in a while."

"I didn't realize you cared,” The portly tod sneered.
"Well, you have been a steady fixture in this tavern since the trial. Kind of hard not to notice when a beast of your... appearance goes missing." The rotund vulpine didn't reply so Baxter replied for him, "How's the family?"

There was hesitation as the fox reached for his drink. With a deep breath he said, "We're moving."

"Moving? Well that's a shame. I don't have many beasts left to talk to." The slimmer tod ordered a drink and it was slid to him, "Where are you going?"

"No where that I'm telling a little scoundrel like you." Drake chuffed, "No one else left to talk to, my tail! You still have that flying rat to keep you company."

"You know, for someone who had their life spared by said 'flying rat' you seem rather ungrateful."

"She stabbed me in the back, destroyed my livelihood, helped kill my friends, AND helped her little pals help flood my home with three feet of water. Forgive me if I don't send her flowers," Drake's growl kept Baxter's righteous indignation in check.

The armorer calmed himself, "It's just... you know what Kali is like. Having her do all that, after all the help I gave her, it was like being backstabbed by your own... your own..."

"Kid sister, yeah. I know what you mean." The bard nodded, "Ironically, she is only a little younger than I am."

"I know." Drake took a stiff drink, "How a beast stayed that... innocent for so long is beyond me."

"Yeah, I see what you mean. Still, it would have been a shame to see her die in the arena, right?" The armorer snapped his head around, eyes wide as the bard smiled deviously, "Imagine how long she would have lasted, all sweet and innocent. Nire would have probably fed her to the birds eventually. Imagine the sight of that, torn to pieces with all her bubbly goodness staining the arena sand. Instead she let you live so you can be all sad and mopey and alive to see your family. How sad indeed."

Drake opened his muzzle to reply but said nothing as Baxter downed his drink. With yet another sigh, Drake turned back to his own mead, "You fight as dirty as I did in the arena, you know that right?" Leaning back in his stool the fox ran a paw across his fat muzzle, "Some beast torched my home last night."

Baxter nearly choked, "W-what? Is your family-"

"Staying at the inn. My home got flooded, remember?"

"Oh man, I am so sorry..."

The fox chuckled. "Not as sorry as the poor sap who torched my house. I had to talk my wife out of hunting him down and... well, it... it doesn't need bare mentioning what an angry wolverine would do." The gladiator turned armorer shivered before continuing, "I'm almost certain it was a guard."

Baxter raised an eyebrow, "A guard, from the arena... set your ruined house on fire?" He thought about this for a moment, "I cannot fathom why. At the trial, you didn't say anything good about the FTN or the slaves."

Drake squinted as he peered down his now empty glass, "Didn't say anything good about Nire either.” He sighed,, "I'll never work in this town again, not after they painted us as villains for working at the arena. Doesn't matter if the entire town went to the games every weekend, every beast and their mother is treating us like the plague, blasted hypocrites. But there are beasts worse off than me."

"Worse off than a beast who found a scorpion washed through his kitchen window?"

Drake chuckled, “I won’t be forgetting that anytime soon. But aye, there were, and they were all expecting me, the last actual beast in charge of anything in the arena who is still alive, to stand up for those guards and staff members and tell them what a wonderful boss Nire was. How he kept things so organized. How it wasn't their fault a giant beast eating terror spider rampaged its way out of the city." Drake tapped the bar, signalling for another drink.

"Instead I told it as it was. I told the truth, the FTN killed a bunch of guards to free the slaves, and that Nire was the Saint of Blood Money." Drake shrugged, "I wasn't going to get executed for lying to the council and... well, I figured that I... owed the bat for... saving my life." he admitted in a whisper.

The bard only nodded. It was all he could do. The fox couldn't help with how the guards hated the armorer for not defending Nire, nor how they blamed him for their loss because he was the only one left to blame. He could hardly afford to even buy him a drink now that he too was back to hitting taverns for his meals.

"I'm sorry to hear about your troubles, friend."

"I really do hope something good comes out of this. The arena had to end eventually, I guess, and maybe after all the rioting, the anger and frustration works itself out, the town really will be a better place." Drake concluded, "I just wish it didn't happen in my lifetime." He finished the drink in one gulp, "But it's you I would be worried about. If beasts are getting crazy enough to torch the home of a fox married to a wolverine, what are they going to do to you, after you testified against Nire?"

For once in his life, Baxter had no reply. He only let his ears flatten and whimper.

Standing up, the armorer patted the tod heavily on the shoulder, "Stay safe. Tell the bat that... that my daughter thanks her for sparing my life. And my wife too." He nodded once before leaving, and Baxter never saw the fox again.

He turned back to his own drink, downing it quickly. Maybe things will get better in Northvale, once it purged itself of the last remnants of those still wanting to cling to the old, profitable but bloody ways.

Until then, maybe it was time to hit the road once again.

Slamming his glass on the table, Baxter tossed a few coins onto the table before making a quick exit through the back door.

><><><><><><

With a stiff yawn Kali emerged from slumber as light drifted through the attic window. She stretched out her wings as far as they would go, gingerly rolling out a kink in her neck before she arose from her bed sheets.
It wasn't the luxurious bed she dreamed of, but it was comfy and warm and the room around her smelled of baked bread.

"Kali, breakfast is on." A female voice called up the stairs.

"Be quick! I can only fend off this pastry thief for so long!" A second, male voice said as well.
"I already stole a pastry! And there is nothing you can do about it!"

Kali could only roll her eyes, "I'll be right down."

Slowly, the bat pulled herself from the comfort of her blankets. Rolling her sore shoulder the bat practically dragged herself to the mirror. She stood in front of it for a long moment before finally opening her eyes.
Kali did nothing with her unruly head fur. That was a lost cause in itself. No amount of grooming would improve what she saw.

The memory of the barn she stayed in seemed so long ago, as was the memory of the happy, giddy bat forcing herself to smile into the mirror.

The bat that stood before her now was much, much less giddy. Kali was told that eventually her fur should grow over most of the scars to her body, maybe even the place where Thunder's talon had pierced her side. Her wings were another story.

By now the bone had mended, but her left wing was still bruised and swollen where the hawk had snapped it in her final fight with Thunder. It still trembled as she stretched it out, working the muscle while getting a good look at herself.

Most of the holes in her membrane would heal, eventually, leaving lightly colored scars in their wake. Others, like the tear left by the guard’s halberd, were as healed as they were going to get. The holes were small and shouldn't affect her flying, but the mere knowledge that they was there, that they would never heal…

"Well, at least it’s not a hole in my head." Kali tenderly retracting her wings with the slightest wince of pain. It would still be a while before she would be flying again. "Maybe the extra walking will do me good," Kali's wings paused around her midriff as she smoothed out her fur.

"Kali! I'm not joking about keeping Rose at bay!"

"Nom, Nom, Nom. I am not Rose, I am the Pastry Thief!"

The bat glanced downward to the stairs, then to the mirror.

After a long moment a smile crept onto her face, "It was worth it."

Kali wasted no more time. Throwing a green poncho over her shoulders and a red cap over her head, she hopped her way down the stairs.

"Rose, why are you stealing my pastries?"

Inkpaw was busy at the ovens, tending to his goods while keeping the Pastry Thief at bay from gobbling up the plate of scones on the table.

The apron Rose wore was only for show. She was about as helpful at baking pastries as she was at keeping herself from gorging on them.

The weasel offered Kali a smile that spread ear from ear. "Stealing? I'm not stealing. I'm... sacrificing my diet for the greater good! All this fine eatery is making you soft! You don't want to grow too heavy to fly, do you?"

Kali scrunched her nose, but the weasel's words held some truth. In the months since Nire's trial, and subsequent execution by Bessie, Kali's love for comfort food was pushing her into Un-pleasantly plump territory. She couldn't remember finding a fox-bat so heavy back home.

Of course, the owls and hawks usually made short work of her kin before they got as large as she was.
"The sacrifice to your diet is most appreciated. But I'll take it from here." Kali said, sitting down at the table.

"Awwww, can't I have just one more insty tinsy little bite?" The weasel crouched low against the table until only her large sorrowful eyes were able to be seen over the top.

Kali merely pulled the plate closer to herself while munching on her breakfast.

Inkpaw shook his head, "You would think that after a few months of bread and pastries you would both be sick of the stuff by now."

"Oh! Yer one to talk! I caught you sampling yer own pies this morning, yah greedy little varmint." The weasel threw her paws around inkpaws shoulders as he placed a tray of freshly baked goods on the counter.

The marten nestled his head into Rose's cheek, "Sneak thief."

"Scurvy spy."

"Bakery Bandit."

Kali only watched, eyebrow raised, as the mustelids continued to snuggle and intertwine their fluffy tails. "Here." She said, casting her eyes to the wall and shoving the plate full of scones across the table. The weasel unlatched herself from Inkpaw immediately.

"Sorry luv," Rose laughed at the martins pained expression, "But hunger before honor."

A bell chimed in the other room, stealing the marten's attention to the door. "I suppose we will have to continue our little discussion at another time. There are customers to-" Inkpaw blinked. He pointed at each pastry on the fresh tray as if mentally counting how many were left. His head swiveled to the giggling weasel before shaking his head.

"Poor Inkpaw," Kali chuckled, "How long do you think it will take us to eat him out of house and home?"

"Between the two of us ol' gluttons? I bet he will be rolling us out onto the street before the end of the year."

"If we still fit through the door." Kali reached once again for a scone. Sweet, delectable scone. And apparently forbidden as Rose drew the plate closer to herself. "I'm starting to think that a bakery was a poor choice for us to hide."

"Kali, Rose." The beasts turned for the door as Inkpaw entered the room. "We have 'guests'," he said, gesturing to the fox and wildcat that entered the shop behind him.

><><><><><><

"I didn't realize things had gotten so bad." Kali hardly kept the disappointment out of her voice. With the blinds pulled down and the welcome sign flipped to 'closed', the bakery took on a darker, more somber appearance. She would occasionally glance over her shoulder at the wildcat leaning against the wall behind her. Fully healed and back in his prime, he looked intimidating even without the leather cuirass strapped to his chest.

"The town is ready to explode, Kali." Baxter sat in his chair backwards, resting his arms against the back while his tail twitched behind him. "The market is practically a ghost town without the arena. Shops are already packing up and leaving. The riots are only getting worse."

"There was always a possibility this might happen." Inkpaw placed another tray of food on the table, yet no one seemed eager to dig into it. "We of the FTN knew that the city would be divided between those who want change and those who still want the prosperity Nire's blood soaked arena brought."

"I'm think beasts are more angry about the giant flood wiping out their homes..." Rose added.

With a shrug Inkpaw said, "Yeah, well, when we set out to tear down the arena, we never thought it would happen literally." Taking off his apron, Inkpaw wiped off his paws, "Either way, we all knew this was going to happen one way or another. I’m just thankful we had enough to time to let you both heal,” he said to the bat and weasel.

Kali sunk even lower in her chair. This wasn't how it went in stories. The hero killed the bad guys, saved the day, and lived happily ever after. They never had to deal with the consequences of politics or angry mobs of unemployed minions. "So where will we go?”

The question went unanswered.

All eyes falling upon the marten, Inkpaw chuckled nervously. "W-why is everyone looking to me?"
"You are the idea beast." Baxter replied.

Rose laughed, "You spent how many years planning this little revolution of yours. What was the plan after you were done?"

Silence filled the room again. Kali never saw Inkpaw look so uncomfortable. Arms crossed, he glanced at the floor.

"I... never actually thought about it. Just live out my life as a happy baker in Northvale, I guess?" Rubbing the back of his neck he said, "I've been so focused on Freeing the North that I never actually imagined that we would, you know, free the north. I don't think any of us did."

Sadness entered his voice, "That's why the movement disbanded like it did after Nire's death. A few tried to stay and make things better, but... I, just really don't know. Maybe we go to Madder Bower." He paused, adding, "I would like to come back to Northvale, eventually. After everything settles down."

    Baxter leaned back in his chair, saying to the wildcat, “How about you big guy?”

    “I’m staying,” he chuffed. “I helped cause problems. I help fix them.” Trask looked at the pastries longingly, but didn’t move to grab one. “I will remain in Northvale until the roads are free from monster attacks. Until we finally catch, Bessie.”

    The beasts shared a collective shiver. Kali truly wondered if the spider roaming free on the countryside was really the reason Inkpaw and Rose didn’t want to leave Northvale so soon.

    “Right. You have fun with that.” Baxter took a swig of brandy, “Me, I’m ready to put this place far behind me. Do we leave in the morning or-”

    “I’m not going to Madder Bower.”

    The fox, the marten and the weasel turned to Kali. Kali chuckled nervously.,“I’m not… I’m not coming with you to Madder Bower.”

    “But where will you go?” Rose said, crestfallen.

    Inkpaw looks surprised as well. He sat down, saying, “Surely you don’t plan to stay here, do you?”

    Kali quickly waved dismissed the thought with a wave of her wing, “No, no. I’m… I…” she didn’t really know anyway to soften her words so she just said it.
 
“I’m heading home.” She let that sink in for a moment before continuing, “I found some maps in the marketplace. Maps of the far east. Far, far east of Mossflower. I think I found a way back to my homeland.”

    “H-how far is your homeland?” Rose asked with a slight whimper. When the bat didn’t reply, she gulped, “Weeks? Months?” Her voice cracked, “Years?”

    “You’re welcome to come,” Kali offered hesitantly. “But it will be a long, long journey. You might… never come back.”

    Inkpaw glanced at the table, before looking at Baxter.

    “That is tempting.” The fox didn’t look Kali in the eye, “I… I can’t be that far from my family though.” Baxter laughed, “I may not be in my children’s life, but I don’t want to just… you know…”

    Kali patted the bard on the shoulder, “I know. I feel the same. Minus the children of course,” she laughed. “This whole adventure was only supposed to be a year long. Then I broke away from my troupe, I got lost in a storm… twice. And... “ Kali glanced at the ceiling. “Seven years. I haven’t seen my homeland in seven years. I haven't seen my family…”

    “Oh, no!” Rose wailed, wrapping her arms about Kail, “My Kali! My Kali bat is leaving us!”

    Kali choked back a tear as she patted the crying weasel on the back, “These last seven years, it’s been like one grand adventure through a whimsical fairy tale, filled with all sorts of strange and fantastic beasts. It’s like I s-stepped into a dream world and never stepped o-out of it.” Kali sniffled, ruffling Roses head fur, “But none quite as odd as you, Rose. Or you Baxter. Inkpaw… even Trask. I will miss you all, terribly.”

    “I understand.” Inkpaw rubbed something from his eye while trying to smile. “I’m like Trask. I could never leave Northvale for long, now that we worked so hard to free it. M-maybe Rose will go with you?” He said hesitantly.

    The weasel sniffled but tried to smile as she rubbed her eyes dry, “Me, travel? Nah, I’ll only slow you down, bat.” The weasel clutched Inkpaw’s paw in her own, “Besides, I figure I need to settle down for a while before my own next adventure. J-just do me a favor. Don’t forget about us, ok? If you ever need us, you know where to find us.”

    Kali could only nod, less she finally break out into tears of her own.

    “Come now, let us not be sad,” Inkpaw rose from the table. “We are not departing each other just yet. We can say our goodbyes tomorrow, but tonight,
“We celebrate.”
   
    And celebrate they did. Inkpaw broke out the wine while the others helped about the kitchen. Even Trask pitched in to make desserts.

The beasts feasted until they could hardly move, and drank wine until even Kali’s singing was pleasant on the ears. It was a night Kali would not soon forget. But even if it did go on forever, dawn would still come too soon.
The day moved slowly. Preparations for a trip had to be done. Inkpaw had a small push cart filled with supplies and worldly possessions he could not bare to leave behind. He and rose would leave for Madder Bower later that day, but first they helped Kali prepare for her own journey.

    Kali stared down at the parchment in her wings and cringed. Somehow, the map did less to comfort her. It only served as a reminder of how far she needed to travel.

    She looked up at the river boat before her. A few more steps and she was officially out of Northvale forever.

    “So this is it,” Kali said out loud.

    “This is it.” Trask replied. Like the others, the wild cat came to say goodbye to the bat.
She turned to wrap her wings around him, “You know, you never did say why you decided to help us, back then with the owls.”

The warrior shrugged, “What is there to say? I always risked my life for honor. I figured that, for once, it would be nice to risk it for something other than personal glory.” He shrugged, then ruffled Kali’s head fur.

Kali then turned to Inkpaw and Rose. The three of them hugged as well. Kali held them tight, soaking up their scent and already longing for the embrace of her friends that she was leaving behind.

“Inkpaw, Rose…”

“We know, Kali. We will miss you too.” Inkpaw smiled, “Thank you, thank you for all that you have done.”

“And for, you know, saving me from scorpions,” Rose laughed, but then hugged her harder, “Thank you for being the first real friend I’ve had in a long time.”

“Ack! Rose, I need to breath.” Kali pulled away, patting the weasel on the shoulder, “Just promise me you will stay out of trouble, and maybe out of Inkpaw’s pastries.”

“I promise nothing,” the weasel said with a cheeky smile.

And then came Baxter. Kali found this goodbye to be the hardest. “Baxter, I… well… I’m sorry I got you fired.”
The fox blinked. He shook his head and laughed, “Ah, that’s alright. Management was a pain in the tail anyway.” He rubbed at his eyes with a paw, trying like Kali to not cry. “I got you a gift.”

Kali’s tilted her head to one side. Her eyes widened as the bard unslung his lute from about his shoulder, “Baxter, no. I couldn’t take this!”

The fox was not dissuaded however, “Take it, for all of us. Think of it as something to remember us by. To take back to your homeland. Just try not to use it as a bludgeon.” Both bards shared a laugh.

“Baxter,” Kali clutched the lute tightly to her chest, not sure what to say.

Crossing his arms and looking away from the bat, the fox gave her a ‘shooing’ motion with his paw, “Just get going, will ya? If you stay any longer you are going to make me start crying just like these weirdos.”

Kali smiled. She leaned in to give him one last hug as well, and kissed him on the cheek, causing him to blush. He finally broke down and gave her a tight hug as well.

The beasts were still waving as Kali boarded the boat. As the ship set sail, Kali glanced back to her friends one last time. She rubbed the tears from her eyes, and turned to the river ahead.

    The bat tested her wing against the wind. Once she healed properly, she would be flying again in no time, but for now the ship would carry her safely to her next destination in the depths of mossflower.

    Her next stop was Redwall... Eventually.

    Kali closed her eyes, feeling the wind brush against her fur. Her face broke into a grin.

    There would always be time for one more adventure…


2
User Library / "Another Hook"— by Vin.
« Last post by Vin on May 06, 2018, 02:23:25 PM »
I mentioned that my entry for the mini-contest was a piece of a larger story that, unfortunately, never got finished. Or really even started. Thought I'd throw up one of the more complete scenes that I had lying around. It's a direct precursor to the entry itself, so after this Brungle's on his way to see the abbot. I changed the whole abbey scene a little bit from what I had planned initially, but I think it still flows. Enjoy.

As far as Brungle Rudderfletch was concerned, a spade was a spade, a shovel was a shovel, and a vermin was up to no good. Of course, he reflected, officially the distinction between vermin and woodlanders was considered a non sequiter these days, and no self-respecting lawbeast had the indecency to jump to conclusions based on the manner of creature who was suspect. But the grizzled otter knew the statistics, and he’d been playing this game far too long to kid himself otherwise. Besides, he thought. Ain’t no kinda woodlander ta do somethin’ like this. He put his paw to the door in front of him and pushed. The wooden hinges groaned under the sudden movement, and the door swung open with a creak. A shapeless heap writhed on the floor, cursing at the ropes that kept it bound to the overturned chair, erratically swaying to frantic movements of the squirming mass. Brungle leaned against the doorframe and examined a claw. A little dusty, perhaps, but not too unclean. He could do with a good swim, he mused. But who really had time for that, these days? 

He fixed the floundering beast with a cool stare. “Tryin’ somethin’ tricky there, Quickclaw?” he drawled. The beast ceased its frantic scrambling, and thin voice drifted from somewhere inside the pile of fur and wood.

“Huh? Oh, heya Cap'n. I wuz jus’ makin’ meself comfertable is all.” The rather shifty-looking face of a ferret emerged from the mound and flashed the otter a wide grin, fangs gleaming white against dark fur.

“Oh, aye?” Brungle raised an eyebrow, continuing to appraise the ferret with steely eyes.

The ferret nodded furiously. “Aye. Ain’t gotta sit on yer tail when ya gots yerself da oppertunity ter lie down, me gramma allus said.”

“Then ye wouldn’ mind layin’ like that fer a small bit o’ time then, would ye?” Brungle smirked.

Visibly deflating, Quickclaw gave a helpless shrug “Guess not.”

Brungle straightened himself up and strode toward the ferret, reaching out a footpaw and nudging him. “Now, ye know how much I love ter chat with ye when we bring ye in, Quickclaw, but I ain’t got time ta waste so we’re gonna have ta git right ter business.” After pausing to give the ferret a pointed look, he continued. “Now, I’m sure ye’ve got some gleanin’ o’ why we brought ye in, aye?”

“Sumfin ter do wi’ dose fires down in th’ Lower Quarter?” Quickclaw guessed. “Ain’t got nuthin’ ter do wi’ dat, Brungle.”

The otter shook his head. “No, not somethin’ ta do wi’ the fires down in the Grunge. Somethin’ ta do wi’ the murders there.” The ferret blanched. “Ain’t no fire set fer no purpose, Quickclaw. At least, not one controlled like that. Jus’ one buildin’? Grunge bein’ all cramped like that? Nah, I don’ buy it.”

“Dun mean it wuz no murder, tho, Cap'n.” Quickclaw’s eyes were wide, darting across the room even as the ferret tried to reach the rope holding him to the chair with his claws. “It’s jus’ a liddle fire— coulda been tryna ta send a message or sumfin’.”

Brungle’s gaze drifted to the wall as he sighed. “I don’ think so— jus’ one body found, wi’ two arrows right through the chest. Looks more like some’un was tryin’ ter cover somethin’ up.” He looked back at his claw. He really could use a nice swim right now. Nothin’ ter beat the stress like a good ol’ swim. “Roap saw ye shellin’ at the ol’ Leapin’ Trout roundabouts that time, of course.”

The ferret stopped straining against his bonds. “Wait— ya mean I ain’t no suspect?”

“Quickie,” said Brungle, chuckling. “Yer the mos’ suspect beast in this whole town. But ye ain’t the culprit, an’ we can use that.”

Quickclaw grinned. “Ain’t da firs’ time a game o’ Shell brought me good luck.”

“Probably the first time wi’out cheatin’, though,” said the otter with a wry laugh.

“Aye, dat’s true,” guffawed the ferret. His wary look subsided. That was good. Brungle needed him to cooperate. “Wait.” Quickclaw frowned. “Why didja go an’ git me, then?”

Brungle looked at him. “We need yer help.” He ignored the ferret’s brief exclamation of surprise. “Our beasts don’ get much done down in the Grunge. Ain’t got a lot o’ love fer justice down there.”

Quickclaw sniggered. “Dat’s a way o’ puttin’ it, aye. An’ puttin’ it rather lightly if ya ask me.”

“What we need,” continued the otter, glaring at the interruption, “Is someun who won’t be questioned down in the lower quarters.” He paused, eyeing the ferret with distaste. “Someun who’s lowlife scum enough ter blend in.”

“Gee,” said Quickclaw. “‘Preciates dat ‘un, Cap'n.” He cocked his head in consideration. “Wat’s keepin’ me from sayin’ no?”

“Ye say no, an’ we charge ye wi’ obstructin’ justice,” replied Brungle with a shrug.

“Ya can’t charge me fer dat,” protested the ferret. “I ain’t obstructin’ nuthin’. I jus’ dun wanna risk m’neck.”

“If ye ain’t helpin’, then yer obstructin’.” The otter fixed him with a menacing glare. “Ye think anybeast is gonna look twice if we lock ye up? Yer a menace; ain’t a beast in this town who hasn’t been cheated out o’ somethin’ by ye. I’ll mos’ likely git a medal fer puttin’ ye away.”

"Aw, Cap'n, I ain't no officer. Wouldn' know what ter do, y'know?"

"Yer a clever beastie, Quickie. I'm certain ye'll figger it out. 'sides, ye'll have a little help."

Quickclaw shook his head furiously. "Ain't gonna do it. D'y'know what'll happen ta somebeast like me if it gets around I went an' helped the law?"

Brungle raised an eyebrow. "Worse'n bein' locked up?" He made a show of looking through his pockets. "An' damn, would ya look at that?" Quickclaw's eyes narrowed in suspicion. The otter smirked. "Think I mighta misplaced yer key, Quickie. Gonna take a fair bit ter find, ain't it?"

"There's a key in yer paw," Quickclaw objected.

The otter feigned surprise. "This? Naw, this is just fer some kinda drawer or somethin'."

With a sigh, the ferret finally nodded in resignation. Brungle grinned at him. “Much obliged, Quickie.” He turned and started to move toward the exit.

“Oi! Could ya at least ‘elp me git up?” Quickclaw called after the otter as he walked through the doorway.

“Thought ye were more comfortable that way,” Brungle said, spinning on his heel and slamming the door shut without waiting for a response. He could’ve done without trusting a beast like Quickclaw, but sometimes when you go fishing you don’t catch any fish, and you just have to try again with a different hook.
3
Mini-Contest Results and Discussion / Re: March 2018 Contest Results and Voting
« Last post by Frost on April 19, 2018, 12:53:15 PM »
Agreed, well done Saryss, and all the other entrants! This was a great contest, and I'm sorry that I'm late to the festivities, but I'll try to be around for the next one. Cheers to all!
4
Mini-Contest Results and Discussion / Re: March 2018 Contest Results and Voting
« Last post by Vin on March 29, 2018, 11:33:40 PM »
Congrats on the win, Saryss— hella well deserved— and welcome to the forum.

5
Mini-Contest Results and Discussion / Re: March 2018 Contest Results and Voting
« Last post by Saryss on March 29, 2018, 12:01:10 PM »
Thank you!

Vizon is an old friend. A while back I had expressed an interest in getting back into creative writing, so Vizon invited me to join when the mini-contest came up. I had read some of the Redwall novels a long time ago and have always had an appreciation for the world (though Vizon and the forum’s Redwall guides were very helpful in reintroducing me to some of the world’s minutiae).

I love your icon, by the way.
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It's always great to see a new face. Especially one that joins us in such a spectacular fashion. Congrats on the win, Saryss!

What brought you to our little corner of the ROC?
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Mini-Contest Results and Discussion / Re: March 2018 Contest Results and Voting
« Last post by Saryss on March 26, 2018, 06:05:45 PM »
Thank you! I really enjoyed working with the prompt and the the challenge of keeping the story at 2,000 words or less. After writing the story, I feel that I may have to develop the characters of the two dibbuns further, as I see their futures holding some interesting (and potentially awkward) adventures.

I enjoyed reading the other entries as well. Each story was wonderful in its own unique way.

Thank you for welcoming me to your group. I will look forward to the next mini contest!
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Mini-Contest Results and Discussion / Re: March 2018 Contest Results and Voting
« Last post by Vizon on March 26, 2018, 01:17:25 PM »
Congratulations, Saryss! What a way to start your first writing contest!  ^-^
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Mini-Contest Results and Discussion / Re: March 2018 Contest Results and Voting
« Last post by Airan on March 24, 2018, 08:19:02 AM »
The votes are in and a winner has been decided. But before we get to that, I'm sure some of you would like to know some of my own thoughts on your stories and why they were selected as the nominations-

The Hermit and the Monk- by Vizon

I enjoyed this one a lot for the fact that it was self contained and had a clear message. It had distinct characters who are well developed and believable, while still being unique from one another. It was a rather character driven piece as well, with the disaster being mostly a backdrop to the actual story, which is something I appreciated. My only real complaint was that the mousemaid was a bit more of a plot device than an actual character herself, but the other three characters were still well done and interesting.

Where the Wind Blows- by Gordon Hagglethrump

Enjoyed this one quite a lot for the same reasons Vizon said above. There's a lot packed in here in a really short amount of words, and you get a good picture of all of the different characters and their opinions on Aunt Cas. One thing I particularly enjoyed was the writing style, which reminded me of some older classic novels. The subversion of expectations was well done.

And Behold, Seven Ears, Blighted and Thin- by Vin

I enjoyed this one for the opposite reasons than the previous two. While Vizon and Gordon's entries were both more self contained, I found myself gravitating towards this one because of the interesting world and my own want to see what happened next. I found this entry to have the most interesting characters as well, with the more diplomatic fox mayor, the rough guard, and the, honestly, kind of shady abbot. Like with Vizon's entry, I feel the fourth character could have been more important, and I feel the opening was a bit redundant with it saying 'he wanted to go swimming' twice, as well as the exchange between him and the wall guard, but I enjoyed this one a lot and wanted to see more.

The Coming of the Night Monster to Mossflower Woods- by Saryss

Saryss is a newcomer to Redwall and the forum, but I think they did a really good job for their first outing in the world. I personally enjoyed this one for how simple its premise was, the excellent focus on its characters, and thought its writing style was engaging. Not much else to say but that I hope to be able to continue reading your writing :)

Now for the winner! The votes have been counted and the winner of this month's Mini Contest is-
The Coming of the Night Monster to Mossflower Woods

Yay, congratulations Saryss on your well deserved victory. Clearly I wasn't the only one who enjoyed your writing :) As a reward, you'll be getting a little badge on your profile here soon, so keep an eye out for it.

Thanks everyone for participating, reading, and voting in this Mini Contest. I had a lot of fun and enjoyed all of your entries. But the reading isn't done yet! Here are the two entries that unfortunately didn't make the cut.

Spoiler: show
Dark Wind Rising - By Vera Silvertooth

Roe shifted the pack on her back, the sweltering heat of the day weighing heavier than the pack she carried. She trudged along the road, flicking a pesky fly away with one weary paw.

In front of her, her companions, two mice and a mole, toiled similarly under their own packs. Ironbend, the stout mole of the group, had spent the last two seasons at Salamandastron, learning smithing from the badger lord, while Cate and Everton, the mice, had gone visiting some of Cate’s family along the coast, near where Roe herself had grown up among her father’s holt.

Now they were all on the way to Redwall, Cate and Everton to live there, Ironbend to pass on his new knowledge to the Foremole in residence, and Roe to pass on her father’s well-wishes to a relative who’d moved to Redwall seasons before.

Hazy lines rose from the road before them, dust rising in small puffs from the tred of their paws. All around, the faint smell of grasses drying in the late summer heat, similar to that of baking bread.

“How far to Redwall?” Roe asked, her tongue parched in her mouth.

“Oi reckon we’m be thurr boi noightfall,” Ironbend said. “Iffen we’m keep oop our pace.”

Under her breath, Roe grumbled, “Keep up the pace, in this heat…”

Cate smiled back at Roe over her pack. “Just think, Roe. Once we’re in Redwall, you’ll be able to sample all the October Ale, Dandelion Cordial, and Strawberry Fizz you could hold.”

Roe’s mouth moistened again just at the thought. The food and drink of Redwall, infamous as it was, provided her all the motivation she needed to plod on a little more eagerly.

Cate looked back at Roe again, her brow furrowing over her dark eyes.

Roe glanced back as well, then hesitated.

Behind the party, rising from the south-west, a tall bank of dark clouds rolled.

“Looks like we’ll get some relief before Redwall,” she said.

Everton and Ironbend glanced back. They both halted in their march.

“Oi doan’t loike the lukks o’ they cloids,” Ironbend muttered.

“Why?” Roe asked. “They’re just storm clouds, aren’t they? We’re going to be drenched for sure, but what’s the worry with a little water.”

“Spoken like a true otter,” Everton said. “Maybe you see clouds like that on the coast, Roe, but this far into Mossflower, we don’t. There’s something wicked in them.”

Cate laughed, but it sounded forced and weaker than her usual gay sounds. “A cloud is a cloud, my dear. It isn’t good or evil.”

Roe looked back at the building mass of black and gray. She thought of throwing her agreement in with Cate, but even as she looked at the storm, she couldn’t help but wonder if Everton was right. The clouds seemed to take on almost a greenish hue as Roe watched.

Everton turned to Ironbend. “Do you think we should search for shelter before that gets to us?”

Ironbend’s velvety face crinkled in thought. “Moight be we’m could outroin ‘m. Oi’d loike walls ‘twixt oi an’ thurr cloids.”

Cate pushed past her husband, “Then let’s stop the chatter and let the paws patter!”

They started out again with a will, spurred on now by the building storm behind them. Not a breath of wind stirred around them, but still that wall of greeny black seemed to billow up like the rising smoke from a huge fire. The land around them grew darker as the clouds blocked the sun.

The first gust of wind hit their backs with an icy blow. Dust rose from the road in choking towers, filling their faces with blinding, choking grit. Roe sneezed four times in quick succession.

“Foller oi,” Ironbend said, picking up the pace.

Roe checked the storms progress, gaping at the dark mass almost directly overhead now.

The rain began to drum around them, fat, heavy drops that would have been a welcome relief if the terror of their origin hadn’t been so great. Then Everton yelped and clapped a paw to his shoulder. Something white whizzed past Roe’s head, then, as if that were only a warning shot, large hailstones like walnuts began to pelt around them.

They covered their heads with their paws, yelping and shrieking when a hard hailstone hit fur and flesh. Ironbend stopped when the left side of the road fell steeply away into the ditch. He waved with a heavy digging claw for them to go down.

Roe, Everton, and Cate scrambled down to the dry, rocky ditch bed and pressed themselves against the side, barely sheltered by the road’s overhang.

Ironbend slid down beside them, tossed his pack at their feet, then began applying his strong claws to the ground to Roe’s right. Rocks flew as thickly as the hail as he dug out a bit more shelter.

The storm came over them, filling the air with leaves and light debris. As she watched, a flash of lightning streaked from end to end. The air around her tingled from the crack and all of them flinched and covered their ears as the world boomed around them.

Cate’s eyes went wide and she pointed, mouth agape, but no sound was heard. Roe and the others raised their eyes.

From the dark mass over them, a sinuous twisting tendril came creeping down towards the earth. Formed from the swirl of dark clouds itself, it grew, then retracted, then darted back down like a tentacle of a sea creature her father had once shown her. As they watched, things began to rise up around the tendril, flung up high in the air and carried around and around the column of darkness. Trees, Roe realized, shattered and splintered from the wind that rose from that twisting cloud.

The roar that came from it was unlike anything Roe had ever heard. Not just a rush of wind or water, but a constant building roar.

And it crawled closer.

Ironbend stopped digging and shoved them all into the shallow hole he’d excavated. The wind seemed to rise and they huddled there together, clutching one another as the twister came on, closer and closer, it’s narrow end swaying and writhing near the ground like a worm on a hook.

Roe wanted to run from the storm, and might have, if Cate had not been hugging herself against Roe’s strong side, her husband shielding her with his own body. Ironbend clung to Roe’s other side, his dark face gazing grimly at the storm that filled their vision.

Leaves, twigs, and branches pelted them, carried aloft by the winds. Roaring filled their ears. Roe thought Cate was screaming, or maybe it was herself.

In one horrifying moment, Roe felt the air of that thing twining around her. Her back and rudder scraped on the ground. The twister sucked the air from her and her vision swam before her.

After an eternity, the tugging on Roe eased. Debris flung by the storm settled at last. The sounds died down and the stillness that followed seemed more deafening than the roar that had come with the twisting cloud.

The four beasts began to shift. Shattered tree limbs and forest debris lay about them and Roe hisses softly through her teeth at the throbbing ache in her limbs where she’d been pelted.

With tears leaking from her eyes, Cate pulled a handkerchief from her pack and dabbed at a bloody gash on her husband’s face, where he’d been struck by something.

“I’m all right. Just a scratch,” he kept muttering, but let her dab at him anyway.

Ironbend moved stiffly, shaking mud and leaves from his fur before walking out into the small accumulation of water that filled up the bottom of the ditch, amid the big hailstones that lay with the rocks.

Roe followed him out and looked towards where the cloud had gone. The dark mass moved on, lit now from behind by the sun, looking blacker than before. The twisting finger had vanished, though some of the clouds still swirled about as if in memory of what had happened.

The path that the twister had taken left a trail of shattered trees and stripped limbs. Shakily, they helped each other out of the ditch and back into the road, staring in the path the storm had taken.

Ironbend rubbed the back of a digging claw across his snout. “Oi’m thinken et mizzed Redwall. We’m goit most o’ et.”

Battered, bloody, weary, and filthy, the four beasts returned to their slow progress, each one glancing at the diminishing cloud as it worked its way further north.


Spoiler: show
The Fever - by Rascal

“Martin!” The mouse’s eyes were wide with fright as she shook Martin. “Wake up! We have to leave.”

The female mouse’s voice only grew more urgent, desperately trying to wake Martin out of the alcohol induced sleep he was in.

Why was she being such a bother? Martin thought, they just got to sleep.

“Martin!” She continued to plead, right up until the door to the inn room burst open, her blood coating the walls shortly there after.

________

Martin opened his eyes to find a squirrel staring back at him.

“Martin? Are you ok?”

The mouse proved that he was by flailing his arms and shouting with alarm, causing him to tumble out of his stool.

Poppy didn’t seem even bat an eye. “So… yes?”

The mouse sighed, “Fine. Fine! Everything is fine! Just broke my bloody neck is all…” Martin groaned, kicking the stool out of the way to sit up. He hesitated though, at the sight of Poppy’s outstretched paw.

Starting a moment too long at her offer to help him to his feet, Poppy rolled her eyes. “I bathe after every shift in the infirm, Martin. If you are going to catch the Fever, it won’t be for me.”

Martin was not comforted by this, but the mental image did make his cheeks redden. Accepting her help up he asked, “What did the abbot say, a-about the mission?” He said quickly, desperate to get the image of a bathing squirrel out of his mind.

Though… if her fur flattened in just the right way, Poppy could pass for a mouse…

But she was still a squirrel, thought Martin. Admittedly, an attractive, slender one with bright red fur. And Martin was, and always would be, a very plain, ordinary brown mouse. It was the only trait he shared with the legendary hero other than a name, just like the other thirty mice in abbey named Martin.

Glancing about the Great Hall first, Poppy motioned for Martin to follow. It made sense not to discuss such sensitive matters with him here. Too many ears to listen in after refugees began spilling into the abbey.

So Martin followed Poppy elsewhere, side stepping the belongings of refugees encamped along the walls, and giving the vermin a wide berth. Especially those that would cough or sneeze. There was no telling what was just harmless, and what was the beginning of a long, painful descent into hacking coughs, body aches, and eventually… death.

“I managed to talk some sense into the older beasts of the abbey,” said Poppy flatly. “We leave at the first chance we get.”

“Woo.” Martin’s voice mirrored Poppy’s own enthusiasm. “That might still take a while, all things considered.” The two spoke in hushed tones as they walked.

“This is worth the risk, right?” The mouse asked, “You know what waits for us out there...”

Poppy was the first to find the side exit to the abbey. She stepped out into the sunlight and let its warmth embrace her before saying, “Even with five hundred new souls in the abbey, we have enough food to keep them fat through winter, enough wine to keep them drunk until summer, and a never ending supply of water. But if we don’t get ahead of this Fever, we will lose half our beasts before months end.”

“Some would argue that it would still be safer than going outside.”

“They would, and they have,” Poppy said tiredly, “I managed to convince the elder beasts of the abbey that trading one disease for another, admittedly deadlier, disease was not a good idea.”

“Admittedly deadlier?” Martin laughed, “That’s one way to describe the nightmare going on outside.”

“I know, but as a healer, watching good beasts die to a disease we can’t cure is just as distressing as watching them succumb to a disease we can cure. We just need the supplies to do so…”

Martin shook his head and spat, “One of the refugees probably brought the Fever with them. We are lucky none of them brought the Madness with them too.”

“I would watch your tone, Martin. You will be working very closely with vermin before we are through, especially one in particular if we are to pull this mission off.”

Martin blinked in confusion, then groaned, “You don’t really mean to bring her along, do you?” He looked up to see that Poppy had already moved on, across the open ground, towards the ramparts. “Poppy, you can’t be serious. Charley is a thief and a vagabond. If not for the abbot’s mercy, she would have been kicked outside the walls a long time ago.”

The beasts paused as something crashed against the gate. The chains around them rattled, but the heavy wood held firm.

For now…

The squirrel pointed to the gate, “Like it or not, out of all the beasts in the abbey, Charley survived out there the longest. Longer than YOU.”

The mouse ground his teeth together as the squirrel ascended the stairs. He couldn’t argue with Poppy there. The trip… no, the retreat from the festival in the City took less than a day, with armed guards, and hardly any of them survived.

Charley spent an entire month out there.

Alone.

“Yeah, well, she might not be so keen on being thrown back into the wilderness…” Martin could only hope.

They found the fabled Charley at the top of the ramparts. Two months of Redwall food had done the marten good, and then some. To be honest, Charley was never a picture of pine marten health even before she reached the abbey, thought the mouse, but she didn’t seem overly burdened by her excess either.

“Oh! Well hello thar!” Charley greeted the beasts first, struggling to string her bow as she did. “Fancy a spot of fresh air, did’ja? I imagine you don’t get much in that dreary hospital, do you?” Her tone instantly changed, her ears falling flat, “I’m not going to get sick bein’ around ya, am I?”

“I pity the poor disease that would get into you, Charley. Probably make the poor thing ill…” the otter behind the marten grinned widely. Martin could wish for only half of Talook’s quick wit, and height.

In truth though, even if he towered over the mouse and squirrel, Talook was roughly the same height as the marten. However, where Charley leaned towards being shaped like a pear, Talook had no lack of muscle to his arms.

He too was stringing a bow. “What brings you up here, mates?” the otter said in a friendly tone.

“Business,” Poppy said with the air of someone who didn’t like to beat around the bush. “The abbot has agreed to send a group outside the walls. We need volunteers.”

Martin cringed slightly at the squirrel’s bluntness, making a mental note to be the one to ask for volunteers from now on.

“Then I accept.” The otter seemed to stand taller, sticking out his chest and becoming serious. “I won’t let you down.”

Both rodents exchanged glances. Martin spoke first. “Actually,” he said with great hesitation, “we need Charley.”

The pause that followed was broken by Charley’s laughter, the otter’s bravado deflating behind her. “Need, is it now? I didn’t know you cared!”

The marten winked at the mouse in a way that made his fur stand up on end. “Don’t let it go to your head.”

“Oh, it’s too late for that, luv.” The chubby marteness leaned her back to the wall and giggled. “Ohhh!” She mimicked the mouse, “Charley! CHARLEY! Save us Charley! You are our only hope!”

Charley wiped a tear from her eye, “Wow, that was a good natural high, that was.”

“So are you going to help us, or not?” Martin crossed his arms.

“No.” The marten said flatly, returning to stringing her bow. “I don’t volunteer for suicide missions.”

Martin’s ears stood on end, his cheeks growing red with anger. Tulook stepped in before he could act on it.

“You will have to forgive our vermin friend here, she woke up on the cowardly side of the bed this morning.” He chuckled as Charley stuck her tongue out at him.

“Hey, I’ll take the title of coward if it means I get to keep my skin intact. You lot only <i>think</i> you know what’s going on out there.” With her bow properly strung, Charley’s voice became serious. “My home village used to call it ‘The Madness’. I saw a beast afflicted with it once, when I was young. After driving him from the village, we had to burn his hut. We were not even allowed to follow where he had walked...”

Charley breathed deeply, glancing over her shoulder to the world beyond the ramparts. “This disease though… it doesn’t kill you like it should, and you can spread it everywhere you go. I had to be careful what I touched, where I got my water and all it takes is one good bite...” The marten shook her head, stepping away from the wall.

“I want my ration restrictions lifted.”

The mouse raised an eyebrow, “So… you will help us?”

Charley gestured to the abbey behind them, “Fever or Madness, I’m not going to let beasts die from either if I can help it. But I’m not going to help you out because of heroics either. This is going to <i>cost</i> you, and since you lousy rodents don’t believe in money… I want unlimited rations.”

Martin opened his muzzle to protest but Charley interrupted to say, “And wine. I want no limit on wine either. Oh! And a fancy title of ‘Lady Baroness Fluffbottom, savior of all Redwall!’ printed in gold letters over my own room.”

“You have got to be-”

“The first two are doable, the last… no. Because, just. No.” Poppy shook her head, “Just try not to party yourself to death before the mission starts. We leave the first chance we get.” She turned for the stairs, “Martin, time is of the essence and there is much to prepare.”

The mouse slouched. He glanced at Charley as if he had one more thing to add, but chose to be silent. They were going to entrust their lives in the paws of a thief.

As if reading his mind, Poppy placed a comforting paw on Martin’s shoulder as they walked down the stairs. “It will be ok, Martin. We will be ok. The abbey will never fall to vermin.”

The mouse smiled and nodded in agreement, hoping that she didn’t see how fake it was.
‘But these are not vermin they are against,’ Martin thought.

‘They are monsters.’

__________

“How about we make this a little more interesting, Rudder-butt? First to hit ten under a minute wins the others rations!”

“Seriously?” Talook raised an eyebrow, “You just weaseled yourself into unlimited food and you are still betting for more rations?” The otter shook his head in laughter, “You’re diet is going to get you killed… Fluff-butt.”

“Not a bad way to die, given the alternative.” Good cheer disappeared from Charlie's voice. She and the otter both frowned as they peered over the walls of the abbey.

“Do you... think they feel pain?” The otter asked.

“No,” Charlie pulled back on her bow and let her arrow fly, “Not if we put them out of their misery.”

Her arrow struck true, skewering the fox through the side. It’s body fell and dissapeared into the screeching mass of vermin clawing at the abbey walls. Weasels, foxes, cats, stoats, even a mighty badger or two. Some still had shreds of dirty clothing wrapped about their bodies to prove that they were once civilized.

Before the Madness took over.

Before they tossed themselves at the walls like wild animals, their eyes red as blood and spitting foam from their muzzles...

...And their numbers were endless
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Mini-Contest Results and Discussion / Re: March 2018 Contest Results and Voting
« Last post by Vizon on March 24, 2018, 12:06:35 AM »
Been meaning to write reviews. I know I'm pretty much too late here, but I thought people might still appreciate the feedback, even if it doesn't influence votes. Gonna try to focus on the positives over the negatives here, as I appreciated each of these stories and thought they were all great fun to read and well-written. Like I was saying - a very tough call. To me, it's almost a contest of what type of story the audience likes best as opposed to which is "better" than the others, 'cause they're all good!


The Hermit and the Monk

I enjoyed reading this one, in spite of the bit of "adult content"- uncharacteristic of Redwall, yet not explicit in its details. Overall the story in its entirety is a glimpse of both the goodness and ugliness of humanity, and how we each might face the ugly reality of “people” in all their rawness. In the end it’s as though the hermit has proven her point that the monk should not be saving other beasts, after 2 out of the three beasts he rescued turn on him, yet Mory continues to help others in spite of that proof. Perhaps Hespa herself is his proof that some beasts are worth saving? Hespa admits she is not a good person, but her actions are very different from the others in spite of her curmudgeony worldview.

I like this submission for the philosophical ruminations it highlights.

Where the Wind Blows

This one was really a great read. The story is remarkably full and complete in spite of the 2,000 word limit, and feels much longer (in a good way). Somehow the author built up characters, set them up just right (particularly Aunt Cass not being taken seriously in the end when she tries to raise the alarm), and crammed in an incredible amount of detail and description without it feeling forced. I really liked the way the author played with the fact that the reader would know a natural disaster was at hand, but blindsided us with the tidal wave when we were expecting the volcano as the culprit the entire time. I like the tidbits about Sam wanting to learn to read and go places, so that even when the tragedy happens, you know he will be okay. I love the little bits about Sam’s personality – how he liked to make the adults scream (reminds me a little of Harold from “Harold and Maude”) and valued his aunt’s company in spite of the way others thought of her. Even the dialog from the random townsfolk was entertaining and a fun touch.

I like this submission for the complete, full-circle story-telling it employed.

And Behold, Seven Ears, Blighted and Thin

This too was a fun one to read. Very dark and dreary possible future for Redwall/Mossflower. I really enjoyed the character development, and even moreso on my second read-through as I realized that Brungle is actually maybe not my favorite character even though the whole thing is from his perspective. I am suspicious of the Abbot’s quick decision to carry out a sort of quiet assassination, and I am very curious about the world that has been established, and Lowtail’s role as mayor as well. The politics seem very interesting, as well as the set-up of potential conflict between woodlanders and vermin. For not liking Brungle’s “methods” (beating up vermin to get answers from the sound of it), Lowtail is surprisingly cooperative regarding the Abbot’s decision. I suppose he has to be diplomatic to be mayor though. Most of this story makes me just want to know more – and what the rest of the story is/will be. It’s very much a “slice of life” type of story – a tiny piece of a much bigger world, which is both compelling and frustrating!

I like this submission for the great world-building it accomplished.

The Coming of the Night Monster to Mossflower Woods

The excitement of the series of events that plays out in this story is easy to get caught up in. I like the details about these new parents taking such pride in their first clutch, and was curious to see whether they would survive something as serious as a tornado in a twiggy sparrow nest. It was surprising that they did, and yet not at the same time, as fate seemed to play a large role in this story. In fact, all their expectations are shattered almost right away, and fate gives them a new life and new family, practically handing them babes to replace their own. One does wonder how the wildcat will cope with such a small living space, and what he will learn to eat, but generally, as fate has preserved them through this extreme disaster, there’s not much else to fear for their future.

This submission does an excellent job of playing with the whims of fate to twist the future of what might have otherwise been two (now four) very ordinary lives.
 
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