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Dannflower Reguba
March 5th, 2004, 06:12 PM
I started this after reading the the first few chapters of Nora's Spearlady. I haven't worked on it in a while, but I thought I might as well put up what's done. It takes place after Lord Brocktree, one of my favorite in the series.

I did try to imitate BJ's style. I know full well there are things that I simply cannot do right now: such as his wonderful imagination concerning food. I...don't cook. I barely know what a scone IS, nonetheless how to use his plethera of OTHER foods. But...I did what I could, and I'm proud of what I accomplished. Maybe this will put me back on track to finishing it.

I won't post it all at once though.

~~~~~~~~~~

Prologue:

The night spread out over the land like a warm blanket. There was no wind, only the soft rustlings of pine needles as squirrels climbed up and down their trunks. Somewhere a robin chirped, signaling dawn's approach. Like clockwork, light grew from the eastern front as the sun rose. Summer was born again each day, and today was no exception. A well-muscled squirrel shot from treetop to treetop, anxiety gnawing at him.
“Beddle, hearken!” a voice called from below. “The time is nigh, methinks!”
Beddle shot down the pine like an arrow, jumping just at the base of the trunk. He landed directly in front of the squirrelmaid, a look of excitement crossing his normally stoic features.
“Be thee sure, Lily?” Beddle asked fervently, staring into her eyes, as if to catch a fabrication in her words.
Lily put her paw on his shoulder, smiling while trying to pacify him. “Worrying does nobeast good, friend. Thy babe will come when he comes. And if he canst spar like thee, he's to be perilous on the field of battle!”
Beddle exhaled, calming his nerves. “Forgive me, Lily. Thank thee for thy kind words. Call me the moment thy hear of a single thread of news!” In a moment, he turned, jumped back onto the tree, and was flying through the trees once more. Lily turned, smiling, and walked back to the camp.
Ruro's Clan lived in a pine grove northeast of Salamandastron, the great fire mountain of the Badger Lords. Lord Brocktree was currently ruling there, watching over the western coast. Jukka, the clan's previous leader, had died in a plan to regain the mountain from the blue hordes of Ungatt Trunn, the wildcat, eight seasons ago. Ruro was pronounced the leader of the clan by Lord Brocktree himself, and was given an aptly named Jukka medal incommemoration of the event. Ruro's clan had lived in peace ever since that war, but was always ready to help the Badger Lord if need be.
The camp itself was homely, filled with only the essentials. There were no brightly colored clothes or tapestries, but nature-colored houses made from pine needles, tree bark, and mud. There was one great fire in the center, and several smaller ones strewn about.
The normal goings-on were put on hold as the entire clan sat with apprehension, though on nowhere near the same level as Beddle's. Lily walked to the house where all the attention was focused. She rapped lightly on the door. A young squirrelmaid just out of infancy poked her head through the door slowly.
Lily smiled softly. “My apologies for disturbing thee, young Tippergreen. Pray, be there any new news?”
Tippergreen shook her head adamantly. “Miss Wuwo said if thee botters us once mow, she'll have thee hung by thine tail fwom da top of yon twee!” She pulled her head back in for a moment, then reappeared. “An' Mista' Beddow too!”
Lily muffled a chuckle. “Alright, young miss. We'll not bother thee again.” Tippergreen shut the door as Lily walked towards the center fire. Before she made it halfway, however, a voice called from behind her.
“News, pray tell?” Beddle asked. Lily nearly shrieked with fright. She stifled it, however, and composed herself quickly before turning around.
“Be it that all warriors had powers such like expecting fathers!” Lily said. “They'd be nigh invincible!” Lily caught the look on Beddle's face. “In answer to thy query, young Miss Tippergreen hast informed me that if I ask once more, she'll hang me from my tail in top of yon tree. The same for thee as well!”
Beddle's face changed from anxiety to sheer delight. “Be it that my child will possess all the boldness of young Tippergreen! Come, let us retire to the fire 'til the time comest. My Purla will need all her concentration.”
They seated themselves on a log next to other squirrels of Ruro's Clan. All of them were conversing of the same thing, Beddle's child.
“Yon child'll be a champion treewhiffler, a tribute to his mother!”
“Nay, thee'll be a great warrior, the very reflection of his father!”
“Thees're both mistaken. The babe will grow to be a healer, like Ruro!”
“Whatever the ninkledort becomes, he be taking his sweet time–yeowch!”
“Grood! Ruro'll give thee a harder cuff than that if she hears thee speaking such words! And forget thee not that Beddle is sitting right next to me!”
“Ah! My apologies, Sir Beddle! Forgive my impertinence.”
Beddle, however, was beyond the scope of the conversation. He sat, staring deep into the flames, unaware of anything else. A myriad of questions swarmed through his mind. Would it be a male or a female? Would it be a warrior or a healer? Would the birth go as planned? What if something happened? Would it be alright on the trip to Salamandastron?
It was customary for all new parents to take newborn babes to Salamandastron for a fortnight. The lands had been peaceful for so long that the group usually went without any escort. However, Beddle had a bad feeling about Purla and his trip. He had no cause for alarm, but he felt something deep within him. And somehow it was as if he could see his fate by staring into the flames set before him. Suddenly, the husky voice of Ruro rang out over the camp.
“Come hither, all! The babe is born!”

~~~~~~~~~~

TLP pastes tabs? Insane...

Edit: Ah, I guess it only shows them in the post window.

Dannflower Reguba
March 5th, 2004, 06:14 PM
Chapter 1

Guarding the western shores, overlooking the ocean, the eternal sentry, Salamandastron, stood. The great fire mountain had stood since the mists of time, never waning in its duty. The loyal hares, led by a Badger Lord, were a force to be reckoned with. On the shores, a training session for new recruits in the Long Patrol, the official hare army of Salamandastron, commenced.
A sinewy hare was shouting to the recruits. “Step on up, young'ns. See if ya c'n jolly well bring me down!”
Another hare, next to the first, joined in. “No need to go white in face, young bounders! Southpaw's nothin' but a raggedy ole flea in hare's clothing!”
Southpaw took a swipe at his twin, who dodged it expertly. “Bobweave, you blighter! Watch well, chaps, an' see how a true Salamandastron hare takes care of his business!”
The two began tussling in full view of fifty gaping hares. They hadn’t a clue of what to think. Suddenly, the twins both stopped and saluted, smiling broadly. Dorothea Duckfontein Dillworthy, known as Dotti, the Patrol General of the Long Patrol, was walking towards them.
“Jolly ole day for a scrap, ain't it, Miss Dotti?” Bobweave said, grinning from ear to ear.
“Aye, the young chaps're just havin' a lesson on basic boxin'!”
Dotti giggled at Southpaw and Bobweave. Since they first set eyes on Dotti, they were both smitten with her, and were constantly vying for her attention. “I can see that clearly, you two! I was just thinkin' to m'self, 'What would be a nice surprise for our Badger Lord?' Seein' as how it's a new summer, and a jolly spiffin' one at that, wot wot!”
“Why don't we find someway to get some of the chaps from the old days here, wot?” Bobweave suggested.
“Aye, like Brog or Bucko or Ruro's clan!” Southpaw said.
Dotti smiled. “What a spiffin' idea! I say, it seems to me that all we would jolly well need to do is find Brog on the southern shores. His wonderful heron chap, Rulango, could get the rest, wot. Now...I suppose two strong bounders like y'selves could make the trek to the southern shores, hmm?” Dotti fluttered her eyelashes, and before she could utter another word, the twins were running back to the mountain to pack up supplies.
“Time's a'wastin, Miss Dotti!”
“Gotta be on our way!”
“The quicker we leave the quicker we return!”
“Gonna find those otters if it takes our wonderful selves a hundred seasons, wot!”
“Especially with Miss Dotti to return home to!”
When the two had left, Dotti let loose with the laughter she had been struggling to keep hidden. “Wahahahaha! Those two are absolute pips, absoballylutely pippish! Wahaahaa!” Dotti turned her attention to the fifty gaping hares. “Go on now, young chaps. Supper's super when it's serenely satisfies your stomach, wot wot!”
In the rush that followed, Dotti was nearly bowled over.

Lord Brocktree sat alone at his forge. His great hammer rang blow after blow upon the ever-shifting metal. Sweat beads ran down his face as he relived last night in his mind. On the wall in the badger catacombs, he had seen the very weapon he was molding into existence. It was a flail. There was a metal rod with three spiked balls chained to it. He was forming the rod painstakingly, and would use newly-crafted molds for the other parts.
Dotti walked through the door and saluted. “Supper’s on the table, sah! Best to get it before it gets cold. Though I s’pose nothin’d get cold if y’brought it in here!”
Brocktree sighed. “Dotti, was it just my imagination, or did I hear Southpaw and Bobweave leaving the mountain just now?”
Dotti swallowed visibly. “Erm…what’s that y’say, sah? Those twins leaving the mountain? Pish’n’tush t’that! Why, those two can’t leave me jolly well alone, nonetheless leave the whole bloomin’ mountain!”
Brocktree hid a smile. “You know, Dotti, fatal beauties are terrible liars.”
“Ah, ‘tis a curse, m’lud! All I have to do is jolly well think somethin’ aloud, and there those two rotters go! Like, for instance, I may perhaps have mentioned somethin’ about travelling somewhere to get someone or someones and off they run!”
Brocktree forestalled further shouting. “Okay, okay. I’ll let you surprise me, Patrol General Dorothea Duckfontein Dillworthy.”
Dotti gritted her teeth and stamped her paw agitatedly. “Confound all those titles, sah! Do I go ‘round shoutin’ Lord Brocktree of Brockhall, son of Stonepaw each and every bally time I want your confounded attention? I think not, sah!”
Brocktree couldn’t stop himself from chortling. “Hohohohoho! Dotti, how do you do it? You never fail to–hahahahahohoho!–never fail to make me laugh!”
Dotti put on an air of prestige as she slowly walked out of the room. “’Tis the fatal beauty, sah. A curse, I tell you!”

Dotti walked casually towards the dining hall with Brocktree just behind her. Hares bustled too and fro, serving food to waiting mouths. Dotti felt the cool chill of omen pass through her as she suddenly realized what time it was. A high-pitched wail rang out over the crowd.
“Dotti! Dotti! You good-for-nothing niece o’mine! I don’t care if you’re the bloomin’ Patrol Bossess, you’re still my apprentice cook, wot wot!”
Dotti dove behind Brocktree’s bulky body just as Aunt Blench walked by. She had a ladle in one paw and a knife in the other. Her eyes radiated fury as she turned on the Badger Lord.
“I say, sah, have you seen that blinkin’ niece o’mine lately? By the left, sah, she’ll be the death o’me!”
Brocktree radiated cheer as he smiled at the old hare. “Blench, whatever happened to the wonderful old hare that could weep as well, and as often, as she cooked?”
Blench pointed her ladle at Brocktree’s head menacingly. “She got relatives, that’s what! Blinkin’ flippin’ relatives that don’t do a blinkin’ flippin’ thing she asks them!”
Brocktree motioned the old hare towards him and whispered to her. “Dotti’s my closest friend, you know that, but if I have to eat anything she cooks again, I may throw myself off the top of this mountain!”
Blench’s features softened as she realized that Brocktree was moving his paw in-between their faces and pointing to the area behind him. She talked loud enough so that anybeast near could hear easily. “Ah, you’re right, m’lud. That Dotti’s a right terror when she cooks! I thought I was eating a sandal last time, wot!”
“Aye, and were those scones or rocks?”
“I have a feelin’ she might’ve used dirt as a bloomin’ spice for that soup!”
“No need to tell me! I could’ve sworn that salad was made of pine needles!”
Finally Dotti could bear it no longer. She jumped out from behind Brocktree and scowled at Aunt Blench. “Fine ole auntie you are, shoutin’ insults from here t’Mossflower! I can’t spend all my bally time cookin’ an’ servin’ an’….” Before Dotti could speak further, Aunt Blench had her by the ear and was parading her towards the kitchens.
“Fell right into that one, didn’t ya? Y’may have the looks‘n’the age, but I still got the blinkin’ brains o’the family, haha!”

Dannflower Reguba
March 5th, 2004, 06:16 PM
Chapter 2

Beddle walked through the door, shaking with excitement. The room was kept alight by a small fireplace in the far corner. Ruro, the clan leader, stood next to the bed, a bucket of water in her paws and a proud smile on her face. A sweet-looking squirrel laid in the bed, a small babe in her arms.
“Beddle…’tis our son!” she whispered as she smiled. The small squirrel in her paws rustled slightly, then was swept away into sleep. “Look at his tail, ‘tis strange and beautiful!”
Beddle looked closer. The squirrelbabe’s tail grew gradually lighter in color until it was a bright white at its tip. He smiled as he stroked his son’s head lightly. “’Tis a flame, Purla, a beautiful flame,” he whispered.
Purla’s eyes glistened over with tears of joy and pride. “What shall his name be?”
Beddle softly kissed his wife’s forehead. “Let us abide ‘til we reach Salamandastron.”
Purla suddenly realized how tired she was. She held out the babe to her husband. “Hold our son, Beddle. I’m fatigued beyond comprehension.” She giggled softly as he took the child. “So much like thee,” she mumbled as she drifted off to sleep.
“’Twas a good job, Purla,” Beddle whispered. He turned to the clan chieftain, who had been ignored until then. “My deepest thanks, Lady Ruro.”
Ruro’s smile had not left her face. “Thy child will be strong, my friend. Make sure thee gets sleep as well.”
Beddle shook his head. “Nay, my friend, there’s something I must do. I’ll see thee come the night.” He walked out of the house, holding his newborn son.

The sun was taking its daily climb to its zenith as a new spring day was born. Daily workings were started, the great fire was put out, and all returned to their normal way of life; save one.
Beddle sat on a high branch in a tall pine, his son resting in his arms. Beddle could not help admiring his child: so perfect, so innocent, and so willing to accept all that was given him. At once Beddle felt a painful longing for the days of his youth, when there were no wars to be fought. Then the vermin came.
They had attacked in the dead of night. The vermin had one thing on their minds: plunder. Slaughter commenced, as there had been peace for so long that the ways of war were near forgotten. They only survived because of Jukka, a ferocious warrior. She had rallied the squirrels to victory, though the losses were unforgettable. There were many casualties, Beddle’s parents among them. They had become nomadic vermin-hunters after that, plundering weapons from their enemies and slaying all evil they could.
Beddle sighed unconsciously. He had lost his childhood to vermin. His innocence had been hewn with the bodies of his parents. As his son shuffled and gurgled in his sleep, he vowed to protect his son’s childhood with his life.
A voice called from halfway down the trunk. Lily was climbing up to him. “Beddle, be thee alright?”
Beddle leaned over and put a finger to his lips, motioning silence. “My son sleeps.”
Lily’s face lit up with a smile. She lowered her voice to an audible whisper. “May I?” Beddle nodded, and in an instant Lily was behind him, watching the squirrelbabe. “His tail…” she started.
“Aye, ‘tis a flame, a flame of hope,” he whispered, “Of peace.”
Lily nodded in agreement. “Hope and peace, truly something to fight for.”
Beddle suddenly turned from his son to Lily. “My friend, will thee do something for me?”
Lily nodded solemnly, sensing a vastness to his words. “Of course.”
He stayed silent a moment, then sighed, turning back to his offspring. “When the time comes, instruct unto my son the ways of the warrior.”
Lily consented immediately. “My friend, if that be thy wish, then I swear it to thee upon pain of death!”
Beddle could only nod.

Dannflower Reguba
March 6th, 2004, 05:23 PM
Chapter 3

A lone rat stood on a sand dune south of Salamandastron. His party had camped back behind him a ways. He had decided to look upon the mountain himself. The sun was setting in the west, creating a golden glow throughout the area.
The rat was, unlike most others of his species, clean. His eyes held a coherence that most vermin couldn’t possess. His teeth were white, his fur was straight, and there were no signs of tattoos or piercings anywhere on his body. He heard footsteps behind him.
“Are you alright?” a mean-looking stoat questioned.
The rat turned around and looked at him. “Welt, do you believe it’s possible?” he asked quietly, motioning towards the mountain with his paw.
The stoat stared at Salamandastron and thought for a moment. Then he looked back towards the camp. He looked down and shook his head, uttering one word. “No.”
The rat turned back around and continued his watch. Unbeknownst to Welt, the rat smiled. “Perhaps. Now, go back and get some rest. And make sure Prunkle and Colotile aren’t sleeping. It’s imperative we be on our guard in these areas.”
The stoat turned and walked back to the camp. The rat stared at the mountain. With its golden hue from the sun, it resembled a sword being tempered.
“It’s just as mother described it,” he whispered to himself. “Pity she couldn’t save me. Pity…”

Beddle was awake early in the morning, walking through the pines. He was singing a song quietly to himself. It had been taught to him Purla when they were still children, before his parents were killed.

Friendship, aye, the thing to keep,
Better than food or drink or sleep.
Better than trees or clouds above,
For friendship changes into love!

Love, aye, ‘tis the thing to keep,
Has no hunger, needs no sleep.
Beautiful as a morning dove,
Beautiful friendship, beautiful love!

He remembered how he had sung that song in his heart time and time again as he grieved for his parents after the attack. The pain in his life had seemed impossible to placate. Purla had been there for him and had brought him out of his depression. Beddle felt resolved after the fight with Ungatt Trunn. His fury had broken along with Ungatt Trunn’s back.
His thoughts again turned to the trip to Salamandastron. He felt a deep foreboding concerning it, and he couldn’t shake off the feeling.
“Thee aren’t of thineself as of late, good friend,” Lily spoke from behind him.
Beddle turned and forced a smile. “Can thee blame me? My wife just birthed a son!”
Lily peering into his eyes. “Nay, ‘tis something else. Thee’re distraught concerning what I do not know.”
Beddle opened his mouth to object, but abruptly shut it when he saw the look in Lily’s face. “Thee’re correct, my friend. But to speak of it now would be flippant, for ‘tis but a feeling, nothing more.”
“Beddle, for one such as thee, nothing is facetious when thee means it not to. Tell me of your feelings.”
Beddle was silent for a moment, contemplating his own thoughts. “’Tis the trip I worry of.”
“The trip? But peace hast reigned for such a long…”
“That’s why it’s nonsense!” Beddle interrupted, scowling. His features softened immediately. “I’m sorry I snapped at thee, friend, but I’ve said that very thing to myself over and again. ‘Tis why I wanted not to speak of it.”
“I apologize as well, for I acted the hypocrite. My words were condescending as well as foolish.”
“Think nothing of it,” Beddle said, “But what dost thee make of my feelings?”
“I have no sure answer, friend, but my lance is always ready should thee need it.”
Beddle smiled softly. “Thank you. If thee’ll excuse me, I should visit my wife and my son, for who can tell what tomorrow brings? I wouldst spend all my time with them, were it not for sleep.”
Lily placed her paw on Beddle’s shoulder. “Then go, and dwell not on ominous affairs. Enjoy the life thee’ve brought into this world, for he will need a strong father.”

The rat’s clan was on the move. They were circling around the southern side of the mountain to the east. He was a wise leader. He wanted to see the mountain from all sides before taking any measures. Leaving a few of his clan on the southern point, he took the rest and left with the rising of the sun.
They had made good progress. They met nothing and nobeast, and the weather was calm. The sky shone blue and a soft easterly wind ran through their fur. The ground had slowly changed from sand to firmer soil, so walking had become less strenuous. Rations were plentiful, for they had stocked up on the shores south of Salamandastron, fishing and foraging. As the rat’s clan was small, it was easier to keep enough food.
A weasel came running up from the south. He was one of the fastest sprinters the rat had ever met. His name was, as such, Dart, as he constantly darted from place to place. The weasel kicked up dust as he stopped suddenly in front of the rat.
“Dart, what happened?” the rat spoke coolly.
The weasel panted for a moment, then took a deep breath and began his report. “We were standing guard when two hares came upon our way. Considering your orders, we stayed out of sight. However, we were spotted due to Gromm. We voiced our peaceful intentions, but they would not listen. We were forced to take them captive. Linol tranquilized them both. There was no casualties.”
The rat eyed Dart, blatantly annoyed. “Hmm?” was all he said.
Dart cleared his throat. “Ahem. Sorry, sir. There were no casualties.”
The rat smiled. “Much better. Now…Pontia has found no cure for Gromm’s sickness as of yet?”
“No sir, though she has concocted some herbs to help his sneezing. Though, as was proven recently, they’re not foolproof.”
The rat stood in thought for a moment, contemplating the situation. He looked around. They were on flat grounds, and could easily be sighted, but if he posted two sentries, they would be able to see anything coming their way. “Alright. We stay here for now. Dart, have the two hares brought here. Make sure not to harm them in any way. If they awaken, offer them food, but if they resist, as I’m sure they will, have Linol tranquilize them again. Don’t forget to show that we don’t wish to hurt them. Leave as soon as you’re rested.”
Dart saluted, then went to retrieve some food from the cook, Coreena, a female rat. The rat leader massaged his temples with both paws. He moved over to his chair and took out his quill pen and paper and began writing. His writings were never to be seen by anybeast, and he was extremely protective of them, always holding them in his own clothing.

It seems my inner demon is at work once again. I will finally be able to meet two hares from the mountain itself. What sort of beasts these might be is unknown, but it seems they despise all vermin indiscriminately as so many others do. The more I see this mountain, the more I question what I’m striving for. I fear this meeting, as it may destroy what my life has been about for all these seasons. Father always told me to live off of fear, not in spite of it. What a wise beast he was. I often wonder to myself if it was his death, and not Rhilbore himself, that started me on this path. In spite of it all, my one question remains constant. It both drives me to and away from this wretched mountain of my dreams. If only Mother were here!

The leader of the clan,
Cordial

Cordial, his name. The name given to him by his father and mother, signifying his upbringing. It was two lessons in one. Firstly, he was always to be cordial to others, never needlessly killing or stealing, and also to fight only when all other options were exhausted, as communication was almost always a better alternative. Secondly, it taught him what the key to an army was. A cordial is a potion, much like fighting forces: all of the ingredients are needed or it simply doesn’t work.
The rat reread the words that he had just written. Cordial sighed.

Dannflower Reguba
March 7th, 2004, 03:08 PM
Chapter 4

Bobweave’s nose twitched as he slowly regained consciousness. The sun was partially in his eyes, as they were travelling northeast and the sun was setting in the west. He was being pulled along on a stretcher of sorts. One end was held by a burly weasel, the other had two miniature wheels, putting him at a bit of an angle. He saw his twin a few feet from him, being dragged on the same device, but a female stoat was pulling it.
He found that he was able to move his arms and legs freely, and, without a second thought, jumped off behind the stretcher and turned to face his captors.
“C’mon, you vile vermin. Face a perilous hare in real combat!” He brandished his fists.
Dart and Linol turned around. Linol softly lowered her stretcher to a resting position on the ground. She nonchalantly pulled a small tube and a small dart from an inside pocket. Dart looked at her, motioning a paw to wait, and tried to reason with the hare.
“We apologize for putting you to sleep earlier. You acted rashly, and might have harmed one of us.”
Bobweave’s voice was almost shrill with indignation. “Might have? I most certainly would’ve, you wicked weasel, wot!” At this point Bobweave expected both of the vermin to attack him, but what happened next took him completely by surprise.
“You horrid hare! Who are you to call him wicked?” Linol shouted. “You know nothing! Absolutely nothing! You attack us for no reason, and you have the gall to label us as evil?”
Bobweave was speechless. His mouth visibly dropped as he struggled to comprehend what had just happened. Was this stoat actually offended?
Dart cut in. “Our leader would like to speak with you, that’s all. I’m sure the good creatures of the world do similar things, am I right?”
Bobweave, shutting his mouth, looked down at the ground, pondering his situation. His head snapped back up. “I’ve never met a vermin who could be trusted! What makes you any jolly well different, wot?”
“If an otter was out killing your family, would you let him live simply because he’s an otter?” Dart asked calmly. “Why then, good hare, should you judge us based on our species? Now, if you’re done huffing about and kicking up dust, why don’t you have something to eat?” Dart reached in his pack and took out a strawberry flan. He tossed it to Bobweave, who looked at it suspiciously. “Linol could have put you to sleep long ago,” Dart commented dryly.
Bobweave slowly took a bite, and found it to be quite tasty. For the first time since he woke up, he put on a weak smile. “Huh, I didn’t suppose verm…um, beasts like y’selves ate such good tucker.”
Linol smiled and held out her paw, which Bobweave slowly took. “I’m Linol, and this is Dart. I’m tranquilizer of the clan, and he’s sprinter.”
“Bobweave, and that there’s m’twin, Southpaw. Us two’re the official boxin’ hares o’ the Long Patrol.”
The three sat down to eat. Bobweave was beginning to trust these two vermin, or whatever they were. He couldn’t explain it, and he knew Lord Brocktree wouldn’t accept it, but he felt like he had just made two new friends.
“You know,” Dart said between bites, “When your brother wakes up, he’s going to be quite confused. I imagine first he’ll jump up and do a bit of what you did, then he’ll drop his jaw in amazement as he sees you eating with us. Then I suppose you’ll try to explain, but he won’t listen. He’ll think you’ve somehow been brainwashed. It’ll really be up to you to get him to trust us.”
Bobweave nodded. What knowledgeable beasts these two were! At every turn, they were disarming him. “I suppose you’re jolly well right. He’s always been a bit more stubborn than me, wot.”
Dart suddenly looked serious. “We’ll let you take care of him as long as you can, but if it looks like you’re failing, and he tries to attack us, then Linol will be forced to tranquilize him. I hope you understand.”
Bobweave was speechless again, then slowly nodded his head. After a moment, he found himself chuckling softly. “I can’t believe I just went an’ said a stoat could shoot a dart at good ole Southpaw. You two have no idea how much my world has gone and flipped its lid. Well, anyway, what’s your boss doin’ hereabouts?”
Dart and Linol looked at each other, concern on both their features. After a moment, Linol nodded, and they both turned to Bobweave. “We’ll tell you, but you must listen to our whole story,” she said. “Do you promise?”
Bobweave was once again caught off-guard by the gravity of the two. “I-I guess I have to, wot!”
Dart began. “It’s hard to understand our leader. He is a rat named Cordial, who is like no rat you’ve ever met. You see, he was traumatized when he was but a child. A young male hare, who had recently been married, happened upon a ratbabe. He felt pity for the little one, so he brought him home to his wife, who agreed to raise him. They named him Cordial and brought him up as they would their own leveret. The hare’s name was Tyral, and his wife was Rina.”
Dart stopped and Linol began. “Tyral had served under Lord Stonepaw long ago, before Ungatt Trunn ever showed his vile face. Tyral, however, was too much of a peaceful creature to be part of an army, so he resigned and left the mountain, travelling deep into Mossflower to find a new home. Where exactly he settled down Cordial won’t say, though we know that during his travels he met Rina.”
It was Dart’s turn again. “They raised Cordial, along with two leverets of their own, a male and a female, twins. Cordial was always seen as the older brother, and always tried to set a good example. You see, theirs was a solitary life. Apart from each other, they saw next to nobeast. Cordial never felt out of place. Until that day.”
Linol looked poignant as she told the next part. “Tyral was out foraging with Cordial when they were set upon by a band of vermin. Their leader was a rat with only one paw. However, he was deadly with a sabre. He killed Tyral by stabbing him again and again, right in front of his son! Cordial was in shock, and could do nothing but stare. When the rat had finished his business, he put his face right up to Cordial’s and said a phrase that emotionally scarred him.”
Lonil looked like she could say no more. Dart took over. “He said, ‘Yer a rat, jus’ like me. I know that deep inside o’ yer, you wanted t’do what I jus’ did. You’ve always wanted it, didn’t yer? Didn’t yer!’ Cordial was set free, though why he doesn’t know, but he suspects that the rat had simply wanted to have fun with him, and that he didn’t consider Cordial a real threat. Nevertheless, Cordial ran back home and told Rina everything. They wept for what seemed like days. His brother and sister were still too young to truly comprehend what had happened, though they cried as well. After Cordial was done grieving, he became silent. He wouldn’t say anything. He would just walk out into the forest and come home at unpredictable hours of the night. Rina tried to make Cordial believe that the rat who had killed her husband was wrong when he accosted her son. The more Cordial thought, however, the more he started to believe he really had wanted to kill his father. And one day, he simply left home without a backward glance.”
Lonil was ready to talk again. “Along the way, he met Welt, his second-in-command and best friend. Welt was lost and alone just like Cordial, having no family and no one he could turn to. On they traveled, recruiting more and more into the clan, always heading in one direction. When asked where he was heading, Cordial would only say one word.”
“Salamandastron,” Bobweave whispered. “He’s…here to take the mountain, isn’t he?”

Dannflower Reguba
March 7th, 2004, 06:52 PM
Chapter 5

The sun rose on a new summer day as Beddle took final stock of their supplies. Some water rations, various types of bread, and Ruro’s specially made hotroot soup. When she was younger, she had tasted some, and took to it immediately. She loved it extremely hot, but as most other squirrels simply couldn’t take the heat, she added some special ingredients to make it edible.
Beddle looked up from his haversack and walked over to his son who was being held in his mother’s arms. Purla was the epitome of happiness, so Beddle tried his absolute best to put on a happy face. He could do no less when his wife was beaming like the sun.
“Come, my love, shall we depart?” he asked.
Purla returned his smile. “Of course.” She cradled her son close to her. The little squirrel was awake, but completely silent. He was watching all that was around him with his deep, pure eyes.
The forest looked newly born. A slight breeze ruffled the fur of the squirrels, giving the entire landscape a clean feeling. The grass of the plains danced slightly as the easterly wind continued, as it had been doing the past week or so. Beddle couldn’t have imagined a better day for their trip.
The entire squirrel clan had gathered to see them off. Lily was at the head, a look of concern on her face for her two friends and their babe. Her young, yet mature, hazel eyes took in the enormity of the situation as the thought that she might never see them again crossed her mind. Glistening in her eyes, immature tears were blinked out of existence before they started their gravity-oriented flight. Somehow some of Beddle’s feelings had come onto her after their talk. She too felt a sense of foreboding–unexplainable, yet unwavering in its gentle prod of premonition.
Beddle turned to his clan and waved goodbye. They responded with a shout of their battle cry, decided upon after the final battle with Ungatt Trunn.
“Juuuuukkaaaaa!!!”
“Bring back with thee some fine weapons! I hear the mountain’s full of them!”
“Forget the weapons, Beddle lad, bring back victuals!”
“Oh aye, m’lad, the food yon hares serve there be fit for kings!”
“Worry not, I’ll pack as much as possible!”
“Beddle! Be thee sure thee don’t need my help?”
“Aye, Lily, don’t worry thineself!”
One solemn, binding, furious, despondent, silently wailing tear fell, unchecked, from Lily’s eyes.

Dannflower Reguba
March 8th, 2004, 05:15 AM
Chapter 6

Devoran the rat was travelling south with his group of one hundred vermin warriors, called a Rhilpack. He had been assigned a reconnaissance mission from his father, the Rhil Warlord. His objective was to scout the mountain, Salamandastron, and the warriors that presided there. He was to report back in a season’s time.
They were moving at a steady pace. On their left was a pine grove, where a group of savage squirrels were reported to live. Devoran wanted no unnecessary skirmishes; his father would be extremely angry if there were.
A scout came running west, from the pine area. It was a ferret named Skort. He saluted, then began his report.
“Two o’ them squirrels an’ a young’n ‘re headin’ out, Gen’ral. They got no weapons, though that male’n looks dangerous on ‘is own!”
“Where are they headed?” Devoran asked.
“Er…well, looks like they’re headin’ fer the mount’n.”
Devoran grunted agitatedly. “Follow them and keep out of site. It’s no good attacking them when they’re so close to those savages. We’ll wait ‘til they’re a few miles out. We shouldn’t have much trouble keeping hidden thanks to these hills. Go.” Skort ran off to carry out his master’s orders.
“We camp here for today,” he shouted to his Rhilpack. They had been moving hard all night, knowing that it was never good to be caught marching during noon in these lands, especially during the summer. The warriors set up camp swiftly and received their rations. Quick, efficient, silent–the way of the Rhil.
Devoran walked to his tent and sat down in his chair. He poured himself some wine, leaned back, and smiled. Things had been going well for the Rhil the past few seasons. They had swept across the northland mountains, conquering and enslaving many. There had been a few resistances and escape attempts, but those were quickly crushed.
A hare who called himself Bucko had been the head of the largest resistance. It had taken over ten Rhil warriors to hold him down, for he’d fought like a madbeast. Devoran grinned has he took another sip of his wine. If his father was one thing, he was brutal. He’d sentenced that hare to daily lashings and near-starvation. The lashings were done in full view of entire sections of slaves. Each day he was rotated so all the slaves could witness the punishment for defiance. Devoran imagined he was dead by now. After all, who could survive that sort of torture for four straight seasons?
The rat general’s eyes began closing. His thoughts were uninhibited by worry or anxiety. The mountain would fall, like everything else.

“Bobweave! Are y’blinkin’ crazy!? Have y’flipped your bally lid!?” Southpaw was shouting at his twin, while trying to defend himself from the stationary two clanbeasts.
“Southpaw, sit down, shut y’trap, and listen!” he shouted back. Dart and Lonil were still sitting, for Southpaw woke up just as they finished breaking fast. Lonil had her tranquilizer in paw, unconsciously flipping and turning the dart delicately as only she could. The twins had their faces together, shouting at the top of their lungs. They looked so much alike.
“Listen? You’re the one sayin’ we should trust vermin!”
“But they mean us no harm!”
“What!? They went an’ put us t’sleep!”
“We attacked them, Southpaw! Look, Lonil could go an’ put us both back in flippin’ dreamland right now!”
“Lonil? You know their names? Did y’go and have a jolly good tea party with ‘em too, huh?”
The next thing that happened surprised all four beasts there. Bobweave’s clenched fist connected withSouthpaw’s face, sending him sprawling to the ground. Bobweave’s mouth opened as he gazed at his fist in a stupor. Southpaw was holding himself up with one paw and rubbing his face with the other, all the while staring at his twin. After a moment, Bobweave sat down abruptly. He stopped looking at his paw and stared at his brother. His eyes began to glisten softly.
“Southpaw, I…I…”
Southpaw stood up slowly, still rubbing his face. “If y’had t’go and hit me like that, well, I must’ve been acting as foolish as a daisy in a lagoon, wot.” He smiled softly, holding out his other paw, which his twin took gratefully. “You must really believe in these bounders here, eh?”
Bobweave nodded as he wiped away his tears. He introduced Southpaw to the two clanbeasts. Lonil appeared relieved that she didn’t have to put either of them back to sleep. Dart tossed him a strawberry flan and they started their march for the day. The weasel, using straps attached to the bottom of the two rolling stretchers, as they called them, hauled them on his back.
“Those two’ve got a story that’ll knock you off your feet!” Bobweave said, shaking his head in amazement as he reflected on the day’s events. “But I gotta warn you, wait ‘til they completely finish before you say anything, alright?”
Southpaw nodded, a bit confused. Bobweave laughed and put his arm around his brother. “Just remember, we’re doin’ the right thing by goin’ with these two. Trust me, wot!”
Lonil dropped back to Southpaw and Bobweave went forward to talk to Dart.
“Dart, y’good chap, when’re we due to arrive at ole Corjy’s clan?”
Dart kept looking ahead. His face remained impassive as he spoke. “What was that?” he asked dryly.
Bobweave laughed softly. “Cordial then, eh?”
“That’d probably be best, good hare. We should arrive before the sun sets today.”
“Spiffin’! I say, d’you clan types know any good marchin’ songs? My mind’s drawin’ nothin’ but a blank here.”
Dart smiled. “Oh yes, we ‘clan types’ have songs, but I’d rather not teach it twice.”
“Uh…what’s that?”
Dart pointed behind him while still facing forward. “Those two are having a discussion. I might as well teach both of you at the same time, assuming your brother is interested too.”
“Oh, I’m sure Southpaw’s up for a shindig just as much as my lovely self. Which brings me to my next question. Now, be completely honest, y’hear? Which of us two’s the better-lookin’, wot?”
In a temporary state of shock, Dart stopped walking. Then, catching himself and shaking his head, he started up again. “That may be the single strangest question I’ve ever heard in my life, Bobweave.”
“Well, Miss Dotti can’t make up her blinkin’ mind! Might as well get a second opinion, wot wot!”
“Miss Dotti?”
Bobweave grinned dazedly. “Oh aye, the most beautiful haremaid you’ve ever seen, and a voice to match! Sings like a lark and shines like the sun, she does.”
“She sounds lovely.”
“Indeed she is. So, what d’you think?”
Dart pondered a moment. “I’m not sure if you realize this, but as twins, you look exactly the same.”
Bobweave frowned. “I know we’re as close as two jolly good peas in a pod, wot, but exactly the same?”
Dart laughed good-naturedly. “Only on the outside, my friend. It’s the differences on the inside that decide things like that.”
Bobweave chuckled slightly. “Why aren’t you head of the jolly ole clan wotsit? You’re smarter’n anybeast I know, ‘cept maybe Lord Brocktree an’ Miss Dotti!”
Dart laughed with him. “Bobweave, everything I know was taught to me by Cordial. You see, the clan isn’t just an army, it’s a society. Cordial is our leader, elder, and teacher. You may even go so far as to call him an abbot, if you look at it a certain way.”
Bobweave sniffed. “This Cordial must be some rat, eh?”
“And more,” Dart replied. “Let’s stop here for a moment and discuss our strategy. I believe Linol is nearly done relating Cordial’s tale to your brother.”
As the two sat, Dart shouted to Southpaw and the stoat, who had unconsciously fallen behind. He told them to come and sit when they were done. After a few moments, they came running over and placed themselves down next to Bobweave and Dart.
“So, we gotta talk to this Cordial chap and get him t’stop his confounded attack, eh?” Southpaw summarized.
“Yes,” Linol said, “that’s our plan. We’ve been trying to get Cordial to turn away for a long time now, but to no avail. We’re hoping that two hares from the mountain itself might be able to change his mind.”
“Well, we’ll do our absolute best, right Southpaw?”
“O’course we will! We’re perilous hares of Salamandastron! We can do anything we put our splendiferous minds to!”

Dannflower Reguba
March 8th, 2004, 04:33 PM
Chapter 7

Dotti and a young hare named Dreno were getting ready for a training session just outside the mountain. She preferred teaching one-on-one, as opposed to large groups. Dotti was using her sabre, which she called Fatal Beauty, and Dreno was using a broad sword.
Dotti admired Dreno for his alacrity. He was an inspiring student, which is why Dotti upgraded him from the practice weapons to real ones. This was his first practice with a real sword.
“In an honorable duel, young Dreno, it’s proper t’place y’sword paw in front of y’heart with the blade facing up, like this, see? Then y’slowly move the paw out and angle it ‘til your weapon is in jolly good paw-shake position, see? Y’start the duel with ‘En guarde’. I’ll let you do the honors and all that, wot!”
Dreno followed Dotti’s instructions, then, clearing his throat, shouted. “En guarde, General Dotti!” The session had begun.
Dotti came at him like a madbeast, striking fast, but in easy to defend areas, all the while teaching with her words of wisdom.
“Come now, Dreno, hah! Y’have t’take the initiative! The sword is no longer metal–hah!–-it’s a part of you! Keep it flexible, wot wot!”
She faked a downward slash and thrust at Dreno’s chest, nicking and causing a few drops of blood to drip out.
“Ah! Confound it, General! I try and try my blinkin’ best, but how d’ya expect me to beat you? You’re the best!” Dreno asked, flustered.
Dotti sat down and motioned Dreno to do the same. “C’mon now, young chap. First off, I’m not the best, by the left I’m not! Lord Brocktree can tan my hide any day of the week, wot wot! Don’t think I don’t put up a fight, though, haha! Anywho, I remember when I was just a scrapper like y’self. Back then, my weapon of choice was a bag filled with cider, a shawl, and a flippin’ harecordial, hah! Those were the days, eh?”
Dreno looked at his broadsword wearily and longingly, as if staring at it could solve his problem. “Ah, General, I know it takes practice, but it just seems so futile sometimes, y’know? There’s been peace for so long….”
“Peace never lasts,” Dotti cut in. Her normally joyful features were turned into a grimace as she looked at the sea to the west. “You’d think that, after we destroyed the largest army the mountain has ever faced, vermin would learn their lesson, eh?” She was referring to Ungatt Trunn’s army. “But there will always be more, Dreno. Always.”
Dreno was speechless for a moment. He had never seen Dotti like this before. “S-Sorry if I upset you, General.”
Dotti turned her face away as she blinked back unshed tears. “Ah, well, it’s not an easy fact to accept.” She turned towards Dreno, back to her usual self. “How about, from now on, when it’s just us two scrappers, you call me Dotti, hmm?”
Dreno smiled. “Okay Gen…Dotti!”
Dotti stood up with Fatal Beauty at her side. “C’mon then, chap, let’s go again, left-pawed!”
Dreno groaned.

Dannflower Reguba
March 9th, 2004, 02:42 PM
Chapter 8

The sun was continuing its ever-westward journey, leaving Salamandastron and all of its hares and cares for tomorrow, shedding the last of its light in an ever-dulling goodbye. Cordial was watching it, wondering how many more would come to pass before he fed his desire. He turned his gaze southward, seeing Dart and Lonil with the two hares walking towards the camp. Cordial was surprised that the hares weren’t asleep, considering what Dart had told him before. A harsh cry rose from the north.
“This should be interesting,” he mused to himself.

The clan’s camp was standard, as far as camps go. A few tents, a large table with food scattered about, and various army beasts walking around. Dart dumped off the two roller stretchers next to a tent, then led the two hares towards the northern edge of the base. With a smile and a wave, Linol had disappeared somewhere.
“Take care to be frugal when talking to Cordial about turning away,” Dart said, keeping his face forward. “He’ll catch on to any mistakes quicker than you could imagine. But please, do try your best. I’d…” He paused for a moment, “…hate to be forced to fight you.” Before either of the two hares could respond, Dart was gone.
“What a strange ole chap, wot. I suppose we take a jaunt up this hill,” Southpaw said.
The two walked up, expecting to find Cordial standing there, facing them. Instead, the hilltop was empty. Bobweave pointed northward. “Take a gander over there, Southpaw. There’s the rat ‘imself, and there’s a…a blinkin’ eagle right above ‘im!”
Without thinking, the twins dashed down the hillside, shouting at the top of their lungs.
“Watch out there, chap, wot wot!”
“Eulalia! Don’t let ‘im get ya!”
Cordial swerved around, holding out both paws to restrain the two hares from attempting to attack his feathered friend.
“Hold, good hares! This bird is not hostile!”
The twins stopped just before they ran head-on into the rat leader, kicking up dust. The great bird sniffed once, then sneezed.
“Yachoo! Crakkt! These longears are much tae much t’deal with, ach! How’s a crauuk falcon serpoosed t’get a wee bit o’peace!”
Cordial placated the large bird. “I’m terribly sorry, Parthae. These hares are just a bit confused, that’s all. If you’ll let me talk to them for just a second, I think I can work this situation out.”
The rat turned to them. “You must be the two Salamandastron hares. Welcome, welcome. I’m quite sorry, but Parthae comes and goes as he pleases. His news is much too important to pass up. If you could wait just a moment while I talk with him, I’ll get to you two as soon as I can.”
Bobweave nudged his brother. “Certainly well-mannered, wot!”
The two sat down on the hard ground, silent. Parthae was white with gray wingtips and a golden head. His sharp, curved beak gleamed menacingly in the dying sun. He spread and folded his wings impatiently. Cordial turned back to his friend and motioned for him to continue.
Parthae’s northern accent shone through heavily. “Hmm, craah, yes, well, the longears I spoke o’last time is still lively. Ach, he’s a strong ‘un; aye, that ‘e is! And…ah…let m’see here. The groop o’tasties I saw is coomin’ closer; aye, they are. Are ye sure I can’t take a wee nibble?”
Cordial chuckled. “I would much appreciate it if you didn’t, my friend.”
Parthae’s eyes constantly dodged in all directions, espying anything and everything. “Ah, well, kyrreeah, ‘tis a loss, then. Hmm, well then, ah, hmm. I think that’s everythin’k, aye, hmm. G’day t’ye, Sir Caerja!” With that, he flapped his wings and was off, travelling north, back to his mountains.
Cordial turned to them, a smile on his lips. “Sorry to have kept you waiting. Shall we go to my tent?”

Cordial’s tent was no better or worse than any of the others. The only thing different was a small chair, a small table, and a map of the surrounding lands. He quickly rolled up the map and leaned it against the tent wall.
“We don’t have any more chairs, but you’re more than welcome to sit on the table. It’s as sturdy as they come, I assure you,” Cordial offered. The twins accepted, and found that the table didn’t creak or sway at all.
“It’s a mighty fine piece o’ work y’got here, um….” Bobweave stammered.
“Just call me Cordial,” the rat leader said as he sat down in his own small chair. “Now, I’m sure we both have questions. Why don’t you go first?”
Southpaw started up immediately. “Why do you want to attack the mountain?” he blurted. Bobweave covered his face with his paw.
“Nice goin’ there, y’dunderhead! Just throw the game plan out the bally window, wot!”
Cordial turned grim. “Ah, well, I suppose pleasantries are uncalled for, then. We’ll talk about that, but first I’d like to ask you a couple of questions.”
“Ask y’jolly good head off,” Bobweave invited.
“Alright then,” Cordial started, “Tell me about the mountain. What is life like there?”
They both thought for a moment, then Bobweave started. “Well, it’s a fine place to live and all that. There’s enough food for all, wot. Defended as securely as can be. Um, let’s see here. Ah, well, Lord Brocktree’s the greatest scrapper you’ve ever set y’eyes on!”
Cordial motioned for him to stop with his paw, smiling slightly. “I noticed how you’ve eliminated siege, infiltration, and one-on-one honorable duel from ways to take your mountain. I implore you, tell me about life there, not defenses.”
Southpaw was ready. “Well then, it’s the greatest place I know, wot! There’s always sergeants shoutin’ and cap’ns cuffin’, as ole Granfer Medick used t’say, but everybeast would lay down their life for another. From the mess halls t’the trainin’ sessions t’the feasts, it’s a lovely life t’live!”
Cordial thought for a moment. “Interesting,” he finally said, “so it’s not just a place of war, then. Tell me, what is your Lord Brocktree like?”
Bobweave spoke up. “He’s the silent type, he is. But when he gets riled up he shouts eulalias like there’s no tomorrow, wot wot! He cares for us like his own blinkin’ kin. ‘Specially Miss Dotti.”
“Miss Dotti?” Cordial asked.
“Aye,” Southpaw said, “the Patrol General o’ the Long Patrol. She’s the prettiest hare y’ever set your eyes on.”
“With those lovely eyes!”
“And her smile!”
“And a voice like a lark!”
“Aye, when she sings her ballads, it’s like hearing things you’ve never heard before!”
The twins’ eyes were dazed over with images of their lovely Miss Dotti. Cordial smiled slowly, not wanting to ruin their moment. After a moment, he coughed politely. “Ahem. That all sounds very lovely. Now, onto your question. I suppose Dart and Lonil told you my entire story?” The twins nodded slowly. “Of course, of course. I knew they would. They don’t want to have to take the mountain, especially since you became friends.”
Bobweave piped up. “Now hold on a blinkin’ moment. There’re over five hundred perilous hares in that mountain, all fine fighters! Who says you could take the mountain in the first place?”
Cordial nodded. “True, true, the odds are against me. I’m not saying it would be easy, but it is possible. Now then, when wondering about my motives, the answer, good hares, lies in our basic instinct of revenge. Revenge against Rhilbore, revenge against his hordes, revenge against those who judge ignorantly. Simple vengeance is all. Ah, I forgot myself. Rhilbore is the one-pawed rat who brutally murdered my father. He calls himself Rhilbore the Plague. Fitting, is it not? I’ve sworn to kill him, whatever the cost, and there are many advantages to owning a mountain.
“I see your glances and I know what you’re thinking. What of all the innocent hares of the mountain? Why are you so confident? Why not ask Lord Brocktree for help? As for the hares, that is what this meeting is all about. I need to know if their lives are worth the cost of war. Cold, but necessary. My confidence derives from experience, and, for the third question, some of those experiences include badgers. I’ve met them before, and I know how they act. Kill first, ask questions later. Perhaps you’re thinking that Lord Brocktree is different! Tell me, then, has Brocktree ever suffered from the Bloodwrath? I can see by your faces that he has. Once a badger has contracted the sickness, rarely do they fully recover. The slightest inkling of vermin presence can set it off. To try and speak with this Lord Brocktree would be foolhardy.”
His voice became low and grated as his appearance suddenly shifted. He became shadowed and darkened. His calm exterior shed to show something much more crude and rough. His words were rasped and quick, with unexpected pauses. “You have…no idea what it’s like to be born to an evil race. I don’t want to succumb, but I fear I may. Then I’ll be…forced to send my clan off to their deaths, or, perhaps, that small chance of victory. It wouldn’t matter, though, for it would be a hollow victory.” He stood up and faced the sides of the tent, clenching and unclenching his paws sporadically. “Do you know how many vermin I’ve killed? I’ve been travelling for seasons, hares, seasons, and every time I meet a rat, stoat, weasel, ferret, or fox, I see if they’re…fit to join my clan. In essence, I see if they’re good. Seasons, hares, and my clan is still less than a hundred strong.” He paused for a moment, catching his breath. “Every time a vermin fails my test, I give him or her a choice. They may leave peacefully, or they can…fight me for the chance to rule the clan. Too many, hares, too…too many chose to fight! Too many chose to die!”

Cont. in next post...

Dannflower Reguba
March 9th, 2004, 02:49 PM
His breath caught in his throat, and he began to cough. When he recovered, he turned back to the two enrapt hares, sweating slightly. His normal demeanor had returned, though he looked haggard. “I’m sorry, good beasts. I lost myself there. Please, it’s late, so sleep in my camp for tonight. We can talk more tomorrow.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Man, 10,000 character limit, 10,085 characters...

Dannflower Reguba
March 9th, 2004, 02:51 PM
Chapter 9

The sun’s first rays coaxed Beddle out of his slumber. He pushed himself up and stretched, making sure not to make any sound. His wife and son were both sleeping soundly. An east wind ruffled the squirrels’ fur softly. Thanks to the wind, the heat hadn’t become too great. The squirrelbabe was in a newly-fashioned basket cradle lined with soft mosses. It had been a gift from the clan.
Their child’s eyes were constantly open, scanning and learning. Never once, though, had he spoken. He sometimes held out his paw, as if trying to grasp the thing he saw. Other times he would suck on the end of his tail, still keeping his vigil of his surroundings.
Beddle saw the mountain in the distance. The hills flattened out to become plains, which slowly turned to sand as they got closer to the shores. Beddle surmized that they should reach the mountain by the end of the next day. Suddenly Beddle’s expression changed. His heart sunk in his chest as his breath caught in his throat. The previous day, he had felt nothing of his earlier premonitions, but now they were back. This time, they were stronger, more fierce. He gritted his teeth and went out to scout the area.
He started south, then circled around to west then north. He headed east, when he suddenly felt something was wrong. Running eastward, he looked this way and that, searching for his unknown adversary. After ten minutes of fruitless investigating, he sighed and walked back to his small camp.
Skort slowly peeked his head out from the small hole he had dug. There were small plants all around, completely covering it from sight. He was an expert burrower, which is why he was chosen to scout and spy. At a moment’s notice, he could pop down into the ground and out of sight.
The ferret pulled himself up and quietly ran off to see Devoran.

“I dunno, Gen’ral, I was thinkin’ he was gonna get me fer sure!” Skort explained. “He walked right on top o’me, almost.”
Devoran sniffed. “I’m surprised he didn’t smell you. Well, anyway, it’s time we take care of those squirrels. They’re too far away from either the pines or the mountain to get help.” He turned to his standing troops, who had once again marched all night. “No one sleeps ‘til we kill the squirrels, you got that? March on the double now! Go!”
The Rhilpack marched fast and hard, knowing their leader’s answer to insubordination.

Beddle had woken up his wife and son and they had continued their westward journey. He still felt uneasy, but he was careful to hide it, as he didn’t want to alarm Purla. They walked until noon, when they took a small break. Beddle laid out a small sheet for them to sit on while they ate.
“This wind is lovely,” Purla mused to herself as she chewed on some bread.
“Aye, it makes this journey easier on the mind and body,” Beddle responded. He was feeding their son, giving him small bites of food, which he gratefully took and stuffed in his mouth. In this environment, Beddle almost felt at peace again.
His ears suddenly twitched. Off in the distance, he had heard something. A shout, maybe.

“Yeowch!” a rat named Sliver yelled as he stepped unconsciously on a thorny weed. Before he could silence himself, Devoran had run him through with his broad sword. The rat gazed dumbly at the blade, then fell as his eyes glazed over and shut for the last time. Devoran pulled his sword free from the carcass and turned back to the front of his Rhilpack. No vermin stirred or said a word. At Devoran’s signal, the group began moving once again. The body of Sliver was left there, forgotten.

“Did thee hear that, Purla?” Beddle asked anxiously.
The tone of Beddle’s voice brought Purla to attention. “No I didn’t. What was it, pray tell?”
“A scream or shout, perhaps. I’m not sure. I think it best we begin moving again.”
The squirrels, along with their child, packed up their things quickly and started toward the mountain again, with Beddle constantly looking over his shoulder. The beauty of the summer day was lost to them, though Beddle was glad the wind was at his back. It was as if it was pushing them along. They would need all the help they could get.

Devoran stopped his company with the raising of his paw. At another signal, five black foxes ran up silently and stood before him, each armed with a scimitar. The rat general only said four words, and these were but rasps.
“Buy us time. Go.”
The five foxes turned and ran off in an awesome burst of speed. They were soon gone to Devoran’s sight. He signaled for the march to begin again. The squirrels would die before nightfall.