Authors: Brian Jacques
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Electronic edition: August, 2005
BY THE SAME AUTHOR
Mariel of Redwall
Martin the Warrior
Outcast of Redwall
Pearls of Lutra
The Long Patrol
The Legend of Luke
Castaways of the Flying Dutchman
The Angel's Command
Seven Strange and Ghostly Tales
The Great Redwall Feast
A Redwall Winter's Tale
The Tale of Urso Brunov
Redwall Map and Riddler
Redwall Friend and Foe
Build Your Own Redwall Abbey
Tribes of Redwall: Badgers
Tribes of Redwall: Otters
For Tim Moses,
a colleague and a great friend.
Thank you for everything.
My name is Melanda. I am the youngest creature ever to be appointed to the position of Recorder at Redwall Abbey. My teacher and mentor is a kind old mouse called Sister Screeve. She has retired from being Recorder now, taking up the job of Assistant Gardener to Brother Demple, a remarkable feat for one who has seen so many seasons come and go. She was the one who suggested that I should write a volume for our Abbey Archives about the time we now refer to as “The Seasons of the Savage”âa fearsome title, I grant you, but one that I felt was appropriate to this narrative. I was not born at the time, so my research into the happenings was both long and painstaking. However, now that my work is completed, I would like to thank everybeast who contributed by providing their recollections of those harrowing eventsâall of the Redwallers, hares of the Long Patrol Regiment and others too numerous to cite here. I will not mention specific names lest I cause any offence by forgetting to include any one of my contributors.
My narrative tells of a time when our Abbey was in peril from a beast none had ever encountered in
Mossflower Country, a brutal and horrific barbarian on an insane quest for power and vengeance. But I will tell you no more than that for the present. I leave you to read on and judge for yourselves, my friends.
Melanda. Recorder of Redwall Abbey
in Mossflower Country
Rakkety Rakkety Rakkety Tam,
the drums are beatin' braw.
Rakkety Rakkety Rakkety Tam,
are ye marchin' off tae war?
A warrior from the borders came,
a buckler o'er his shoulder,
a claymore swingin' at his side,
there's no' a beast who's bolder!
O Rakkety Tam has sold his sword,
Ah scarce believe he's done it.
He swore an oath untae a fool,
who took his pledge upon it!
Shrieking like a thousand wild eagles, the blizzard drove mountainous grey, white-crested waves before it. The powerful ship thundered southwardâmast timbers groaning, rigging lines thrumming and sails stretched to bursting pointâleaving behind it the lands of ice and snow. A murderer was pursuing a thief. Gulo the Savage was hunting down his brother, Askor!
Lightning ripped through the racing stormclouds, illuminating Gulo's questing eyes. His fearsome claws, still stained with the blood of his father, dug deep into the bowrail as he peered out across the watery wilderness of peaks and valleys. Only he who had possession of the Walking Stone could rule the land of snow and ice. The once mighty Dramz had held it, this miracle which had been brought from the places beyond where the sun sets. He had also been the one who had set down the law: Only the strong would inherit the Walking Stone. None was stronger than Gulo. To prove this, he had slain his father. But Askor, his brother, had stolen the Stone. Then, like a coward, he had taken to the Great Northern Sea to escape the wrath of Gulo the Savage!
With a hundred vermin warriors at his command, Gulo took up the chase in his big shipâthough, in reality, he needed none to protect him. Strongest of the strong and wildest of the wild, Gulo could face daunting odds and emerge victorious. All his foes had fallen victim to his maniacal rage and awesome strength. He had but one remaining enemy in the worldâhis own brother. Gulo would not rest until he had sent Askor to Hellgates and had seized the all-important symbol of power, the Walking Stone!
Leaping and rearing like a wild stallion, the vessel plunged onwards. It would journey, untamed, running in sync with the surging currentsâaway from the land of ice and snow to warmer, more temperate coasts. Down to its fearless navigator's final destinationÂ .Â .Â . the very shores on the borders of Mossflower Country, where creatures dwelt who knew nought of what lies beyond the cold Northern Sea but were soon to witness the sight, the might and the ferocity of the beast known as Gulo the Savage!
In the course of a single night, winter folded the land into its earth-numbing embrace. Snow, that silent invader, fell deep and soft upon Redwall Abbey in Mossflower Country. Abbot Humble rose early from his bed in the cellars, as he always did, no matter what the season. The old hedgehog had ruled as Father Abbot for a long time. It still bemused him that he was the one chosen by all Redwallers as their leader. Humble had been a Cellarhog, born to the task, with an unsurpassed knowledge of ales, wines and cordials. Nobeast was more surprised than he, when two seasons after the passing of Abbess Furtila, the Council of Elders, backed by unanimous approval, had elevated Humble to the lofty positionâFather Abbot of Redwall.
It had taken lengthy persuasion before the modest old Cellarhog accepted his new role and, even then, only under his personal conditions. He would never forsake his beloved cellarsâall those barrels, kegs, casks and firkins filled with the good beverages. Having created, nurtured and cared for them, Humble would not hear of coming to live upstairs. The saying at Redwall was “Humble is as
Humble does.” By choice, the cellars remained his home. Old habits die hard, they say. This was clearly the case with Humble. Even to this day, his first chore on rising was to check his cellars before tending to his business as Abbot.
Raking out the ashes from his little forge, Humble stoked up the burning embers with judicious amounts of broken barrel staves, seacoal and charcoal. He ambled around his cellarstockâtapping, wedging and checking the barrels. Satisfied, Humble looked in on Burlop, the present Cellarhog, whom he had trained up for the job. The stout young Cellarhog was still sleeping peacefully in a truckle bed tucked beneath an alcove. Humble smiled as he covered Burlop's footpaws with the eiderdown. Burlop was a good beastâtrustworthy, diligent and strong as an oak. The Abbot took comfort in knowing that the cellars were safe in his care. Instinct told Humble that snow had fallen outside. He took a warm homespun cloak from the peg behind the door and left to make his way upstairs.
Friar Glisum was another early riser. The fat dormouse looked up from his work as the Abbot entered the kitchens. He waved a floury paw. “G'morning, Father. Snow's thick on the ground outside.”
Humble returned the greeting as he stirred a cauldron of steaming oatmeal and began ladling out two bowlfuls. “Morning, Glis. I'll take a spot of breakfast up to the east nightwatch, with your permission.”
The friar spooned honey over one bowl for Humble. He gave the other bowl a generous dash of hotroot pepper from a gourd shaker, murmuring half to himself, “Carry on by all means, Abbot. I've put hotroot on Skipper's oatmeal; he sprinkles it on everything. Oh, wait a moment, I'll add some nutmeg to it.”
He grated the sweet, pungent spice over the bowl and stirred it in, winking mischievously. “There, that'll keep the plank-ruddered rogue guessing!”
Humble left the kitchens, carrying a tray loaded with
both oatmeal bowls, a small basket of hot hazelnut toast and two beakers of steaming coltsfoot and comfrey tea.
It was snowing heavily and still dark outdoors. Humble's sandalled paw printed tracks into the pristine surface of the white carpet as he rounded the south gable. Chuckling, he recalled his Dibbun days. (“Dibbun” is the name conferred upon all Abbeybabes.) He remembered dashing out into the first snow, with his little pals, to see who could make the first pawprints.
On top of the east wall's broad ramparts, Skipper of Otters stood cloaked, warming his paws at a fire in a strapped iron brazier. Turning, he spotted the figure with the tray, illuminated in a shaft of golden light from one of the rear Abbey windows. Blowing snowflakes from his lips, the burly otter shouted, “Ahoy, who goes thereâfriend, foe or food?”
Abbot Humble's cheery reply rang back at him. “Â 'Tis a friend, and bearing breakfast. Permission to come up?”
Skipper stamped his paws, chortling happily. “Come on aboard, matey, afore I perish from 'unger!”
Bounding down the wallsteps, he took the tray from Humble, cautioning him, “Mind yore step, Father. 'Tis slippy underpaw.”
The two friends stood on the ramparts of the Abbey, facing the snow-wreathed trees of Mossflower Wood. They warmed their backs on the fire and took breakfast together, watching the rising sun make scarlet flame patterns through the leafless branches.
Skipper spooned oatmeal down at an alarming rate, nodding toward the rising light. “Here comes the good ole sun, what'd we do without it! Hmm, somethin' in this oatmeal, aside from 'otroot. An odd taste, wonder wot it is?”
The Abbot could not resist telling him. “Friar Glisum said you wouldn't guess. Actually, it's nutmeg.”
Skipper wolfed it energetically. “Very nice, I like it!”
The rising sun came up swiftly, bearded in a pinky fawn cloud. It shone like a ruby dipped in molten gold.
Skipper paused. “Mother Nature's miracle. Ain't it a pretty sight?”
Shielding his bowl from the whirling snowflakes, the Abbot turned his gaze upon the beautiful Abbey. He shook his head in wonder. “Redwall takes on a different face with each season, my friend. See how the light catches the stones?”
They both stood silent, viewing the ancient building through the falling snow. In the newborn day, its normally dusty red sandstone was turned to a pale roseate hue, reflecting sunlight from the belltower to the weathervane. Buttresses and arches stood out in deeper-shaded relief. Rear dormitory and hall windows blazed light from the risen orb of the sun, causing snowladen windowsills to twinkle like powdered silver. Beyond the south lawns and the orchard, Redwall Abbey's pond was smooth under a thick sheet of ice. The entire scene was bordered by the walkways and battlements of the Abbey's broad outer walls.
Skipper placed a paw on his friend's shoulder, smiling. “Aye, mate, 'tis a wonder to behold! An' to think that yore the great Father Abbot over it all!”
Humble blinked and put aside his bowl. Then he and Skipper began taking a leisurely stroll around to the west wall and the main gate. “I was quite happy as a Cellarhog, you know.”
Chuckling, the burly otter replied, “An' so ye still are. But you were the best beast for the job, an' you deserve it!”
When they reached the southwest walkway, a cry rang out from the path beyond the outer wall. “Any brekkist to be had fer two pore beasts a-wanderin' pawloose in the freezin' winter?”
Abbot Humble beamed from ear to spiketip. “Cousin Jem, I'd know that voice anywhere!”
Sheltering their eyes, they peered down to the path. Two aged creatures, towing a small cart, were trudging up from the south, the tracks behind them being obliterated by the
downfall of white. One was a hedgehog, the other a mole, both cloaked and hooded.
Tipping his snout politely, the mole grinned up at them. He roared up in a deep bass voice, speaking in the quaint mole accent, “Oi beg ee pardon, zurrs, but bee's you'm goin' to leave us'ns owt yurr 'til we'm both a-turned into snowbeasts?”
Skipper leaned out over the battlements. “Well, scuttle me rudder, 'tis Hitheryon Jem an' Wanderin' Walt. Where've you two ole relics been for the last eight seasons? We'd give up 'ope of seein' ye again!”
Hitheryon Jem, the hedgehog, waved a mittened paw. “Good wintertide to ye, Cousin Humble, an' to you, Skipper. We ain't sayin' another word 'til we're through yore gates an' eatin' good vittles in front of a blazin' fire. So look lively an' let us in, ye ole streamwhomper!”
Skipper led Humble along the west rampart and down the wallstairs. They both banged on the gatehouse door.
Still clad in nightshirt and bedcap, Brother Gordale, the mouse Gatekeeper, shuffled out, yawning and scratching. “Brrr, snow. What's all the kerfuffle about? 'Tis scarcely daybreak, can't ye sleep?”
Skipper began unbarring the main gates. “Visitors, matey. Lend a paw 'ere, we've got guests!”
Snow was drifting against the bottom of the heavy oaken gates, making a crunching sound as the Redwallers tugged them open. The two visitors trundled their cart inside, then helped to close the gates and bar them.
Simultaneously, the main door of the Abbey building burst open. A horde of cheering, squealing Dibbuns stampeded out, roaring with delight at the sight of snow, a first experience for some of them. Within moments the Abbey grounds were a scene of chaos.
Abbot Humble raised his eyes resignedly to the sky. “Oh, dearie me, let's get indoors quickly!”
Ducking snowballs, and avoiding sliding little ones,
they made their way through the melee. Older Redwallers stood in the doorway, holding mufflers, mittens, scarves and hoods. Their entreaties were lost on the wild herd of Dibbuns.
“Come back here and get dressed properly!”
“You'll be snufflin' with cold if you don't put decent winter clothes on!”
“You'm cumm back yurr, this vurry h'instint, rarscals!”
“Put those snowballs down, pleaseÂ .Â .Â . Don't you dare!”
Volleys of snowballs were hurled by the rebellious pack of Abbeybabes. Trying to get inside the building, the Abbot and his friends were caught on the front steps with the Dibbun minders. Everybeast came in for a good pelting.
Humble faced the little ones, paws open wide. “Now stop this, please! I command you to stÂ .Â .Â . Ooooff!”
A well-aimed snowball caught him on the snout. More snowballs spattered across Skipper's back as he rescued the Abbot and pushed him inside. Still throwing, the Dibbuns retreated in the direction of the pond, intent on trying out the ice.
Skipper called to one of his ottercrew, “Follow those villains, mate. Make sure none of 'em goes through the ice!”
Gordale slammed the Abbey door shut as a barrage of snowballs burst against it. He brushed snow from his nightshirt indignantly. “Hooligans, rogues! The manners of young 'uns these days, really!”
Shaking snow from his habit sleeves, Humble chuckled at the old Abbey Gatekeeper. “Forgotten your Dibbun seasons, Brother?”
Jem pulled snow from his headspikes. “Aye, let the babes have their fun. Right, lead me to those kitchens. As the Abbot's cousin, I demand it!”
Walt was fully in agreement. “Burr aye, let oi toast moi paws boi ee stove an' git summ brekkist in ee ole stummick!”
Friar Glisum put aside his ladle and shook the travellers' paws cordially. “Enter, weary travellers. Come in and let me feed your bodies and warm your hearts. My kitchens are at your disposal!”
Walt winked at Jem. “Boi 'okey, thurr bee's a creetur oi cudd dearly h'admire!”
Glisum seated them on a heap of dry sacks. They gasped with pleasure as the Friar opened his big oven, gesturing with a long paddle. “Mushroom pasties with hot gravy, leek and carrot bake topped with yellow cheese, or maybe some fresh-baked crusty wheatbread? Murly, heat up some of that harvest vegetable soup we had for supper last night. There's a good little maid!”
A tubby little molemaid, in frilly apron and mob cap, curtsied. “Zoop bee's cummen roight h'away, zurrs!”
Skipper gaped in awe as the guests shed their travelling gear and fell upon the food hungrily. “Great seasons, 'tis a good job there's only two of ye, mates! 'Ow many famines 'ave ye lived through?”
Jem looked up from his second pastie. “Too many, mate. We done nought but dream o' Redwall grub for eight seasons!”
Walt grabbed a crusty loaf. After tearing it apart, he began dunking it in the savoury onion gravy. “Ho gurt h'Abbey vikkles!”
Virtually no conversation ensued as Hitheryon Jem and Wandering Walt applied themselves wholeheartedly to the good fare provided by Friar Glisum and his kitchen staff. Abbot Humble and the others knew they would have to wait for news of the comings and goings in other places until both guests had taken their fill. It had been a long time since the travellers' last visit, and the Abbey creatures were anxious to hear the news from places far beyond Redwall. As the kitchens would be busy with mealtimes, Humble ordered the fire to be banked up in Cavern Hole and two comfortable armchairs moved close to the hearth. His guests could rest there and talk in relative comfort and peace.
Much later in the morning, Jem and Walt vacated the kitchens. As they made their way across Great Hall, the main door opened. The Dibbuns finally had been rounded up and were being marched in for a very late breakfast. Sister Armel, the pretty young squirrel who was Infirmary
Keeper, led the way. She was accompanied by her two helpersâForemole Bruffy and Sister Screeve, the stout, cheery mouse who was Abbey Recorder. All three were trying to gain some semblance of order amid the excited little ones.
“Wipe those paws thoroughly on the mat, please! Stand in line.”
Sister Armel eyed a tubby mousebabe sternly. “Mimsie, please take that snowball outside and throw it away.”
Mimsie waved cheerily to Humble. “Goo' mornin', h'Abbit. I jus' gonna frow dis snowball 'way.”